What is Curriculum Planning?

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  • 0:01 Curriculum Planning
  • 0:54 Asking Big Questions
  • 2:06 Learning & Development
  • 3:34 Being Flexible
  • 4:36 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Clio Stearns

Clio has taught education courses at the college level and has a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction.

A good understanding of curriculum planning is essential for good teaching. This lesson will help you learn what curriculum planning is, give you a sense of why it's important, and help you get ready to plan your own curriculum.

Curriculum Planning

Sometimes, life in the classroom seems so dynamic and hectic that it might feel as though all plans can go astray. As a teacher, it's easy to get caught up in the day-to-day and forget about the big picture, and curriculum is the big picture. In other words, curriculum is the sum total of skills and concepts that students learn, explicitly as well as implicitly. Losing track of the big picture of a curriculum plan is totally understandable, but at the same time, having an overarching plan is an important way to make sure you don't lose track of what matters most in a particular unit of study. Sensible curriculum planning will bring focus to your teaching, and it will also make it easier to figure out what activities, projects, and lessons you do each day. Follow along with novice teacher Mr. Geller as he discovers what curriculum planning is.

Asking Big Questions

Mr. Geller is a new teacher at Rockford Elementary. His first grade classroom is beautiful, and he did a fantastic job building a respectful and engaged community during the initial weeks of the school year. Now, though, Mr. Geller is finding himself a bit stuck when it comes to planning curriculum. He knows it's important to have a plan, but he doesn't know where to start.

Mr. Geller talks with his grade-level colleague, Ms. Tiktin. She has been teaching a bit longer, and she reminds Mr. Geller that curriculum planning starts with asking big questions. She and Mr. Geller sit down together to think through what big questions they want their students to work on in their literary curriculum over the next six weeks. They decide on the following questions:

  • What is a character?
  • How do authors describe their characters?
  • What clues can we use to figure out a character's personality?

planning questions

Ms. Tiktin tells her colleague that starting with big questions like this is called backward design. Backward design means figuring out what conceptual place you would like a student to be at once a curriculum ends, then working backwards to get there. Mr. Geller will not pose these abstract questions to his first graders, but he will use them to guide his daily planning.

Learning and Development

Mr. Geller is excited to understand a bit more about backward design. He still feels like he isn't sure how to get from big questions to a solid plan, though. Mr. Geller discusses this problem with Ms. Tiktin. Ms. Tiktin reminds Mr. Geller to think about what he knows about how children learn and develop. In math, Mr. Geller is working toward questions about how to add two numbers together. Ms. Tiktin reminds Mr. Geller to think about what steps will help a child formulate this understanding. Mr. Geller realizes this means thinking about how to count, how to represent numbers mentally, and how to draw pictures to represent certain numbers.

Mr. Geller draws himself a diagram of a learning continuum, a graphic model that loosely represents where each child in his class is in terms of understanding the unit on addition. Having a sense of this 'learning continuum', or a map of how learners move from point A to point Z around a particular concept or skill, enables him to choose particular activities that will help each child move toward a deeper and more sophisticated conceptual understanding.

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