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118. The Unit Dreaming Series Begins!

by Lindsay Lyons
June 6th 2023
In today's solo episode, Lindsay is sharing an introduction to her new Unit Dreaming Series here on the podcast! Tune ... More
I'm educational justice coach Lindsay Lyons. And here on the time for teacher podcast, we learn how to inspire educational innovation for racial and gender justice design curricula grounded in student voice and build capacity for shared leadership. I'm a former teacher leader turned instructional coach. I'm striving to live a life full of learning, running, baking, traveling and parenting because we can be rockstar educators and be full human beings if you're a principal, assistant superintendent, curriculum director, instructional coach or teacher who enjoys nerdy out about co creating curriculum with students. I made this show for you. Here we go. In this episode. We're starting a really exciting series. It's called Unit Dreaming and this is in line with the hashtag unit dreaming that I've been using on Twitter and linkedin and trying to spark some conversations around curriculum fluency and what Dr Goldie Mohammed calls curriculum fluency. Really excited to share the process here and then really excited for the coming weeks to be able to hear what folks are saying and what they're creating in these amazing episodes.

So in this episode, I'll be walking you through the process. I'll be giving you a template as the episode freebie and then you can share your creations the best. Here we go. Welcome to episode 1, 18 of the time for teacher shift podcast. I am so excited for this, this series all summer. Well, for two months, basically, June and July, we are going to talk about unit dreaming with our guests. So I will have no solo shows after this one. We're just bringing on the guests and brainstorming a ton of different units. I absolutely love co creating units. This has always been something that I have enjoyed as a teacher. I could nerd out all day about curriculum. I have absolutely loved the conversations and the direction that this podcast has been going in terms of unit creation. And I realized I do this for PD. So wouldn't it be great if we were able to actually broadcast that live for free on the podcast? So people could kind of see the messiness and also that moment of like, aha excitement when people land on a driving question, that's really exciting. Or they have this idea that kind of seemed to come out of nowhere after 30 minutes of grappling.

And, you know, after having recorded a as of the time of this recording, we've already recorded several of these unit dreaming episodes with guests. And I have noticed that and I have heard those one liners. It's like, oh, I really thought we were going nowhere, you know, like, oh, this is miraculous or whatever it is really, really fun and it's messy and we get there eventually. And even if it's not perfect by the end of the episode, there are certainly some where we're like, hm. But we're still working on that. But the conversations and how we get to that point and what we talk about and consider along the way. I think those are goals. I love hearing the process, even if it's messy and even if it doesn't get where you ultimately want to go in the time frame that you thought, I think we're so secretive, sometimes not intentionally, but as educators and, and just as people, sometimes we're not super transparent about what goes on behind the scenes because we just want to share that finished product. We want to say this is what I came up with or this is what I created. It's beautiful, it's perfect, it's good to go. And I think a lot of times we create curriculum like that or we create, you know, our lesson plans like that or we deliver lessons or we don't invite people in to see the messy things on the first draft or the first try of this tech tool or, you know, whatever it is because we have this horrible system of accountability and kind of like punishing and perfectness.

So certainly those systems are in place and those need to change. That's another episode. Uh But I think one of the things I want to do here is really open, pull open the curtain, whatever the metaphor is and think about what does this process look like. So today, I'm sharing with you the process and then each coming week for the next eight weeks, I think we are going to hear from different guests and actually hear that process in action across a variety of content areas. It's actually really cool the diversity of content areas that we're gonna have and also the grades that these will span. So here we go. What do we do? First? We are going to first find inspiration. So we need something that's going to spark us to have an innovative unit idea. I would encourage you to look beyond what you already do or have been doing, think about something that just happens in your daily life. A question that comes to mind, it might be you're listening to music and you're like, whoa, this song would be really interesting to grapple with or this song gets at the heart of like a life or existential question. That could be a really cool question to frame an entire unit where we dig into these different case studies or these different applications or texts or whatever.

Often I find current events are a great grounding for discussions and kind of unpacking what's going on in a modern case so that we can better understand the world that we're currently living in. Often as an adult I'm trying to make sense of and grapple with things that are happening in the world. So I think that is something that our students also grapple with and it'd be really cool to kind of use a current event, watching the news, listening to a podcast about the news, whatever it is being on social media and seeing a tweet about something. I think that would be a really cool opportunity to take that and think about how do I use that in my class? I have, as I said at the front of this episode, posted a bunch under the hashtag unit dreaming on Twitter and linkedin. I'll link to those in the blog post for this episode as well. But I think if you're stuck, you can at least start there. There are, I think at this point maybe close to a dozen um or so unit dreaming sparks that I call them where I have thought about this and I've been trying to do this once a week just for practice for myself and then shared them there. So I think that's a really cool way to or an initial start, I guess of a way to do this unit dreaming.

I would encourage you to add to those either engage with those post or kind of add your own, feel free to use the hashtag if you're a leader of a staff, like have a staff, a meeting. I had an episode about that earlier. Where you could actually do this and I shared my agenda for a staff meeting or a team meeting. If you're a department chair and actually start just identifying what are the unit? Sparks? Could be something in front of you could be something that you share. Maybe that's the opening of each meeting, right? Each team meeting you get together with your department and for 30 seconds you go around and you just say like here's a spark that could be a unit and not all of them have to evolve into a full unit, right? They could just kind of exist as sparks, but maybe there's a repository or a Google doc that's shared among the team and you just kind of add them there and you could always go back if you're looking for inspiration or you're in a curriculum creation PD day or something and you can go there and kind of see what's going on or if there's themes across many anyways, once you have found inspiration, here's what we do to start outlining the unit. We next go or this is what I encourage guests to do to brainstorm the pursuits I will caveat this.

I'm going to say several steps. We don't always go in order. We usually approach the order, but then sometimes it'll just take us in a different direction, the order, it does not need to be the specific order. It's just generally how my brain works. Feel free to mix it up for you and your staff. But the next thing I go to is Dr Goldie Mohammed's five pursuits in her Hill model. I specifically focus on three because I think in my experience, these are the ones that I see the least in the curricula. So that's identity criticality and joy. There's so much potential here. Often we think about, you know, the content or, or what you refer to as, as intellect and that kind of PURs of knowledge. And then also um the skills, right, skills based instruction, uh common core, right? We, we have a lot of this already in what we're doing. So I like to center my focus on identity criticality and joy, the others will come. That's just part of, you know, creating curriculum and, and it's like second nature for teachers, I'm not worried about those pieces. Um And you can just kind of add them in as you as you brainstorm, but we're really thinking about increasing students sense of belonging, sense of justice, meaningful engagement, um action, taking like it makes sense to center identity c criticality and joy.

Here at this point, you're just brainstorming. And again, I'll link to the freebie is literally for this episode, the template that I use when guests are brainstorming. And it's just kind of the one pager that I use to throw in all the ideas and kind of organize them. So you can grab that at the blog that's Lindsey Beth science dot com slash blog slash 1 18. So if you want to kind of follow along with the episode, feel free to grab it. Now, after brainstorming the pursuits, right? You're kind of kind of getting it all out there next. Start playing with your driving question. And I specifically say play with your driving question because it doesn't need to be done right now. You're just starting to think about it. I often take, you know, like months to come up with what I feel like is a good driving question or I will teach a unit, have the driving question. And at the end of you be like, ah this was the driving question I should have used or something. And often it comes from students or student feedback or something a student says within the course of a unit. I'm like, oh that is the question. That's the better question. Um And so it doesn't need to be perfect and you can get student feedback. I think that's a great idea. But at this point in the brainstorm in this unit, outlining unit dreaming process, you just want to get a couple of ideas on paper and if you were stuck, I would use a driving question frame.

So page two, I said it was a one pager. But page two of this template. Freebie is actually just kind of like a a resource guide for some of the questions around Dr Goldie Mohammed's Hill model and those three pursuits and some of the questions she asks in her books and then there's also one in driving questions. So what is a good driving question? And also what are the driving question frames? I've done some stuff on that in previous episodes. So feel free to go back and listen to those, but also feel free to just grab the, the freebie and look at those there. I usually gravitate toward the two driving question frames that are as follows. One. What's the formula for blink? Because it enables students to kind of grapple with this idea of a formula that is complex and it doesn't need to be a mathematical formula, right? It could be like, what's the sense? What's the formula for everyone having a sense of belonging at school? And it's like, ok, well, there's like teacher relationships and you could quantify that, right? You have five strong teacher relationships. Um You have at least one friend who you're excited to see every day, you know what it could be numeric, but it doesn't have to be right?

Um equitable policies, uh student voice and representation in um the curriculum or whatever, you know, it it doesn't have to be quantitative, but the formula is like, what are the pieces involved? You could use a different language, like what's the recipe for or whatever. Um And then another one which I think center is kind of the possible is what would it look like if so often when we're thinking about criticality and we're engaging in conversations about justice or injustice in current events, identity, all these pieces we're often talking about a problem in society, right? Our Civic Action Summit of Assessment, which is what we're gonna get to in step four. That's the next step often requires us to identify what is wrong. And then what can we do if or what would be possible if uh what would it look like if this problem did not exist? Right? And so it gets us dreaming and get students dreaming in kind of that creative, innovative space that we want them to be in. That is a an amazing skill in and of itself, but to apply it to a social injustice, that's really what we want students to be grappling with, right?

So, so let's go to step four. So step four is Civic Action as Summit of Assessment. You'll see in some of these episodes, we have some teachers who are very much, I have to teach to the test. This is what my students and my families and my school expects from me. And I also want to do this thing um that is better, right? And so sometimes that summit of assessment ends up being a layered summit of assessment or we have part one, let's make sure we do the content and kind of the check the box thing we have to do or maybe it's a test, maybe it's a um or a lab report or whatever it is. And then like the next layer is applying that in a more meaningful way, which I would argue is actually a better summit of assessment. It is more uh rigorous or challenging or whatever word you want to use there. But it, it requires um to use language of Goldie Mohamed more genius, right? So thinking about what students are going to do to apply what they learned specifically to better their community is this stage of the process here. If it's not easy to answer, like if it not easy to answer in the sense of it's very clear, this is the one right answer. I don't ever think there is a one right answer here. I think there's student voice that has to be involved.

These are student led projects that's a really important caveat to this. Students are kind of co creating the format that it looks like. But you might come up with maybe a what I call a publishing opportunity. Here's where we have a set up. Maybe it is kind of almost like a science fair expo. Maybe it is um you know, there's a school board meeting on the specific date we could go present to, to them or whatever it is. There's kind of a space that you have at least one where they can publish their work. They either pitch a proposal or share information, they've gathered or whatever it is, but there is an opportunity to expand the audience beyond the teacher, beyond the classroom. So that might be what you think about, what are the publishing opportunities that you can provide to students and then they can core what the format specifically looks like here. And again, if it's not relatively easy to answer, like, you can't come up with any possible ideas of what it potentially could look like as a format or a publishing opportunity, you might want to return to the driving question and think about the end project while you are grappling and playing with that DQ. So the DQ itself should lend itself to be answered by the Summit of Assessment.

And if it doesn't, we might just need to go back and kind of rework it and you could totally rework like totally rework the driving question. It doesn't need to maintain kind of the initial thought you had uh in some of these episodes, you're gonna see that we completely rework where we were going and what direction we were going in and others were kind of tinkering the language. It can look however you need it to look. All right. Step five is the unit arc. So think about the protocols, these are the lesson level activities, this is how students are literally engaging. Um I have typically discussion based protocols, text based protocols. Um These are often the the big ones that we're talking about in the initial unit brainstorm. But thinking about what are the things students are doing and I would consider which protocols elevate student talk and grappling the most. My goal when I think about Shane Seier and Jimmy La Dugan's street data book, they talk about of student voice that numerically they apply 75% as a kind of a goal of student talk or work time in each lesson.

So I think that's uh something to shoot for. I don't necessarily think and I think they have even said as authors that this isn't kind of the end all be all goal like it could even be higher or maybe it should be higher. Uh But I think this is something to consider. So identify the protocols you'll use and what's the pattern you'll kind of put them in so that the unit arc flows really nicely. And finally think about the content or text often you'll see in these episodes, we don't quite get to that point. Some of them, we do some of them, we game out like this is each lesson's content broadly. Uh what the goal is, some were like, OK, we just got to the driving question and some sort of assessment and that's totally fine. You can take some time to think about the content or text that you'll be using. So I like to at least think about when I do get to this point, broad content, ideas and media, texts for a hook lesson, a few what I call build the base lessons. So this is kind of the foundational concept you're learning about what are those 234 lessons where we might be going back again and again to the same text or at least the same kind of like core content that we need to understand and then a couple of case study lessons. So these are applications where you're taking that core concept.

And you're saying, well, how does it play out in this scenario? And this is a very different scenario. So how does it play out here? Uh You might be looking at from a social perspective, how does it play out in these different demographic groups, this particular concept or something? Um What do these different authors of different backgrounds say about this? Something like that? Now, I think again, the rest can be cot constructed with students, which is why I wouldn't put too much time into the content or text at the front end. You do want to plan some things, but you will probably find that students are going to create. And I mean, this could even be a protocol early on in your hook lesson. Perhaps it's like a question formulation protocol. How do students tell you what they're interested in and what they're wondering in the hook and the initial kind of presentation of what we're gonna be learning about in the unit and then kind of use that to inform your case studies and your different lesson level content and texts and all of that stuff. Um students may even do their own research, right? You might even have them come up with, depending on their age. Um you know, and with a degree of guidance that is also age dependent or grade dependent, find the resources for us, bring a resource and, and you might as a teacher or as the person who's coaching teachers to create these, you might want to consider a text library.

Uh Usually these are websites that I like, something like facing history, PBS media, um Z in education project, something like this where you'll have a bunch of different resources that you can kind of filter by media type or by topic. I've done an episode on this in the past too. So feel free to check that out. But that might provide just enough guidance that students can kind of take it and run with it if they're at an age where they can do that independent research and selecting the text for you. Finally, I'm gonna say that if you've created something I'd love for you to share it with me. Feel free to tag me on social media, you can also reply to a comment on the blog post version of this episode or if you're just not ready for the public eyes on your radio, feel free to email me. My email is hello at Lindsay Beth lions dot com. I cannot wait to see what you create and remember. Feel free to go ahead and download that episode, Freebie Lindsay, Beth lions dot com slash blog slash 1 18. That's 118. All right. I will see you next week for our first installment of the unit streaming series. We're gonna have Debbie on and Debbie is going to talk to us about an elementary tech course.

I am so excited. You know what? Let's do a little preview actually. So after that, we also have uh doctor Lena Lena Bakshi mclean who is talking about sustainable farming and photosynthesis. So science people get excited. We are also gonna have a ton of other folks. I won't go too into depth here, but we have one on chemistry, one on sel um that one actually might be for leaders. I haven't recorded that yet. It's gonna be very cool. Uh We have a family design unit where we have a mom and a daughter who are on and they talk about all sorts of intersections el a music pe applications. Um We also have a design teacher who talks about literally like the process of design, not only that, but we have such an interest in guests doing this kind of episode, but we are going to continue the unit dreaming as a regular type of episode moving forward after this series in the summer as like every fourth episode or something. We're gonna we're gonna have one of those in there. So get excited. Please share with me. I'm so excited for this journey of unit creation and let me know if you have any content that you want me to share widely or give feedback on, I'm happy to respond to that.

And if you haven't already, I usually don't remember to ask this but feel free to leave a review of this podcast or share it with a friend so that we get more people on board with this idea of curriculum fluency and brainstorming justice centered unit ideas. I am so excited to move this area of schooling forward and just be part of this real exciting stuff going on. If you're leaving this episode wanting more, you're going to love my life coaching intensive curriculum boot camp. I help one department or grade team create feminist anti racist curricula that challenges affirms and inspires all students. We, we current events into course content and amplify student voices which skyrockets engagement and academic achievement. It energizes educators feeling burns out and it's just two days. Plus you can reuse the same process any time you create a new unit which saves time and money. If you can't wait to bring this to your staff, I'm inviting you to sign up for a 20 minute call with me. Grab a spot on my calendar at www dot Lindsay beth lions dot com slash contact. Until next time leaders continue to think big act brave and be your best self.

This podcast is a proud member of the Teach Better Podcast Network. Better today, better tomorrow and the podcast to get you there, explore more podcasts at teach better dot com slash podcasts and we'll see you at the next episode.

118. The Unit Dreaming Series Begins!
118. The Unit Dreaming Series Begins!
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