Vertical planning: developing a conceptual scope and sequence

In my last post, I wrote about horizontal planning and developing a more conceptual focus across a grade-level. But each grade-level sits within a larger scope and sequence, and our curriculum needs to reflect this interdependence.

We naturally look to texts (or topics in disciplines such as science or the humanities) and skills as a focus for progression. As students move through a programme of study, we consider which texts might provide the appropriate level of challenge and which skills need to be developed with greater sophistication. But what about progression of concepts and conceptual understandings? A Grade 6 student’s understanding of perspective, for example, will be very different from a Grade 10 student’s. And how do all of those concepts fit together to tell a story across the grade levels?

We’ve always had a narrative thread running through each year of the programme, so there is a certain sense of thematic unity implicit within the curriculum. But that conceptual cohesion was just a little too implicit, so at the end of last year we really mined those concepts and made them more explicit. Intentional is my word for the year: intentional in curriculum design and intentional in the teaching.

This is a peek at our scope and sequence for the MYP. Grade 6 focuses on storytelling and the individual experience. Grade 7 looks at the individual’s place within a community (local and global). Grade 8 moves on to consider issues related to coming of age and interpersonal relationships. Grade 9 revolves around conflict — external and internal. And Grade 10 centres on wider global issues. We take a multi-genre approach with each unit, using a mix of literary works and non-literary texts to support the concepts. This just gives an idea of our conceptual focuses across the MYP but could be adapted to suit any relevant content. I have omitted the “meat” of each unit (the statements of inquiry) to respect the hard work my departmental colleagues have put into personalising each unit for our unique school context.

A thoughtful curriculum should tell a story: what story does yours tell?

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