How do you plan?

We met this week for collaborative planning of a new unit of inquiry for the start of the new school year…

Times have changed. We have changed.
Planning is not coming up with a range of activities or developing a series of lesson plans. It’s a time to consider the rationale behind the unit and discuss conceptual ideas. A time to create a range of possible provocations which engage learners in the big ideas. A time to plan opportunities in which authentic student-directed learning can occur.

Pre thinking includes…

Our process…

Brainstorm the big ideas – respect, diversity, belonging, co-existence, contribution, community, relationships, interactions, culture, rights, citizenship, values, cooperation.

Decide collaboratively on the desired conceptual understandings

  • A community is made up of people who have common purpose or shared values.
  • Diversity within a community enriches the community.
  • Being part of a community comes with rights and responsibilities, duties and privileges.

Come up with one conceptual word that defines the essence of the unit – Community

Write the central idea – This needs to be a broad conceptual understanding, globally significant, relevant and engaging, which invites inquiry. We take some quiet time to write it individually, then discuss, adjust and adapt until we have consensus.

Central idea – Communities are enriched by the contributions of individuals and groups.

Is it perfect? We’re not sure. Nor are we sure of the paths the learning might take, what the learners might discover and uncover along the way, where exactly the inquiry might lead for different individuals and classes…

We are sure that…

  • Our desired conceptual understandings are achievable and worthwhile.
  • The unit will help build a community of learners to set the tone for the entire year’s learning.
  • It will help cement the relationships between two groups of learners coming together for the first time from different campuses of our school and create an awareness that each group brings something to the whole.
  • It will expose learners to the necessary focus of the Australian curriculum to support the development of their knowledge and understandings, without teachers resorting to mere ‘covering’ of facts.
  • It will foster the passions, interests and talents of individuals and raise awareness of the fact that they each have something valuable to contribute.
  • There will be opportunities to develop a huge range of trans-disciplinary skills and attitudes, and promote creativity, collaboration and critical thinking.

In a way, our collaborative planning session has been an embodiment of our central idea: The Year 3 teachers, teaching and learning facilitators, teacher librarian and the ICT facilitator have spent several hours working and thinking together. The music and PE teachers have dropped in for a while too to share their ideas. We have built a sense of community within the group and been enriched by the contributions of every member…

12 thoughts on “How do you plan?

  1. I was part of this planning and what struck me was the absence of tension, the collective sense of purpose and the ability that the team has to take time out to talk and explore. We used to worry that we were not getting the work done . Now we know that when we debate the issues that the unit uncovers it will be a great inquiry. I really look forward to our planning as its a time to think together .


  2. Thanks for describing your process Edna. I have referred back to several of your posts on the Inquiry process whilst in the middle of my own class inquiries – kind of like a health checkup for my inquiry!
    I like the stage where individuals write their own take on the central idea, then discuss it together before reaching consensus. It seems an essential ingredient: to listen to others’ perspectives, points of view and understandings before creating a common statement.
    The Learner Profile: I believe that I can’t lose sight of this at any stage of planning an Inquiry. What do you think?


  3. Thanks, Brette. We are constantly refining the planning process and this way is working well at the moment!
    Have you thought of having kids do that? Write their take on what the CI might be at various points along the way? Do you belong to PYPthreads Ning? There’s a great thread about it there.
    Yes, the learner profile is the overarching goal. It seems to be becoming more implicit than in used to be for us. Take the unit above for instance…


      1. Sharing ideas would seem to be the purpose of this site, enabling discussion. Planning for learning is complex, which is why so many teachers find it difficult. It is not as easy as teach-learn-test.

        Content is usually relatively easy, but the detail of actual learning aimed at specific groups and individuals is less easy to articulate, as expectations, which lead to interventions and formative feedback to support further learning. (see John Hattie’s work on variables)

        Sorry the diagrams don’t resonate with you, but many teachers and trainee teachers have found the conceptualisation useful.


        1. Hi Chris
          As an IB PYP school, there are specific considerations in our initial unit planning (which is what I was writing about), since our program is inquiry based and concept driven. Definitely no teach-learn-test!
          Thanks for the links. I will explore thoroughly later… it doesn’t look like something simple that can I can just skim!


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