Planning Curriculum Document -
Overview and suggestions

When planning or creating a curriculum document the purpose of the document should be known. Three of the most common documents that teachers create are

  1. Sequence plans or units
  2. Year plans
  3. Multiple grade curriculums (K-2, 4-6, 5-8, K-12)

The scope of these documents are different, but the processes used for creating them are similar. Once the scope is decided it is helpful to decide categories for the information to be included. Deciding this helps to decide the overall organization and better insures a comprehensive inclusion of information. This can be thought of as a table of contents for what will be include in the document.

Different documents can have the same or different categories or parts depending on its purpose. For example, philosophy statements and principled procedures can be used from one document to another for the same educators or within the same school. They may be identical or if not, should at least have information that is consistent. Frameworks or planning templates can be created to use for content and each sequence or unit plan for the subject or contextual areas. Within these activity outlines can also be created to be used to organize information for each activity and so on.

The process of planning and creating documents is discussed within the context of being a teacher in the article: Being a teacher and what outstanding teachers know and do.

The start of any documentation of curriculum -

Once the overall documents outline of content is decided, attention can focus on what is to be included in each of the different parts. Parts such as beliefs, assumptions, ideas about students, how people learn with respect to a constructive learning theory, how to facilitate its development with a learning cycle methodology, how to use authentic continuous assessment, what should be learned to be literate, what kinds of activities, how those experiences should be organized, and other related products.

Document pieces like principled procedures, which have embedded beliefs and assumptions to describe how teachers and students will act and interact can be included. Categories and organizational ideas are suggested in these outlines for unit plans and year plans.

Select and organize the information into subject or contextual dimensions

Once over all categories are decided it is probably time to focus on the dimensions of the subject or contextual areas. Examples can be found in the National Standards documents and frameworks. These documents can be used to identify big ideas for literacy in a specific subject to be included in the curriculum document as the dimensions of information for the subject or content area that has been selected for students to know and do to be literate in the subject or contextual area.

These don't need to be created from scratch as the creators of these documents have each selected dimensions to organize information to describe literacy for their areas. For example: science has different sets of standards created by NSTA, Project 2061, K-12 Science Framework, and NGSS. To create science documents information can be selected from any and arranged in any way that helps create the documentation you desire.

When the main dimensions are selected and organized it is time to reflect on what will be communicated with the results. What ideas are comprehensive and what additional information might be added. Will people understand the dimensions as the main ideas for the subject or content area? Will the document have information that is necessary and sufficient to guide decisions about students needs to know to develop literacy in the subject?

Unpacking the dimensions

After reviewing descriptions of the dimensions for the subject, each can be unpacked to describe what needs to be known and done to be literate in the subject or content area. What learners need to know or do in each dimension to be literate. What do each of the various statements mean precisely? How satisfied are you and others in your group with the way the information is presented for others to understand what it means for you and your students?

What information should students know at a grade level or grade range?

If the descriptions came from standards it is likely the information was selected from a grade level or range. If that is the case, the ideas should be checked against the levels above and below to see if there is agreement as to the developmental level being appropriate for the students. Not only is this necessary to check for developmentally appropriate, but to consider if the ideas are sequenced in a way that students' will relate their past experiences to what they will presently learn and that in turn will tie to future learnings.

As you document this information, be sure that whatever you decide to label the different pieces of information be certain they are what the labels claim them to be. Make sure facts, concepts, and generalizations are labeled accurately and objectives are written consistently. It is helpful to think of outcomes as written to describe what students do that is used to infer what they know and understanding: facts, concepts, relationships, and generalizations.

A well written document labels the ideas appropriately and includes consistently written examples. Sometimes the difference is subtle, but there is a difference as all good teachers know; what students understand and what they do is different.

While the information presented here is presented linearly, the development of documentation need not be linear. It is possible and sometimes convenient to unpack and focus only on one area or at times to jump from one area to another as ideas are being generated.

Activities for learning opportunities

After the document's contents are selected and organized, dimensions decided and unpacked for concepts and outcomes; focus can change to selecting experiences and activities to provide opportunities for students to conceptualize the ideas. Then an order for students to experience them is decided.

Select and organize assessment

Assessment does not have to be the last element created or selected for inclusion. If you already know the outcomes desired and have a list of outcomes, then assessment has probably been considered and even ideas on how to organize it into levels. More information on assessment.


Dr. Robert Sweetland's notes