Driving questions, thematic units


When I started teaching (13 years ago), I was handed a textbook and told to teach year 8 and 9 science.

There was no unit plan, no lesson plans, no instructions on what topic to teach… In those days we followed SACSA, but it was more like following the chapters in the textbook. If the textbook didn’t match up with the curriculum, you just taught it anyway.

I remember getting relief lessons with instructions like “read pages … of the textbook. Write a glossary of all the bold words. Do the questions on page….”

In the past 5 years we’ve thrown out the textbooks – we are better aligned to the curriculum, have more interesting lessons, build more skills in students, inquire deeper and have a lot more fun.

In the move to teaching-sans-textbook, the first step was to change from 3-4 week chapter units to term based long units of work. With 4 strands in the science understanding curriculum, it matches up neatly with the 4 terms. Next, we developed different tasks that encouraged inquiry, skill development, and were now possible with the longer time frames. For example, design inquiry and research inquiry tasks. Lastly, once comfortable with long term units, we started to manipulate the work to fit in with a driving question that had a real world focus. These produced our thematic units. Once that was in place, we tidied up some of the edges – checking to make sure we had a good variety of tasks, checking to make sure we still aligned with the Australian Curriculum, using a common assessment rubric on all inquiry tasks no matter what the topic.

For more benefits of teaching without a textbook, read our Keep Calm and throw out your textbook post.

Have a look at collaborative planning and BYOSTEMA posts for examples of thematic work.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *