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Curriculum Planning Process & Development

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  • 0:00 Preparation and Planning
  • 0:55 Standards for…
  • 1:53 Annual Lesson Plans
  • 3:20 Unit Lesson Plans
  • 4:18 Individual Plans
  • 5:23 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Lindsey Pierron
Curriculum planning and development is a challenging but important process. If teachers use standards to write annual, unit, and lesson plans, they will ensure that their students are exposed to all necessary material in a given school year.

Preparation and Planning

When Mr. Nelson walks into his classroom at the beginning of the year, there are dozens of things for him to do. He needs to set up his classroom, organize supplies, put posters on the wall, arrange desks, decide on an appropriate behavior system, and most importantly, plan his curriculum. Curricular planning and development, the process of looking at the standards in each subject area and developing a strategy to break down these standards so they can be taught to students, varies according to grade level, subjects taught and available supplies.

In many districts, schools supply a complete curriculum in core subject areas, filled with teacher resources and student workbooks. In other districts, teachers are given a list of state, local or Common Core standards and asked to develop their own curriculum. Regardless of subject area or grade level taught, there are a few important factors for teachers to consider as they plan their curriculum, including standards and the breakdown of course material.

Standards for Curriculum Development

When planning and developing curriculum in any subject area, the first place to start is state, local or Common Core standards. Standards vary from state to state, and teachers are expected to know which standards to teach and how to teach them. Every lesson and unit should be tied to standards, and every grade level standard should be addressed at some point during the course of the school year. Standards should be presented sequentially, so students can build on previously learned skills.

Each subject area has specifically defined standards, but many times multiple standards are addressed within one project. For example, if a sixth grade student writes a research report on Thomas Jefferson, that student could be addressing reading, writing, research and history standards, all within the same assignment. Such opportunities are beneficial for students because they demonstrate the overlap in various subject areas and give students the chance to synthesize their learning. The example below shows how a history research report could hit six or more standards at the same time.

One report may address several standards at the same time.
History Report

('Social Studies,' 2014) and ('English Language Arts,' 2014)

Annual Lesson Plans

Planning curriculum has many layers and can be tedious at times. It's best to look at the standards that are required and start with a yearly plan. Students are expected to master several standards in every subject area, so having a general plan for the year that outlines the order in which skills will be introduced, instructed and repeated is important.

It would be helpful to have a calendar available to set up a timeline as a visual aid. Teachers who instruct all core subject areas and those who teach only specific subjects will likely approach this task differently. An elementary school teacher might find opportunities to hit standards in multiple subjects at once more often than a high school math teacher. With that said, there are often opportunities for cross curricular instruction in all subject areas.

To begin designing a yearly plan, an elementary teacher could start by looking at an individual subject, such as math, and sort through the resources provided by the school district. Oftentimes, teachers are given a textbook to use as a guide for instruction. However, textbooks are written for use in dozens of states and districts, so it's important for a teacher to examine the textbooks provided and look for which standards are addressed and which standards will require supplemental materials. Then, teachers can begin to plan accordingly.

Let's consider Mr. Nelson, a third grade teacher. As he is developing an annual plan for his math class, he would read through the standards and curriculum provided and plan his instruction from there. An example is shown below.

This displays a sample annual plan for third grade math.
Annual Plan

Unit Lesson Plans

Once an annual plan has been established, the next step is to break the annual plan into units. If Mr. Nelson has established an annual plan, he can begin to look at each concept and determine how to approach each individual unit. In designing his units, Mr. Nelson will look at the individual strands that need to be taught. At this point, he will line up his units with standards to ensure every standard is touched on at some point during the school year. If he notices gaps in the curriculum, this is the point at which he will determine which materials he will need to supplement the textbooks.

Also, when developing units, Mr. Nelson will look for areas in which he may need to allow additional instructional time. Some topics are more complicated than others and might require additional repetition and opportunities to practice. If Mr. Nelson plans appropriately, he will provide a little bit of flexibility within his annual and unit plans. An example of a unit breakdown for the first several months of the year, using the Everyday Math curriculum, is shown below.

Planning units helps teachers see where there are gaps in the curriculum.
Unit Sample 2

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