Three Easy Steps to Curriculum Planning

Download: TCI Curriculum and Unit Development Guide

It’s August and you are facing an entire year of lesson planning for your social studies course.  Daunting?  Let me share with you three key curricular planning steps for success.

 One:  It’s essential that you correlate your content to your standards.  You can then plan a realistic course calendar that ensures you’re focusing on essential content.  To do this, make a copy of the table of contents from the student text.  For each standard, place a tick-mark next to the chapter title it meets.  The number of tick-marks show which chapters need more time.  Call these your ‘big rock’ chapters.  If you’re using TCI curriculum, spend more time thoroughly teaching that chapter’s lesson and take advantage of the wonderful enrichment resources found on the TCI website.  Teaching essential content and concepts at a deeper level verses ‘covering’ all the content translates to students’ ability to transfer knowledge to unfamiliar content.

Two:  Plan for the course, units, and lessons to integrate thematically.  In other words, build a custom home with your curriculum that is beautifully designed from the floor plan to the paint color!  Utilizing Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe’s “Understanding By Design”, create a course question, unit questions, and if using a TCI program, chapter essential questions are provided.  These provocative questions prompt students to investigate critical aspects of the topic as we reflect on them repeatedly throughout the lesson, unit, or course.  Essential questions contain a few key ingredients:  Help students reach a deeper level of understanding, are provocative, worded simply and clearly, arguable from different points of view, employ higher order thinking skills, and are teachable.  For example, if you are teaching a unit in United States history on the Constitution, your essential question might be:  “Can people be trusted to govern?”  Manifest Destiny:  “Was manifest destiny just?” 

Three:  You’re now ready to apply the finishing touches to your custom course.  For each unit, design a kick-off activity for the first lesson that introduces the essential question and piques student interest for the content.  These activities are short -15 minutes or so- and ‘preview’ the unit’s content with any one of the following:  Quotes, provocative propositions, or musical or visual prompts.  For example, if teaching the manifest destiny unit mentioned above, select four or five strong visual images related to era.  Have students formulate hypothetical arguments that support either just or unjust points of view for each image.

Careful planning yields powerful results.  Take the time now to ensure that you are on track to engage and motivate your students this coming school year.  Need more help?  Visit TeacherGenius on  to peruse an array of practical teaching tips and enrichment resources to compliment your curriculum planning.  Also, attached to this Blog you will find the complete “Guide to Curriculum and Unit Planning” from the TCI “Bring Learning Alive!” methods manual.

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