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Brian's Class Materials- FALL 2009 - SEYS 362

SEYS 362 Home

Queens College/CUNY
Education Unit
Fall 2009

Planning: A key to success in teaching science!



 Dr. Brian Murfin

There are many important skills and tools that a good science teacher should possess. One of these skills can be acquired by hard work, research, and practice and it is planning and preparation. A well-planned lesson is far more likely to lead to effective learning than an unplanned one delivered off the cuff. A well thought out lesson also reduces the probability that serious misbehavior will occur, and makes classroom management much easier. Lesson and unit planning is an art and not a science. It takes much practice to actually be able to visualize the course of a lesson in advance. An experienced teacher can look at a lesson plan and immediately spot words which will be unfamiliar to the students, potential trouble spots where students may get restless, activities that may not be understood by the majority of the students, and so on. Planning is definitely a learnable skill. You will be amazed at how much better your lessons go when you have a good plan that results in an educationally effective, fun, and interesting lesson. A great science lesson is a masterpiece and very hard to reproduce. Planning helps us come closer to that "perfect lesson" that we all search for during our teaching careers.


STEPS IN CREATING A UNIT PLAN (Note that these steps do not have to occur exactly in these order and there are obviously many other things that should be taken into consideration. These are only guidelines.)


  1. Choose a topic. This can be a single content area of science, i.e. a botany unit, or an interdisciplinary study, e.g. a unit on motion, which cuts across the science disciplines. Specify the grade level the unit is intended for.
  2. Describe your rationale for the unit. Why is it important for students to know this? What do you feel are the best ways to teach this material? What learning theories are your pedagogical techniques based on? What are the overarching, important, big ideas that will be learned? What connections will be made with other disciplines, e.g. Math, English, Art, etc.? How will you make your lessons gender-friendly? How will you include a multicultural perspective?
  3. Now overall unit objectives should be stated. These should be specific and performance-based when possible. At this stage you should consult any other relevant curriculum guides, and resources such as the National Science Education Standards, and city and state science education documents.
  4. If you are teaching in a New York City Public school consult the science syllabus to see what material needs to be covered. Make sure to consult with more experienced colleagues during this entire process. This will ensure that you do not leave out important topics, skills, etc. and you will also get an idea of the depth you need to go into.
  5. Decide on the SCOPE and SEQUENCE of the unit. By SCOPE we mean, what topics will and will not be covered in the unit. You will need to break down the topics and sequence them, indicating how much time should be spent on each topic. Remember that a unit plan is not set in stone. A teacher can change the sequence, include new topics, and spend more time on certain activities, at their discretion. The unit plan is a tool to help a teacher improve his or her teaching. It is not the gospel.
  6. Carry out research on the topic of the unit. Use science textbooks, science journals, science education journals such as The Science Teacher, Science Scope, etc. Search the World Wide Web and the Internet. Search ERIC and the ENC for ideas. Include this as science background material at the beginning of the unit and where appropriate within each lesson plan. This process is very important as forces you to learn the science content, to keep up to date, to be prepared to take profitable tangents, and to answer unexpected questions in class.
  7. Make a comprehensive list of materials needed during the unit. Be specific with regard to numbers, sizes of apparatus, where to obtain items, full bibliographic information for texts, videos, etc.
  8. Describe how students will be evaluated during and at the end of the unit. Be innovative. Do not just rely of summative evaluation and paper and pencil tests. Use performance-based, authentic assessment such as portfolios, group projects, laboratory and practical exams, research projects, etc.
  9. Start preparing detailed lesson plans for each day. These plans should be complete and all materials referred to in each lesson plan should be included. Test ALL activities in every lesson plan before writing the final lesson plan. Include examples of real data that students might collect during an experiment. Always include possible answers to discussion questions. This forces you to think things through in advance. Always include safety precautions for every hands-on or laboratory activity. Consult the MSDS sheets for every chemical used.
  10. Leave a space on your lesson plan for comments after the lesson has been taught. This can prove invaluable the next year when you are teaching the same topic.


If you would like to an example of a well-planned science unit for the elementary/middle school level, check out FOSS (The Full Option Science System.)