I love it when I go internet traveling and land in a delightful garden.
I spent an afternoon recently exploring The Second Principle, a site kept by retired University of Wisconsin professor Leslie Owen Wilson. I learned new information about the brain, lots about curriculum design, and she had a very moving tribute to Fred Rogers (whose biography I had just finished).
Leslie’s specialty area is curriculum design. In one of her blog posts, she answers a burning question for me, which is, What do teachers want in a curriculum document? She draws from a large database: 18 years of student surveys at the end of her course titled Fundamentals of Curriculum.
So… what did she find out? I’m going to distill it down for you since the original piece is beyond most folks’ attention span on this topic.
- Print copies, preferably in binders and with room to write notes
- Clearly numbered, coded or sequenced sections
- Readable fonts, bold headings, and italics
- A general overview schema
- Title page with date of publication, authors and contact info
- Mission statement and philosophy of intent
- Table of contents with section sequences
- Scope and sequence chart
- Standards, aims, goals, and objectives that are correctly termed, clearly marked and sequenced
- Congruence between the mission and philosophy and the internal components
- Clear indications of desired outcomes and benchmarks
- Assessment devices or samples of progress
- Appendices with references to related resources, materials, organizations, suggestions for time allotments and scheduling
3. Other suggestions
- Materials should be revised and updated every 2-3 years
- Materials should provide direction for novice teachers and latitude for experienced teachers
- An overview of three years’ progress (what is expected the year before the grade level and the year after)
- Educational goals should be prioritized into categories of expectation (i.e. what should be introduced, developed, or mastered in the lessons)
- Curriculum should be logically arranged
- Every teacher should have a personal copy
- If materials change significantly, an in-service should be provided
- Teachers should be given time to exchange ideas and suggestions as they implement the curriculum
- There should be examples of current best practice
What is not helpful to teachers? Outdated curriculum, materials written to “teach to the test”, permanently bound or overly large volumes, lofty or inspirational mission statements which do not match the instructional components, not knowing who is responsible for making the materials or adopting them at the district level, curriculum that is overly directive or too vague.
I think Growing Writers does really well on most of these points. There will probably be teachers who feel at first glance that it is too restrictive because it has a tight design and some “Teacher Talk” scripts (which are merely suggestions). Because children’s writing is full of surprises, no year will ever be the same even if you are using the same lessons!
If you want the whole document on teachers’ opinions, here is direct access to that: https://thesecondprinciple.com/instructional-design/writing-good-curriculum/
Just for fun, here’s her tribute to Mr. Rogers. Read about the high school track star who stopped short when he saw Leslie’s t-shirt with Mr. Rogers on it. https://thesecondprinciple.com/2018/08/25/remembering-mr-rogers-lessons-that-remind-us-to-return-to-civility-and-caring/