Organizing your Content

So far in my process, I would say that the most important step is organizing the curriculum’s content where I want it to go. Although this process might be a bit different for other subject areas, for my human geography text, I am organizing the material thematically.

There are a few other ways that I can see a textbook being organized and the subjects that might fit the method. If you have any others, let me know and I will add them to the list:

  • Chronologically: History, Anthropology
  • Regionally: Geography, HIstory, Earth Sciences, Econ/Gov., Anthropology
  • Thematically: Geography, Business, Art, Biology, Earth Sciences, Sociology, Music, Applied Tech, Family and Consumer Sciences, Health, Psychology, Econ/Gov., Anthropology
  • Sequentially: Math, Physics, Chemistry, ELL, World Languages, Music, Applied Tech, Family and Consumer Sciences

Material organized chronologically: This is a tricky one.  You really have to have your ducks in a row. I will save the controversy of writing a history textbook for a later date, but if you are creating a basic timeline of events, just make sure that they are in the right order. Think of ways that your timeline can be visually more appealing or can make more sense than traditional timelines.  What do you want the kids to notice? How is your text different from any other history text? Most importantly, where are you getting your information from? What is nice about this one is that your text can include only the topics that you want to cover instead of having the kids carrying a 16-lb. textbook with information that they will never get to read.  You know how it goes.

Material organized regionally: For region specific materials, you will probably have similar thematic topics that pertain to each larger region. For example, if your region is Europe, Africa, and Asia, you might have thematic topics such as revolutions, religion, politics, or even soil types. Organizing your text regionally is similar to the thematic model, except that your text will incorporate maps to help illustrate your material. Except for maybe Earth Sciences, and regional history, any content that is contemporary needs to be well researched and up to date. Unless you plan on updating your text yearly, you might want to incorporate almanac style websites that allow students to research and find the up to date statistics that help fulfill what is going on regionally.

Material organized thematically: When working with thematic material, make sure that you include all of the necessary terms and concepts under its heading.  I find that sometimes when working thematically, vocabulary words can pertain to two or more units, leaving the decision of where to place it, up to the author.  Have you ever read a textbook, and you were like, “why the heck did they put it in that unit?”  I know I have, and this gives you the opportunity of placing the material where you think it fits best, and better suited for the way that you teach the themes.  Let’s face it, sometimes the order in which you decide to teach the material just makes more sense (sometimes it even has to do with how the calendar falls).

Material organized sequentially: I imagine that the most important thing to consider when organizing your materials sequentially is making sure that no process is out-of-order, in an effort to get to the final goal.  If the goal  is to have students solve chemistry equations, then the polyatomic ions better come before it. No kid wants to learn about angle-angle-side before they can prove side-side-side. While I do not present my material sequentially, and I have every science and math teacher rolling their eyes right about now, we all understand the importance of presenting and explaining things sequentially. Every teacher, no matter what subject finds themselves explaining instructions and processes to kids on a daily basis. When organizing your materials sequentially, ask yourself what is the end goal of each topic, and what is the most basic and fundamental information needed to accomplish the end goal.  If you have a clear start and finish, the stuff in between should come more naturally.  But as we all know, when explaining things sequentially, what is most important is how we present the material to kids.  Are the instructions clear? Can I write this in another way that would make better sense? Am I writing this in ‘their words?’

Just like a first year teacher needs to organize their materials and place their goals neatly in a calendar, this too is the process that goes in to creating a text. Hopefully, you already have some years under your belt that this process is made much easier, especially if you know what you want to teach and what you want to eliminate. I am sitting in front of 33 stick it notes on the side of my computer desktop, being able to arrange them quickly into the order that I want is a God-send.  Any good project starts with a good list.

Happy curating!

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