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Adult and Community Learning Services (ACLS)

Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Curriculum

Updated August, 2017

Q1:
Where can I find the templates for developing unit plans?
A:
The instructional unit plan templates for ELA Download PDF Document Download MS WORD Document, Math Download PDF Document Download MS WORD Document, and ESOL Download PDF Document Download MS WORD Document are located on the ACLS Curriculum and Instruction Resources web page under the headers for English Language Arts (ELA), Mathematics and Adult Numeracy, and ESOL. These optional templates are available in both pdf and Word versions.
 
Q2:
Where can I find the lesson plan templates?
A:
The lesson plan templates for ELA Download PDF Document Download MS WORD Document, ESOL Download PDF Document Download MS WORD Document, and Math Download PDF Document Download MS WORD Document are located on the ACLS Curriculum and Instruction Resources web page under the headers for English Language Arts (ELA), Mathematics and Adult Numeracy, and ESOL. The ELA Download PDF Document Download MS WORD Document and Math Download PDF Document Download MS WORD Document templates have a brief companion guide accompanying them. These optional templates are available in both pdf and Word versions.
 
Q3:
Does my scope and sequence, unit plan and/or lesson plan need to look exactly like the templates ACLS has provided on the ACLS Curriculum and Instruction Resources web page?
A:
No, it does not.
 
Q4:
What is the difference between a scope and sequence and a unit plan?
A:
The scope and sequence, unit plan, and lesson plans have very different functions. The scope and sequence:
  • gives users a plan for what learning should occur over the period of time covered;
  • shows the scope of the material to be learned and in what sequence, and how unit topics, skills, content knowledge, and culminating tasks build over time.
The format of the scope and sequence provides teachers an overview of the year so that the unit topics, skills developed, and culminating work may be seen as a whole since they build on each other month by month. This "treetops" view is critical for teachers and directors to have as their plan for instruction for the year:
  • teachers can see what skill development needs to come first in order to progress to the next unit;
  • the scope and sequence also helps teachers stay aware of the amount of learning that is expected to happen in the year.
Compared to the "year at a glance" function of the scope and sequence, instructional units go into greater depth to guide the teacher in the specific skills and content knowledge to be developed. In the unit, teachers drill down and elaborate on the unit goal and outcomes, the standards that support those outcomes, and the culminating assessment for the unit. Teachers also flesh out the vocabulary to be learned by students and all of the texts or resources they will read or use. All of this information in the unit plan describes a suggested sequence of lessons or outline to provide guidance for teachers when writing lessons for an actual class of students.

For example, in the area of assessment, the assessment of priority standards might be only generally sketched out in the scope and sequence as to what task students will complete. However, in Stage 2 of the unit plan, "assessment evidence," will explain the specific ways students will demonstrate their learning, as well as exactly where teachers will place the various assessments in the sequence of lessons.

Curriculum development doesn't have to be a linear process. Some curriculum developers may find that they must first flesh out the unit plan by identifying the unit goal and outcomes, objectives, alignment with priority standards, and culminating assessment before being able to lay out a scope and sequence for the year. The method of "backward design" ensures that the lessons truly reflect the CCRSAE standards and important outcomes for students, and are not simply based on fun activities. The "backward design" model was developed by Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe in their groundbreaking book, Understanding by Design.

When developing lessons, teachers will be focused on pulling everything together that has been thought through in the unit plan and meeting the varied needs of the actual students in their classroom in real time. Teachers will then reference the unit plan often when writing their lesson plans, and have the benefit of the thinking that already went into what students will learn and how the learning will be played out. The sample lesson plans will provide further guidance for teachers when they are developing lessons for their students.

Some information will be able to be cut and pasted from one document to the other, but the information may need to be adjusted or fleshed out, depending on the document. For example, information from the unit plan may be added to the scope and sequence but with less detail needed. Users could directly paste the unit goals and outcomes statement and the assessment of priority standards statement from the unit plan into the scope and sequence. However, all the thinking and support behind these statements in the unit plan does not need to be included. The level of detail in the unit plan is not needed in the scope and sequence.
 
Q5:
Do you have examples of completed units?
A:
Yes. For English Language Arts (ELA) examples, see Creating Curricula for ELA: An Overview and Curriculum Examples and Models for ELA and Content-Area Subjects. For mathematics and adult numeracy examples, see Math Curriculum Resources.
 
Q6:
When students are coming into ABE at various times of year and different levels (even among given levels - beginners, intermediate, and advanced) and their goal is to get their high school equivalency, how do thematic units work? Our teachers individualize all teaching based on student assessment and needs. This makes for much planning but for great success. I want to make good choices for my students and staff - and I don't want the staff creating documents that sit on a shelf.
Can you help me understand the thoughts behind this thinking?
A:
ACLS's curriculum policy supports programs in providing students the high quality of instruction needed to succeed in the 21st century. The policy is driven by the most current research available for the skills and content knowledge students need to learn to be prepared for postsecondary education and careers. Having high expectations for all students and aiding students in believing in their own potential enables students to see their steady progress towards family-sustaining wages. Achieving a high school credential is one of a number of significant milestones on their way, when students have been helped to internalize a growth mindset.

Units are made up of coordinated lessons that focus on the skills that students need to learn. Units also focus on a topic or content that serves as the vehicle for students to practice those skills. Topics focusing on skills and knowledge students need to achieve their high school credential may serve as a springboard to seeking higher goals. Unit topics may relate to postsecondary education, careers, or other needs of students. Based on the teacher's experience of what students at that particular level generally need to learn and practice and the skills outlined in the College and Career Readiness Standards for Adult Education (CCRSAE), you can build each unit around a topic relevant for students. The skills sequence, however, should stay roughly the same as planned (give or take some of the skills depending on the students in that class) so the teachers have that work already done, and the skills build seamlessly across the year in the units.

The thinking that goes into the unit plans will allow teachers to then differentiate for individual students in their lesson plans. When students come in mid-year, they should do as much work as they can that the rest of the class is doing, as well as some one-on-one work with the teacher or volunteer and some independent work to catch up. Catching students up to the rest of the class is not a simple process, but it is important to keep the rest of the class moving forward. Differentiating instruction is proven to be effective in ensuring all students understand instruction and make learning gains. For example, evidence-based reading instruction differentiates instruction by grouping students according to their needs in the four components of reading. A short but useful book on differentiated instruction is A Differentiated Approach to the Common Core, by Carol Ann Tomlinson and Marcia Imbeau. Published by ASCD, this resource is a good introduction to using differentiated instruction with learners.

Students rely on programs to create high quality curriculum materials that will support their progress and outcomes. Unit plans are a huge resource to programs, because they reduce planning time for lessons, ensure what's taught is coherent and coordinated, and when done well, will contribute to outcomes.
 
Q7:
The task of developing curriculum is overwhelming, and there is not enough time to do it. I need help!
A:
Help is available in a variety of ways from SABES. The SABES PD Centers for ELA, ESOL and Math are ready and waiting to help with technical assistance, professional development, and also provide many useful resources on their web pages. ELA and ESOL Practitioner Coaches are available to help answer questions and facilitate your curriculum work on site at your program. The Math PD Center provides CCR Open Houses and encourages you to invite them to your site. These on site Open Houses are opportunities to support programs in developing instructional units as part of an overall ABE math curriculum. Programs are encouraged to participate as program teams, including teachers and directors. For more information about upcoming Math Open Houses, see SABES PD Center for Mathematics and Adult Numeracy. Directors may wish to have staff work in a consortium and share the resulting curriculum materials among programs.

Another resource are completed units which may be adapted either minimally or significantly, depending on time. Model curriculum units for English Language Arts were developed by six experienced ABE practitioners. Topics such as civil rights, cultural and physical properties of water, and how to be a savvy consumer of news stories, among others, will be posted on the SABES ELA PD Center page and the ACLS Curriculum and Instruction Resources page shortly.

Finally, if staff need support in developing curriculum aligned to the CCRSAE and/or in understanding and using the CCR Standards in ELA, ESOL, or math instruction, teachers are strongly encouraged to take advantage of PD offered by SABES. Find opportunities for face-to-face as well as hybrid and online PD at SABES.
 
Q8:
Our program has been working on our ESOL scope and sequence. Our template design varies from the sample template provided by ACLS but does encompass and address all the components. We adapted the template after attending an ESOL professional development training on Scope and Sequence and receiving feedback from SABES and ACLS. We found it to be much more user friendly and easier to follow. May we adapt the template for ELA as we feel it works best for our program?
A:
Yes, the format of this template may be adapted to program needs.
 

Questions? Please contact Jane Schwerdtfeger, Curriculum Specialist in Adult and Community Learning Services, at janes@doe.mass.edu.



Last Updated: August 21, 2017
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