Layered Curriculum

I was recently asked to do some professional development for a school district. The assistant superintendent asked me to include some ideas for Layering Curriculum. With those teachers in mind, I am going to put some links here that I think will be useful to EdCats as well.

P8JCZaoHuBqBVY2EBDFZ4vHb7pa43YXOsxa09zCcUbW2oJ2nwukX_eEnJdsCxdwntM8kxw=s85  Kathy Nunely is a secondary teacher that coined the phrase “layered curriculum” in the context of classroom learning and has a significant amount of resources on her website.

Her out-of-the-box thinking allows students to choose assignments from a teacher-created menu they can get excited about!

You may want to check out her hot topics section to get some ideas to refresh your teaching.

Taking the menu idea to a whole ‘nother level is Rick Wormeli. When you click on that link you will go to some resources put together by the Kentucky Dept. of Ed. Lots of menu ideas there.

Do you use menus? Do you have some ideas to share? Send them to and I’ll be happy to post them here for EdCats!


Teaching until the last bell.

It’s interesting to hear some teachers complain about state testing taking up instructional time but they are willing to show movies and play games during the last two weeks of school. Don’t be that teacher!

yougotthis1Here are some ideas for keeping things going until the last bell:

  • Set some short-term academic goals and encourage students to finish strong!
  • Learn something new with your students. Modeling an interest in life-long learning can be motivating.
  • Short term project based or theme based learning can be a great way to combine two classes or grade levels for a portion of the day.
  • The busier your students are, the less time they have to misbehave. This can be a good time to put students in charge of some of the tasks they have seen you model all year: what are some of your tasks that students could take over?
  • Use Skype to cross barriers. Is there a project that you could do with a classroom across the city, across the state or across the world? Technology allows teacher-to-teacher planning to exchange ideas on teaching the same content.
  • Turn students into videographers. Short movies can be great performance-based assessments.
  • Incorporate music and art into the day if you haven’t been.
  • Writing with a purpose can be fun. Letters to the senior center, a retired teacher, or next year’s grade level (giving them tips for the next grade) can be a great new tradition!
  • Keep a daily joy journal on a poster, on a bulletin board, in dry erase marker on the desk or on the door!
  • Hold focus groups for feedback on how to do things with your students next year. You won’t believe the great ideas that students have.
  • ENJOY. There are still so many memories to make! Your students will take your cue and learn to find joy in each of the “lasts” for this year.

Solvitur ambulando. We can do this.

Just say NO to Summer countdowns.

I was a visitor in a building yesterday and on a huge screen in the cafeteria there was a countdown to summer. I’m not a fan.

The students were chatting and I decided to ask them about it.

“So you guys, I see there’s a countdown to summer break up there. How do you feel about the countdown to summer?”

The first student confirmed my assumption.

It gives me anxiety. I have so much to get done before the break.


A second student chimed in as she looked back and forth to the students next to her,

“I’m dreading summer. I’m going to miss you guys so much!”

So why the countdowns? I suppose it encourages students that freedom is coming, as if school is a sentence to be endured. It might be that a teacher wants a visual reminder that his/her freedom from the students is coming; however, neither message seems very positive. Here’s why I wish countdowns would go away for the sake of students:

  • For some students, breaks from school mean physically moving to another house. Students may have challenging summer scenarios such as moving to another parent/guardian’s home for summer custody arrangements.
  • For some students, summer means food insecurity.  We may joke about cafeteria food but it’s available and nutritious.  Summer breakfast or lunch programs can fill a gap but they may not be close to students’ homes or convenient for consistent attendance.
  • For some students, summer means lack of supervision. Students may not be supervised while parents work and they may even find themselves in charge of younger siblings.

Although teachers may find countdowns motivating, the countdown mentality may actually do more harm than good:

  • Teachers may be giving the signal that they can’t wait to be away from their students. Instead of beginning the day with enthusiasm, teachers may be sending the message that school is a “sentence” in which to be endured.
  • Teachers may be reinforcing a message that the time left is insignificant and that there isn’t much time for more learning to take place.
  • Teachers might be sending the message that the time to come is more important than what is happening today.

No matter how educators feel about countdowns, summer break is coming. Perhaps being mindful of how our students perceive the impending break from school can help us help them to navigate what awaits them. We owe it to ourselves and our students to take advantage of every opportunity to build skills for all aspects of their lives, including the summer months ahead.