What to Look for in a New Curriculum

This upcoming school year, our school will be looking at adopting a new high school ELA curriculum.  I have a very limited background when it comes to school districts and their adoption or development of curriculums.  I have seen many documents online as I have done my own research for my own, which was based solely on the incorporation of the state standards, researched-based strategies, and strong texts.

I have been through several textbook series and curriculum support presentations in my career, and this summer would be no different.  Before the presentations began, I sat down and made a list of all the features I would want the ideal ELA curriculum to have:

  • Standard-based lessons and activities
  • Reading, Speaking, Listening activities
  • Close Reading
  • A strong writing program
    • Synthesizing information presented into a product
    • “Beyond-the-text” assignments
    • MLA/APA/Citations/Plagiarism support
    • How to do research – online and in libraries
  • Rubrics
  • The text selection would be both rigor-appropriate, but also high interest
  • Technology & multimedia must be incorporated
  • Digital copies of the texts for the students and teachers
  • Differentiated options
  • Support for ELL/ESL students
  • A user-friendly interface
  • Support for teachers (professional development, customer service support)
  • Options for teachers to customize the content/assessments/assignments

Educator Question of the Day: What other features do you look for in a new curriculum?

How to Begin Your PrePlanning

My preplanning work station.

My preplanning work station.

Some may disagree with me, but I would rather give up a bit of my vacation time to work on a project on my own terms, in a comfortable environment, and a pace of my choosing.  I work better when I can control the amount of distractions, or at least the types of distractions, as opposed to having to be disrupted for a full-schedule of meetings and professional development sessions.  Trust me, there will be plenty of those over the school year.  I’m also the type of person who tends to be restless, so if I’ve taken care of my other priorities, I am glad to tackle the next stack.

Don’t get me wrong: I don’t necessarily enjoy having to “work” on curriculum and planning when I should be taking in the sunshine and relaxed atmosphere of summer.  I need to be in the right frame of mind.  So how does that happen?

Here are some tips for getting the ball rolling on your own preplanning schedule:

1.  Make a list of ALL the things that you want to accomplish.

Trust me, this won’t overwhelm you.  It will actually make the process that much easier.  Consider this a “brain dump” and don’t beat yourself up if you eventually cross things off your list.  You may find that once you begin, some tasks won’t be necessary.  It’s always better to have more and cut back than vice versa.

2.  Start with the easiest tasks first.

This will get you warmed up to the idea of the larger tasks.  For myself, I started by simply updating the dates on my syllabi and annual plan/pacing guide.  If you’re like me and will be teaching the same content area/grade levels, this is about as simple as it gets.  Once I started updating my dates for one class, I started considering which texts I was going to be using.  I then took out the text books and started narrowing down, refining what I would and would not include in the syllabus.  From there, I was able to simply cut and paste.  Abracadabra: updated syllabus and pacing guide!  Just before starting this blog post, I realized that I had checked off almost ALL of my tasks!

Updated To Do List

3.  Pace out your to-dos.

Don’t try to complete the entire list all in one sitting; you’ll burn yourself out and make the process  painful as opposed to enjoyable.  We all know when our threshold has been met, so do what you can until it’s no longer enjoyable.

4.  Google your key terms.

If you’re feeling uncreative or become stuck in a planning rut, use the internet as a resource for both your content and your motivation.  Sometimes seeing how other teachers have addressed the same topic or text will open your eyes to new possibilities.  Also, don’t forget the power of social media!  I find a lot of inspiration from the teachers and administrators in my Twitter #PLC.

5.  Enjoy the process!

Remember how you felt when you first started teaching: the eagerness of getting into your OWN classroom, planning your OWN curriculum.  It’s still in there somewhere.  Allow yourself the opportunity to explore new options for your planning.  Research a new instructional or classroom management strategy. The benefit of starting early is that you don’t have to rush.

One last tip: reward yourself each time you cross another item off your to-do list.  You’ve completed a major accomplishment and should view it as such.

 

 

Standard-Based Chart to Help Your Instruction

I teach in Florida where we are rolling out our new standards, specifically for ELA, the Language Arts Florida Standards (LAFS).  By the way, I love that the acronym is “laughs.”  Anyways, I have been searching throughout the internet and Pinterest for useful templates and charts for ensuring a smoother and efficient implementation of the new standards.  Fortunately, we are not the first state to switch to a Common Core-styled system, so there are a lot of templates to follow.

1.

Student-by-Student Standard Tracking

Screen Shot 2014-07-22 at 10.46.24 AM

The first column consists of the specific standards and numbers and the subsequent are reserved for each of the students in the classroom.  When an assessment based upon the given standard is given, the students’ results are recorded.  I have yet to recreate this for my own classroom, but it is on the list.

Standard-by-Standard Tracking in Instructional Practices

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(Column Titles: Benchmark, Description, How Implemented/Activity/Notes, When Implemented/Date & Unit, Reflection)

In the past, I have used a tracking chart to ensure that I have thoroughly covered all of the standards in a given marking period.  With the advancement of both the curriculum requirements and rigor, extensive reflection, and meticulous implementation, I have updated my chart.  The key items that I include on my tracking chart are:

  • Benchmark#/Code
  • Benchmark Description
  • Details of How I implemented the benchmark
  • The date and unit that I used the benchmark
  • Ample space for reflection

Complete chart for LAFS 1112 (Florida only, sorry.)  If you would like to use my chart and just copy/paste your state’s standards, please feel free to.

LAFS 1112 Tracking Chart Generic