The Unit Organizer Routine

"Unit Organizer Routine manual cover photo"

Author(s): B. Keith Lenz, Janis A. Bulgren, Jean B. Schumaker, Donald D. Deshler, and Daniel A. Boudah

Publication Info: Edge Enterprises, 1994

Through use of the Unit Organizer Routine, teachers can "frame" a unit to enable students to understand the big picture of the unit. Use of the routine helps students understand how the unit fits within a course or sequence of units, see a method for organizing knowledge, define relationships among pieces of information, understand what they are expected to do, monitor their progress, and recognize what they have learned.

Research results showed that when teachers used the Unit Organizer Routine, understanding and retention of the information by low-achieving students, students with learning disabilities, and average-achieving students improved substantially over baseline as reflected in unit test scores and in scores on unit content maps and explanations of these maps.

Students of teachers who regularly and consistently used the Unit Organizer Routine scored an average of 15 percentage points higher on unit tests than students of teachers who used it only irregularly.

Please note that professional development, coaching, and infrastructure support are essential components to effective implementation of SIM instructional tools and interventions. It is highly recommended that you work with a SIM professional developer. See the SIM Event page for sessions or email to learn more.


Video: Unit Organizer in a digital classroom from RAISEup Texas.

The Unit Organizer Research (.pdf)

This product is published by Edge Enterprises, Inc.  Professional development is recommended, see the SIM Event page for sessions.


  • Boudah, D.J., Lenz, B.K., Bulgren, J.A., Schumaker, J.B., & Deshler, D.D. (2000). Don't water down? Enhance content learning through the unit organizer routine. Teaching Exceptional Children, 32(3), 48-56. This article describes the Unit Organizer Routine and provides an example of how to use the routine, including planning tips, logistical suggestions, ideas for modification, assessment consideration, and a summary of supporting research.
  • Boudah, D.J., Lenz, B.K., Schumaker, J.B., & Deshler, D.D. (2008). Teaching in the face of academic diversity: Unit planning and instruction by secondary teachers to enhance learning in inclusive classes. Journal of Curriculum and Instruction, 2(2), 74-91. This qualitative study indicated teachers began to think more carefully about content organization and difficulty of learning content when they were introduced to and began to use the Unit Organizer Routine.
  • Lenz, B.K., & Adams, G. (2006). Planning practices that optimize curriculum access. In D.D. Deshler & J.B. Schumaker (Eds.), Teaching adolescents with disabilities: Accessing the general education curriculum (pp. 35-78). Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press. This chapter reviews issues related to planning for students with disabilities, different kinds of planning interventions, and studies on teacher planning, including a review of lesson planning, unit planning, and course planning research.

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