Given our school has started the Common Core with our freshmen in Algebra I, I am writing new curriculum this year. I have the Accelerated class and a college prep class, so it is really two different preps. I can use some of the same activities but the speed and difficulty and therefore, the exams are different.
Anyways, this is how I sit down and get ready for a new unit. Our school has 5 periods a day on a seven day rotation. So, we see the students 5 times out of 7 days. I start with the school calendar and make my unit calendar. I try to make sure I am not testing the day before or after vacation. I try to make sure I am not testing after I haven't seen them over a long weekend plus a school day. However, sometimes it has to be done, but it isn't ideal. I create my calendar by breaking the unit in half, teaching and practicing, then having a quiz review and a quiz, repeat. Then, a test review day or maybe two days and a test. Next, I determine what I will assign for homework. We have a new book, so I do all of the problems I am assigning so I can see what each questions is asking and to see if the assignment is too long or too challenging. Then, I start looking on the internet and twitter and blogs for fun activities or projects or graphic organizers to help me present the lessons. Next, I make the individual lessons. I usually use a powerpoint to shine on the board but I still write on the board. I like that my writing stays on the board for a while rather than disappearing with the next slide. Sometimes, I create my own powerpoint, sometimes I find and alter a powerpoint. There are some great ones out there. I need to make sure I give enough examples - I do, we do, they do idea. I like to start with Do Nows that might review a previous idea or something they haven't done before but can try it because it will lead into that day's lesson. Sometimes, I like to start with a discovery activity rather than just telling them the rule. All of this depends on the content and how much we need to get through. I try to anticipate where the students will make mistakes or what kinds of questions they will have. Once the lessons are ready, then I make the exams. I used to do the UbD - Understanding by Design, working backwards and starting with the assessment. I really liked doing this but due to time, I need to have the first lesson before I have the last test, so I have fallen behind on this idea. Plus, I like figuring out what I am going to assign and the important concepts I want to stress with the students, then make the assessment so it touches on a lot of these points.
How do you prepare a new unit?
Next year, I get to write the new Algebra II common core curriculum! Bring it!