I’ve been told several times recently that the concept of planning your own curriculum is all well and good, but where do you start? What steps do you take? Now that I’ve been textbook-free for five years, I’ve refined my own process to the following steps.
Before school starts
If you think you have to have everything planned before the first day of school, you really have a daunting project ahead of you. Here are the steps I actually take when I write and rewrite curriculum maps and guides (which I have done every summer for at least one subject – always tinkering!).
Become familiar with I Can statements and proficiency standards.
Visit and revisit the ACTFL or good state standards and I Can statements for the level you’re planning. Ask yourself, what can a student at this level do? Where are we headed? What will our goals be? As an example, if you’re looking at a novice curriculum, keep in mind the overarching principle that novices can talk in simple ways about topics that are familiar.
Sketch a list of topics and potential units.
The key here is your overarching, guiding question. If novices can talk in simple ways about familiar topics, what are the topics that are familiar to them? Well, the ones that are part of their world: family, school, friends, fun, routines, places, and so on.
- Actually delineate what the units will be.
Narrow units to a number that fits your calendar; between six and nine is a good number and fit well in a 36-week school year. Resist doing too many and remember that most language teachers address too much content. As you look at your list of topics and develop a title and focus for your units, think about activity, not language function: “Around town with my friends” helps you focus on communicating meaning, and may include vocabulary and grammar related to shopping, numbers, describing, transportation, making plans, and eating out.
Schedule your units.
Look at your school calendar and set dates to start and finish the units. I begin a spreadsheet and run the dates along the left column, including the day of the week, date, and which week/day it is (so Tuesday of week 3 is 3-2, unless the Monday was a holiday, in which case it’s 3-1).
Assign I-Can (or Can-D0) statements to your units, working from last to first (for more on backward design, see Understanding by Design). What will students be able to do at the end of this unit?
Plan and date assessments.
This is why it’s critical to choose level-appropriate Can-Do statements before you plan assessments. Ask what your students can do as one or more integrated performance assessments to show you that they actually can accomplish what you set out to achieve. Then date them near the end of your unit. I have small classes and long units, so I currently plan my performance assessments by mode with 4 per unit: one interpersonal speaking, one interpersonal writing, one presentational speaking, on presentational writing (and the presentational assessments include interpretive because students are required to incorporate authentic sources). However, if I were planning now, in light of the evolution of the IPA and for large classes, I would plan two and have them be more integrated. In shorter units, I would plan one.
That’s it – that’s the bare bones of what you really ought to have planned out before school starts. Not so much to do this summer, right? Stay tuned for the next installment to find out what I do before each unit begins.