Defining your Curriculum

What is a curriculum? In short, it’s what you teach. Ok so you’re good to go plan it now, right!?

Let me take you through the steps I use to create my curriculum each year. As a side note, I much prefer doing this from scratch (though you’ll see I’m not really reinventing the wheel here), because I’m not used to using textbooks and I believe it is wildly important to tailor your curriculum to your students each year.

1. Decide what topics you must cover.

  • You probably already know roughly what your class is about, but this is a great place to do a little research (on the internet or ask your colleagues) as to what others cover when teaching this class.

2. Create a scope and sequence.

  • Administrators eat this up, but it also really helps you flesh things out. It lets you avoid the mistake I made year after year when designing my own curricula: I’d get SO excited about a new class that during the summer I’d make killer lessons for the first two weeks of school and then once school started I was so swamped with work that I scrambled every night to prep for the rest of the semester. Every. Night.
  • What is a scope and sequence? For me, it’s literally a list of each unit name and the name of each lesson underneath that, in the order I want to teach them. Think of it like the table of contents for your class. And speaking of table of contents – this is actually the best way to brainstorm your scope and sequence for a class! Find a textbook on your subject and pull from that table of contents. You can often find PDFs of the contents for textbooks online for free.

3. Calendar-out your scope and sequence.

  • On a paper or digital calendar, roughly lay out how long you think each unit from your scope and sequence will take. As a first-year teacher, it can be tricky to estimate this, so ask a coworker if you are unsure. In general I like to keep my units between 2-3 weeks long.
  • Note: this is going to be hard right now for fall 2020, so do what you can.

4. Start gathering resources.

  • As you’ve probably already noticed, this isn’t really all “from scratch.” DON’T REINVENT THE WHEEL. Many experienced teachers have spent lots of time making awesome resources and thanks to the internet they’re all available to you for free. Or very low cost (think Teachers Pay Teachers), but honestly I have always found good free stuff.
  • Don’t get super invested in a single lesson yet. Think about gathering resources in general for any unit. While sweeping the web, you might find a resource or website which will be useful for way more than just one lesson. This is ideal! And it’s why we don’t get super focused on one lesson yet.

5. Make some lesson flows.

  • Develop some go-to “lesson flows” for your class. Think of this as just what a typical class period would look like.

6. Plan 1+ lesson(s).

  • IF you’ve done all the previous steps, then I give you permission to actually plan a full lesson. Like I said, don’t make the same mistake I did! Planning an awesome lesson in depth is great but your future self will be happier if you’ve thought of the entire year.

This summer I’ll be revamping my Python Programming class, so stay tuned for some in-depth “plan with me’s” where you can see this process in action!

And if you need a head start to organize your curricula, grab my ’20-’21 Teacher Planning Workbook!

Yours in planning,


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