Steps for Designing an Integrated Teaching Unit

by Lynn Erikson
  1. Decide on a unit theme, which will allow all team members to enter the integration process. The theme is the centering topic of study.
  2. Identify a major concept to serve as a suitable integrating or conceptual lens for the study. The conceptual lens draws thinking above the discipline to the integration level. Integrated thinking sees the conceptual and transferable patterns and connections of knowledge. Changing the conceptual lens changes the unit focus.
  3. Web the topics for study, by subject or areas, around the concept and theme. Topics listed around the content/concepts web will sometimes be specific or they may be sub-concepts. After brainstorming specific topics and concepts for the web, underline all of the concepts. These become the fuel for writing developmentally appropriate powerful enduring understandings.
  4. Write a unit overview to engage student interest and introduce the unit.
  5. Brainstorm some of the enduring understandings that you would expect students to derive from the study. Enduring understandings go beyond the facts to the conceptual and transferable level of understandings.
  6. Brainstorm guiding questions to facilitate the student's thinking toward the enduring understandings. Guiding questions combine specific "what", why, or how" questions related to specific topics within the unit, with open-ended "Why" and "How" questions to develop conceptual thinking and deep understanding. A unit may have one or two philosophical debate questions, which have no right or wrong answer but develop interest and defense of a position.
  7. Identify the specific knowledge (key facts) and skills that a student must internalize. Student will "know" and exhibit "critical skills". the specific knowledge is drawn from the topics being studied; the skills are drawn from standards and curricular frameworks.
  8. Code the knowledge and skills with assessment codes (AC) to show the other evidence that is planned beyond the culminating performance task. Include these other assessments in your unit packet.
  9. For each week in the unit, write an instruction plan or instructional activities to address critical knowledge, understanding, and skills.
  10. Write the culminating performance task to show the depth of learning. The performance task answers the question, "What do I want students to know, understand, and be able to do as a result of this unit of study?"
  11. Design the scoring guide (criteria and standard) to assess the performance task. For each criterion assessed in a given mode, ask yourself, "what does it look like?" at each level of the performance.
  12. Identify unit resources and include teacher notes to assist with instruction. (Erikson, 2001, p. )

Erikson, L. (2001). Stirring the Head, Heart, and Soul. Corwin Press: Thousand Oaks, CA.