Different Types of Curriculum Documentation: What’s the Difference?

The different types of curriculum documentation:

As a teacher, it is important to be well-prepared. Before you walk into your classroom, you want to know what you’re doing, what you’re students will do, and why. 

Making sure that you have everything documented is essential. Teachers use many planning documents to ensure that they are prepared for each lesson and that each lesson fits into the bigger picture. 

It can get a little confusing, though. Several different types of curriculum planning and documentation serve different purposes. They may also look completely different, and some may seem unnecessary. 

Teaching is a complicated business, though; by using each of these documents, you can be sure that you’re organised and prepared to do the best job you can do.

Curriculum

What is it?

The first place that every teacher should start is the curriculum

These documents are often decided by someone else. Very rarely will teachers have complete control over the curriculum they are teaching. This isn’t always the case, and some schools do write their curricula for certain subjects. For the most part, though, you will be selecting pieces of the pre-existing, broader curriculum. 

See more: The New Australian Curriculum: Has it Been Dumbed Down?

Purpose

The purpose of having a curriculum is to map everything that your students need to know. Curricula usually cover a single subject area, even if the class you are teaching is a combination. For example, if you are teaching a STEM class, you are unlikely to have a seperate STEM curriculum. You are more likely to create a scope and sequence, unit plans and lesson plans that use the seperate Science, Technology and Maths curricula.

The other purpose of a curriculum is to standardise teaching. This means that you can guarantee with some certainty that all Year 3 students in the state would have covered the same things in class. This makes it much easier for students who move schools, or when students move from Primary to Secondary school. It also makes it much easier for universities to know what to expect from their undergraduate students.

See more: Should I do an Online Teaching Degree?

Examples

The most commonly used curriculum in Australia is the Australian Curriculum. You may also be teaching the Early Years Learning Framework, International Baccalaureate, or any one of the senior years’ curricula, depending on your state.

Scope and Sequence

What is it?

Your scope and sequence is the first step after looking at your curriculum. This document is where you determine the scope of your teaching (what parts you will focus on) and the sequence (what order you will do them in).

Some schools may also call this a curriculum map because you will map pieces of the curriculum across the teaching year. Your scope and sequence should include the content you will cover at each point and what standards you will assess your students on at which points.

Purpose

The purpose of a scope and sequence is to ensure that you are covering all of the essential parts of the curriculum in your teaching program. By making a scope and sequence, you can quickly and easily see where you will cover each point that you need to cover.

This is the first step that you as a teacher are likely to do in your planning. Yes, curriculum comes first. But the first thing that you’ll do with it is create a scope and sequence.

It becomes much easier to make your unit and lesson plans with a scope and sequence. If you’re trying to track which parts of the curriculum you still need to cover while making your other plans, it’s easy to miss things.

Examples

Click here for examples of a Primary Literacy scope and sequence. This is another example of a scope and sequence that covers multiple learning areas over multiple years. 

Unit Plan

What is it?

Your unit plans will take a section of your scope and sequence and plan it out in more detail. Think of your unit plans as zooming in on a particular part of your scope and sequence. 

You might pick one part of the curriculum that your unit will focus on or include a few in the same unit. Whatever you choose, they should have a similar theme. 

Purpose

Your unit plans will detail how you will teach each particular part of the curriculum. It should include all of the separate lessons in that unit, the learning intentions of each, the resources that you need and any associated assignments. Some unit plans even include some of the pedagogy used in the unit, especially if you don’t also create individual lesson plans. 

Examples

Here is an example of a unit plan template. You’ll also find a video on creating a unit plan below.

Lesson Plan

What is it?

Lesson plans are the most specific document that teachers use when planning their lessons. A good lesson plan should include a breakdown of teacher and student actions at various points in the planned lesson. 

Purpose

Lesson plans should include activities, their estimated timeframe, resources required and outcomes of the lesson. They can also include the specific curriculum links for the lesson and any associated after-lesson tasks.

Many teachers also include a reflection section in their lesson plans. Reflection is an important part of being a teacher, and building this into your lesson plans ensures that you can include formal notes on how the lesson went. Not only is this then a record of what happened during the lesson, but it can help you plan the next few lessons or make changes for next time.

Examples

Here you will find an example lesson plan template. You can also find a wide range of lesson plan templates on Canva.

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