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Simple Rules of Thumb to Avoid Making
the Top 5 Most Common Mistakes in
Starting Layered Curriculum®

By Dr. Kathie F. Nunley

1. Students sit, the teacher moves.

I see so many classrooms where the teacher will remain at his/ her desk and tell the students to come up front when they have something to grade, or "sign-up" when they have something to grade. The problem with this is that you may discover at the end of the unit, that there are some students you never saw! They NEVER came to have something graded. You as the teacher need to move systematically around the classroom. Check with every student every day to make sure they are on-task and moving toward their goals. Grade assignments in their territory, not yours.

2. Use a "Daily Method" of Layered Curriculum® for the first unit or two.

Another common error is teachers starting with a "traditional" style unit and discovering that many students never even attempt the top 2 layers! The advantage of a daily method is that you are literally walking the entire class through all 3 layers, together, with lots of support and instruction. Now students see that all 3 layers are possible for them. Remember, students should be expected to attempt all 3 layers on every single unit!

3. Keep units short - especially in the beginning.

It takes time for teachers and students to learn to operate in a Layered Curriculum® classroom. Allow for a learning period by keeping your first units rather short. One week or less is not a bad plan. Even as you move forward, I recommend keeping units to 2 weeks maximum. In longer units, students get lost, procrastinate, and can't learn the system as easily.

4. Don't be afraid to keep a significant amount of teacher, direct instruction.

Not all assignments need to be optional. There are many things you may want to do as a whole group with lots of direct instruction. Don't be afraid to do that. Much of your C layer may even look like a traditional classroom.

5. Offer at least 3 times as many points as required for a grade.

Many times I see C layer assignments set up in such a way that the student would need to do nearly every assignment and to near perfection just to earn a C grade. Try to put a lot of latitude in the layer. If the student needs 70 points to finish this layer, offer about 200 points worth of options. But don't feel the need to go overboard on the number of assignment choices, just increase the point value of assignments if needed so that you and your students are not overwhelmed.


About the Author:
Dr Kathie Nunley is an educational psychologist, researcher and author of several books on parenting and teaching, including A Student's Brain (Brains.org) and the best selling, "Differentiating the High School Classroom" (Corwin Press). She is the developer of the Layered Curriculum® method of instruction and has worked with parents and educators around the world to better structure schools to make brain-friendly environments. In addition, her work has been used by the Boeing Corporation, Family Circle Magazine, the Washington Post, and ABC television.
Email her: Kathie (at) brains.org


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