Monday, January 12, 2009

Designing a Curriculum 1: Overview

A curriculum is an entire sequence of studies in a particular field (such as a language). A curriculum is often closely associated with standards and sets targets in different areas (listening, speaking, writing) at different levels (beginner, intermediate, advanced or Kindergarten, first grade, etc.). It's important to have a curriculum so that students make progress and don't keep studying names for animals and colors at every grade level.

You can learn a lot about developing a curriculum by searching for "ESL curriculum" or "French curriculum" on the internet. I was intrigued by this ESL curriculum (careful--it's a large PDF!) from the State of Tennessee Department of Education. For Language Arts, their curriculum specifies standards for Listening (L), Speaking (S), Reading (R), and Writing (W) at each grade level. For Kindergarten Learning, for example, they list the following, among many others:

K.L.1 Demonstrate understanding of everyday vocabulary (e.g., common classroom objects and activities).

K.L.2 Use appropriate listening skills (e.g., not interrupting, looking at speaker, interacting when appropriate).

For Speaking, they list the following:

K.S.1 Recite personal data (i.e., first, middle, and last name, age, address, phone number, birthday, mother's name, father's name).

K.S.2 Identify basic colors (red, blue, yellow, green, orange, purple, black, brown, white, gray, pink).

Your community might decide other skills are important, such as Language, History, and Culture.

A curriculum isn't limited to schools. Since it's just a general plan for teaching the language, it's useful for summer camps, after school programs, and clubs. The curriculum helps make sure that each of these programs helps move kids toward fluency.

Would these sorts of objectives be useful for your community? What are all the abilities you would like students to gain in listening, speaking, reading, and writing during their first year? Who should serve on a committee to develop these objectives?

Language is much more than vocabulary: What sentence patterns ("This is a ___," "I am ___ing," etc.) are important for communicating? What communicative objectives do you have ("Be able to introduce someone," "Be able to ask how to say something," "Be able to greet someone," etc.)? Once you have a curriculum planned, what specific lessons will you develop to meet those objectives?


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