November 30, 2021

3 Tips for Designing a Successful Curriculum

By Jessica Allison, Director of Education & Training

Designing a new curriculum for an early childhood education class or center can be a daunting experience for even the most seasoned educator. When I built my first curriculum as a Center Director, I knew I wanted to build off my students’ organic interest in topics and build from there. Now, when I design a new curriculum for Early Learning Academies, I always put children’s interests at the center of meaningful learning experiences.

This approach is called emergent curriculum, and it states that when young learners are more engaged in lessons, they’re more likely to form a deep understanding of the material.

I’ve designed a number of curricula for a variety of ages using this approach; here are my top three tips to help you get started as you develop your own successful curriculum.

Tip 1: Create a wide variety of activities that cover different topics. These activities should center around topics like literacy, math, science, and gross motor and include an array of activity types: interactive, small group, large group, independent, creative, and hands on. This variety gives children lots of opportunities to decide what they enjoy and what motivates them. By providing lots of options, children will naturally show you what they are engaged in and what they want to learn more about.

Tip 2: Build space for teachable moments. Once you have figured out what each child enjoys, find ways to incorporate these topics or types of activities into your lessons.

Here’s an example of how to build these moments:

If a child is interested in dinosaurs and loves playing with the dinosaur figures in the class, mix that into your lesson. Have the child count the dinosaurs. Take one away and see if they can figure out how many are left. See if they know the different names of dinosaurs and what letter each one begins with.

Let’s look at one more example:

Maybe you have a child who loves to play in sensory bins. Try adding things to the sensory bins to make learning more engaging and fun. Create a bin filled with sand and add seashells. Have the child search to find all the shells. As they find shells, have them remove them and count them. Create a letter focused bin by placing the child’s favorite filler and foam letters or magnetic letters. Ask the children to find a letter that starts with specific words or hide the letter that does not start with the word.

Tip 3: Be flexible and adjust lessons according to each child’s ability. Lastly, it’s important to consider the child’s ability and what they already know. Modifying or adapting activities to challenge the children you are working with without frustrating them is key. Many times, it is easy to start with something they already know. From there you can expand and see if they still understand. By starting with something they already know, the child builds their confidence and will be more likely to try a new activity or something that might be a challenge to them.

I hope these tips help you build the right curriculum for your classroom. If you’re looking for more resources, please check out my last blog about emergent curriculum.