Curriculum Planning -- Classroom Level 101
Working from a master plan for the semester helps any teacher, but especially the novice. The master plan helps ensure the students cover the "necessaries" and reach many of the "extras." By emphasizing the national, state, and local curriculums, your students will be better prepared for their standardized tests and next classes, and your lesson plans will exceed the expectations of your supervisors. You are certainly welcome to use/abuse/ignore this information.
1. Prepare the master calendar (see Semester Planning 101 Lesson Plan)
2. Obtain the state curriculum standards for your classes/subjects/grades. The principal/superintendent/curriculum specialist at your school should have a copy, but you may also find this information online through the state department of education website.
3. If available, obtain the curriculum standards at the national and local levels (if available). Normally, the national standards are available through your professional subject organization; for English this is the National Council of Teachers of English.
4. Any and all information on standardized testing your students must pass. Depending on your students, this could include SAT and ACT testing as well as local and state testing. Your guidance counselor can provide some information, but also consult the website at the state department of education for sample test questions.
The following steps are not mandatory, but I offer it if your students/school are trying to improve their scores or accreditation or you are trying to improve your own skills.
a. Talk to experienced instructors about other standards either previously used or projected for the future. One of the very best resources I got from a retiring teacher was a list of ITBS skills K-12. It showed what the students in my grade should know, should learn, and would learn in the next grades.
b. You might also check the curriculum standards for the states neighboring your own or in states with high standardized test scores.
c. Take a quick look at the standards for the next grade.
5. Taking the various standards, create a master list of skills your students should learn during the year. Here is the best priority:
a. Everything on the state standardized tests
b. Everything on the state curriculum
c. Everything in the local curriculum (actually, a, b, and c should match closely)
6. With that list, visit experienced teachers of your subject (same grade, one grade under, one grade above) and ask for comments. They will probably have some additions or possibly some deletions.
7. Visit the curriculum specialist and/or counselor and ask for comments. In particular, ask if any of these skills are problem areas on the standardized tests -- mark those for special emphasis.
8. Adjust your list of standards -- marking areas for emphasis, deleting material covered in earlier grades.
9. If you are a novice instructor, I recommend showing this list to the principal. Generally, administrators LIKE instructors showing this level of planning.
10. Look over the list and decide the order of presentation. Obviously, some skills do not need sequencing, while others must be taught in a specific order. For example, thesis statement generation must come before essay writing. Plan how much time will be required by the student to master the skills (generally this will be 2-10 days).
11. At this time, look through your textbook materials, focusing on the table of contents and the teacher edition materials. As you find matches, note those chapters. You may well find some standards are not in your textbooks; those materials can be supplemented later. If the textbook offers material not in your list, add to the list of standards, but mark carefully as textbook additions -- these will be enrichment -- your emphasis should be on teaching the curriculum and not the textbook.
12. Decide if anything else must be covered in the semester, based on your own knowledge, your teaching strengths, and information about your students. Generally, organizational, study, and test skills, employment skills, and "life" skills are important additions, while some activities are enrichment. These areas frequently can be squeezed into short blocks of time.
13. Taking your "real" calendar, start placing the units into the calendar. Remember, you can often split longer units into shorter ones by splitting the objectives. If the calendar shows the students will only be available for three days, or half the class will be out for two, then insert one of the enrichment or remediation units. It is also possible to delay starting a new unit by a day or so if many students will be out or some students need remediation.
14. With the rough calendar and list of units, you may begin the lesson planning process.
15. If the units do not fill the semester, employ the textbook or other resource materials to explore the topics in depth or expand your student test skills.
16. If the semester won't hold all the units, carefully examine the list. Some units may not actually need a full 5 days, and some units may actually be components of a larger unit.
17. Expect your calendar may slide, particularly if this is the first time to teach the class. Remember, you have some "guestimation" time in this.
A semester planned around the national, state, and local standards will ensure your lesson plans will pass inspection and give your students the best opportunity to excel on standardized tests. It will also reduce your lesson planning time and ensure you have valid activities. The most respected teachers are those who deliver the goods, not the ones with the "fun" activities.