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Professional Learning

How to Plan a Curriculum

5 Min Read
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Curriculum planning is a fun and creative process, but it can also be time consuming. So how can you create and deliver quality lessons with the most ease? Keep reading!

If you’re new to the process of creating your own curriculum, here are a few things to keep in mind before you get started.

At the beginning of the year (or before you start to lesson plan):

  • Read through your state or district standards.
  • Make of list of the concepts your students need to know.
  • Group the concepts into common themes or units.
  • Create an outline of the order in which you will teach the units, as well as the order in which you will teach the concepts within the units.
  • On the outline, write an objective for each concept. Check out an examples of a differentiated instruction lesson plan here.
  • Determine measurable, observable assessments for each objective and add these to your outline.

Throughout the year:

  • Craft lesson plans for how you will teach each objective.
  • Reflect on and make notes about each lesson after you teach it. What did you like? What didn’t you like? What worked? What didn’t? These notes can help you adjust the lesson next year and inform your lesson planning for the current year.

7 Steps of the Curriculum Planning Process

While there’s no doubt that creating and developing your own curriculum is a highly involved process, here are sevens steps of curriculum planning that you can follow to make it easier for you.

1. Determine your goals and expectations

What are you seeking to accomplish in developing your curriculum? Are you looking to raise your students’ standardized test scores? Do you want to develop students who love learning? Are you looking to include more interactive and differentiated activities? Do you simply need to have something in place that you can teach the students from day to day? Determining your goals will give you purpose and focus. 

2. Choose one content area to focus on each year

Note the word focus. If you’re creating all your curriculum from scratch, you obviously need to have something in place for every class period. However, you don’t have the time or energy to pour into making every subject great all at once. Instead, choose one area to focus on.

3. Research the content and use premade lesson plans

Look in your library and online to find out what kind of information and resources are available for the content you’ll be teaching. You may find textbooks, fiction and nonfiction books, fact sheets, activities, pictures, diagrams, short videos, PowerPoints, flashcards, and lesson plans. Find activities on Shaped here.

You can even ask the other teachers in your school for their plans. Armed with these completed plans, you can either teach them as they’re written or use them as a resource and framework that you can tweak and adapt to your needs.

4. Make a list of 3-5 resources for each concept

As you’re researching what’s already out there, save and make a note of your favorite resources. On your curriculum outline, list three to five of your favorites for each concept. This saves lots of time, especially when you do this at the beginning of the year. That way, when you’re later writing your lesson plan and preparing to teach it, you already know where to pull your information and activities from.

5. Get to know your students

Whether your classroom is full of project planners, or they need more guidance and direction, it’s important to know your students each year. Some classes seemed to prefer and thrive on discussions while others were more comfortable with quieter seatwork activities. The better that your lessons align with your students’ preferences, the more engaged your class will be.

6. Start with a few reusable activities

Each new activity needs to be taught — and that obviously takes time. Your students need to know how to perform the activity and how they’re expected to behave throughout the course of it. Reusing activities that your students are already familiar with saves time during class and eliminates the extra time it takes you to find and plan new activities. Of course, as you and the students settle into the school year, you can always add new ones or revise some of the old ones, but don’t start off trying to come up with a bunch of completely different activities and teaching methods for each objective.

7. Don’t expect it to be perfect

Planning a curriculum is a continually developing process. It’s full of trial and error, success and failure. What works well for one group of students may not perform as well with another, and the methods that one teacher uses successfully may not be a good fit for another teacher. But there is one constant, and that’s you.

Students know when a teacher cares about them and about the material they’re teaching. So go forward with love for your students and grace for yourself. Do your best in developing the curriculum with the time and energy you have available. It will come together. And the more you engage in the process, the easier and faster it will become.

This article was adapted from a blog post initially developed by the education technology company Classcraft, which was acquired by HMH in 2023. The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of HMH.


Find more lesson plans and classroom resources on Shaped.

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