Rules of Thumb to Avoid Making
the Top 5 Most Common Mistakes in
Starting Layered Curriculum®
Dr. Kathie F. Nunley
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.
Use a "Daily Method" of Layered Curriculum® for the first unit
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!
Keep units short - especially in the beginning.
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.
Don't be afraid to keep a significant amount of teacher, direct
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
Offer at least 3 times as many points as required for a grade.
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.
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
her: Kathie (at) brains.org