You have those years when you’ve feel like you’ve finally found your groove. Then your school district adopts a new curriculum and it leaves you struggling. . .
Struggling for time to figure it out. . .
Struggling to plan lessons. . .
Struggling to differentiate while you figure it all out.
You’re trying to build the plane as you fly it. And now you’re in a tailspin.
I know this feeling well: we just adopted a new science curriculum, and I’m teaching math with a new series while planning math for my whole grade level. The beginning of the year wasn’t pretty. And differentiation? Forget about it.
But I’ve been here before. It happens to everyone at some point. And that’s why I know it can be done and it won’t take forever. Try this quick start guide to teaching well with new curriculum.
Step 1. Plan with the standard, not the content. You’re a classroom teacher just like me, so I know you’ve seen this before. The school district adopts a shiny new curriculum with pretty textbooks and lots of fanfare.
But remember that the standards you teach haven’t changed. (It’s not often the standards change. And if they do, your state will take years to transition everyone.) But what does change quite often are the materials we use to teach.
So forget about materials, about the new curriculum, for now. Get out your standards for math. Decide how long you need to teach this week’s standard. Put that in your plan book.
Step 2. Decide how you’re going to teach it. You know students and their different levels. You know that small group works best to differentiate for math. But what if your new textbook’s lessons want you to teach in whole group. Ignore that. You know what works best to reach your students.
The material doesn’t get to decide how you will meet their needs. Your district adopted the curriculum not to tell you how to teach but to provide you with activities and materials. You’re still in charge of how your teaching happens.
Plan how you’re going to teach to best teach your students at all their different levels. You’re going to use your new curriculum, but only for the activities and materials.
Step 3. Look at your resources. Now, it’s time to find those materials from your new textbooks and curriculum that apply to that standard in your plan book.
You don’t have to explore the entire curriculum, just the standard you’re teaching. Do they have a great math manipulatives or videos?
For example, my new math curriculum has great interactive computer lessons but the lesson plans in the curriculum suggest showing the whole group those interactive videos.
(I tried it at the beginning of the year and it was an epic failure. Students either mastered it quickly, didn’t get it all, or lost focus after ten minutes. It was an excruciating experience for all involved.) I could “whole group it” all day but I wasn’t going to meet my students’ needs that way.
Now I assign the computer lessons to my students and they complete as a station rotation. I can check on their progress and the program doesn’t move on until they pass it. The math workbook is now “workbook nook”. Those great manipulatives? Hands-on math rotation and for use at “time with teacher”.
If you feel unsure about not teaching the curriculum exactly as they have it in the Teacher’s Edition, check with your administrator. (I did and was reassured that the standard is the foundation, not the curriculum.) I’m 100% sure they’re going to tell you to teach the standards and do what’s best for your students.
You have to consider that you know your students best and it’s your job to decide what will work for them. Those shining souls with their eager smiles will thank you for it.