When I set out to write an anatomy and physiology full-year curriculum, I was excited about all of the opportunities that lay ahead. I’ve never designed a curriculum for an elective course before, a course that many states lack standards for (although I did make sure to study each state’s standards that did have them to incorporate as many as possible into the resources.) This provided me a great deal of freedom for the course design, and with that, I found that my creativity flourished. When I thought of the students who typically sign up for A&P, I knew that many would have an interest in the medical field. If this is truly the case, I knew that these students would be taking A&P again in college. Because of this, I decided I wanted to shift the focus for my course. Instead of creating a course where students memorized all of the structures in preparation for college, I wanted to create a course that further stoked their fire of interest for the human body, knowing that if I could keep students interested, then they were more likely to stay the course towards a medical profession. I’d leave all the boring memorization for their college professors – ha!
The focus of my course is really on the physiology of the structures, more so than their anatomy. Of course, all good biology teachers know that form dictates function, so the two do go hand in hand, and this idea is a central thread woven within each unit. The curriculum focuses on the body as a whole rather than each of its individual parts and systems, which is what led to the way I decided to organize each unit. Instead of walking through each system one by one and summatively assessing students over each, I decided to divide the systems into larger chunked units, grouped by overall functional themes rather than just individual systems. Likewise, I wanted to continue the teachings from Biology 1 on homeostasis, and expand more into homeostatic failures and the body’s response to those.
These thought processes led to three overall themes in designing my curriculum:
I divide all of my curricula into larger units, and then each unit is subdivided into concepts. Below you can find the way my units are organized for this course.
A few notes on my chosen organizational sequence:
In Unit 1 I intentionally left out a detailed review of biochemistry as well as many other key biology topics. I was careful to select what I believed to be the most essential topics from prior courses to be reviewed, with the assumption that the majority of schools require biology and chemistry prior to taking an anatomy and physiology course. Because of this, students should be coming in with the necessary foundational prior knowledge, and it would be a waste of valuable time to spend half of the course reteaching it. Any topics that do need to be supplemented can be done as they come up throughout the course.
I believe teaching the endocrine system alongside the nervous system is important so that students see it isn’t just all about the brain. The endocrine system is arguably the ultimate controller of the body, so learning how these systems work together early in the year (well, at least within the first semester!) is fundamental.
Many teachers teach the integumentary system early on, but I prefer it towards the end in the protection unit for multiple reasons. One, it really is our body’s first line of defense against all pathogens, so it makes sense to be taught alongside the immune system. Two, it ties in content from SO MANY OTHER UNITS that I like to bring it towards the end of the year to refresh students’ memories on content like histology, the senses, blood vessels, etc. The lymphatic system is also included in this unit due to its structural overlap with the immune system. It makes the most sense to me to teach those alongside each other.
Lastly, I love ending the year with Unit 7: Reproduction for several reasons. First, this can be a sensitive or slightly unpleasant topic to teach for some, and I have found that at the end of the year I have really developed solid relationships with my students (and their parents), thus it feels most comfortable to teach now. Second, it is an extraordinary system to use to go over all other systems, so it is perfect to end the year prior to final exam review. Third, come spring students are often just done with the school year – especially if you have seniors – but most find this content incredibly engaging, and thus you can keep their attention until the very last day when you are saying words like “erectile tissue” and “uterus” multiple times in a class period.
Want to see a more detailed pacing guide for each unit that includes a list of the instructional resources used for every concept? Click here to access for free!
Details specific to my curriculum
I wrote this curriculum for teachers who teach in settings like I have – essentially with no science budget and very little equipment. Because of this, nearly all of my labs and activities rely on materials that can be reused or are consumables easily (and cheaply) purchased at your grocery store or on Amazon. Due to designing a curriculum that can be used with a low budget, a lot of traditional labs done in an anatomy class are not necessarily included. I do include dissections, but also provide alternative options if those are not within your budget. Additionally, I provide ways for students to gather information from multiple sources using technology in case you don’t have a solid textbook available to use. Because of this, my curriculum can be used alongside any textbook.
Each unit is packed with research-based, student-led learning activities. There is enough content included to fill every class period for an entire year – whether it be for a class that meets for 45-50 minutes every day, or a class that meets for 90 minutes every other day. Pacing guides for each unit are included for both. Due to my background working with *NGSS, each unit was also written to incorporate crosscutting concepts and science and engineering practices. As mentioned above, most schools offer this course as an upperclassman elective science, and because of that, the skills required to be successful in this course were designed for high school juniors and seniors.
Lastly, I include differentiated tests for CP (College Prep, or “on grade level”) and Honors (advanced) students. Both cover all of the same content in class, but suggestions are included for ways to go into more detail with your more advanced students. My hope is that I have put in all the hours for you by creating engaging, creative, student-led, and assessment-aligned resources so that you don’t have to. This frees up time for you to do what you do best – TEACH! Of course, every group of students is different, so with all of the groundwork done for you, you are now free to differentiate and accommodate to best meet the needs of your specific students.
Interested in checking out my anatomy and physiology curriculum? You can find it here on TpT. I always recommend that teachers purchase one unit first to make sure that you like my style. Then if you go on to invest in the curriculum for the full year, please reach out to me and I can get you a refund for the initial unit purchased to test out, as long as it has been purchased within the same calendar year.
Questions behind my rationale or anything related to the anatomy curriculum? I’d love to hear from you! Shoot me an email as that is the best way to get in touch with me.
Teaching anatomy for the first time and looking for more help? Click here to read my 5 best tips for teaching anatomy.
*Note: NGSS is a registered trademark of Achieve. Neither Achieve nor the lead states and partners that developed the Next Generation Science Standards were involved in the production of this blog post, and do not endorse it.