Developing curriculum is a tough assignment for first year teachers. However, understanding what to expect and preparing ahead of time can be of great help. Here's a list of strategies for curriculum building from various teaching professionals.
Learning to Build Your Curriculum
If you're looking to develop your own curriculum as a new teacher then you may find yourself overloaded with curriculum building software, how-to articles, and numerous books. It's an overwhelming process whether you're planning for preschool or graduate school. However, there are general principles that you can use as a guideline for preparing your own curriculum. Here are seven principles to get you started.
Focus on the Students
When writing curriculum, it helps to remember that it's not about writing the best lesson plans or developing a perfect set of in-class projects and assignments. Instead, it's about meeting the needs of the students in a way that ensures the material is understood, maintained, and applied in and out of the classroom.
English educator, Dr. Todd Blake Finley, PhD has prepared a free Unit Plan document to lead first-year teachers step by step through the curriculum-building process. In this downloadable PDF document he lays out eight stepping stones to building a solid curriculum focused on student needs at all learning levels.
- Describe your vision, focus, objectives, and student needs.
- Identify resources.
- Develop experiences that meet your objectives.
- Collect and devise materials.
- Lock down the specifics of your task.
- Develop plans, methods, and processes.
- Create your students' experience.
Ask for Help
Seek out seasoned teachers and ask for their input regarding your curriculum. If you don't have a mentor think about asking a fellow teacher if he or she would be willing to walk alongside you during the first year. There's no need to reinvent the wheel. Ask your mentor what he or she did when it came to curriculum building during the first year. Professional teachers are a wealth of information and are often more than willing to share their knowledge with others.
Choose a Supportive Program or Software
Most teachers will tell you that they don't plan their lessons or build curriculum on their own. In fact, oftentimes supportive computer software, online programs, or basic planning maps are used as a guide. Here are a couple of online resources recommended by teacher and curriculum developer Lily Jones:
Online programs are especially encouraged as they enable teachers to access curriculum anytime, and make modifications for future use. If you're on a budget, look for free resources online (i.e. Finley's Unit Plan) or ask fellow teachers for a curriculum sample to use as a guide.
Avoid Prepackaged Curriculum
Packaged curriculum can be a great learning tool especially if you're looking for a hands-on sample to go by. However, it's not suggested that you use the curriculum as your set course of action. Boxed curriculum tends to be scripted and fit one type of student or learning level. What works for one teacher's students may not work for another teacher's students. In the end, you may find yourself re-writing and restructuring the curriculum so it will fit the learning levels and needs of your students.
Schedule Planning Time
Creating multiple lesson plans in order to build curriculum takes time. It's important to schedule in planning sessions and blocks of time to work on curriculum. Learning how to manage that time is also important. Teachers shouldn't get bogged down on curriculum development. Work on it in sections or by units. Set goals for yourself that fit in the allotted time and when time is up, step back and step away for a break. It's not a race. It's your students' entire year of learning so make sure to handle it with care.
Remember U-Turns are Allowed
As a first year teacher developing curriculum for the first time, it's important to realize that it's not going to be perfect the initial time around. It may not even be where you want it to be the fourth or fifth time around and that's OK. Even when the finished product is ready for launch, there still may be a few bugs to work out. That's why it's critical to put the curriculum into motion. Start teaching from it and see if it works. You won't really know if the assignments, class projects, or even guest speakers are a good fit for your class until they are presented. Be prepared because some things will work out perfectly while others will need an immediate facelift. This is all part of the process of curriculum development.
Plan for Feedback and Assessments
Don't forget to build in assessments and time for feedback when developing your curriculum. You will need to be able to measure how well students are doing. Set aside time to engage students in conversations about the day's lesson and assignments. Find out what they liked or did not like and what they might want to do differently. Encourage students to speak up if they didn't understand some of the material presented as well.
At the end of the day, it's not about the curriculum or plan itself. It's about the students and how well they understood the lessons presented. It's about the presentation of the material and the student's ability to understand, retain, and apply it.