5 Tips for Curriculum Planning for Language Teachers

 Tips, Tricks and Secrets 

to Planning Your Language Classes

Curriculum Mapping 101
What is it?!?! Curriculum mapping is essentially designing your instructional plan for each class or subject.  The curriculum map should align your program goals, course objectives, necessary materials/instructional support and any special events that should be highlighted.

1.Program Goals
This can be the most difficult part of the planning and here is the secret to setting goals for your classes...BACKWARDS DESIGN! Start with the end in mind... This might sound strange, but all that it means is that you should think about what you want the end result to be and then work backwards.  What do you want the students to be able to do? For example, one goal for the students of a pre-k Spanish class could be that they should be able to identify and recognize all of the colors in Spanish, count in Spanish up to twenty on their own, sing about and identify common body parts, and respond to typical daily greetings. Once you have the can-do statements written out, brainstorm how to meet those goals.  What needs to be taught and how will you teach it?  

2. Course Objectives
This is the part where you will "break a sweat!" What do I mean?  This is  A LOT OF WORK! Basically, you write out an objective for each and every lesson that you are going to teach throughout the entire school year! Even if it's tempting, you don't want to skip this step.  Each lesson should have a purpose and should be connected to the original program goals from step 1.  If you are like me and you teach 13 different classes, it can get pretty time consuming and overwhelming.  

3. Instructional Support and Materials

If you teach math, you have one textbook that guides all of your lessons, assignments and assessments.  Great math teachers also incorporate external resources, projects and creative activities into their curriculum.  

For language teachers, most of us tend to find that there is a lot missing in a language curriculum that relies 100% on a textbook.  ACTFL recommends incorporating the 5 Cs into a foreign language program.  As you probably already know, the 5 Cs are Communication, Cultures, Connections, Comparisons, and Communities.  

Communication is first as it is the most  important.  Taking time in each lesson to put the learning to practice by providing the students ample opportunities to communicate with you and with each other is key to any strong language curriculum.  

Culture is my favorite piece in each program.  To me it's what makes the learning vibrant, colorful and interesting.  From knowing where the language is spoken to celebrating cultural holidays and sampling authentic foods, this should be infused into the curriculum regularly. 

Connections to other subjects, cross-curricular collaboration, helps students to make more sense of what they are learning in foreign language class.  When students learn numbers and practice math facts in the target language or create art-work related to a cultural holiday, or have a science lesson about the earth and recycling in the target language, they are making a connection to what they are learning in the general curriculum and this makes the foreign language learning more familiar to the students. 

Comparisons is what I like to think of as code-switching or translation skills.  When you are multilingual, you know that translation is an art.  It's very complex and finding the perfect way to explain what something means in one language to another is not always straight-forward.  Students should be comparing the target language to their native language often.  I love pointing out certain patterns of the romance languages to my students;  I often pause to allow them to recognize these nuances on their own.  This is like stretching for their brains.  One example, with my younger students, when there is a reading on the board, I ask the students to first notice things about the structure of the language.  I show them the literal translation as well as the free one.  This helps students to begin to think in the way a native speaker of the language thinks.  Having this understanding is the stepping stone to teach them to form the sentences in the target language accurately on their own.  

Finally, communities is where the students actually experience a place where the target language is spoken first-hand.  One example of how I do this is by taking my students on a field trip to a Spanish speaking restaurant where the servers communicate with the students entirely in Spanish and the students converse and order in the target language.

4. Assessment

      This includes formative and summative assessments.  Language teachers conduct formative assessments during each and every class.  This is where we are observing the students and acquiring feedback by using various techniques to gauge student comprehension through in-class activities. Summative assessments are tests and quizzes, projects, homework assignments and any graded work.  This piece should also be documented in the curriculum map.

5. Delivery & Instruction
The grand performance, after all of the behind-the-scenes designing is completed is the last step in the curriculum mapping.  Not only does this step involve put the plan into action, it paves the way towards the end goals.  Classroom management and time management are critical factors in successful delivery of the instruction.

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Happy planning!


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