Register today for the 2019 EL Education National Conference from Oct. 16-19th in Atlanta, GA! 
Header image

Curriculum Q & A Blog, Question 4

  • Date

  • Author

    EL Education

Do you have questions about teaching the EL Education K–5 Language Arts Curriculum? We've got answers!

Come back every week for the latest from the Curriculum Q & A Blog

Question: How Do I Plan When the Planning Has Been Done for Me? 

Part 1: Orienting to the Year

It may be tempting to think that teaching a comprehensive and detailed curriculum means that you won’t have to do much planning. After all, hasn’t the planning already been done for you? Yes and no. The answer to that question is more complex than you might think.

Teaching our curriculum will require a different kind of planning than you may be used to. You’ll need to look out across units and modules to understand the flow of the year and the ways in which the K–2 Labs (Labs), 3–5 Additional Language and Literacy (ALL Block), and K–2 Reading Foundations Skills Block (Skills Block) fit within the big picture. And, although you won’t need to plan a lesson from scratch, you will need to plan for each lesson to make it your own and the best it can be for your students. This is a thinking teacher’s curriculum. It is not a script. Our goal is for teachers to be less concerned with fidelity to the words on the page and more concerned with upholding the integrity of the purpose of the curriculum.

In this video, see third-grade teacher Kerry Meehan-Richardson from World of Inquiry School in Rochester, New York, refining a Module Lesson. Meehan-Richardson attends to students’ various readiness levels through her instructional decisions, the adaptation of materials, and classroom management strategies.


What’s the difference between teaching with integrity and teaching with fidelity?

Conducting lessons exactly as they are written and adhering strictly to the timing, language, and suggestions provided is possible, but it’s not necessarily typical, nor is it recommended. This fidelity to the way the curriculum is written doesn’t account for the dynamic and unpredictable ways in which a classroom full of students interacts with the material. A question from a student may take the class in an unpredictable, but worthwhile, new direction; students may struggle to find the answer you want them to find in the text; or the mundane realities of life in school—from fire alarms to snow delays—can disrupt, delay, or redirect a lesson. These “hiccups” to the best- laid plans are actually the most predictable part of teaching.

Knowing this, our goal is to help you teach the curriculum with integrity. This means understanding the deep logic of the design, as well as our commitment to challenging, engaging, and empowering all students, so that making changes to accommodate the living, breathing organism of the classroom still results in students meeting standards and achieving at high levels.
 
Throughout the summer we will create several posts that address questions related to the special considerations involved with planning and prepping to teach our curriculum. We’ll start will the wide-angle, year-long planning and zoom in to unit-level, module-level, and lesson-level planning. We’ll also devote at least a couple of posts to preparing to teach the Skills Block.


Orienting to the Year

There are two documents that will give you the widest view of the yearlong content-based literacy components of curriculum (Module Lessons plus the Labs and ALL Block): the Curriculum Plan (one for Grades K–2 and one for Grades 3–5) and the Curriculum Map (one for each grade level). These documents will orient you to the big picture of the skills and content focus of the modules. What follows is a sample Curriculum Plan K–2.



The Curriculum Plan, which is the widest-angle lens, will orient you to how the four modules will unfold across the year at your grade level, as well as the grade levels that precede and follow. One thing you will notice when reading the Curriculum Plan is that the high-level focus of each module is the same for each grade in the respective K–2 and 3–5 grade bands. Students in each grade band will experience the same general flow in terms of the skills they will build in each module (e.g., Module 2: Learning through Science and Story), while the specific topics differ from grade to grade (e.g., kindergarten: “Weather Wonders”; Grade 1: “The Sun, Moon, and Stars”; Grade 2: “Fossils Tell of Earth’s Changes”).

The focus of the K–2 modules:

  • Module 1: Building Literacy in a Collaborative Classroom
  • Module 2: Learning through Science and Story
  • Module 3: Growing as Researchers
  • Module 4: Contributing to the School Community

The focus of the 3–5 modules:

  • Module 1: Becoming a Close Reader and Writing to Learn
  • Module 2: Researching to Build Knowledge and Teach Others
  • Module 3: Considering Perspectives and Supporting Opinions
  • Module 4: Gathering Evidence and Speaking to Others

The Curriculum Map zooms a little closer into the four modules for your grade level, detailing the texts, assessments, and standards across the entire year. This document is critical to your understanding of the flow of the modules, how each module builds on the preceding module, and when and how often each standard is assessed. As you read, consider how the modules connect to other requirements in your school or district. For example, if your school or district has curriculum maps in place for coverage of science and social studies content, how can standards covered in each module fit into that agreed-upon scope and sequence? 

Hit the Download button at the top of this page for an Orienting to the Year Planning Task Card—print out the task card and use the questions to guide you in an exploration of how the big picture of the curriculum unfolds across the year.

If you’re looking for more information, check out our website or our book Your Curriculum Companion: The Essential Guide to Teaching the EL Education K–5 Language Arts Curriculum. If you have questions related to this blog, please email us at: ELcurriculumblog@eleducation.org.