How to Create a Unit Plan for High School Language Students

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Estimated reading time: 19 minutes

Make language learning easier for your high school students with a unit plan! Follow this step-by-step guide to create a successful unit plan.

This blog post also includes a sample lesson plan for creative writing.

How to Create a Unit Plan

Creating an engaging and effective unit plan for high school language learners is essential to any successful language classroom.

With the proper preparation, activities, and materials, students develop a more profound understanding of the language being taught and make lasting progress.

This guide will give step-by-step instructions on creating a successful unit plan for your high school language learners.

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Define Goals and Objectives

To start, you will need to define your lesson objectives.

  • Goals should be achievable and allow students to learn essential language skills.
  • Objectives should also be measurable and clearly defined, making it easy to track student progress.

Consider language forms and functions relevant to your unit plan and cultural topics or other themes related to the language.

It’s essential to keep in mind different learning styles among students, so create activities that engage a wide range of learners.

Create a Study Timeline in Your Unit Plan

Once you have a framework of objectives, the next step is to create a timeline for your students.

Consider the duration and frequency of the units, tasks set for each lesson, and assessments.

  • Use this timeline to guide your teaching process and help students focus on weekly targets.
  • Be sure to give your students ample time to complete their tasks so they can handle the material.
  • Additionally, allow time for review so students can reinforce the language points discussed in class at home.

Develop Learning Activities and Assessments Unit Plans

After you have clearly defined your objectives and created a timeline for your unit, it is time to get creative and develop engaging learning activities for your students.

While creating activities, consider the different learning styles of students in the class. Design tasks to ensure everyone demonstrates their knowledge at the end of the unit.

You can also devise assessment methods that best fit each lesson’s instructions.

Assessments take many forms, including exams, writing or oral presentations, or even blog posts or podcasts!

Plan for Differentiated Instruction Strategies in Unit Plans 

Differentiated instruction strategies help promote individualized learning experiences in the classroom.

As you create your unit plan, consider each student’s different strengths and learning styles, and develop activities that teachers can adapt to individual needs.

Focusing on needs includes:

  • Creating activities with multiple levels of complexity.
  • Allowing students to choose their assessments.
  • Transitioning to group work once students have grasped the concepts.

Differentiating student needs allows you to provide more in-depth instruction and help them excel in language studies!

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Include Content Relevant to Curriculum Standards in Unit Plans

When developing your unit plan for high school language students, it’s crucial to consider your students’ needs and align them with the school’s curriculum standards.

  • Research local and state requirements to ensure that you meet all necessary expectations in your language teaching.
  • Remember to include assessment results and student feedback throughout the process.

Assessments will help inform any changes or adjustments you make along the way.

Example of Preparing a Unit Plan

Creative writing is one of my favorite ways to teach vocabulary, grammar, and writing. I chose this lesson as a unit plan example because I am always looking for innovative ways to keep teenagers engaged in my lesson content.

My high school language learners like a reward system, so it is all business when we learn vocabulary or specifics about grammar and sentence structure.

One teaching strategy most helpful to my students is receiving immediate feedback during writing lessons. I provide them with small whiteboards where they write out their sentences. This way, I can easily walk around the class, check each student’s work, and provide explicit feedback.

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Focus Unit Plans on Learning Outcomes

This lesson series is at the end of the creative writing unit, where we have some fun and play.

My students expect this style from me. I start with high skills and intensive work and feedback (Levels 1-3 with Bloom’s Taxonomy) and then more relaxed and fun activities for creating their work (Level 6 Bloom’s Taxonomy).

This teaching strategy works well for students to focus on the lesson work to meet the learning outcomes.

My Approach to Classroom Management with Teenagers

Generally speaking, I take a conversational approach with my high school students for two reasons.

  • First, they practice the English they already know and what we have learned in previous lessons. This helps them trust the process of reaching higher-level English in each class.
  • The second reason is rapport. My classroom has 24 students, and they all like to have a lot of fun. When one makes a joke or comment,, the others respond, and it becomes a runaway train very quickly. Using conversation, I facilitate the flow of the discussions to ensure we are focused and on task for each lesson.
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Include Various Formative Assessments in Unit Plans

My lessons use formative assessment in basic pen and pencil testing to assess the memory of the elements of a creative writing piece and the structure of the process.

  • First, students complete a short multiple-choice quiz to evaluate the language used in the lessons (theme, setting, characters, conflict, and plot).
  • Next, students work on matching and pairing questions, putting content in order, and organizing a creative writing outline.
  • Students also complete quizzes describing the introduction, rising action, climax, falling action (outcome), and conclusion in stories. They also write short examples in fill-in-sentence format.
  • At the end of the unit students read a short story with the paragraphs organized out of order. They arrange the sections in the correct order.
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Student Engagement in the Assessment Process

Students grade the test and quizzes in class.

First, we review their responses and discuss any questions. They write down a revised answer in a different color pen. Then return their modified quizzes for review and recording their grades. 

Benefits of including students in evaluating their assessments:

  • reinforces learning by reviewing their work
  • provides opportunities for students to see what they did incorrectly and correctly
  • gives students the responsibility to take ownership of their education

Sample Unit Plan Template 

Unit Name:  Roll-a-Story

Subject and Grade Level:  Writing Grade 10

Standards Addressed in the Lesson 

  • Explain the elements of creative writing.
  • Develop a topic for creative writing.
  • Create a storyboard for creative writing.
  • Produce a video demonstration of creative writing work.

Overarching Goal

What would you expect for mastery? 

Ss will create visual content, plot, theme, and story for creative writing.

Objectives

Identify the objectives for the unit and a table that shows 21st Century skills addressed. Use the objectives that you created in Unit 1.

Objective21st Century Skills Addressed
To explain the 5 elements of a story (setting, characters, conflict, plot, and theme).​Creative Thinking
To develop a plot for a story.Writing
To create a storyboard for creative writing.Writing
To create a video presentation of story with visuals. Media Literacy

Prerequisite Skills

What skills do students need to have before beginning this unit?

  • Reading English short stories and fairytales.
  • Reading Comprehension
  • Grammatical structures for English writing. 

Summative Assessments

  • What evidence or project will students submit to demonstrate that they have met the standard and objectives?
  • How will you assess these products?
  • How will you differentiate the assessments based on varying reading levels of students?

Project Based Learning Assessment

At the end of the unit, Ss will create a video presentation using Splicer that includes their audio, written content, and visual aids for their creative writing project. 

Formative Assessments

How will you monitor and track student progress? 

A Rubric will be used to evaluate the development of their story and project. 

Each lesson will have short quizzes to assess:

  • Lesson One: memorize the elements of a creative writing piece and assess them on the structure of the process. 
  • Lesson Three: multiple choice questions to assess the language used in the lessons (theme, setting, characters, conflict, and plot). 
  • Lesson Four: matching and pairing questions and putting content to organize a creative writing outline. 
  • Lesson Five: short answer about the introduction, rising action, climax, falling action (denouement), and conclusion in stories and ask them to write short examples in fill in the sentence format. 
  • Lesson Six: a quiz at the end of the unit for students to read a short story where I have organized the paragraphs out of order and ask them to put the paragraphs in the correct order.

Unit Plan Lessons

  • What are the lessons that you will teach for this unit? 
  • How will you sequence the lessons that you will teach for this unit? 
  • Will your lessons be goal-oriented, theme-based, or project-based?
  • What strategies will you use to teach vocabulary to students of varying reading levels?
  • Mention any other literacy skill covered in a lesson.
  • What follows this unit?

Lesson One: Elements of a Short Story (My Guided Notes)

Students will compete the following notes in their handout while Teacher presents a powerpoint presentation with examples for each section: Setting, Characters, Conflict, Plot, and Theme)

In groups, students will discuss ‘An Example would be….’ in think-pair-share (t-p-s) and present their examples to the class in review discussion following t-p-s.

Lesson Two: Roll- a- Story!

Working in pairs, students will roll the dice and create their Character, Setting and Conflict. Once they have completed this, they share their results in Padlet. 

The class will debrief the results in Padlet together with Padlet displayed for the class on the overhead projector from the Teacher’s device. 

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Lesson Three: Roll-a-Story Planning Sheet

Students will complete the handout, using the Padlet on display from last class. 

With students in groups of two, they will t-p-s for The Plot and choose a Theme for their story. They will also mindmap possible events and endings for their story to get their ideas written down for the next class.

Using Padlet on display, students debrief with the Teacher and class to discuss the Theme they have chosen. 

Lesson Four: Write a Creative Story

After gathering information, students will write their stories on two lined sheets of paper. They will include their Story Title, Name and Date.

Lesson Five: StoryBoard and Visual Presentation

Students use their stories to create visual aids through drawing, painting, visual media, or playdough.

They will then capture images of their visual aids and upload into the Splicer app. Once in Splicer, they create an audio clip of them reading their story and acreate a video presentation of their story.

Differentiating Instruction

  • How will you differentiate the product, content, and/or process for the various needs, preferences and readiness levels of your students?
  • How will you differentiate the lesson for students with varying reading levels, disabilities and English language learners?

Students will have opportunities for feedback with each other during discussions and t-p-s as well as feedback from the teacher with the rubric used and hands on discussion between student and teacher. 

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Next Steps

What will you do after the unit?

Review, re-teach, extend, or move to the next unit?

The video created will be shared on our classroom portfolio page on Little Red Book social media for others to see. 

Personal Reflection about this Sample Unit Plan

What key concepts from the readings in this unit did you consider and operationalize in your content-based approach?

The unit readings provided context for my understanding around content based instruction. I like how what we have learned so far has been around taking a student centred approach and content based instruction.

For me this means having content in my lessons that are relevant to my students’ experience that is engaging and meaningful. 

This one quote resonated with me because of the point the author makes about students interacting with the new language:

‘When a student learns, they must process information and respond to it appropriately. To help your students to learn a new language, you need them to not only understand the theoretical concepts of language, but also interact with it. To achieve this, ESL instructors need to take great care in the ways they communicate new ideas.’

Chou, 2018

Finding Relevant Comprehensible Input

Interacting with a new language is important as it helps to build experiences for the learner. It also helps provide opportunities for building comprehension and proficiency in language development.

Finding the right fit for comprehensible input is dependant on our learner profiles and our own understanding of what will connect with the students to promote engagement and meaningful experiences. 

Putting Concepts Into Practice

Explain how these concepts will be put into practice.

I enjoyed reading how including content that is challenging and a level above what the learner already knows helps to progress the learner to proficiency in language development. 

‘Comprehensible input doesn’t mean that the input contains words and phrases the students already know. Rather, comprehensible input seeks to effectively integrate new and unknown linguistic data (words and phrases) with familiar ones to make the received input just a bit more difficult.’

2018

This quote resonated with me because I use synonyms, antonyms, and homonyms with my high school students when we are working on vocabulary.

I also provide them opportunities to practice all four aspects of the vocabulary and we discuss the difference between formal and informal language use.

For example, a student may make a statement with a new vocabulary word in the context of talking to a superior or someone in authority. I would provide feedback to the student about the appropriateness of their statement in the context presented.

Then, we would practice this idea with me asking them to use a vocabulary word when talking with friends and then the same word when talking with a teacher or elder.

Choosing Teaching Strategies

Using creative writing as a teaching strategy for vocabulary development helps to provide students with real world examples of how to use the language. It also hleps by providing a level up for comprehension and different options of vocabulary words to choose from when making their statements.

What choices did you make in selecting and embedding this resource/tool?

As previously discussed, the technology is limited in my classrooms. However, I am doing more research over the summer and in particular around VoiceThread, Padlet, and 小红书 (Little Red Book-LBL) which is a Chinese app for social media. 

VoiceThread and Padlet will be used in class for projects development around debate, discussion, news media, novel studies, and film studies. 

LBL is a platform that captures what we would do on Pinterest, Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube. It will provide opportunities for students to publish their progress in language proficiency to the social media world in China. We will use LBL to celebrate student successes and the growing edges of their English language learning.

By using LBL as a goal for their learning and having completed summative and formative assessments prior to posting on LBL, they can work on their projects in class motivated to provide meaningful information to their followers.

I decided to create a class profile and use this platform because of the cultural context of my students and their desire to share their progress and provide learning for others who are following on Chinese social media.

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Summary

Crafting comprehensive unit plans, utilizing effective teaching strategies, and engaging students are key components when it comes to teaching language learners in high school.

With the proper preparation and materials, students build upon their understanding of the language while achieving measurable progress.

Thanks for stopping by!

Until next time,

Suzanne

Related Topics

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Further Reading

Principles and Practice in Second Language Teaching

Guiding Principles for Dual Language Teaching

Content Instruction for English Language Learners (ELLs)

8 Keys for Bringing Comprehensible Input into Teaching ELLs

Teaching Strategies Archives

References

(2021). Boardgamersanonymous.com. http://boardgamersanonymous.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/Five_ivory_dice.jpg

Chou, E. (2018, August 5). 8 Keys for Bringing Comprehensible Input into Your ESL Classroom. FluentU English Educator Blog. https://www.fluentu.com/blog/educator-english/comprehensible-input/

hhawes. (2015, February 9). Content Instruction for ELLs. Colorín Colorado; Colorín Colorado. https://www.colorincolorado.org/content-instruction-ells


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