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Bottom Up & Top Down Teaching Strategies

Instructor: Nora Jarvis

Nora has a Master's degree in teaching, and has taught a variety of elementary grades.

When you begin writing your curriculum, where do you start? This lesson provides two ways you might structure your lessons: bottom up and top down teaching. See examples of each and learn strategies you might use in your own classroom.

Bottom Up Vs. Top Down

As you plan your curriculum, it will be helpful to think of the way you organize your lessons. Are you starting with the small building blocks and then expanding? Or are you starting with the big picture and filling in the details along the way? These two approaches actually have names.

Bottom up teaching starts with the small details, like vocabulary words or the step-by-step process of solving an algorithm. As students master these skills, the teacher broadens the scope of the lesson to include a reading passage that uses the vocabulary words, or to math worksheets requiring the student to apply the algorithm.

Alternatively, the strategy of top down teaching involve starting with the big, abstract concept and working down to the specific details. For instance, you might demonstrate a chemical reaction to your students, and then have them learn about the different molecules in each substance that resulted in the reaction.

The same lesson objectives can be met through both methods. The two strategies simply offer different ways of organizing and presenting material to your students. Below, you'll learn specific strategies that you can incorporate in your classroom using both of these teaching methods.

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