Saturday, July 21, 2012

I Just Got a Teaching Job- Now What?!- Curriculum Overview (and Freebies)!

Well. It's that time of year where I can't seem to go shopping without picking up $20 worth of classroom stuff. Tonight I went to Goodwill, Target, Jo-Ann Fabrics, and Dollar Tree. That's 3 different spots to get things for $1, and a $0.69/ children's book section. And I checked out that $0.88 area at Wal-Mart yesterday.

Oy. I don't even want to tell you how much I've spent.

I think I need an intervention.

If you are anything like me, you're sick of the posts full of questions. I know new teachers have a lot of questions to ask, but still- I'm glad to be writing something different today!

I know it is SO tempting to go in your room first, but really- what's more important, setting up a bulletin board, or knowing what the heck you are going to teach this year?

Curriculum SHOULD be your priority. After all, you weren't hired as a Classroom Cutesifier- you were hired as a Teacher.

And actually, considering your curriculum first will help you set up your room in a way that fits how you teach. Plus, it will tell you what things you really need. (Go ahead and order Spaces and Places. DO IT.)

I mean, if your school is huge into guided reading, you need a space for that. If your school uses Mountain Math, you need to plan the wall space in your classroom. If there is a priority on hands-on science, where will you do it?

Knowing a little about your curriculum needs to come before setting up your room! And start a list of "must haves" for your classroom setup as you look through the curriculum.

Download freebie on Google Docs {here}

When you look at your curriculum, it's probably going to be overwhelming. And that's okay.

Reading curriculum, in particular, tends to be packed full of way more things than I think any teacher can ever possibly fit in. Don't freak out. Most likely, no one expects you to do all of it. Even the schools I have been in that made strongly encouraged me to use the basal, they understood that series like to include a lot of extra resources in case you need them, but that you'll only have time for the ones your students truly need.

If you haven't already, ask your mentor teacher:
  • What subjects do I have to teach?
  • Are there certain programs I have to use to teach them?
  • Do I have to stick to the "book," or am I free to supplement it?
  • Do I have a certain curriculum schedule I have to follow?
  • What way do you teach each subject? Does everyone do it that way?
  • Could you show me how you plan long-term for the year? Could I maybe have a copy of your document?
  • What does your daily or weekly schedule look like? Can I see? (They may not have one from the current year, but even looking at last year's will be helpful.)
(I know, I know- I said I wasn't going to do the question thing! That's it- I promise!)

Every school- and even, every grade level within each school- will be different. It will be hugely important to find out what's required, what's recommended, and what's preferred. (Because, that first year, it just may not be worth it to rock the boat if all of your teammates do common planning a certain way.)

And, seriously, don't feel shy asking to see how they do it (or if you can walk around their classroom to get ideas, and maybe even take pictures!)

One of my co-workers last year made this terrific form that outlined our reading stories, spelling lists, vocabulary lists, E/LA skills, etc. for every week of the year. I can't tell you how helpful it was to not have to look these up each week in my teacher's edition. She'd already created it (because she's WAY more organized than I am!) and was happy to share! I would *highly* suggest you ask your entire grade level if they have any long-term planning documents- chances are, someone does, and it will save you a lot of time!

If not, there are plenty of options for year-long planning online and on TpT- or, here's a document from me to get you started! Tweak to your heart's content :)

Get the PDF with Pea Whimsy from Kevin and Amanda {here}, or get the editable .doc file {here}!

If your college curriculum or some other program is convincing you to go "rogue" and abandon the basal, make sure you check if that's okay.

To be honest, sticking with some sort of pre-determined scope and sequence- whether it be from the basal or your district calendar or state guidelines- will really help you keep on track that first year.

Say it with me: The Basal Is Not Evil.

Especially for a first year teacher.

Just plan on sticking with it, and as you plan each week, look at what's there. If it's a good lesson, use it- and if not, substitute and supplement. But do that on a weekly basis- not on a "starting from scratch every day of the year" basis.

If you start trying to reinvent the wheel in every subject that first year, you will have a much harder time. Please don't do that to yourself. Start with some kind of plan that you can abandon as needed :)

My school doesn't have a specified science or social studies curriculum, really, so I worked out math and reading and then matched up science and social studies with the basal where it made sense. Really, even if you do have a science/ social studies curriculum, get reading, math, and writing organized first.

Make sure you look over the standards for your grade (whether they be Common Core or state-specific- right now, my state is in an awkward transition with a little of both!). Get to know what sorts of things are a part of each program- you don't have to read every lesson, but look at one week of reading plans and one week of math plans, especially.

Remember- his is just the quick-overview stage to help you start brainstorming what your day will look like! No need to stress over details just yet :)

Please leave a comment if you snag the freebies!


  1. This was a wonderful post. I agree with all of your points. I remember in college everyone said the BASAL was horrible. I learned it wasn't so bad after all. It was a guide.

    ✣ Miss Nelson✣
    Miss Nelson’s Blog

    1. A "guide." PERFECT wording- exactly what I was trying to say! :) Glad I'm not the only one who sees at least a little value in the basal!


  2. This is great - "Say it with me. The basal is not evil". You are funny! It's so true, though! The basal gets such a bad wrap but for new teachers and switching grade levels it really can be a great guide!

    Another great post! Come join my linky! :)

    Second Grade Sparkle

    1. Exactly! It's a good starting place, as long as you don't just blindly follow it without thinking about what is truly best for your students! :)

      Excited to join your linky soon!


  3. All my college teachers told me basals are evil too so I'm so apprehensive to use them, and or maybe even, (GASP) like them. I really appreciate these posts though! They are so wonderful and have so much information. My first day of new teacher induction is tomorrow so I'll probably be back and frantically write down your questions to ask! Thanks again!
    Teaching in Valley

    1. I DO think it's evil to blindly follow the basal, which some people do. But there are parts of ANY program I've ever worked with that are valuable. As a teacher, you just have to pick and choose what's good for your students!

      Especially for a new teacher, it's worth it to have a set scope and sequence already set up for you. Plus, you'll have some common literature to use, which you might not have otherwise.

      I'm slowly moving away from the basal, but I think sometimes new teachers think they shouldn't touch it, even the first year. Don't be afraid to use it as a guide and supplement with great lessons from other places as needed! :) It can be a good starting place!

      So glad these are helpful for you! :)


  4. Hi, Jenny! I've chosen your wonderful blog for the Liebster Award! :)

    Mrs. Heeren's Happenings

  5. Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment...I'm excited to share about new happenings in NC! I agree with your post...I have everything I want to decorate the room but no teacher manuals yet and that makes me nervous! Lol hopefully I'll get them in the next few weeks and I can start planning


  6. What do you mean by the Basal? My school gave me textbooks, but no scope and sequence and no curriculum guide, they said teach and supplement how you feel is best. But I don't know what is best because it's my first year. Where do I start ?

    I can't cover the whole textbook so using the timeline guide in the textbook won't be enough . Tips ?

  7. What do you mean by the Basal? My school gave me textbooks, but no scope and sequence and no curriculum guide, they said teach and supplement how you feel is best. But I don't know what is best because it's my first year. Where do I start ?

    I can't cover the whole textbook so using the timeline guide in the textbook won't be enough . Tips ?

    1. Hi Corrine! When I said basal, I was referring to our textbook and its accompanying manual. Your school's sounds similar. It's okay if you won't be able to cover all of it! In most series, the content spirals so that you learn the same things a few times. I would ask other teachers at your school what they do! Hope that helps. Good luck!


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