ETAP 655L: Perspectives on Teaching Composition in the Secondary School
Spring, 2008

Guidelines for the Unit Plan (Final Project)











Submission Guidelines




This assignment is the culminating assignment for the course. It should grow out of your work in this course throughout the semester. The assignment requires you to complete a unit plan focused on writing for a middle or high school English class. In completing your unit plan, you will address in some form the three main questions posed by this course:

  1. What is writing?
  2. Why should we teach writing in secondary schools? and
  3. How should we teach writing in secondary schools?

The specific focus of the unit, the nature of the assigned writing in the unit, the intended grade level, and the length of time for the unit are all up to you. As explained below, your unit plan will include a detailed rationale in which you explain and justify the components of your unit in terms of your goals as a writing teacher and your understanding of writing and the purposes of writing instruction in secondary schools. This page contains the guidelines you should follow in completing this assignment.


Your unit plan should include the following components:

  • a general overview of the unit that briefly describes the main activities and assignments you plan for the unit
  • a statement of your objectives for the unit
  • a timetable/outline for the unit
  • a sample lesson plan for a representative or central activity in the unit
  • a rationale in which you explain your reasons for the unit's specific activities and assignments in light of your objectives and in terms of your own evolving philosophy of teaching writing.

Also, include any supplemental materials that you think are necessary for a reader to understand your unit plan. For example, include the assignment prompts for any major writing tasks you plan to give your students; you might also include rubrics for evaluation or essential handouts for in-class activities.

Ultimately, your unit plan should be an illustration of your own beliefs and learning about how writing should be taught. It should in essence answer the three main questions listed above.

Below are general guidelines for each section of your unit plan:

Overview of Unit. Your overview of your unit should provide a reader with a succinct description of the unit's main activities, assignments, and goals. It should also include important information about the grade level for which you intend your unit plan, the specific course if appropriate (e.g. Senior Regents English; College Writing), etc.

Objectives. This section of your unit plan should be a straightforward list or description of the major and minor objectives of your unit. You can organize these objectives in any way that seems appropriate, and you can make them as broad or as specific as you think is necessary. For example, one goal of the unit may be to encourage students to understand the process of writing more fully, which may in fact be an overall goal for your course; at the same time, you might have a much more specific goal of introducing students to specific editing strategies or helping them understand the components of a specific form or genre. Whatever you include in this list of objectives should be discussed in your rationale; in other words, your rationale should link the specific activities and assignments in your unit to the objectives on this list.

Timetable/Outline of Unit. For this section, include a description, outline, calendar, or chart that indicates how you will spend time in the unit. For example, you might break up your unit into specific days and list the major activities or assignments for each day. Or if your unit will span several weeks, you might break it down by weekly activities. This section of your unit plan should convey a clear sense of how students will spend time during the unit and how long you expect the unit to take.

Sample Lesson Plan. For your sample lesson plan, choose a lesson that includes activities that are important to the unit as a whole or a lesson that characterizes the focus of the unit. Use whatever format for your sample lesson plan that you feel comfortable with. But be sure it is complete enough to convey a good idea of what that lesson will involve. For example, if the lesson includes three main activities, the lesson plan should describe those activities sufficiently and explain what you expect students to do for each activity, how much time you will devote to each activity, and how you might assess the activities (if appropriate).

Rationale. This is the heart of your unit plan. In it you will explain your reasons for the specific components of the plan (the assignments, activities, etc.). It should address all the main components of your unit and provide a sense of how those components not only fulfill your stated objectives but also how they reflect your beliefs about writing and writing instruction.

Your rationale should convey a sense of your answers to the three main questions posed by this course (as listed above in the overview for this assignment). This does not necessarily mean that you should have come to solid conclusions about these questions, but it does mean that you should convey a sense of your answers at this point in time and as a result of your work in this course. In your rationale, you should make reference to any course readings, activities, assignments, or any other documents that seem relevant as you discuss your ideas about writing pedagogy.

In addition to the sections described here, you should address the following issues somewhere in your unit plan:

  • Assessment: Be sure to describe and explain how you will assess your students' work in your unit.

  • Difference: In what ways will you take into account your students' diversity in this unit and/or address issues of diversity or difference in writing? How does your unit reflect your views about difference or diversity when it comes to teaching wrting.

  • Technology/Media: Will you address and/or use any technologies in this unit? If so, what are they, how will they be used, and what purposes will they serve in terms of your objectives? How does your use of technology in this unit reflect your views about writing and technology?

  • Grammar: How will you address issues of language conventions, style, usage, etc. in this unit? How does your treatment of these issues reflect your sense of their role in writing?

Submission Guidelines

Length. There is no hard-and-fast length requirement for this assignment, because the length will be determined by the nature of the unit you are developing and the extent to which you develop your ideas in your rationale. The rule of thumb is this: your unit plan should be long enough to fulfill the requirements listed on this page and to do justice to the complexity of the three main questions about writing and writing instruction that we have addressed in this course.

Format. Please organize and format your unit plan so that it is clear, coherent, and easy to navigate. Also, submit your unit plan as a MS Word document. Note: If you are using a Mac or MS Works, please submit your unit plan in rich-text format.


A completed draft of your unit plan is due in class on Tuesday, April 29. Also be prepared to bring a revised draft of your unit plan to class on May 6th.

Final versions of unit plans should be submitted to the instructor (via email) by Friday, May 9th.


This assignment is worth 30% of your final grade for the course and will be assigned a letter grade (A-F). Your unit plan will be evaluated according to how effectively your rationale explains and justifies the specific components of your unit. In addition, your grade will reflect the extent to which your unit plan addresses the three main questions posed by this course (as described above).

Your unit plan should also be thorough, well organized, and well written. It should include appropriate references to course assignemnts, activities, and readings and should reflect your learning about writing and writing instruction as a result of your work in the course.