goal of the layered curriculum is to let all students have an equal
chance to learn. This approach allows the teacher to consider
each student’s strengths and needs, as well as providing for an individualized
learning plan for every student.
curriculum is based on research on how the brain learns. First,
it takes into account the biology of the brain.
school, the two most critical parts of the brain are the cortex and
the hypothalamus. The cortex is the top, thin layer; it stores
most of our learning. This is the “goal line” for classroom
instruction. However, it is necessary to navigate through more
primitive layers to get to the cortex.
of those layers is the hypothalamus. It controls some of the most
basic emotions and responses—anger, fear, hunger, thirst, fight-or-flight
response, and body temperature. It reacts first in any situation
the brain perceives as threatening. When the hypothalamus is engaged,
the cortex is basically ignored. (Think about how illogical or unreasonable
the behavior of an extremely frightened or angry person may become.)
factor in brain biology and learning is that firing neuron pathways
becomes easier the more often it is done. Satisfying the primitive
areas allows for more frequent firing of neuron pathways to the cortex.
way of satisfying the hypothalamus is through control, which can be
given to students through choices. Thus, layered curriculum allows
students to choose how they pursue learning.
part of the brain research that is part of this style is called “multiple
intelligences.” As many as ten different ways of “knowing”
(and showing) have been identified. Layered curriculum includes
various modalities (methods) of exploring new ideas and displaying the
are divided into three layers. While working on “C” layer
activities, you will gather the basic facts, skills, and understanding
of the unit’s topic. In addition to activities that allow you
to explore the topic on your own, this layer includes traditional vocabulary
work, textbook readings, and classroom lectures.
part of the “C” layer that is new for most students is the oral
defense. While it sounds intimidating, the oral defense is nothing
more than a one-to-one discussion with the teacher about what you’ve
learned. For the first unit, this will probably be the teacher
asking questions and you answering them. As you become more comfortable
with this method of assessment, it will become more of a conversation.
A “C” LAYER ACTIVITY IS NOT COMPLETE UNTIL THE ORAL DEFENSE IS DONE;
NO POINTS ARE AWARDED WITHOUT IT!
is this so important? The goal of this class is learning,
rather than merely doing. Making ten vocabulary flashcards
is useless if you stop there; only when they are used as a tool for
knowing the terms do those cards have any value. “Accountability”
is an important word in education today; the oral defense helps students
become accountable for learning. Also, after the first time, this
type of assessment is generally less stressful than a traditional, formal
layer activities allow you to apply or manipulate the material you learned
in the “C” layer. You will usually be asked to create something
the “A” layer, you will be asked to make a critical analysis of
what you’ve learned, sharing your supported opinion on a related issue.
curriculum does not award points for doing; students earn points
for learning. This is checked, at the “C” layer, through
the oral defense: when an assignment is completed, students
answer 2-5 questions about the content. This informal discussion
with the teacher provides a less stressful assessment than formal exams,
and so it allows the hypothalamus to stay calm.
assignment on the “C” layer is worth a specific number of points,
which are indicated on the unit sheet. Most “B” layer assignments
will be worth 20 points, while most “A” layer work will be worth
Videos are generally
worth 15 points for each 45-60 minutes of video. To get those
points, you must watch & pay attention to the video during that
10 points is
given for watching the video; the other 5 come from you telling me about
5 things you’ve learned from it.
Lectures are worth 5 points/day.
Textbook readings are worth 5 points/section.
You must be present for
the entire lecture to get credit—NO EXCEPTIONS.
An outline of the topic will
be on the screen. You need to copy that outline & then fill
it in, based on what I say during the lecture. You then need to
fill in the question side of the Cornell notes format.
2 points are given for notes
being complete and in the correct format; the remaining 3 come from
answering my questions about the notes.
Make flashcards or vocabulary foldables
with the words and definitions. Learn them.
I will choose 5-10 words (depending
on how many there are on the list). You will get 1 point for each
word that you orally define correctly.
Worksheets are generally worth
5 points each; you may generally do up to three on any unit, for a total
of 15 points.
I will ask you 3 questions about
the worksheet; points are based on how you respond to the questions.
You may read for at least 45
minutes on a social studies topic in newspapers, magazines, books, etc.
(including historical fiction)
Please tell me before you begin
what topic you are reading on.
Upon completion, I will ask
you to tell me about your reading. Your summary is worth 10 points,
based on enthusiasm & information gained from the reading.
You should be able to explain
& defend 5 things you learned from the reading.
Poster is on sturdy poster board.
The illustration is an original work showing a creative blend of several
sources (listed on back). Good use of white space, border, &
key ideas. Demonstrates an understanding of the subject (can explain
5 things learned). Creative, colorful, & well polished.
Writing is original & neat with few grammatical & spelling errors. Ideas are clear & the writer is comfortable explaining 3 or 4 of the ideas written. If writing is not in English, the writer has gotten written feedback on grammar & spelling from someone fluent in that language.