Rhythm and Pace of Unit

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It is easy to fall into a planning rut. That's the trap of "It's 9:22 and we always do ___ at this time." While that speeds up the planning process, it can lead to terminal classroom boredom. The positive side of that, however, is that students like ruts as much as teachers. Too many new schedules and activity types mean they never know what to expect. A master teacher learns to balance the two needs; that's part of establishing rhythm and pace. A teacher has to consider the class and its need for ritual. Classes with high levels of absenteeism perhaps function better if returning students don't have to continually face new activities. The teacher must decide. Just make sure the decision is based on student need and not teacher unwillingness to plan.

Another barrier to change is the unwillingness of students to quickly accept new situations. Until they have accepted the routine of change, they will squirm each time a new activity type or unit is introduced. It is up to the teacher to realize that students sometimes want to take the easy way out also which means that they learn that "On Tuesday, we do __, so I can sleep my way through this." Don't let class apathy keep you from making the best decisions.

A third point to consider is the possibility of overkill. When units become over-focused on a single topic, students reach a point when they indicate "enough is enough." When that happens, a teacher needs to consider if enough diversity has been built into the plan. Interest activities and other avenues of variety are essential. Six weeks on a single topic can only be covered successfully if there is enough diversity to keep students focused but interested.


It's even essential at times to build in breakaway points that may not be unit directed, just as vacations renew us to return with enthusiasm to our usual work. Unforeseen events must also be adjusted for whether of a tragic or exhilarating nature. No teacher should be so bound by unit plans that winning a state championship should be ignored. A master teacher learns to adjust the rhythm and pace while still maintaining control of the learning environment. That's why Unit Plan Calendars should be in pencil. Be prepared to erase and re-plan when necessary.

Interest material adds spice to the class. Consider what audio-visual material is available to supplement the texts. If technology is available, it can be used as interest builders as well as instructional tools. What posters, displays, and gimmicks do you have to get the kids' attention? Consider field trips (even to the field outside to smell flowers for the descriptive unit), outside speakers, or inside speakers (students who make presentations). Remember that a class's rhythm is important. Use interest material to build in some highs to match the lows.

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