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7 curriculum planning tips that will make your school year easier

For some teachers, curriculum planning is a fun and creative process. For others, it’s a necessary evil. Whether we love it, hate it, are just kind of meh about it, or are completely confused and overwhelmed by the thought of it, we’d probably all agree that developing curriculum is a time-consuming process that demands a great deal of thought and energy.

However, time is a rare and precious commodity. So how can you create and deliver quality lessons without losing your mind and kissing any semblance of a social life goodbye?

How to create your own curriculum

If you’re new to the process of creating your own curriculum, here are seven basic steps you can follow.

At the beginning of the year (or before you start to lesson plan):

  1. Read through your state or district standards. 
  2. Make of list of the concepts your students need to know.
  3. Group the concepts into common themes or units.
  4. Create an outline of the order in which you will teach the units, as well as the order in which you will teach the concepts within the units.
  5. On the outline, write an objective for each concept. (Check out our lesson plan examples for elementary school if you need inspiration).
  6. Determine measurable, observable assessments for each objective and add these to your outline.

Throughout the year:

  1. Craft lesson plans for how you will teach each objective.
  2. Reflect on and make notes about each lesson after you teach it. What did you like? What didn’t you like? What worked? What didn’t? These notes can help you adjust the lesson next year and inform your lesson planning for the current year.

If you’re feeling lost or generally overwhelmed, we’ve got a guide on how to develop a curriculum.

7 steps to make the curriculum planning process easier

While there’s no doubt that creating and developing your own curriculum is a highly involved process, there are ways to make it easier and less stressful.

1. Determine your goals and expectations

What are you seeking to accomplish in developing your curriculum? Are you looking to raise your students’ standardized test scores? Do you want to develop students who love learning? Are you looking to include more interactive and differentiated activities? Do you simply need to have something in place that you can teach the students from day to day? Determining your goals will give you purpose and focus in your planning.

2. Choose one content area to focus on each year

Note the word focus. If you’re creating all your curriculum from scratch, you obviously need to have something in place for every class period. However, you don’t have the time or energy to pour into making every subject great all at once. Instead, choose one area to really hone in on.

3. Research the content and use premade lesson plans

Look in your library and online to find out what kind of information and resources are available for the content you’ll be teaching. You may find textbooks, fiction and nonfiction books, fact sheets, activities, pictures, diagrams, short videos (like those at Brainpop.com), PowerPoints, flashcards, and lesson plans. You can also download unit and lesson plan templates from sites such as Teacherplanet.com.

You can even ask the other teachers in your school for their plans. Armed with these completed plans, you can either teach them as they’re written or use them as a resource and framework that you can tweak and adapt to your needs.

Looking for ways to make learning more fun in your classroom? Check out Classcraft’s lesson plans, created by teachers like you.

4. Make a list of 3-5 resources for each concept

As you’re researching what’s already out there, save and make a note of your favorite resources. On your curriculum outline, list three to five of your favorites for each concept. This saves lots of time, especially when you do this at the beginning of the year. That way, when you’re later writing your lesson plan and preparing to teach it, you already know where to pull your information and activities from.

On a personal note, I went through this preparation when I was expecting my third child while homeschooling my first one. After the birth, all I had to do for our school time was look at my notes and open up or navigate to the corresponding resource.

5. Get to know your students

It’s funny how groups of students tend to take on a personality. I once had a classroom full of predominantly firstborn students who were all enthusiastic go-getters. All I had to do was mention an idea for a project, and they’d immediately start planning it. Most of my other classes needed more guidance and direction. Some classes seemed to prefer and thrive on discussions while others were more comfortable with quieter seatwork activities. The better that your lessons align with your students’ preferences, the more engaged your class will be.

Of course, this may be easier said than done. Students have varying intelligence and learning styles that you’ll have to account for, too.

6. Start with a few reusable activities 

Each new activity needs to be taught — and that obviously takes time. Your students need to know how to perform the activity and how they’re expected to behave throughout the course of it. Reusing activities that your students are already familiar with saves time during class and eliminates the extra time it takes you to find and plan new activities. Of course, as you and the students settle into the school year, you can always add new ones or revise some of the old ones, but don’t start off trying to come up with a bunch of completely different activities and teaching methods for each objective.

In your basic set of three to five, try to find activities that utilize the three basic learning styles: visual, auditory, and kinesthetic. Student-directed and project-based learning activities are also great methods to include in your rotation.

7. Don’t expect it to be perfect

Curriculum is a continually developing process. It’s full of trial and error, success and failure. What works well for one group of students may fail miserably with another, and the methods that one teacher uses successfully may not be a good fit for another teacher. But there is one constant, and that’s you

Students know when a teacher cares about them and about the material they’re teaching. They will respond to your heart, even if they don’t respond to the lesson. So go forward with love for your students and grace for yourself. Do your best in developing the curriculum with the time and energy you have available. It will come together. And the more you engage in the process, the easier and faster it will become.

Photo: Pexels

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