Section 2: Effective Unit Design to Support Unit Planning

Effective Unit Design

Effective unit design involves several important elements. Teachers engage students in learning by:

  • activating their prior learning and experiences, clarifying the purpose for learning and making connections to contexts that will help them see the relevance and usefulness of what they are learning;
  • selecting instructional strategies to effectively introduce concepts;
  • considering how to scaffold instruction in ways that will best meet the needs of their students;
  • considering when and how to check students’ understanding and to assess their progress towards achieving their learning goals;
  • providing multiple opportunities for students to apply their knowledge and skills and to consolidate and reflect on their learning; and
  • using a three-part lesson design (e.g., “Minds On, Action and Consolidation”) to structure these elements.

To maximize learning, assessment and instruction must be planned around a clearly defined learning goal for students. Designing quality Health & Physical Education (H&PE) units of instruction begins with identifying the curriculum expectations that will be the focus of learning for the unit of instruction and then crafting the learning goal (what the student should be able to do) with the big ideas of the overall expectation in mind.

Once the learning goals are identified, the specific expectations related to the overall expectation may be used to co-construct the success criteria with students. The performance task may then be designed and teaching and learning strategies for effective instruction can be established for students to learn the skills, concept and strategies.

The assessment, planning and instruction cycle involves the following steps:

  1. Select applicable curriculum expectations: cluster expectations and consider cross-strand connections (e.g., active living connected to movement competence).
  2. Establish the learning goals: What do I want students to learn by the end of the unit?
  3. Establish the success criteria: What are the indicators for success?
  4. Generate critical thinking questions to elicit student responses to help reinforce the learning for the unit. Ask students before, during and/or after each lesson.
  5. Establish how students will demonstrate their learning at the end of the period of instruction (Assessment of learning).
  6. Assess prior learning: What do students know and what skills have they already acquired?
  7. Design the learning: How will assessment and instruction be organized for student learning? Use the three-part lesson approach (Minds On, Action and Consolidation) to provide effective instruction. More details about each step are included under the heading “The three-part lesson approach”.
  8. Establish assessment checkpoints: Determine assessment for and as learning opportunities throughout the period of learning.
  9. Implement designed instructional strategies and activities (creating daily lesson plans from a unit plan) including identified assessment strategies.
  10. Adapt or adjust the instruction throughout the period of learning based on assessments.
  11. Assess student achievement of the expectations at the end of a period of learning.

The Three-Part Lesson Approach

Minds On

  • Make connections: connect with students, connect students to the learning and each other, link back to previous lessons and link forward to what is to come.
  • Identify the lesson’s learning goals explicitly.
  • Create a positive classroom climate: welcome students, invite them into the lesson by engaging, connecting and motivating their learning and focus their attention.
  • Prepare for learning: move students toward the critical learning by creating a mental set, accessing and activating prior learning, connecting to previous lessons or connecting to their interests.
  • Develop interpersonal, learning and collaborative skills.


  • Model, instruct and guide the learning (i.e., using instructional strategies and resources). Present information, strategies and skills students need to acquire. Give students opportunities to demonstrate their learning through practice and repetition and provide continuous feedback (i.e., peer-, self- and teacher-directed). Differentiate instruction according to the needs of individual students.

Action includes:

  • questioning to evoke and expose thinking;
  • responding with appropriate levels of challenge and support; and
  • engaging learners in critical literacy.

Instruction includes:

  • modelling;
  • guided practice and scaffolded exploration;
  • co-construction of understanding;
  • gradual release of responsibility;
  • differentiation; and
  • a variety of grouping and collaborative structures.


  • Check for conceptual understanding of critical learning through reflection, summary, application and consideration of alternative approaches.
  • Use a variety of strategies, including whole-class discussion, small group/pair discussion, journals and exit cards.
  • Identify what students should “know before they go”.
  • Identify how students will demonstrate what they have learned.

Sample Units to Support Unit Planning

The Teaching Games for Understanding (TGfU) Sample Unit Plans illustrate how educators may organize instruction to support students in developing their physical literacy. The focus of the learning in these sample units is on fundamental and transferable movement competence skills, concepts, principles and strategies that can be applied across a variety of games within the same game category and a variety of Individual and Recreational Pursuits. The sample units use the Design Down Model as the foundations of effective unit design and TGfU approach, using the game form as the common element versus a sport-specific focus.

This resource aligns with Grade 9 curriculum expectations from the H&PE Curriculum, and includes five sample units: Territory, Net/Wall, Striking/Fielding, Target and Individual and Recreational Pursuits.