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Skills for Educators

All Skills for Educators

Preparing to Use a Curriculum

This educator skill is a guide designed to help educators study and effectively implement a new curriculum or program. It includes 12 steps which are supported by a set of questions for the educator to answer. In many cases, the educator will have to explore and study the new curriculum or program manual in order to answer these questions.

The 12 steps are divided into the following sections:


General Preparation

  1. Identify the population that the program is designed to serve.
    • Is the curriculum designed for middle school or high school students?
    • Can the learning activities be adapted to serve an older or younger group?
    • Does the curriculum seem appropriate for the cultural identities (ethnicity, language, gender, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, etc.) of the youth you serve? Is there a way to adapt? What setting is the curriculum designed for? Classroom? After-school? Outdoors?
  1. Scan the table of contents to identify the kinds of topics the curriculum covers.
    • After a quick look, are these the kinds of topics you are interested in teaching your youth?
    • How many topics are covered?
    • How many sessions are there in the curriculum?
    • Do you have sufficient time and resources to facilitate the complete curriculum?
  1. Identify the theoretical/pedagogical approach embedded in the curriculum.
    Decide how you can use the curriculum given its approach. This information is usually found in the "Introduction" of the curriculum.
    • Are you and your organization in agreement with the theories, approaches, and philosophies described in the curriculum?
  1. Identify the logic behind the progression of sessions and topics.
    • Must the sessions be facilitated in the order presented in the curriculum?
    • How will each session build upon the previous session, if at all?
    • Are sessions able to stand alone?

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Session-by-Session Preparation

  1. Read and analyze learning objectives for each session.
    • How do the learning objectives of the overall curriculum fit with the objectives for your class or program?
    • Will the learning activities in the session be likely to achieve the objectives for the session with your population?
    • Which learning activities are tied to which objectives? What is the rationale for each of the learning activities?
    • Do you feel comfortable with the learning activities in the session? Do you need preparation or coaching to effectively implement any of the activities?
    • How will you transition from one activity to the next?
  1. Note time requirements in order to determine pacing.
    • Do you have enough time in your classroom or after school program to complete a session? If the session is too long or too short, how will you adapt it to meet your time constraints?
    • Does the time allotted for each of the activities within a session seem sufficient?
    • How will you pace yourself through the session? Wristwatch? Student volunteer?
    • Are there other items you will need to cover that may take time away from the session (e.g., homework review, announcements, student questions, etc?
  1. Assess whether you have the knowledge and skills needed to facilitate each session. Invest additional time in background preparation, if necessary.
    • For example, are you comfortable in facilitating role plays, leading large group discussions, small group work, etc? If not, is there a colleague who is available to coach you? Is there a book or web site that might help you learn about the skill? Is there an opportunity to practice the skill with colleagues? Friends? Or family? In front of a mirror?
    • Do you have adequate knowledge about the topic being addressed in the session? For example, do you know the basics about HIV transmission and prevention in order to teach a session about HIV? If not, is there a book or web site where you can get this information?
    • If you were to brainstorm a list of possible youth questions about the session topic, would you feel confident about answering all of the questions?
  1. Walk yourself through a process of personalization.
    • How will you adapt the curriculum to your population, setting, time and resources?
    • What implementation techniques work best for you?
    • Will you need to prepare index cards, talking points, flipcharts or other aids to support you in facilitating the session for the first time?
    • Will you have a co-facilitator? If so, how will you coordinate with him/her? How will you support each other?
  1. Debrief your session preparation by yourself or with a colleague.
    • What part of the session feels easy and comfortable?
    • What part of the session feels awkward, if any?
    • What problem, if any, do you anticipate with implementation? How might you modify the curriculum to avoid problems?
  1. Identify materials that you need to gather or prepare.
    • Will you need to go out and purchase materials or does your organization have a supply? Common materials required by a program include: flipchart paper, pens/pencils, markers, tape, index cards, videotapes, TV/VCR, etc.
    • Will you need to create a budget for curriculum materials?
  1. Be aware of the preparation time needed.
    • Generally, it takes about three hours to prepare for every one hour of a new curriculum. Have you developed a schedule that will allow you the time you will need to prepare adequately?
  1. Remember: HAVE FUN!