Analyzing Your Aims: Curriculum Design Part 2 [Episode 81]


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We are moving on to step two in our curriculum design mini-series! If you did not complete the first step in the process about strategic sequencing, you NEED to go back and start there before tackling step two. This week, we are going to dive into analyzing your aims. Although this isn’t the flashiest or most fun part of the process, it is crucial to designing your curriculum. 

I am walking you through how to analyze your aims, step by step, and covering why you need to accurately identify what standards you need to use, the importance of finding out if there are any specific materials you need to follow, and why you need to translate your standards into practical objectives. 

This may be a part of the curriculum design process you want to skip over, but you NEED to do this. This step is so important – you need to learn what you need to be teaching and to what depth you need to teach it! And if you still need a little help, be sure to tune in to episode 82, where we will be covering examples of how I did this in one of my units!

Make sure you don’t miss a single episode of the summer Podcast PD! Subscribe to Secondary Science Simplified podcast wherever you listen to podcasts to get the incredible info in the weekly episodes and BONUS Curriculum Design episodes that’ll be released on Thursdays for the month of July. It’s not too late to grab a teacher friend and tackle this bite-sized PD together!

Topics Discussed:

  • Why it is crucial you have a copy of the standards or guidelines you are expected to use
  • The importance of finding out if there is a specific textbook or curriculum you need to follow
  • How to translate the standards into practical objectives and examples of how this would look
  • What action steps you can take this week to continue in the curriculum design process

Resources Mentioned:

Related Episodes and Blog Posts:

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More about Secondary Science Simplified: 

Secondary Science Simplified is a podcast specifically for high school science teachers that will help you to engage your students AND simplify your life as a secondary science educator. Each week Rebecca, from It’s Not Rocket Science, and her guests will share practical and easy-to-implement strategies for decreasing your workload so that you can stop working overtime and start focusing your energy doing what you love – actually teaching!

Teaching doesn’t have to be rocket science, and you’ll learn exactly what you need to do to simplify your secondary science teaching life so that you can enjoy your life outside of school even more. Head to itsnotrocketscienceclassroom.com/challenge to grab your FREE Classroom Reset Challenge.

You’re listening to episode number 81 of the secondary science simplified podcast. We are currently in our mini series within a series, all about my curriculum design process. This is a massive undertaking I know. So I’ve split it into five parts. Last week we covered how to be strategic with your sequencing. If you missed it, you need to go back and listen to episode 80 Because this one will lack context without it and we’re going to build upon what we talked about last week. However, if you are current on the podcast and you are ready for part two, today’s episode is for you. Now that you’ve strategized about your sequence, and come up with a few themes for your course for the year, we are now going to dive into analyzing your aims. This isn’t the flashiest part of the process. But it is absolutely critical to stick with me. Okay, let’s do this.

This is secondary science simplified a podcast for secondary science teachers who want to engage their students and simplify their lives. I’m Rebecca joiner from it’s not rocket science. As a high school science teacher turned curriculum writer, I am passionate about helping other science teachers love their jobs, serve their students, and do it all and only 40 hours a week. Are you ready to rock the time you spend in your classroom and actually have a life outside of it? You are in the right place teacher friend. Let’s get to today’s episode.

Okay, so like I said, today’s episode is all about analyzing your aims. And yes, I’m sticking with the alliteration this entire series because I love it so much. Now, I know you will not want to do this. But you need to do this. Okay, hear me out your aims when I’m saying analyze your aims, I’m saying your aims or your standards or your criteria that you have been given from your school, from your district, from your department, hear from your state for your course, typically, your aims are covering what to teach. But if you teach in an NGSS school, they are really going to be focusing more on how you are to teach. So first things first, you need a copy of your aims, have your standards have your criteria of whatever it is that you’ve been told, this is what we want you to teach. If you have moved to a new state, or you’re switching to a private school, or you’re in a new district, and you’re not really sure what they do, the first thing you need to do is ask, okay, I cannot tell you how many people email me and say, Hey, I just moved to new school, I’m about to start teaching biology. I just want to know if this would be a good fit for me. You know, I’m in New Mexico. And I say great, like, send me your standards. And I’d be happy to read them. And then they’re like, why don’t have them because I’m new? Or worse. I think it’s like someone will be like, Oh, I think we’re just an NGSS school. And I’m like no, but like, I still need you to send me some documentation that your school has given you. Because here’s the deal, even if you’re an NGSS school, or an NGSS state, okay, that’s not always the case, like some districts don’t do certain things, or others, like your district or your state might be adopting new standards, but your districts still using the old ones. Or maybe your district is going to be using the new ones that are coming into yours. Like there’s so many discrepancies. And that’s why the first thing I always tell teachers is go to a human being not just like the website for your state government place and ask a human being, what do I need to be teaching? Because not all schools do at the district say not all districts throughout the state, say like, the states are all doing different things. So really get clear about what you’re supposed to teach. Another specific note if your state uses NGSS or maybe you have your own standards, you have a combination of the two whatever, especially for NGSS Be sure to find out which next generation science standards you’re expected to cover for your specific class. NGSS does not have a website with links to biology one standards chemistry one standards, physical science standards, anatomy standards, it’s not like that. NGSS has a group of standards for high school life sciences. Which if you’re a high school teacher, most likely because you’re listening this podcast you know that we have several life science classes that we cover in high school. Even worse to me is the high school physical science standards. Okay, well, most high schools have a physical science prereq course a chemistry one course maybe a chemistry two, two course a physics one course. You may have physics with calc physics without Calc. That’s what I’m saying to just say like I’m teaching NGSS and I’m using the physical science standards. I really need to know which ones you’re supposed to cover and not just me, you need to know which ones okay, this is a very regular issue. It’s the biggest issue for teachers who are an NGSS school. but teach chemistry, physics or physical science, because again, all of those are lumped together under the physical science, high school standards. But really, there’s only certain ones that are more chemistry based versus physics based. And really covering them all. And doing them all justice in one year, would be virtually impossible. But I’m not going to go on a tangent on that. So all of this to say, you need a copy of your standards, you need a physical copy, you need to talk to a human to make sure you have them if you’re not sure. Okay, now, let’s say you’re listening, you’re like butter, Beckett, I’m teaching an elective course. And I decided to write as we do this process of curriculum for the elective science that I teach, I’m pretty sure I have complete autonomy, I can do whatever I want. Okay, first thing I will say is still ask. Even if you don’t have formal standards, for the meteorology class, or teaching, or for the zoo, ology class or teaching, it would still be helpful to know if your school or district has specific expectations for you, and what those are, okay, so I would still ask, if they come back and say, You do zu ology, however you want to do it, or you write that genetics course, elective, however you want to do it, you kind of have two paths you can take from here. One is if you feel really confident in your content, like you just got this genetics looked if you love genetics is like your heart’s desire, your life goals teaches class, great, you can just work from scratch, you don’t need a copy of your standards, then, if you are more like letter know where to begin, like, I’m excited. Maybe I’m not excited. I don’t know. But I don’t know where to begin, I would hijack another state standards just to have something to go off of. Okay. So, for example, if your state doesn’t really have biology standards, or really your like, every state has biology students, okay, let’s say you’re at a private school, and you’re the biology teacher, and they say, do you, I would get some biology standards from another state. I think Texas biology standards, the text to E Ks, are very, very clear and very easily readable. So I think that’s a great place to start. If you’re an anatomy teacher, I think Indiana has really clear, easy to understand standards for anatomy. And then also if you teach really any science, again, I’m not saying that the states are doing it better than anyone else or like that. These are like the perfect standards. I’m talking readability and understandability. Okay, I would look at Georgia, Georgia Department of Ed, they have super specific standards for literally every science subject, they’ve even got meteorology up there. So again, you just want something to go off of like it in some sort of skeleton to reference, I would grab and hijack and other state standards if you don’t have your own. Okay, now, the next thing I need you to do. This is a detective week. Okay, your action steps required to do a little a little digging here is I need you to find out if there’s a specific textbook or district provided curriculum you need to follow. And I in my head, I’m saying curriculum with quotation marks in air quotes, okay, because I have been given district curriculum before and it’s like, what is this, like, it’s not fully fleshed out. It’s basically just a giant drive where like, random people have uploaded files for the last 18 years. And it’s not curated. It’s not specific, anything like that. But still, we need to find out if there’s something there if there’s a textbook there that you’re required to use in, and then we have to find out how required is required. Is this a strong suggestion? Or is this just like, hey, this is these are available resources if you need them. Okay. So that’s, again, something you need to figure out. And you need to ask the question I’ll never forget, seeing my first jobs district provided curriculum of hodgepodge of resources. There were resources in there that were just like scanned in worksheet pages from some workbook that was written in 1982. About standards that hadn’t been in our state standards for 20 years. And I was like, What is this? But I asked him a few questions, I found out it was just kind of like, Hey, this is here if you need it, but like you do you type thing. And so I’m just so glad I asked, I just want you to ask the question. Okay. Now you need to pause the podcast, come back, go for it. Get to your standards, find out if there’s a textbook or anything like that you need to use once you know the answers to those questions, and you have those things. Now is the fun part. It’s not really that fun, but it’s so critical. Now you need to do a thorough reading, or review of whatever you’re expected to use. And so I’m going to just say the word standards from now on for simplicity’s sake, but again, just whatever your aims are, even if it’s just like a list of objectives from your school like, or does an outline page, like just any sort of guideline, we’re gonna refer to your aims as your standards, okay? And I want you to read the standards, and I want you to take notes for yourself, translating them into a language that makes sense for you. Okay, if you are in an NGSS school, I want you to read the DCI the SCPs in the CCCs for each one so like you’re looking at HS LS one, you’re reading every single part of that page, you’re not just reading the top part of the chart, you’re going to read all those three sub columns in that whole thing. Okay. And then what we’re going to do is we are going to translate what we’re reading into practical objectives. This is probably the most foundational critical piece of my curriculum design process. Because here’s the thing. Oftentimes, these aims that were given these standards, they’re written in fluffy, fancy language, that’s not actually usable. It’s like a bunch of people sat down in a room with a reference sheet to Bloom’s Taxonomy, and said, let’s throw in as many of these words as we can, okay, and it doesn’t really inform you what the practical objectives are. So I want you to translate them. Again, if you’re in Georgia, you may not have to do as much translation, you may just need to do a little bit of expansion. I will say that the one thing about the Georgia Standards, they’re super clear, but there’s not a lot of like a deep dive unless there probably is some sort of like support Doc, I just haven’t seen it, you know, that dives into each one a little bit more. But that’s where you might just need to like, kind of flesh them out a little bit more what this means, okay? Because I want you to have notes, with objectives, each standard translated into several objectives, maybe that are clear, easy to understand and actionable. I think of this as I want each objective to be something that could literally be an open response question on a test. That’s how specifically I’m going to write this. Okay. So for example, let’s look at an NGSS because majority of states use some version of it, or they have state standards that are basically like a plagiarize version of NGSS. The high school life science first standard five, okay, one dash five HS LS one to five says, use a model to illustrate how photosynthesis transforms light energy into stored chemical energy, the clarification statement, which I just think LOL, like if you need a clarification statement, it probably wasn’t a well written statement. But I digress. It says emphasis is on illustrating inputs and outputs and matter and the transfer and transformation of energy in photosynthesis by plants and other photosynthesizing organisms. Examples of models can include diagrams, chemical equations and conceptual models. Assessment boundary assessment does not include specific biochemical steps. Okay, so you don’t necessarily have to do a deep dive here into every single enzyme that’s used in the light dependent reaction. Okay. Now, here are objectives I would take from that. And right, I would take that one paragraph of the standard, and here are some that I’ve written for my own students summarize where all energy on Earth comes from, and the overall processes it goes through to be in a usable form of ATP for consumers like us, okay? This is as simple as having my students literally draw a diagram, it’s like sun, and then arrow that the sun goes into plants, that energy gets converted in plants, and then from plants, it becomes glucose, and then that gets eaten. And then that gets broken down until inspiration into ATP. Okay, so some sort of just like graphic just to summarize the flow of the energy. Another statement would be writing interpret the chemical formula for photosynthesis, label the reactants and products because it talks about inputs and outputs and knowing those. Another thing could be Lissa significant events of the light dependent reaction include the reactants and products involved, highlight what’s released as a product, what moves on to the next stage include where it happens, okay? Now, that’s really, really specific. And that’s more specific, maybe than the standard requires, because it says it doesn’t include the specific biochemical steps. But it does talk about that input and output and that transfer and to me, that requires them to know these basic things. Okay. And then I have a similar question for the light independent reaction. To me, these questions are much more clear and specific for both me and my students. I want my objectives to translate my standards into something that’s usable for me and my students. Okay, it’s going to make the rest of this curriculum design process so much easier. Now, if you need a tip, if you’re like, where do Where do I begin, I don’t know how to do these objectives. My absolute favorite thing about textbooks, which some of you were like, What I didn’t even know you liked textbooks at all. You’re right. I don’t use textbooks, typically, because I’ve never had a good one. But my favorite feature of textbooks that I’ve seen in every textbook I’ve ever seen is the chapter objectives at the start of every section of a chapter, typically in like the top right or top left hand corner, there are some objectives and they’re usually really, really specific and they make really great open response questions. Okay, so if you’re having trouble translating your standards into practical objectives, grab a textbook from your shelf and you know, do this use those, even if you want to copy and paste them or just use them as a foundation and get you started? Now, another note I want to mention is, when I’m kind of coming up with content, I’m always referring back to the SCPs and the CCCs from NGSS the science and engineering part Interest isn’t the cross cutting concepts. But if you don’t use NGSS, it may just be helpful as you’re reading your standards to highlight, you know, on the side, maybe any key words for instructional strategies too. So for example, even if you just look back at that standard, I reference from NGSS, it says use a model. Okay, so I’m gonna want to do something with a model, developing and using models is a science and engineering practice of NGSS. So that’s part of it. But that might be something I read off to the side is like, as you’re taking these notes is Hmm, what some sort of like model activity we could do to help them really visualize this, okay, which, again, a chemical equation can just be a model doesn’t have to be a whole activity. But I think just using this to kind of jot down ideas is really helpful. Another one, for NGSS is about like designing in an investigation or, you know, refining a process. So those are kind of times when I see that where I’m like, Okay, what’s an in specifically like a lab we could do on this. And then the other thing I would kind of keep track of is any key vocabulary. Like, as I’m reading this standard, I’m thinking, Okay, it says photosynthesizing organisms. Okay, well, they need to know that other things besides plants do photosynthesis, they need to know what photosynthesis is, you know, if we’re talking inputs and outputs, it might be helpful to know the parts of the cell where this is happening to know where those inputs and outputs are going down. So I’d be jotting down those vocabulary terms as well. Okay, this is how I read my standards, and I translate them into practical objectives. And I’m going to do some more examples about this. In Thursday’s episodes, if you feel like you need more support, there’s a bonus episode coming Thursday, that’s going to walk you through this more, but I would go ahead and give it a go. And then Thursday, you can come back, listen to the supportive episode and kind of see what tweaks you want to make. Now, I can’t tell you how many people have said, can I just buy these from you, like I don’t want your full curriculum or whatever I just want like your list of objectives, that kind of thing. Here’s the deal. I don’t sell these ala carte, because this isn’t just about the end result of you having a list of objectives and vocabulary, although that’s going to be a really useful tool, we’re going to learn in further steps, or we’re going to use really in further steps of our design process. Really the what matters here is a learning process for you, as the teacher mastering what your aims are you analyzing your aims, and you really learning what you need to be teaching your students and to what depth you need to be teaching your students. So this is a process that you need to do. It’s not fun, I get it, it’s not fun. Treat yourself to a little special coffee, a babysitter. So you can have a little alone time to think through this, you’re going to be amazed how much better you’re going to feel and more confident about your content, when you take the time to analyze your aims and really sit down your standards, and chew them up and spit them back out as practical objectives.

Okay, so your action step this week, get your standards, read them, and take notes on each one. For each unit you’ve outlined in your sequence from last week, here’s what I would basically do. So referring back to your sequence that skeleton we made for each of those units, I would then start taking these standards that you’ve been chewing up and digesting. And I would start navigating them into within each unit constant, okay, this will kind of be in this unit, this one will be in this one. And then obviously, you’re going to know that like your standards, one standard may be covered over three different units, that’s fine. But that’s where the list of practical objectives really comes in where you’re taking your standards, and you’re translating them into language, you can actually understand, put those lists of specific objectives and those lists of specific vocabulary within each unit that you’ve already kind of mapped out in your skeleton. And then look what you’ve done. Now you really have a much more fleshed out scope and sequence, you have your order, and you have really specific what you’re going to be covering within each one. And then now if you want to make it a pacing guide, go ahead and put some estimates about how long you might think it would take you to do each of these things. And always use that little approximate squiggly line to be like approximately three weeks because how do we really know if we’ve never taught this subject before? Okay. And again, as you do this, you may see like, oh, I kind of should move these things around. Because this really goes better with this. Do it like that’s okay, that’s why I told you to do this on a whiteboard and put it on stickies you can move it around or write this in pencil like last week skeleton of your sequence was a rough draft. It should be a work in process. Okay? So don’t feel bad about moving these around. And don’t be weirded out. If you’re like, Well wait, I’m covering the standard in like five chapters or five units. You know, that’s okay. I’m thinking to my chemistry curriculum. Right now that I’m writing the physical science one NES two standard and NGSS. Its construct and revise an explanation for the outcome of a simple chemical reaction based on the outermost electrons states of atoms, trends in the periodic table, and knowledge of the patterns of chemical properties. So far, I have hit on parts of that in the first five units of my chemistry curriculum. Okay, so don’t be scared, but again, that’s a giant standard. I’ve taken that standard and I’ve broken it down into so many Small objectives that are so much more clear. And then I’m covering objectives in all the different units. Okay? That’s where this process gets really, really helpful. Okay, so go ahead, give it a go. And remember, we’re going to be walking through this all July. So I don’t want you to feel overwhelmed, take it bit by bit, do some work on it now and then circle back Thursday for a little bit more support if you need it. If you feel confident, then just come back Monday and we’ll dive into Part Three. Okay. And I just also want to encourage you to if you feel super overwhelmed, I think everything is better done together. Okay, especially if you aren’t the only one who’s teaching this prep. So if you have a friend that you think could do this with you or should do this with you, it isn’t too late. Tell them to go to It’s not rocket science, classroom.com/podcast PD, and they’ll get a little calendar, they can see all the topics we’ve covered already. What’s coming throughout the rest of July, August and September, and then they’ll get the little notes sheet that they can use to and as always, also, I know that it can feel overwhelming when I’m referencing so many things. Everything I’ve always reference can be found linked in the show notes at it’s not rocket science classroom.com/episode 81 All right, teacher friends. That wraps up today’s episode. If you’re looking for an easy way to start simplifying your life as a secondary science teacher, head to It’s not rocket science classroom.com/challenge to grab your classroom reset challenge. And guess what? It’s totally free. Thanks so much for tuning in, and I’ll see you here next week. Until then, I’ll be cheering you on teacher friend.


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