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Are you a Layered Curriculum® Teacher?
Take the test

By Dr. Kathie F. Nunley

Ever wondered if you truly are a Layered Curriculum teacher? Here are the top 10 ways to identify a Layered Curriculum teacher and classroom. See if any of these "ring a bell".

1. At the end of the day I'm exhausted!
When done correctly, Layered Curriculum is exhausting. You are up and moving around and teaching and facilitating all day long. If you think the Layered Curriculum method implies that student-centered instruction requires no participation on the part of the teacher - think again.

2. At the end of the day, I'm done!
Most days, a Layered Curriculum teacher can leave with nothing in his/her hands except the keys. That's the trade-off for the incredible work done during classtime. Obviously some days you may have some A level assignment sheets to look over or the next unit to plan, but certainly home time spent on grading papers is tremendously reduced. You may actually find you have a home-life.

3. When someone walks into my room, they can't find me!
Rather than the old "˜sage on the stage" the Layered Curriculum teacher is a fluid piece of the class. Anyone coming in to look for you should have to pause, scan, and probably ask a student where you are. That student should have to pause, scan...and "oh-yeah...there she is, sitting with that group over there!"

4. I know what all my students smell like!
The very, very best part of Layered Curriculum is the one-on-one time you get with every student, every day. You meet them face-to-face, in their territory (their desk, not yours) to build those wonderful relationships which drive us back to the classroom year after year.

5. Administrators are at a loss on teacher-observation evaluations!
Layered Curriculum is student-centered. Most teacher evaluation checksheets are teacher-centered. Observers are trained to watch the actions of the teacher and how they start, sustain, and close the day's lesson. It is a bit of challenge for them in a room where the students have the main role.

6. By the middle of the year, the students run the classroom as if my presence makes little difference!
Certainly, you will always be their coach, but learning is an active participation sport. No one wants to enjoy basketball by watching the coaches demonstrate technique all day, every day. They want to play. So do students. Set the boundaries, establish the goals, then give them the playing field.

7. A lot of students are enjoying their first success in my subject!
Once the learning has been modified to fit the needs of the learner, all students can succeed. Some students, with years of failure experience may need more than a gentle nudge - you may have to force success on them in the beginning, but by the end, everyone's going for the A.

8. My colleagues and I have a real reason to meet and share!
Layered Curriculum units are far easier to plan in pairs or groups. Brainstorm using lots of brains. We tend to only think of lesson ideas which would appeal to us, and that limits the options we offer our students. Share and create in groups, visit the website and look at the sample units there - even if they are not in your subject or grade level. Get ideas wherever you can - and SHARE them.

9. I have fewer classroom management problems - by far!
Layered Curriculum won't eliminate all management problems, but it certainly does remove most of them. Children would rather do something than nothing. If they don't enjoy the "something" you give, they will entertain themselves with "something" of their own device. That's where the problems begin. By offering a wide range of activities and giving them in the form of choice, students perceive control over their situation, and engage themselves actively in the learning process.

10. I'm actually smiling.
Layered Curriculum makes teaching fun. It puts the "fun stuff" into the day. Grading papers, filling attendance, faculty meetings and school lunch are not the reasons we teach. We teach for the kids - one-on-one, making a small difference in someone's life and affirming our faith in the future.

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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