English: Curriculum-Lesson Planning

English: Curriculum-Lesson Planning


Hello and welcome to the MLC online training for Fundamentals of Curriculum Development. My name is Susan Wetenkamp-Brandt and I will be your instructor. I am the Educational Technology Trainer for the Minnesota Literacy Council. I have taught English language and literacy skills to adult learners in Minnesota for over five years. I have experience working with learners from the pre-literate to advanced (Transitions to GED) levels. In developing this course, I benefited from the invaluable assistance of Lia Conklin, an ESL teacher and curriculum developer at the Hubbs Center in St. Paul, Nikki Carson-Padilla, an ESL teacher and curriculum developer at the MLC Learning Center-Lake Street in Minneapolis, Kate Mueller, an ESL teacher and materials writer at the Lehmann Center in Minneapolis, and Burgen Bourne-Nisson, ESL Training Coordinator for the Minnesota Literacy Council.

In this course you will learn about:

* The essential components of a curriculum
* Where to begin when writing a curriculum
* Ways to organize a curriculum
* How to write and use objectives
* How to scaffold and recycle content
* How to involve learners in curriculum development
* Templates and formats for writing a curriculum

This course will take you approximately 5 hours to complete all lessons and activities. Completion of all course components will result in 5 state-approved Continuing Education Units (CEUs).

Click this link to print out an outline of units and topics covered in this course.

Before beginning the course, please go to the Curriculum Development course discussion and introduce yourself to your instructor and fellow participants.

* Curriculum Development course discussion Forum
* Tracking Your Progress
If you are returning to the course and need help determining which sections you have and have not completed, open this document for instructions on how to access your student Activity Reports. * How to Track Your Progress

Forum Questions:

Welcome! by Susan Wetenkamp-Brandt - Wednesday, June 11, 2008, 05:47 PM

To help your instructor get to know you better, please reply to this posting with a little information about yourself.
Where do you work? What is your role there? What is your experience with curriculum development? What do you expect to get out of this online course?

Kamustaka/Hi (in Filipino/Tagalog) "Professor" Susan Wetenkamp-Brandt and everybody,
Yes, there is a course that is exactly what I've been looking for-Halleluah! My name is Sal Monteagudo, Morris Literacy Project Coordinator (since 99') in Morris, Minnesota (west-central region; 1 hour east of South Dakota or where the Minnesota River and Red River starts).
I currently serve as a "volunteer" in our area, but currently pursuing a teachers licensure and a Masters Degree soon in this field (ESL Teacher) via on-line through Hamline University. My next class doesn't start till the 18th of October, so I've been taking these "cool" informative on-line courses through the Minnesota Literacy Council. My main line of work is a "Job Coach" for the Stevens County Developmentally Achievement Center. I've been working with developmentally disabled adults since graduating from college back in 1999!
My only experience with currculum development is the regular "training" classes I take each year at Alexandria through the Minnesota Literacy Council. As previously mentioned in this forum from other students here, I'm pretty much trying to develop our own local curriculum, but learning new ways as I get "trained" (e.g. online and classroom).
I'm looking forward to this particular online course to learn specific tips on this topic. I'm really interested in everybody's individual curriculum program and to learn from each other's ideas too.

Unit 1-Building blocksFoundations

In this unit of the course, you will:

* A. Explore "What is a Curriculum?"
* B. Reflect on your philosophy of teaching and learning
* C. See examples of how philosophy guides curriculum planning

Click What's Your Situation? to begin.

* Snap Poll: What's Your Situation? Choice
* Lesson One
* For more information

If you enjoyed reading about adult learning theory in Lesson One and would like to browse information about other learning theories, click the link below to connect to the Theory Into Practice Database, which details 50 different learning theories.
* Theory into Practice Database

A. Explore "What is a Curriculum?

Definitions of Curriculum

Since you have chosen to take an online course in curriculum development, I hope we can safely assume that you believe that there is value in having a curriculum. But what precisely do we mean when we say "a curriculum"? Definitions vary, and before we go any further into this course, we need to make sure that we are all working with the same definition.

(Not sure why definitions are important? Click the link to read a statement about how our ideas about curriculum affect what we do.)=>

Curriculum Approaches and Definitions
"A Curriculum Definition & Approach
"A curriculum can be defined as the planned educational experiences offered by a school which can take place anywhere at any time* in the multiple context of the school, e.g. public schools as caring communities.**"
*This curriculum definition was stated by Todd in 1965 (Todd, E. A. Curriculum Development and Instructional Planning. Nederland, TX.: Nederland Ind. School District, pg. 2.)
**This curriculum approach of schools as multiple communities was presented as a comceptual framework in course syllabi beginning with the Fall 1992 semester. Prior to the 1992 fall semester schools were conceptualized as multiple institutional faces."

Next, click the links below to see several different definitions of curriculum. When you finish reading, write your own short definition in the space provided (there are no right or wrong answers).

Cambridge American English Learner's Dictionary-"all the courses given in a school, college, etc., or a particular course of study in one subject "

Dictionary.com-"1. the aggregate of courses of study given in a school, college, university, etc.: The school is adding more science courses to its curriculum. 2. the regular or a particular course of study in a school, college, etc. "

Merriam-Webster-" 1 : the courses offered by an educational institution 2 : a set of courses constituting an area of specialization "

The Free Dictionary-"1. All the courses of study offered by an educational institution. 2. A group of related courses, often in a special field of study: the engineering curriculum."

MSN Encarta Dictionary-"subjects taught or elements of subject: the subjects taught at an educational institution, or the topics taught within a subject [Early 19th century. < Latin, "running, course" < currere "to run"]"

"lesson plan"

#1 An Insider's Definition of Curriculum

As you saw in the dictionary definitions, there is more than one way to understand the idea of "a curriculum". One commonality among the varying definitions is that a curriculum is:

* a set of courses offered in a school/program or
* a set of topics offered in a particular course

These definitions see the curriculum more from an outsider's (or perhaps a student's) perspective, as a static set of information. These definitions give us no sense of what the curriculum does or is used for.

From an insider's perspective something more needs to be added to this definition. As curriculum writers we know that we are doing more than just making a list of topics. So we need a definition that better describes the product of our work. From the writer's point of view curriculum is better defined as a plan for instruction. That plan gives teachers information about what, when, and perhaps even how they should teach.

#2 -Components of Curriculum

A curriculum as a plan for instruction is something like a blueprint.

a blueprintThe curriculum lays out parameters for the course(s) being taught and describes their structure. Such a curriclum has several key components. They are:

* Philosophy (Click to hear more about how philosophies impact curriculum . Click this link to download a transcript of the audio file.)
* Purpose
o What you want students to learn
o Activities to help them learn it
o Assessments: tools for how you and they will know if they learned it
* Scope and Sequence of content
o How much will you cover?
How deeply will you cover each topic?
o In what order will you cover the topics?

Although these are the major pieces, not every component will be developed to the same extent in every curriculum. For example, some curricula leave "activities" up to the teachers to plan. Other curricula have a flexible sequence or timeline. Nevetheless, curriculum writers need to address these major components in some way, even if they will leave some areas open to interpretation by the teachers who use the curriculum.

B. Defining Our Philosophies

As you heard in the audio clip explaining the effect of philosophies on curriculum, there is more than one educational philosophy at play in adult eductation. (If you would like a refresher, click the link to hear the audio clip again , or click here to download the transcript of the audio file.)

In the next activity, you will explore a variety of educational philosophies and write a brief statement defining your own philosophy.

Survey Question:

Choose the statement that most closely describes your philosophy and/or that of your program.

1. The primary role of the teacher is:
Your answer :

You have a more student-centered philosophy. The students learn and discover information for themselves through doing activities, projects, discussion, etc. The teacher assists the students with directions, answers questions, and gives feedback. Curriculum will most likely emphasize activity, discussion, and project ideas over worksheets and lectures/readings. This teaching philosophy may be unfamiliar to your students if they have experience in a traditional school setting.
2. Choose the statement that most closely describes your philosophy and/or that of your program.
What is the overal goal for students in an adult ESL class?
Your answer :
effective communication
You have a more communicative teaching philosophy. Curriculum guidelines will encourage lessons with many activities in which students communicate with each other to practice vocabulary, language functions, or grammar. The emphasis is on "getting the point across". Curriculum will most likely be organized around life skill themes (banking, job hunting, talking on the telephone, etc.) or language function (greetings, apologizing, giving directions, and so on). This philosophy may be unfamiliar to students with experience in more traditional classes.
3. What is your preferred approach to error correction?
Of course, you may use different approaches for different activities (for example, only correcting errors that interfere with communication in a dialog practice, while correcting only errors related to the lesson in a grammar exercise). For this activity, choose the approach that you prefer to use most of the time.
Your answer :
Correct all errors
You have a prescriptive view of language and language learning that emphasizes accuracy to the exclusion of fluency. Your curriclum will most likely include grammar worksheets, pronunciation drills, careful sentence editing, etc.
4. How much class time should be dedicated to preparing students for standardized assessments (i.e. CASAS, TABE, etc.)?
Your answer :
Test-taking skills and test preparation form a significant but not dominating component of your curriculum. You are concerned with keeping a balance between meeting state requirements and responding to the specific wants and needs of students. The curriculum will include activities focused specifically on test preparation and may include references to specific standardized assessments (i.e. CASAS competencies).
5. Adults learn best when
Your answer :
students take an active role in choosing course content and planning activities.
This philosophy focuses on adults as self-directed learners who become invested in their classes when they take ownership of them. Curriculum will likely have an open structure, allowing for learner choice and input. Timelines and sequences will likely be flexible, and the curriculum may emphasize lists of options of activities and materials. Diverging from the curriculum to pursue other topics of interest to the students will be accepted, perhaps even encouraged.
6. Choose the statement that most closely describes your philosophy and/or that of your program.
You may agree with many--even all!--of these statements, but choose the one that strikes you as most pertinent to your teaching style or the way you would choose to plan curriculum. Each statement reflects a particular theory of teaching and learning, and choosing one will link you to additional information about that theory. (The theories are not incompatible with each other, which is why you may identify with more than one of them.)
Your answer :
Significant learning takes place when the subject matter is relevant to the personal interests of the student, and self-initiated learning is the most lasting and pervasive.
You identify with the Experiential Learning theory. Click the link to learn more about this learning theory.
Experiential Learning (C. Rogers)
"To Rogers, experiential learning is equivalent to personal change and growth. Rogers feels that all human beings have a natural propensity to learn; the role of the teacher is to facilitate such learning. This includes: (1) setting a positive climate for learning, (2) clarifying the purposes of the learner(s), (3) organizing and making available learning resources, (4) balancing intellectual and emotional components of learning, and (5) sharing feelings and thoughts with learners but not dominating.
According to Rogers, learning is facilitated when: (1) the student participates completely in the learning process and has control over its nature and direction, (2) it is primarily based upon direct confrontation with practical, social, personal or research problems, and (3) self-evaluation is the principal method of assessing progress or success. Rogers also emphasizes the importance of learning to learn and an openness to change.
Roger's theory of learning evolved as part of the humanistic education movement (e.g., Patterson, 1973; Valett, 1977).

Short Essay

Now that you have reflected on some of the keys beliefs and philosophies that influence the design of adult education curricula, write your own philosophy of adult education.
You may incorporate any of the ideas that you have encountered in this lesson so far, or others that have not been introduced but which are important to you.
Write a few sentences that describe what you believe about adult education, and a few sentences that describe how those beliefs impact your teaching style or the way you will plan your curriculum.
Please note that although the course software will inform you that the instructor will respond to your 'essay', this is not a graded assignment. The course instructor will read responses and reply where appropriate. If you do not receive a reply but have questions or comments you would like the instructor or others to respond to, please make a posting in the Curriculum Development course discussion.

Adult education should be treated differently from any age level-especially when it comes to teaching another language. All of the ESL students come "voluntarily" and they don't pay a certain fee, so ESL teachers should teach "what the students individually-personally want, chooses, or desires to learn (e.g. "every day" life skills to succeed)" and not what the "teachers think they should learn as a group based on general knowledge".

I "try" to implement this "style of teaching" by getting to know each of my students, which I'm able to do most of the time because of our small classroom setting. For example, I had a student share about his weekend. I feel having them talk as much as they can will help build their confidence in speaking and I try to share some feedback of speaking-dialogue tips. This student shared about his trip to the Black Hills in South Dakota. A "flash bulb" ("good idea") came to light, so I started giving a brief geography (e.g. Presidents, may of South Dakota, etc...) lesson that particular night. However, when we do have more students than we can handle, we just give a general lesson that everyone can benefit. It may be a review for some, which repetition doesn't hurt. However, it may frustrate some if a teacher over does this too many times. That is why we have a goal-progress sheet that we chart every time our students come, so we have an idea what they've been learning so far. I'm hoping to learn more tips to help with this on-going "issue" or "challenge" through this course or any course.

C. Looking for Examples

Questions How does a personal philosophy of teaching and learning affect the curriculum writing process? How do philosophies reveal themselves in curricula?
In the next activity, you will see small snapshots of a selection of adult ESL curricula and reflect on the philosophies that have guided their authors and influenced their end products. While generalizations are always difficult to make, especially based on small samples of material, we will attempt to use critical eyes to look behind the curricula to the philosophies that form their foundations.

Here is a snapshot of the Community Connections English literacy and civics curriculum from Illinois (full text of curriculum is available from www.eric.ed.gov #ED482888).
"...This reproducible, multilevel curriculum for English Literacy and Civics Education contains six field-tested and illustrated models: (1) The Democratic Process; (2) Community and Home Safety; (3) The Public Library; (4) The U.S. School System; (5) Public Health Services; and (6) Housing..."

Q1. Based on the learner outcomes highlighted here, what can you infer about the guiding philosophies of the curriculum authors?
Community Connections snapshot
Your answer :
The authors most likely believe in the Adult Learning theory's guiding principle that programs need to provide opportunities for learners' personal growth.
Yes, that's probably a good answer. The learner outcomes listed here demonstrate the personal growth of the adults in the program.

This is a snapshot of a classroom activity from the Fairfax County Family Literacy Curriculum (full text available from www.eric.ed.gov #ED482884).
"...is designed to be used in a multi-level adult English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) family literacy class. There are four modules to choose from: Introductory (self, family, and community); Government (schools and community); Health (medicine and stress); and Consumerism (shopping and making a budget)."
2. If the curriculum includes many activities of this sort, with fully detailed instructions for the teacher, what can you infer about the educational philosophy of the author? (There is more than one good answer.)
Your answer :

The author most likely believes that curricula need to be more prescriptive (giving specific instructions to the teachers) than open-ended (allowing teachers to decide how to approach topics).
Yes, that's probably a good answer. The example you see here is very prescriptive, telling the teacher exactly how to carry out the activity.

Here is a snapshot of an activity from More Water, Madam? An ESLCurriculum for Service Helpers in Full-Service and Fast-Food Restaurants (full text available from www.eric.ed.gov #ED426253).
"This document, which was developed as a cooperative effort between the business and education communities in Denver, presents an English-as-a-second-language curriculum for service helpers in full-service and fast food restaurants. The curriculum consists of five lessons targeted toward high intermediate to advanced nonnative speakers who work in peripheral hotel food service jobs and have limited but important contact with hotel guests. Each lesson contains some or all of the following: lesson plan detailing lesson objectives and the step-by-step procedures entailed in conducting the lesson activities; learning activities; student handouts; teacher's suggestion page(s); and narrative for teachers to read to their class. Topics covered in the five lessons are as follows: favorite restaurants; proper demeanor of a restaurant helper; good image and polite language; a birthday meal at a fast service restaurant (the deli menu and food orders, ordering food when dietary restrictions are an issue, and creating and practicing dialogues); and an anniversary meal at a full-service restaurant (special meals, the menu, creating dialogues). Appended are the following: guidelines for teaching vocabulary and spelling; optional activity devoted to image, impression, reputation, and polite language; "chunking" activities to aid reading and speaking; and technique for teaching words of frequency. (MN)"

3. If this is a typical activity in the curriculum, what can you infer about the educational philosophies of the authors? (There is more than one good answer.)

Your answer :
The authors' approach to error correction is most likely to focus on errors that are related to the objectives of the lesson.
Yes, that's probably a good answer. The focus of the activity is effective communication, but in this context that requires correct language use (polite, formal constructions vs. impolite, informal constructions). The authors probably expect teachers who use this curriculum to correct students who do not use the polite, formal language targeted in this activity.

You have reached the end of Unit One, "Foundations". In this lesson, you have:
* Explored definitions of "curriculum"
* Reflected on and written your own philosophy for adult education
* Seen examples of how educational philosophy influences the curriculum writing process
Click continue below to see your score for this lesson and return to the course main page. (The score is for your personal information only; the activities in this lesson are not graded and scores will not impact receipt of CEUs).

Unit 2-Before Writing Anything, Take Stock of Your Situation

In this unit of the course, you will:

* Use tools to assess programming needs
* Review learner needs assessment forms
* Browse a selection of adult ESL curricula
* Download a form you can use to guide a more extensive review of existing curricula

Click Lesson Two, Part One to begin.

* Lesson Two, Part One
* Lesson Two, Part Two


Where to Begin?
Before you write anything, you first need to take stock of your current situation.
In particular, you want to look at:
* Your Program
o Goals
o Staff
o Assessment System (CASAS, TABE, etc.)
* Your Classes
o Levels
o Structure/set-up
* Your Learners
o Who are they?
o What are their goals?
o What do they already know?
Additionally, you want to survey existing resources that you can use. You don't want to reinvent the wheel if you don't need to.
In the next exercise, you will answer a series of questions designed to help you evaluate the current situation in your program. When you finish, you will have the opportunity to download a similar evaluation tool that you can print to use with others in your program.

We begin by identifying program goals.
Goals, like educational philosophies, form the foundation of programs and the curricula they use.
For example, if the goal of your program is �To prepare adult learners to enter employment�, your curriculum might look very different than if your goal is �To help adults acquire and improve basic literacy skills�. Thinking about the goals and assumptions that drive your program will help you prioritize and organize the content of your curriculum, and will ensure that the curriculum gets used. Curricula that don�t match the foundational goals of the program get left on the shelf in the resource room!

Write a one sentence description of the primary goal of your program.

""To better actively serve the diversity of our students and meeting the diversity of their needs to succeed everytime they leave the classroom each day when they actively participate"

Program Evaluation

Perhaps most importantly, you need to think about who is participating in your program. Who are your learners?
Briefly describe the background of your learners in terms of their:
1) Diversity of age, gender, culture, religion, length of time in U.S., etc.

a. We have students from various age backgrounds from a range of 14 to over 50 during our 4+ years so far.
b. We have a diverse gender/sex background-close 50/50
c. We have students mostly that are Spanish (Mexico, South American, etc..), Portuguese (Brazil), Eastern Europe (Ukraine, Moldova, etc...), and Other (China, etc...)
d. Our students used to consist of mainly "migrant workers", but we are increasingly getting numbers that are immigrants setting in our rural-college community.

2) Education: What is the average prior educational experience of your learners?

We have a diverse background from one high school student, high school graduate, and college graduate

3) Language: How many different languages are spoken in your program?

As mentioned in question #1 parrt C-Spanish, Portuguese, Russian/surrounding Russian area, Chinese, etc...

4) Status: Are your learners immigrants? (Documented or undocumented?) Refugees? Citizens? On public assistance/MFIP? Incarcerated/in the corrections system?

As mentioned in question #1 part d-migrants and immigrants

5) Employment: Are your learners employed? Looking for work? Older adults not in the labor market?

Yes, most of our learners are employed and with the recent increase number of immigrants-"stay home moms".

Finally, are there any program-specific needs that have been identified that will impact your curriculum?

I believe having more volunteers during our "unexpected" busy times would help, which is very unpredictable. We can have one or no students one Wednesday evening to have as many as 9-14 the next week. This includes both ESL and GED students, which can be very "overwhelming". For example, we've had "new ESL students" come during one of these "busy" evenings and never returned because of this "bad"- "no attention"- "one-time" experience! We

Has the community asked for a particular program (such as a citizenship class, a family literacy program, etc.)?

Are you collaborating with another organization that has goals or objectives that you must help them meet?

We used to collaborate with the local university/college's "Spanish Club" when our literacy program "restarted" 4 years ago. However, with the change of students come with a change of vision each year, so it kind of died down years ago. This question has motivated me to try re-contacting them and give it a try with this new "academic-year". Unfortunately with the "high academic focus" of this college, it's hard to retain the college age volunteers with their busy schedule-based on past experiences. You may wish to consider similar needs or others in areas of:

* Benchmarks
* Content themes
* Skills
* Assessments
* Community / participant needs

Note any known program-specific needs here.\

Download the Program Evaluation Survey

Congratulations! You have finished the program evaluation activity.
The answers that you gave in this activity will help you plan a curriculum that is suited to the specific needs of your program. For example, if your program is staffed by teachers with limited experience and few transferrable skills, your curriculum will need to be more detailed and prescriptive, to provide needed guidance and direction. If you have large multi-level classes, your curriculum should allow for ways to adapt activities to different needs. Programs that test with CASAS will have different curricular needs than programs that use TABE.... and the list goes on!
You may wish to have others in your program go through this evaluation process as well. To do this, download and print the Program Evaluation Survey.

Although you haven't written a word of your curriculum yet, you have completed one of the most important steps in the development process: understanding who you are and what your needs are.
To complete this unit you have two more items to address: assessing learners' needs and reviewing existing resources. These items are covered in the second half of Lesson Two. Click this link to go to Lesson Two, Part Two.
(Or you may click continue below to end this lesson and return to the course main page.)


Learner Needs Assessments

Once you have established what the needs of your program are, the next step is to investigate the needs of your learners. If your curriculum is not in line with learners' needs, it will ultimately be unsuccessful no matter how brilliantly written it is.

In the next activity, you will review a selection of learner needs assessment forms. As you look through the forms, consider if you could use them--or modify them to use--in your program.

Click the link below to go to ESL Adult Instruction.org, a website maintained by the Los Angeles Unified school district. On this page there are five sample learner needs assessment forms.

Open and review the sample forms. As you look over each form, consider its strengths and weaknesses.

- Needs Assessment forms for Adult ESL
Needs Assessment
English as a Second Language
Assessing students' language needs is a crucial part of planning an effective long-range lesson plan for the term. The course outline provides the basis for the course, but the amount of emphasis placed on certain competencies, topics, proficiencies and structures is determined by the needs and priorities of the students.
Needs assessments should be administered during the first week of class. The process of administering the needs assessment and compiling the results can be turned into a classroom activity. For example, after filling out their forms individually, students could work in groups to compare their answers on a particular section related to one or more of the competency areas. Another example activity could be having the whole class mark their responses for the Language Skills section on the board and then immediately tallying and comparing the totals for the class.
As new students enter, they should complete a needs assessment as part of their orientation into the class. Results from these assessments, along with other input such as ongoing evaluation of progress, class test results, and additional needs reported by students may alter the long-range lesson planning for the term. (The preceding three paragraphs adapted from the ESL Intermediate Low Course Outline 50-01-53, February 2005, LAUSD Division of Adult and Career Education)
Click on the following links for sample needs assessments from each ESL course outline.
Needs Assessment from ESL Beginning Low

Needs Assessment from ESL Beginning High
Needs Assessment from ESL Intermediate High A
Needs Assessment from ESL Intermediate High B
Needs Assessment from ESL Advanced Low

Could you use any of these forms with learners in your program?

Yes, I believe If yes, would you need to modify them first? How so?

Please note that although the course software will inform you that the instructor will respond to your 'essay', answers to this question will not be evaluated. The course instructor will read responses periodically and respond where appropriate. If you would like a prompt response to your comments, please make a posting in the Curriculum Development course discussion.

Unit 3-Organizing the Curriculum

In this unit of the course, you will:

* Learn about a variety of different formats for organizing curriculum
* Evaluate the pros and cons of different formats

Click Lesson Three to begin.Lesson Three-Let's get organized!

How will you organize your curriculum materials?Now that you have laid the groundwork for your curriculum, it's time to decide how you want to organize that curriculum.

In this lesson, you will see a variety of possible formats for organizing your curriculum, with examples of how they might be be look once written. As you look through the different organizational formats, you will be prompted to reflect on the pros and cons of each. Think especially about how you would implement each type of curriculum in your program and what the advantages and disadvantages for you and your learners might be.

Click below to get started!

Organize by Language Structure (Grammar)

Organizing a curriculum by language structure (or grammar) places an emphasis on the linguistic form of English. Content for each unit will be chosen to highlight and practice a particular grammatical structure, such as simple past tense or comparative & superlative adjectives.

Many popular ESL textbooks are organized in this way, and curricula that are designed to follow those texts will consequently also use this organization.

A few of those textbooks include:
The New Grammar in Actionbook
Focus on Grammar
Grammar Dimensions

A curriculum based on a grammar text may provide follow-up and extension activities, additional reading selections, and ideas for integrating the text with other priority topics, such as CASAS competencies.

Q: What is one possible advantage of organizing a curriculum by language structure/grammar?

A: Besides what it was suggested earlier (e.g. follow-up activities), one possible advantage is it may lead to more of a focus applicable lesson for that student. It might help the "teacher" know the student's "weaknesses" and "strengths"; thus working on specific skills in future lessons. From here, you can go with various themes (e.g. sports, music, hobbies, etc...) on this particular language structure/grammar.

Some possible advantages to organizing by language structure or grammar are:

* easy alignment with ESL textbooks
* many existing resources are categorized this way (e.g. worksheets, online interactive exercises, etc.)
* easy to determine what should be included/excluded in each unit
* progression or sequence of topics is straightforward
* may appeal to students already familiar with studying language this way

Q. What is a possible disadvantage of organizing a curriculum this way?

A: Might go off in a tangent or "rabbit trail" from the original "interest of topic" that student had a desire learning about. For example, it could've been a topic on "grocery shopping" and studying "language structure/grammar" might take away the "focus" on this particular "life applicable" lesson.

Possible Disadvantages of Grammar Organization

Organizing a curriculum by language structure or grammar topic can be problematic because:

* many adult learners have not formally studied a language before (even though they may speak several) and are not familiar with grammatical analysis or terms (e.g. parts of speech, verb tenses, etc.)
* there is a possibility of leaving out key life skills or learners' priority topics if they don't fall neatly into one aspect of the grammar
* not all learners will be ready to master the same language structures at the same time, especially in multi-level groups
* most authentic materials include a wide variety of language structures, making them more difficult to integrate into a curriculum organized this way

In general, it is more common and more appropriate for higher level ESL classes to be organized this way than for lower level.

If you have other ideas you would like to share, feel free to post them in the Curriculum Development course discussion forum.

Organize by Language Function

Organizing a curriculum by language function (or usage) places an emphasis on the particular uses of language, such as giving directions, making small talk, giving and receiving compliments, or making polite requests.

Content for each unit will be chosen to highlight and practice the language needed to perform one of these functions, and may include a variety of language structures that can perform the same function. For example, a lesson on how to give compliments might include:

* descriptive adjectives (Your dress is beautiful.)
* the verb 'like' (I really like your dress.)
* exclamations (What a lovely dress!)
* the verb 'look' to describe appearance (That dress looks very nice on you.)

buspersonAlthough this is not an extremely common way to organize entire curricula, most curricula will have some units or at least some lessons that are driven by language function.

For example, in this curriculum for food service workers: More Water, Madam? An ESLCurriculum for Service Helpers in Full-Service and Fast-Food Restaurants, the third unit focuses almost exclusively on polite or courteous expressions for customer interactions (answering questions, getting someone's attention, offering an apology, etc.).

Q: What is a possible advantage of organizing a curriculum by language function?

A: It's a great beginner course for ESL Learners: Beginners, which is a good way to slowly introduce them to "small talk" that can lead to "long conversations". I think it's a good confidence booster before "bigger" lessons.

Some possible advantages of organizing a curriculum by language function are:

* it reflects the ways in which people use language in real life
* it may work particularly well for oral skills or conversation focus classes
* it may help focus activities on developing learners' communicative competence
* curriculum units may stand alone, allowing for more flexible implementation
* it can be easy to decide what to include and exclude from each unit

Q: What is a possible disadvantage of organizing a curriculum this way?

A: Depending on the level of the learner. If it's a student you don't know well and is in Advance or Intermediate Level, he/she might be "offended" for such an "easy" lesson.

Some possible disadvantages are:

* there is a possibility of leaving out key life skills or learners' priority topics if they don't fit into one specific language function
* it can be difficult to find textbooks or materials to fit with each unit
* using multiple structures to accomplish the same function can be confusing for learners
* it may be difficult to recycle core concepts/language from unit to unit

If you have other ideas that you would like to share, feel free to post them in the Curriculum Development course discussion forum.

Organize by Skill Focus

In a curriculum for a modality-specific class (reading, writing, listening, speaking), another alternative is to organize the curriculum by skills or genres. This is similar to a functional organization, but may focus more on the product than the purpose. For example, an advanced writing course aimed at preparing learners to transition to post-secondary education might include units on:

* persuasive writing write
* compare/contrast writing
* research papers
* book/resource reviews
* reflective/response papers
* short-answer and essay test questions

These units would focus on the type of writing to be produced and the special aspects of each. Grammar topics might also be taught, but would probably arise directly from the errors of students. The content themes might be the same each term or be altered to meet the interests of each group of students.

Q: What is a possible advantage of organizing a curriculum by skills or genres?

It'll build the skill area of writing, which will gain confidence on the learner's writing abilities.

Some possible advantages of organizing by skill focus or genre are:

* each unit may be self-contained or stand-alone, allowing for more flexible implementation
* may be a good fit for more academic classes and/or help prepare learners for academic course work
* classes may be retaught using the same curriculum but with varying topics, allowing learners to repeat the class
* reflects authentic language use and allows for seamless integration of authentic materials

Q: What is a possible disadvantage to organizing a curriculum this way?

A: As mentioned above, it might be for learner preparing for academic course work. It focusses on an area of a skill that might not be used much in "every day life" situations

Some possible disadvantages are:

* for general ESL classes, it may not fit well with identified content priorities
* with a strong skill-building focus, it may be difficult to implement with open enrollment or when learners have spotty attendance
* learners with limited educational experience may struggle with a more academic skills focus

If you have other ideas you would like to share, feel free to post them in the Curriculum Development course discussion forum.

Organize by Content Theme

Perhaps the most widely used method for organizing adult ESL curricula is by content themes, such as Health, Transportation, Housing, etc. This organization lends itself to a focus on life skills and practical language use.

Organizing curricula this way allows for easier adaptation to multi-level classes, focuses on content areas that are typically high priorities for learners, and can include many different types of language activities. It also allows for alignment with standards such as SCANS or CASAS competencies.

One of the drawbacks, however, is that each unit may include a number of different language forms and functions that students will need to use to negotiate the content. In a healthcare unit, for example, students might need to learn how to:doctor with x-ray

* make an appointment and/or cancel an appointment
* talk about the body, express pain, explain symptoms
* follow the doctor's/nurse's instructions
* ask questions of the doctor/nurse
* express confusion/ask for clarification
* read medicine labels
* and more!

Although breaking the material down into chunks and prioritizing content can be difficult with this organization, it remains a useful and popular format.

Here are a few examples of curricula organized by content theme:

Neighbor to Neighbor: An English as a Second Language Curriculum for Volunteers

The REEP Family Literacy Curriculum
"The project was intended to help parents improve their English language skills and increase their involvement with their children's schooling. "
-Reep Family Literacy Curriculum, pdf format
*see GoodnewsEverybody: Children

Job Search Workshop Curriculum
"...A brief narrative description of the journal article, document, or resource. This bilingual curriculum was developed by job search counselors at a Seattle nonprofit social service agency in conjunction with Washington state's welfare reform initiative, WorkFirst. The workshops were 30-hours long and were given over a 2-week period. The classes were conducted in the students' native language, as well as in English by an English-as-a-Second-Language (ESL) teacher. The units cover an entire range of work search activities as well as job retention skills and worker rights. .."

Organize to Align with a Text

A teacher and student at work on the computer.Finally, some curriculum developers know that they will be using one primary text as the basis of their curriculum. In this case, the curriculum developers have had a lot of work done for them by the text's authors, but they should not make the mistake of confusing a textbook with a curriculum. Any experienced teacher knows that no text is ever perfect or includes everything they might want.

A curriculum designed to align with a particular text should provide a variety of supports to help teachers implement the content in the textbook series. Curricular support includes extension and expansion activity ideas (such as field trips, guest speakers, project-based learning tasks, and computer lab activities), ideas for using addtional resources (such as learner dictionaries and audio/visual materials), test practice materials, and alternative texts and materials for teachers who want to branch out beyond the core text.

In this lesson you've seen a variety of formats for organizing curricula. Which will you use? Why? Post your answers in the Curriculum Development course discussion.

As I mentioned earlier, our students come from all sorts of backgrounds (e.g. age, gender, occupation, ethnicity-cultural background, language, etc...). There is really no "one-way" or "right-curriculum". I've been getting the e-mails of each individual student and e-mailing them specific resources according to their individual learning goals. For example, we've seen an increase of "immigrants" or Hispanic families moving into our community. I've notice many "moms" with the similar goal of "wanting to help their children with school work". The second to last section of lesson 3 "Organize by Content Theme" was extremely helpful, particularly...

The REEP Family Literacy Curriculum
"The project was intended to help parents improve their English language skills and increase their involvement with their children's schooling. "
-Reep Family Literacy Curriculum, pdf format
*see above for link

I "saved" this site or information for future references. Susan or any students here know of any good related resources pertaining to this particular curriculum theme?

Unit 4-Defining the Scope & Pace of the Curriculum

In this unit of the course, you will:

* Explore the process of deciding what to include and what to exclude
* Explore scenarios to see how curricular pacing affects classroom teaching

Click Lesson Four to begin.

* Lesson Four

A. 1. What's the scope of your curriculum?

What do we mean by asking about the "scope of a curriculum"? Basically, it's another way of asking, "What does your curriculum cover?" From the vast sea that is the English language, what pools of knowledge will you isolate for inclusion in your course(s)?

When defining the course scope, you do not need to work down to the detail of specific classroom activities. Rather, you are working on the large scale of topics, skills, and content areas.

This step is where your earlier examination of educational philosophy and program goals can really pay off. If you have completed those steps thoroughly, you probably already have a good idea of what you want to include in your curriculum.

Matching: Click continue below to practice matching curriculum scope to program goals & philosophies.

Choose the program goal that best fits the description of each curricular scope. Content: "soft skills" (making small talk, making polite requests, etc.), giving and following oral & written directions, the job application process, resume writing, interview skills, goal-setting:

Content: alphabetics instruction, phonemic awareness and phonics instruction, reading fluency practice, vocabulary study, and extensive reading program:

Content: diet & nutrition, importance of regular exercise, managing chronic health problems (diabetes, high blood pressure, etc.), talking with your doctor, understanding prescription and OTC medicines:

Content: Finding & using public transportation, finding housing, communicating with a landlord, money and shopping, the weather and dressing for it, reading maps and giving directions:


Your answer :

Content: "soft skills" (making small talk, making polite requests, etc.), giving and following oral & written directions, the job application process, resume writing, interview skills, goal-setting = Goal: prepare adult learners to find and retain living wage jobs.
Content: alphabetics instruction, phonemic awareness and phonics instruction, reading fluency practice, vocabulary study, and extensive reading program = Goal: Improve adult learners' basic literacy skills.
Content: diet & nutrition, importance of regular exercise, managing chronic health problems (diabetes, high blood pressure, etc.), talking with your doctor, understanding prescription and OTC medicines = Goal: Improve adult learners' health literacy.
Content: Finding & using public transportation, finding housing, communicating with a landlord, money and shopping, the weather and dressing for it, reading maps and giving directions = Goal: Develop adult learners' life skills literacy.

OK! Good work.

2. What to exclude?

Perhaps more difficult than deciding what to include in your curriculum is deciding what to exclude. All too often we over-reach and try to do too much. Instead of doing a few things well, we do many things poorly.

If you are facing this challenge, think back again to your core philosophies and goals. What are you trying to achieve? If any content doesn't seem 100% relevant to achieving the objectives of your curriculum, leave it out!

Click continue below to try an activity in excluding the least relevant content.

Q: Which content item is least relevant to include in a curriculum with the core goal of "Helping immigrant and refugee parents become more involved with their children's schools and stronger partners in their children's education"?

While all of the content items listed below could reasonably be included in such a curriculum, keep in mind that this is an exercise in prioritizing.

Click the item that you think should be excluded as least relevant. (There is more than one possible answer.) Your answer :

Maintaining and reporting your child's immunization records

Yes, that's probably a good answer. This is an important thing for parents to do, but it doesn't relate as strongly to the core goals of increasing involvement and helping parents build skills to help their children.

Reading report cards and understanding grades
Maintaining and reporting your child's immunization records
Helping with homework
Discipline in the American school system
Completing school-related forms
Reading with your child(ren) and/or telling stories with wordless picture books
Parent-Teacher conferences
Parent-Teacher Associations (PTAs)
Choosing a school for your child

Q: Which content item is least relevant to include in a curriculum with the core goal of "Helping newly naturalized citizens to gain the knowledge and skills necessary to fully participate in the American democratic process"?

Again, while all of the content items listed below could reasonably be included in such a curriculum, remember that this is an exercise in prioritizing.

Click the item that you think should be excluded as least relevant. (There is more than one possible answer.)
Your answer :

A: Reading and writing letters to the editor about political issues

Yes, that's probably a good answer. If there is time in the curriculum, this might be a good optional extension activity, but it's not a core concept without which a new citizen would struggle to participate.


History of American democracy (women's suffrage, Civil Rights legislation, etc.)
How to choose a candidate that reflects your values and ideas about leadership
How to contact your elected representatives
Understanding the Constitution and Bill of Rights
Reading and writing letters to the editor about political issues
Understanding and completing a ballot
Where to find unbiased information about candidates
Political vocabulary ("liberal", "conservative", "moderate", "candidate" "running mate" etc.) and language for talking about politics
How elections work (including primary elections, the Electoral College, etc.)
Current issues and candidates' positions on those issues

Q: Which content item is least relevant to include in a curriculum with the core goal of "Helping newly-arrived low-literate immigrants and refugees orient themselves to life in the U.S."?

As before, all of the content items listed below could reasonably be included in such a curriculum, but as this is an exercise in prioritizing, some things must be left out.

Click the item that you think should be excluded as least relevant. (There is more than one possible answer.) Your answer :

A: Hobbies and entertainment options (sports, movies, music concerts, etc.)

Yes, that's probably a good answer. This would be a much lower priority topic than most of the others.


Greetings, introductions, simple conversations
Understanding and completing job-related forms (paystubs, timecards, applications, etc.)
Finding and using public transportation
Saying the letters of the alphabet, spelling names
Asking for clarification, to repeat or speak slowly
Clock time, calendars, dates, etc. and the cultural importance of punctuality
Money and shopping
Hobbies and entertainment options (sports, movies, music concerts, etc.)

Next Step: Set the Pace

Once you have established the core goals and content for your curriculum, you need to determine the pace of the curriculum.

In short, what is your time frame? How many units will you need to have to cover the content you have identified? How long will you spend on each unit?

Pacing the curriculum just right to fit your program's needs can be a tricky endeavor. In some cases, you may not be able to find the right pace until you have turned the curriculum over to your teachers and allowed them to work with it for a time. The time frame may need to evolve as teachers implement the curriculum and give you feedback. But by first getting a feel for how curricular pacing affects teaching and learning, you can get started in the right direction, and hopefully minimize the chance of needing a major overhaul later on.

Click continue below to explore two real-life scenarios involving curricular pacing--one where the pace was too slow, and one where it was too fast.

First we will look at a situation where even a relatively long curricular time frame seemed to be too short for some students.

This scenario takes place in a small community-based organization that provides English classes for immigrant and refugee adults, using a curriculum designed in-house with a time frame of about half a year. In this program, teachers were finding themselves confronting the problem that some students, for a variety of reasons, were progressing much more slowly than others. At the end of the term, these slower students were not yet ready to advance to the next level. At the same time, new students continued to enroll in the program.

When the next term began, teachers began using the curriculum again from the beginning. The continuing students started to complain that they had already "done that". Teachers, though, knew that the material was important to cover with the new students and students who had moved up from preceding levels. They also knew that the continuing students had not yet mastered it and needed to repeat it.

Teachers and curriculum writers in this program knew that the curriculum needed to evolve.

Q: How could they balance the needs of both faster and slower progressing students?

If possible, separate the faster and slower progressing students from each other. Give some worksheets for the "faster" ones to work on while you work one & one with the "slower" ones to catch them up. We have students like these in our classrooms, which we bring them together for general review topics. This is after working individually with the "slower" ones to catch them up.

Q: If you were in this situation, what might you do?

I would do what I stated above. For example, we sometimes have "slower" ones, so we do basic alphabet and basic words with them using a board. Since we don't have enough volunteers (My supervisor and I are the only ones, which we have GED students present too at times.), we need to keep the "two" separate groups occupied. The "faster" ones would be working on a work book, while waiting for the "slower" ones to catch-up. We "try" to bring both groups together the last 30 minutes or so during our classroom session. This is just to get that interactive social and learning activity before they all leave.

In this case, the curriculum writers decided not to change the time frame of their curriculum, which was already rather long. Instead, they decided to create two alternate versions of the curriculum which covered the same units and topics, but made use of different resources and textbooks, and outlined different classroom activities.

In this way, when a new term begins, teachers in the program swap from Version A to Version B. Students who continue in the same level are given more opportunities to practice the content without repeating the exact same materials and activities. Students who move more quickly through the program do not need to repeat the curriculum because each version covers the same content.

Next we will look at a situation where the curricular time frame seemed to be too long for some students.

This scenario takes place in a program using a curriculum designed in-house with a time frame of 22 weeks (half of the school year). In contrast to the previous example, the teachers in this program were confronting the problem that many students were advancing very quickly and moving up from one level to the next without completing all portions of the curriculum. As a result, teachers in the next levels found students to be missing some of the foundations they were assumed to have. Still, teachers did not want hold students back just to make sure that they covered all the material.

Q: How can the curriculum writers in this program allow the curriculum to evolve to fit the faster pace of the students?

Have them "work ahead" by giving them worksheets for them to take home.

If you were in this situation, what might you do to resolve it?

In this case, the curriculum writers decided to adjust the pace of their curriculum. They reduced the time frame to 14 weeks, with the plan to implement it three times throughout the year instead of twice. They hope that this move will allow students to develop the foundational skills they need before they move up to the next level.


Decisions about the scope and pace of a curriculum can be some of the most difficult to make when writing a new curriculum, but as the examples you have seen illustrate, no such decision is final. Even after the curriculum is implemented, opportunities and challenges will arise that may require the curriculum to evolve.

You've reached the end of this lesson and of Unit Four. Click continue below to end the lesson and return to the course main page.

Unit 6 Scaffolding Skills & Recycling ContentRe-use and Re-cycle

In this unit of the course, you will:

* Identify examples and counter-examples of scaffolding and recycling
* Prioritize skills and content to emphasize

Click Lesson Six to begin.

* Lesson Six

A. Scaffolding and Recycling Introduction

Scaffolding and Recycling are two everyday words that have different meanings in the context of curriculum development. Their specialized meanings, however, share some ideas in common with their everyday meanings. So let's think about what these terms mean generally, and then about how those ideas can apply to curriculum development.

1. Scaffolding in the everyday sense is a raised platform or framework that allows workers to reach areas they couldn't otherwise access.

How might this idea be applied to curriculum writing? Well, our students also need supports to help them reach higher levels of attainment, don't they? Throwing a group of students into a difficult or complex activity 'cold' usually doesn't work too well. They will flounder because they don't have the underlying skills or background knowledge required. But if those same students are given the proper preparation and helped to build up their skills, they can often complete much more difficult tasks.

Take this example of scaffolding a skill: you decide that "filling out forms" is a core skill for your students, so you begin with a simple personal information form in Unit 1, proceed to a work-related form in Unit 2, a medical form in Unit 3, etc. Each form becomes slightly more complex but retains many elements of the earlier, easier forms. Students likely couldn't complete the more complicated forms at first, but they slowly build up their skills step-by-step until they can.

Scaffolding can also refer to activities that build up basic skills that students will use when completing a more complex activity. For example, in order to read a prescription medicine label, students may need to develop specialized vocabulary, learn to scan for key words, and know how to read a simple chart.

Q: What other skills might you want to scaffold in your curriculum?

List two or three ideas in the box below.

A: Basic social skill settings: Greeting a "stranger" in a social setting (e.g. place of faith, school, party, etc....). Learning how to get around a grocery store (e.g. asking for directions)..........

So in the world of curriculum development, when we say "scaffolding" we mean a sequence of skill-building activities that help students improve skills step by step. During the curriculum development process, core skills are identified and those skills are then scaffolded as the units/lessons progress.


In an ordinary context, recycling simply means to use something over again, often by altering or adapting it first. Recycling is the alternative to garbage disposal, where something is used once and then disposed of when the user moves on to something new.

In curriculum development, this same idea applies: language (common phrases, grammar structures, vocabulary) is recycled from lesson to lesson and unit to unit. We don't want our students to use language once and then throw it out in the trash! We want to bring key language back again and again, adapted to new contexts and uses, so that students retain that language and gain mastery over it.

Almost any language worth bothering to learn in the first place is worth recycling, but it's most helpful if we focus on the key language that is the highest priority for our students to master.

Q: As you think about the curriculum you are writing, can you identify some of that key language? List three or four pieces of language (grammar structures, vocabulary themes, types of common phrases) that you would like to recycle in your curriculum. (Here are a couple examples: "irregular past tense verbs", "personal information terms", "greetings".)

Write your ideas in the box below.

A: The most common or frequent topic is: Pronunciation of letters of the Alphabet, object location (above, below, besides, etc....), grammar-tense verbs (e.g. chose, choose, choosing, etc..)

Examples of Scaffolding & Recycling

In this exercise you will look at a section of a sample curriculum to see how the author has scaffolded skills and recycled content to prepare students for two relatively difficult activities.

The section we will see consists of lessons plans for four days (one full class weeks) of an Advanced ESL curriculum. This curriculum aims to help students develop academic skills that will help them transisiton to GED classes and/or higher education. The unit you will see here is on American Geography.

Click continue to begin the activity.

Minnesota Map Exercise


We will begin with the end of the week, with an activity that draws on skills built up through previous lessons.

A map reading exercise can be a challenging task for adult learners. The curriculum builds slowly up to this task, so that learners will develop the necessary skills to be successful.

In the "Minnesota Map Exercise" you will see blue underlined links in several of the questions. Click the links to "look back" to earlier lessons that have prepared students to answer the questions on the map exercise. As you look through the curriculum, think about how the first three days' lessons scaffold skills that students will need in the map reading exercise. Also, look for language that is recycled from lesson to lesson.

Click this link to download the curriculum documents.

You may wish to print the documents or keep the window open. When you continue to the next page you will be prompted to answer several questions about how this curriculum demonstrates the principles of scaffolding and recycling.

Q: Please list three examples of scaffolding that you saw in the Minnesota Map Exercise.


reading map skills, learning about areas of our state, and knowing directions to help go from one place to another

Here are some examples of scaffolding activities from the Advanced ESL geography unit that prepare students for the Minnesota Map Exercise:

* students practice with the concept of borders
* students practice with compass directions and language for describing maps (both reading and speaking)
* students practice prepositions of location (for describing geographic features found on maps)
* students learn how to use a map index
* students learn how to use a map legend

How does this list compare with the examples you gave? Did you find any examples that are not listed here?

Q: Please list three language items (words, phrases, grammar points, etc.) that were recycled in this curriculum.

A: directions (N,S, W, E), finding the size (e.g. largest?), and knowing area or region ("What part?....

Here is a list of some language items recycled in the sample curriculum:

* Prepositions of location (of, on, in, from through, etc.)
* directions (North, South, East, West)
* "border"
* "legend"
* "index"
* "coordinates"
* time zones
* U.S. regions
* state abbreviations

This video slideshow outlines a series of lessons for a Beginning Literacy ESL class. Q: Watch the video slideshow and look for ways in which the teacher scaffolds and recycles content.

Beginning Literacy Lessons slideshow

Click this link for a transcript of the slideshow audio.


pronunciation of vocabulary words (e.g. fruits), distinguishing fruits and vegetables, written skills (e.g taking notes), oral communication practice, building confidence to speak and lead, test taking skills (e.g. multiple choice, memory, etc...)


reviewing vocabulary- "colors", "fruits and vegetables", of previous lesson using visual memory (e.g. pictures),

Here are some examples of scaffolding and recycling from the Beginning Literacy Lessons.

* The teacher begins with oral vocabulary & realia to scaffold the students' reading of the printed words
* The teacher recycles the 'colors' vocabulary from the previous unit
* Language builds from single words to simple sentences
* The teacher practices the language in multiple activities before giving the students the multiple-choice test preparation worksheet

How does this list compare with the three examples you gave? Did you find any good examples that are not listed here?

Apply your knowledge!

Now that you have a good idea of how to scaffold and recycle content, think about the ways you will implement this in your curriculum. What are the priority areas that you will focus on? How will you bring them back from lesson to lesson and unit to unit?

You have reached the end of this lesson and of Unit 6. Click continue to end the lesson and return to the course main page.

Unit 7 An adult English learnerInvolving Learners: The Participatory Model of Curriculum Development

In this unit of the course, you will:

* Compare traditional and participatory models of curriculum development
* Explore ways to involve learners in developing curriculum
* Reflect on the value of learner participation in your program's curricular decisions

Click Lesson Seven to begin.

* Lesson Seven
* Reflecting on learner participation Forum

For more information

The links below will take you to the ERIC database where you can download the full text of two articles on involving learners in the curriculum development process.

First is Elsa Roberts Auerbach's important work on participatory curriculum development, Making Meaning, Making Change. The second article addresses learner goal setting and achievement as an exercise in curriculum negotiation.

* Making Meaning, Making Change file
Making Meaning, Making Change: Participatory Curriculum Development or Adult ESL Literacy Elsa Roberts Auerbach (1992) Washington DC: Center for Applied Linguistics Pp. 140. ISBN 0-93-735479-1 (paper) US $15.95 (from tesl-ej)
"..Based on the experiences of the University of Massachusetts Family Literacy Project, of which she was the coordinator, the book is at once an authoritative and persuasive polemic for what she calls the "participatory" vs. the more traditional "ends-means" approach to curriculum design and a practical manual for carrying out this participatory adult literacy curriculum...
At the tail end of this process, the teacher is handed a syllabus and a [-1-] set of materials and instructed to impart this knowledge to the eagerly-awaiting students. That any learning at all occurs in this process is a tribute to the motivation and creativity of the teachers and students who, in Auerbach's view, are actually battling great odds to produce any real results..."

*see GoodnewsEverybody: Liberal Arts-English_Assessment
" Auerbach subjects this fetishism of "objective" test instruments to a withering critique, based on well-documented pedagogical reasoning. In place of objective, machine-scored tests, she proposes a battery of "alternative" testing methods, including interviews, reading and writing samples, teacher conferences, and peer evaluation. Most importantly, teachers are encouraged to make the evaluation ongoing throughout the course, abandoning the impersonal psychometric pre- and post-test model which dominates so-called "scientific" assessment today."
"In a sense, though, there is a sad irony in Auerbach's vision of the adult ESL teacher. So many of the techniques described as "ways in" or "tools" require considerable outside preparation-- transcribing oral speech into stories, drawing graphics to illustrate student narratives, gathering realia from the local media, and, most delicately, crafting "codes" for stimulating language-rich social discussion--all of these things require considerable time out of class, to say nothing of the time and effort needed to guide a participatory curriculum from beginning to end without allowing the class to degenerate into pure spontaneity. Yet how many teachers are willing to exert that much effort in return for the paltry salaries that most adult education teachers are paid nowadays?"
* Assessing Individual Learner Goal Achievement

1. Involving Learners

This course has for the most part taken a traditional, what might be called "ends-means", approach to curriculum development. Program coordinators, teachers, and curriculum writers take part in a thoughtful process to determine a set of "ends" (or objectives) that they hope to move their students towards, and then plan content and activities to help the students reach those ends. There is an alternative to that approach, however: a participatory approach that integrally involves learners in the curriculum development process.

In this lesson we will explore differences between these two approaches, and look for ways to make our curriculum development process more inclusive of leaners and develop rich, relevant, and timely curricula.

2. Making Meaning, Making Change

The participatory approach was established in a prominent way by Elsa Roberts Auerbach in her curriculum development guide Making Meaning, Making Change: Participatory Curriculum Development for Adult ESL Literacy (Language in Education: Theory and Practice 78, a publication of the Center for Applied Linguistics and Delta Systems, Inc. 1992, USA).

A teacher with a diverse group of adult English learners.The author outlines a powerful rationale for putting adult learners at the heart of the curriculum development process and describes steps teachers and curriculum developers can take to do so. In the introduction to her book she outlines the central issues that brought her to this conclusion.

"If there’s one thing we learned during the course of our work, it’s that every group of students is different; what happens with any given class depends on who the participants are, what their concerns are, and the contexts of their lives…. The most effective curricula are those tailored to and developed with participating learners. The key in a participatory approach is centering instruction on the real (rather than imagined) issues of each group; the only way to do this is through collaborative investigation and decision-making. It is for this reason that we have written a curriculum guide rather than a curriculum: We don’t believe that a single generic, prepackaged sequence of themes, language items, or activities can possibly fit all sets of circumstances or students. Instead of trying to cover content that has been predetermined, teachers need to discover content that’s important to their own students," (page 1, italics original).

3. How can we implement a participatory approach in a reasonable way?

A quote such as the one on the previous page might give us pause if we think that it puts all the work of our thoughtful curriculum development process in doubt. Have we done the right thing? Have we identified the real (rather than imaginary) issues of concern to our learners?

However, Auerbach also concludes that there will probably be a set of "generic" issues that are common and predictable for most learners. The participatory approach may best be implemented as a way for learners to identify which of those "generic" issues are most resonant for them at a particular time. In this way, we might take a very traditional approach to curriculum development, but allow learners to drive the choice of which units to implement and when.

4. An Example of Participatory Teaching

The participatory approach extends beyond just the choice of content to the way in which that content is taught.

Auerbach gives this example in Making Meaning, Making Change, where she contrasts what she considers an "assimilitive" traditional approach to curriculum with a participatory "critical" approach.

"One day, a student brought to class a flyer from her daughter’s school with a list of ways parents can help their children with homework. In an assimilative approach, the teacher might have gone over the flyer point by point, talking about what parents can do to help their kids. Instead, the teacher did something quite different. The class still read the flyer, but the reading was followed by questions like this: Which of these things do you already do? Which would you like to do? Which do you think are ridiculous, impossible, or not useful? and What do you already do that’s not listed in the flyer? This way of framing the reading led to a discussion of cultural differences in perceptions of teachers’ vs. parents’ roles (some critical cultural analysis). In addition, the parents identified both their own strengths (what they already do to help their children) and new things that they would like to try. By relating the flyer to their own reality, looking at it in a broader social context, and exploring possibilities, they maintained a stance of independence and choice in the learning process. This simple prescriptive flyer became the basis for shaping some of their own alternatives," (page 30).

When we design curriculum we can plan activities around content that allow for real, critical participation by students. As curriculum developers we may outline the content and locate resources, but we can also create space for learners to interact with the content in a more critical way, leading to greater participation by learners in deciding what happens in the classroom.

Click this link to continue Unit Seven with a discussion forum focused on these questions.

5. Reflections

Q: How do you currently involve learners in curriculum decisions?

I first try to see what level of ESL they are at, which I can "try" to determine by asking their peers, family, friend, or whoever brought them to the class. If they come alone, I "try" by seeing how they fill out the registration form. During their registration, we ask what their specific goals are in learning ESL. Some "common" responses are: "would like to be able to communicate at work", "want to improve my speaking skills", "want to help with my child's schoolwork", etc... Then I give them a Pre-test: CASAS, which will solididfy more on what level they might be. I have a list of "suggested" topics to teach based on the levels, which was a packet given to me during a training session years ago. I go over the list with the ESL student and ask what "topic" (e.g. Alphabet, Grammar, vocabulary, etc....) they would like to learn. If they have told me a "specific goal" earlier, I try to give them some options based on that "goal". For example, we have many dairy farmers, so I try to give them vocabulary from a website I found pertaining to that line of work.

Q: What ideas do you have for increasing the level of learner involvement in the curriculum development process?

As I read this questions just right now, I would like to start a 3-binder book on different topics they can choose from. I would like to build the number of pages of resources where I'll have a 3-binder book on each "topic". These topics would be a variety of the most common ones, which some have been mentioned in this lesson or previous unit: Employment, Health, Helping with Children in their school work, and other "daily-life" topics.

Q: What barriers to that involvement do you see?

I immediately can think of "time", which has been a barrier since I re-started (history mentioned in earlier on-line courses previous to this one) this literacy program here in Morris, Minnesota. Again, I'm just a volunteer and I have actually 3-various jobs to help pay for my recent on-line schooling in thie field (ESL Teacher Licensure through Hamline University). I'm very passionate in this type of volunteer work, which enables me to find that "time" to do this!

Q: Why should we involve learners?
by Susan W. Thursday, June 5, 2008, 11:21 AM
What are the benefits (for us, for the learners, for the end product) of involving learners in the curriculum development process?

We should "involve" learners because they then become more part of the learning activity, which they feel a part of the whole lesson activity! When you get them "active" from being "involved", their brains get more stimulated to "participate" in the learning process. This will get the "teacher" or "tutor" (e.g. volunteers) excited to be "active participants" too! If we get them "involved", they will want to come again next time you hold a classroom session. When they keep coming, this will help with your classroom's "retention-rate". The news will spread fast amongts the "Non-ESL commnity" (e.g. migrant workers in our rural community) in your area, which they will want to tell others to come learn too! A plus for your local program's "outlook" or "evaluation" from the "people above".

Unit 8 Writing Your Curriculum

In this unit of the course, you will

* Review several formats and templates for writing curriculum
* Write a sample unit

Click Lesson Eight to begin.

* Lesson Eight
* Curriculum Writing Assignment Instructions Resource
* Upload Your Curriculum Writing Assignment Here

You've laid all the groundwork... now it's time to start writing!

In this lesson, you will explore several different templates for writing curriculum.

As you look at each example, think about how you might use it to write your own curriculum. What do you like about the format? What do you not like? How might you change it to better suit your needs?

Click this link to go Literacy Minnesota's Promising Practices in Curriculum Development. There you can find a collaborative curriculum development project, including a blank grid for writing curriculum and a sample completed grid.

You can download and read the sample completed curriculum grid first, or just review the blank grid if you prefer.

Using a grid has some big advantages for curriculum writers.

1. It's easy for teachers to find the information they need.
2. The same type of information is included for each day and unit.
3. It encourages the curriculum writer to be concise.

One drawback of this format is that some ideas need more explanation or elaboration, but there is no space for that in the grid.

Checklist Sample Format

checklistAs an alternative to a grid, you might consider using a checklist format. The idea behind the checklist is that the curriculum includes an overview that details a number of recommended classroom activities, then each week or unit has a checklist page that teachers can use to mark off which activities they have used with the class. This could be very beneficial to programs with volunteer-led classes where a different volunteer teaches every day. The checklist would provide each teacher with information at a glance about what has been done and what needs to be done with the class.

Click this link to download an example of a checklist format.

As the checklist requires teachers to write on the page, you might consider putting each page in a plastic sleeve so that teachers can write on the plastic with a wet erase marker (such as an overhead/transparency pen).

Narrative Format

Finally, some curriculum writers prefer to create a narrative document that explains each day/unit in paragraph form. One benefit of this format is that the curriculum writer can elaborate on each objective, activity, or source material. Each day's curriculum can be more or less a complete lesson plan, which might be necessary in programs with inexperienced teachers who need or want support in lesson planning.

The major drawbacks of this format are that it takes considerably more time on the part of the curriculum writer and can feel restrictive for teachers who want a greater level of control.

Click this link to download an example of a curriculum with a narrative format.

Combining Formats

In this lesson you have seen three different formats for writing curriculum:

* grid
* checklist
* narrative

Many curriculum writers will choose one primary format, while including others at different points in their document. For example, a curriculum writer may choose to use a grid format, but supplement it with narrative paragraphs at the opening of each unit or week. Another writer may prefer a checklist format, but include an introductory grid that shows an overview of the units and topics.

It's up to you to decide how you will format your curriculum. Whatever format you choose, make sure to keep in mind the needs of your instructors that you identified in Unit 2.

Now it's time to start writing! Go to the Curriculum Writing Assignment to get started.

In order to receive CEUs for this course, you must write and submit one original unit for an adult ESL curriculum. The unit should include content for 1-2 weeks of classes.

You may write in any format you choose, using whatever organization you prefer, for any level and any topic. However, you should make sure to include:

* a statement of program philosophy or curriculum goal (see Units 1 and 2)
* a description of the program, learners, and instructors that this curriculum is intended for (see Unit 2)
* SMART objectives for each day in the curriculum (see Unit 5)
* Examples of scaffolding and recycling (See Unit 6)
* Some indication of how you have involved or will involve learners in curriculum decisions (see Unit 7)


  • NEEDS ASSESSMENT AND LEARNER GOAL for Literacy/Low Beginning ESL ..., pdf format from miracosta.cc.ca.us

  • Note: I prefer to receive Microsoft Word (.doc) documents, but if you do not have access to Word, save your documents in Rich Text Format (.rtf). This is a universal file type readable by any word processing program.

    Once you have completed your curriculum unit, upload it using the link on the course main page.

    Make sure you read the Curriculum Writing Assignment Instructions before uploading your work.

    When you have completed the assignment, you can upload the document here.

    If you are unable to upload your assignment, you may email the document to the course instructor at: swbrandt@theMLC.org or mail it to her at:

    Minnesota Literacy Council
    Attn: Susan Wetenkamp-Brandt
    756 Transfer Road
    St. Paul, MN 55114

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