Click below to hear about practical implementation for part 4:

Ready for more help with building out the backbone of your curriculum? I’m ready to help! I know that this part might feel hard, and that is totally okay! Although it is one of my favorite parts of designing curriculum, I know that is not the case for everyone. Coming up with instructional activities and resources is not necessarily an easy thing to do, but I will gladly share the behind-the-scenes thought process I go through to help YOU come up with ideas for your own curriculum. 

Everyone has strengths and weaknesses, and if designing this curriculum feels hard, please don’t feel discouraged! I want to provide you with the support you need to take this on if it is something you want to do. I am sharing how I think through what activities to include for different concepts in my Electrons unit and how I balance out the activities that are included in each unit. And I hope that giving you a glimpse into my thought process is helpful for you as you work through building out the backbone for your own curriculum. 

Teacher friends, we are already 3 weeks into our double episodes for the Curriculum Design mini-series inside the summer Podcast PD! I hope you are loving all this extra content and getting so much practical information! If you are, it would mean so much to me if you would leave a rating and review and let me know how the podcast has served you. If you are leaving a review outside of Apple, shoot me a DM on Instagram or send me an email and let me know!

Topics Discussed:

  • An update on the It’s Not Rocket Science Chemistry curriculum
  • A look into how I came up with the instructional activities for my most challenging unit thus far
  • How I balance out the activities I use within a unit 
  • The importance of starting small when deciding on instructional resources for your curriculum

Resources Mentioned:

Related Episodes and Blog Posts:

Connect with Rebecca:

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 86 of the secondary science simplified podcast. Earlier this week, in part four of our curriculum design series, I talked about building out your backbone for your course, with all of your instructional resources for a unit, and preferably half of yours units. I shared my goal for what I shoot for, and the types of things I like to include in a unit as a whole. Today, I want to support you more in this endeavor, by sharing more of the behind the scenes thought process I go through, as I’m coming up with these ideas. And I’m going to do that by using my chemistry curriculum that I’m currently writing as we speak, because it’s an incredibly fresh experience in my mind, as it’s what I’ve been doing, literally every day for the last year. So are you ready for more help with building out the backbone of your course? I’m ready to help you. Let’s get started. 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 spent 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.

Welcome back, we are now three weeks into our month of double episodes all July that we are trying out. I hope you really enjoyed all of this extra content, and that hasn’t been too much. If you are enjoying it, I would love it if you would leave a rating and review and just let me know how this podcast has served you. It means so much to me to hear from you all. And if you leave a review anywhere other than Apple, shoot me a DM on Instagram at it’s dot not dot rocket dot science, or just shoot me an email and let me know because I can only actually read Apple reviews. So when you leave them other places it helps with like the overall ranking of the podcast, but I can’t actually read them. And I would love to hear from you guys. Okay. Now remember earlier this week in Episode 85, we covered part four of my curriculum design process. If you have not listened to that episode yet, you need to pause right now and go do that because you need that context for this one. Today, I’m going to be using the example of a unit in my chemistry curriculum that I’m currently writing to explain how I personally walked through this process mentally. Now, I have not finished the curriculum yet. So I haven’t posted this bundle. And I plan to hopefully post the bundle in August, even though it’s going to be partially done. So it will be posted at a discount. So if it’s only 70% complete, it will be posted at a 70% discount. But with all it’s not rocket science resources, you get free updates for life. So anyone who buys it, when it’s posted, you’ll get the remaining 30% of the curriculum for free. For everyone else, as I add each unit as I finish it to the bundle, then the price will be raised each time until we get to the final price. And so because the bundle isn’t done, I don’t have like that free scope and sequence that I’ve done for my other courses biology, anatomy and physical science, I don’t have that I don’t have a video tour yet of it just because again, it’s just not done. So when I do complete all of those things, I will link all of that in the show notes for you, especially if you’re listening to this, you know, later on in the year. But for now, I can just link a couple of the chemistry units that are done if you want to check those out just to have an example of what I’m referring to as I talk through this. So like I said, all my phone, I do not start building out my backbone until I’ve done the other parts first until I’ve been really strategic with my sequencing until I’ve analyzed my aims until I formed my foundation with my lecture notes. Now, of course, I come up with ideas the entire time throughout this process, I have an enormous Google Sheet. It has 17 tabs on it. And I’m tracking all my ideas and thoughts all the time. Like as I have an idea for unit, I throw it on the sheet so that when I actually get to that unit, I have something to work off of. But I don’t flesh anything out for a specific unit until I actually get to that unit. And I’ve done the first three parts. So this is why in order for all of these instructional resources to be meaningful, and not just flashy one off experiences that we’re creating for our students to give them some cool memories from science class. You just have to do the other parts first and do them well so that it has intentionality to it. Okay, so that’s where I’m going to kind of walk you through this and my thought process. Now one quick warning before I give you some more examples on this. This is genuinely what I feel like I was made to do for Living, I feel like I have found what my brain was designed to do, I can see the goal of where I want to get students to. And then I can generate ideas for how to bring students along towards that goal. Or I can hear another teacher have an idea. And I know exactly how in my brain to flush it out to completion, to make it a really special learning experience for my students and a really effective learning experience for my students. Now, here’s the deal. There are so many things. I am bad at you guys. I have played one day of organized sports my entire life. Please do not put me in the teacher student dodgeball tournament. Okay. I’m honestly, I’m not great at tutoring. One on One stuff with students is not my specialty. Please don’t have me teach all AP courses. That’s another thing I really prefer working with on grade level students, then teaching AP, we all have strengths and weaknesses. That’s why I’m telling you this. I just want to share that with you. Because I don’t want you to think as you’re listening to this, or maybe you’ve been listening all month long, and you’re like, super overwhelmed and discouraged. Hearing my process like that this isn’t what you’re best at that is okay. We all have strengths and weaknesses. I’m sure you are better than me at like 50 things. Okay, so it’s totally fine. Remember, you don’t have to be a curriculum writer to be an excellent teacher, you can just curate resources and use other people’s curriculum and then just run with it. Okay. Now, I’m going to share this over the people who want to learn more about the writing process. So I’m going to start give you an example with my electrons unit, because I think this is a great unit to use of his exam as an example, because this was probably the hardest one for me to write thus far. I think it was hard for me because to be honest, I found the content boring. Also, like, I’ve taught physical science in the past, and we don’t really dive that deep into electrons. And we don’t talk about configurations. And we really don’t get that much into periodic trends or anything like that at all. We definitely don’t tie electrons into the electromagnetic spectrum, like, basically everything we cover in this electrons unit. And it chemistry one class is not we covered all in physical science. So it’s not like I even have like these background experiences I’m building off of. And, yeah, I just don’t feel like it was content that was that interesting to me. So I just wasn’t excited about writing it. And so that’s where I want to use this one as an example. So of course, I’d done parts one through three first, and I have my concepts laid out, I knew I was going to have three concepts in this unit, one was going to be an introduction to electrons, where we were going to cover I covered in my lecture notes, you know, the connection between electrons and the electromagnetic spectrum, I covered drawing loose structures, then concept two is all about electronic configurations. And I knew that was going to be a skill that was going to be very challenging for some students. So I was going to do that with that mindset as well. And then concept three was going to be about periodic trends. And so I had a lot of ideas for that right off the bat. That was a more content, heavy concept. The other ones had more skills. And so I knew from there, okay, what are my goals that we talked about in episode 85, I want at least one engaging instructional resource, and at least one reinforcing instructional resource per concept. So I knew for concept, one Intrado electrons, I wanted to do some sort of flame test lab, because I knew that was like, kind of like one of those things like you got to do in chemistry. It’s just such a unique experience. And kids love it. And I wanted to do my own version of that. But I also knew I needed to come up with something that would work for teachers in a non lab space, because that’s who I write my curriculum for, because that’s what the majority of my teaching experience was in. So that made it a lot trickier for me to find a flame test lab, I did test out a lot of different things, I had to obviously write it from scratch. But for you, if you’re like, I know, I need a flame test lab, you can go look up any flame test lab and grab it, you don’t have to think about all these other considerations that I do necessarily, since I do this for a living. And then I knew I needed some practice for this and for Lewis structures. And so those were a little bit easier to flush out practice problems are easy for me to write because it’s just reinforcing stuff. Now, and we got to concept two electron configurations. I saw electron configurations. And fun fact, I am like an all time All Star fan of Survivor, I’ve never missed a season of Survivor. One of my dreams would be to be on the show. But another dream would even just to be for them to create, like theme parks that are just survivor base where you get to go with friends and like competing teams and do all the different challenges. I think that would be so fun. But because of that, I think about puzzles, and I think about survivor and that a lot as I’m writing. And so I kind of as soon as I started making practice problems for electron configurations. I was like this is like perfect for being a puzzle or like something you can decode. And so that’s what led me to write my activity about Pany configurations. I looked at the periodic table and I looked at the elements in it and I was like, okay, these can be built as letters into words. We can make these little you know, funny puns that can be like, like a puzzle that they have to do. So that’s how I built out that idea. Then I also knew there Gonna need more practice, but it’s just boring to do 1000 Practice sheets about the same thing. And so typically when I find myself needing to do like more than one or two practice handouts that I’m like, we need a game instead. And so that’s when I brought in and wrote my electron config GO game. And that idea came from my protein sin thingo game, which is from my biology curriculum. It’s basically bingo. But with protein synthesis, this one is bingo, but with electron configurations, so I pulled an idea from a different content area, and then just tweaked the content, you can do that to you guys. Okay, and then I got to concept three periodic trends. Now, remember, I like to look at units as a whole as well. And I’ve already seen, okay, I already have like one lab, I already have one kind of like fun activity or to have a game, but I would love to have an inquiry activity. So I knew with periodic trends, I needed an inquiry activity here to introduce it. And when I was looking through my text, one of my three textbooks for chemistry, and I was studying, I saw these awesome graphs that the textbook had, showing the data for periodic trends, trends in graph form, and I was like, this is such a good idea. I can use graphs, I can have students graph things, and then use that to have them make predictions about what these trends are before I teach them about the trends. And that’s where I love inquiry activities. I love thinking like, how could they figure this out for themselves before I do any direct instruction on it. And that’s where my inquiry activity of graphing the periodic trends was born. I give them data, they graph it, and then I give them some questions that are kind of like Pogo inspired, which I talked about in a later episode, or a previous episode as well. But just to kind of draw the, the understanding and the connections out of them. And then of course, we reinforce with direct instruction. But I’m like obsessed with how that activity turned out. It’s one of my favorites. And then of course, I knew they were gonna have to have some practice. But then also looking at this entire unit, I still said, Okay, we still haven’t done any, like sort of research or real world really connections. I mean, flame test, of course, has some, but I was like, we need to do more. And that’s what I was like, Okay, we’re going to do one of my favorite things, which is a research and report activity about elements in the body, and really making connections about these elements and where they’re located on the periodic table, and why that matters, and the arrangement of the electrons and why that matters, and then how that gives them some of the properties and characteristics that they have. And then I always love, again, to have some sort of alternative summative assessment. And that’s where I came up with this idea of doing a element family portrait of having each student take on an element in the periodic table, have that having them create a family portrait for it, and then putting them all together in one periodic table on your wall, which would serve as the family portrait analogy. Okay, so that was kind of my thought process as I walked through all of this, and I hope that sharing that kind of feels helpful. And if it deals hard, and you’re like, my brain doesn’t work that way. That is, okay. Remember, you do not have to be a curriculum writer, you can just be a curriculum curator, or even not even a curator, you can just be a curriculum purchaser, okay, you do not have to do this for a living guys. Okay, it does not make you a good or bad teacher. If you do, again, start small, one instructional resource that’s engaging one instructional resource that’s reinforcing. That’s what I shoot for, for each concept, then I look at the unit as a whole and see, okay, where do I need to add in a research opportunity or a game or something like that? Remember, you can change these out, you can tweak these you can add to them over the years. And another thing I want to encourage you to with is you don’t have to have all the labs and all the fancy equipment, listen to what I just outlined. And the instructional resources I use, I only had one lab, and it was a flame test one and I made it, you know, if you actually use that unit of mine, you’ll see it’s like I wrote it out two different ways. One way if you actually have a lot of equipment, and Bunsen burners and all that. And one if you don’t, and you just want to use candles, okay, you can do it both ways. And I also want to encourage those of you that are NGSS teachers, y’all look at the science and engineering practices SCPs There are eight of them. One of the eight is plan and carry out investigations. Okay. I think oftentimes, we think science equals labs. And yes, labs are such a huge part of what we do planning and carrying out investigations are but so is asking questions and defining problems. So is developing and using models. So as analyzing interpreting data, so is using math and computational thinking. So is constructing explanations and designing solutions, engaging an argument for evidence, and obtaining evaluating and communicating information? This is honestly my favorite thing about NGSS are these SCPs I feel like these SCPs set me free from feeling like I needed to be doing a lab every other day to be a good science teacher. All of these SCPs are covered in this electrons unit. Yes, we have a lab link is where they’re getting that plan and carry out investigations. But you know what, in that inquiry activity, they’re analyzing and interpreting data and that element family portrait project, they’re developing and using models. They’re doing that in the inquiry activity to okay, they’re using mathematics and computational thinking, when they’re doing things with the punny configurations and when they’re doing the graphs and stuff to, they’re engaging in argument for evidence and obtaining and evaluating communicating information when they’re doing these research and report activities. So you can cover all of this stuff. And notice, I still only had one lab in this unit. Okay, so I’m kind of hoping that sets you free a little bit, you feel the weight of like, I don’t have the capacity and the resources to do a million labs, okay, you can still cover all of these practices. And I only had one lab in this unit. Okay, so here’s your action step for after today’s episode, just continue working on the action step from Episode 85. Because it’s a lot, building out that backbone. Remember, this is the bulk of the design process. And please all give yourself Grace Dunn is better than perfect. Just make decisions and run with them. Even if that decision is bumped this I’m just going to invest in a pre written curriculum, that’s fine. You have years ahead of you to make changes to tweak to add in things to maybe a pre written curriculum that

you purchase, like you can make it your own over time. It does not have to be perfect. Your students will not know the difference. Okay. And as always, if you need anything if you need to refer back to anything from this episode, head, it’s not rocket science classroom.com/episode 86 And if not, I will see you next week and we will wrap this up with part five of our curriculum design process, so stay tuned. Alright, 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 rooting for you teacher friend.

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