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How to Select Developmentally Appropriate Curriculum

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Instructor: Sharon Linde

Sharon has an Masters of Science in Mathematics and a Masters in Education

In developing a curriculum, teachers should offer real-world, challenging experiences that allow students to grow and align with their learning goals. Learn about the importance of determining which curriculum is developmentally appropriate. Updated: 12/06/2021

Developmentally Appropriate

When Angela started teaching years ago, curriculum choices were pretty simple and straightforward. If a student was in first grade, the curriculum was geared towards a child of that age. If a first grader couldn't successfully complete the work, teachers made recommendations for extra support or even possible retention. In other words, the student needed to adjust to the curriculum.

New approaches in Angela's school require her to select, develop, and use developmentally appropriate curriculum. Instead of the child adjusting to curriculum, this method fits the curriculum to the individual student's needs and level. Angela is a little worried about this method. How will she be able to choose curriculum for all her students? What criteria should she use? Luckily, her principal has provided her with several resources to help her out.

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  • 0:03 Developmentally Appropriate
  • 0:49 Curriculum Choices
  • 1:51 Selecting Curriculum
  • 3:18 Criteria for Choosing…
  • 4:19 Lesson Summary
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Curriculum Choices

Angela learns that developmentally appropriate curriculum should challenge students, but not overwhelm them. A curriculum that is at the right level is work a student can do with scaffolding and support from a teacher at the beginning and eventually achieve mastery of independently. Angela knows from experience that although children learn and develop in predictable sequences and steps, they each make progress in their own unique way.

To make solid choices about curriculum for her students, Angela needs to understand two things: the progress of learning development and the individual needs of students. In order for Angela to be successful at making curriculum choices for her students, she needs to have a solid understanding of the continuum of development for children in her class. For example, as a first-grade teacher, she can expect her students to be within a specific range of reading and writing development, somewhere along a spectrum of the emergent level. At the same time, Angela needs to be a close observer of her students. By recognizing where her students are in development in relation to the expected continuum, Angela can provide extra support if necessary.

Selecting Curriculum

As we saw, when choosing developmentally appropriate curriculum, Angela needs to be aware of typical learning developments and her students' ability within these areas. How can she choose teaching that fits both needs? She has a few choices.

An important resource for teachers like Angela to use when choosing the right type of curriculum is to use data, or information gathered about a student's ability. For example, in reading, Angela meets with her students often throughout the week. She writes down observations, takes notes when they read, and administers informal assessments and screenings. She uses this data to plan curriculum for students based on their specific developmental needs. If Julia struggles with decoding, Angela knows this because she has collected information. She can plan lessons that will help Julia make progress with decoding.

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