Last year, I found out I was going to have a job as a full-time teacher two weeks before the school year started. I outlined my curriculum as much as possible, but these outlining sessions didn’t produce more than a few pages of random notes. With the school year quickly approaching, I fell back on the few curricular staples I had: the books. I ended up dividing the year into three HUGE units based around the three full-length books we would be reading: The House on Mango Street, Things Fall Apart, and Macbeth. The issue I found doing it this way was that each unit was so big and overwhelming (for both the students and myself) that they didn’t feel organized into any logical structure.
Going into this school year, with the benefit of a year’s worth of experience and hindsight, I reflected on my curriculum and asked myself: What is the best way to structure a curriculum, specifically in an English class? Unlike Social Studies, which can rely on the chronological order of historical events as the “backbone” of curriculum structure, English is a series of skills that don’t all fit into a logical, linear order. I realized I had to find a starting point, a backbone for my curriculum.
Utilizing backward design (thinking of learning objectives first), I decided to base my units around the PDE Keystone Anchors. Anchors felt like the most natural starting point; I felt going standard by standard would have created units that were too narrow. By focusing on the anchors, I could think about what big skills I wanted my students to learn and divide units into ways for students to identify, learn, and practice those skills.
Because the ELA anchors are divided into fiction and non-fiction, I combined some anchors in an attempt to simplify. I ended up with about 15 units ranging from 6 to 10 days of class. Within these units I will take time for lessons focusing on the books we will read, utilizing those texts to help teach the skills embedded in the anchors. Keep a look out for a future post coming soon in which I will give a detailed look at my curriculum outline. I’m feeling excited and motivated to lesson plan now that I’ve found the backbone of my curriculum!
Does anyone have ideas they have used or want to try to structure their English class curriculum? Reply here in the comments section or feel free to email me!