FirstSchool believes that collaborative inquiry should explicitly connect data about students' classroom experiences to decisions about curriculum and instruction.  In addition, curriculum should strive to reflect the interests, preferences, home lives, and cultural background of a teacher's students.  We challenge teachers to examine what their curriculum currently includes and excludes.

 A-BIRD Framework for Curriculum Planning

We have created the "A-BIRD" framework as a guide for teachers examining their curricular choices, particularly to address the diversity of learners in their classroom.  Teachers should plan with others within and across grade levels to ensure that throughout PreK-3, children will consistently benefit from Aligned, Balanced, Integrated, Relevant, and Developmental curriculum.  These five basic criteria meet students where they currently are, and develop their learning from that starting point.  They also require teachers to deliberately design lessons that will lead to mastery of skills and standards across all content areas:

  • Aligned: Content aligns with standards (i.e. the Common Core)
  • Balanced: Adequate time given to each content area, as well as key areas such as oral language & vocabulary development, or algebraic thinking
  • Integrated: Purposeful planning facilitates and enhances learning across key content areas and creates connections between concepts
  • Relevant: Connections made between children's background knowledge and new learning
  • Developmental: Social/emotional, physical, and cognitive needs of students considered

Levels of Curriculum Planning

In addition, teachers should begin their planning by examining core state standards, as well as state, district, and school level programming. Those standards for content can then be nested within other resources, such as children's own funds of knowledge, or knowledge gained from their socio-cultural environment (Gonzalez, Moll, & Amanti, 2005), that contribute to building a generative curriculum. A generative curriculum is the result of providing students and community members opportunities for input into their own learning.  It recognizes that learning should be contextual, and asks teachers to use their professional expertise to customize the translation of baseline standards into rich learning experiences that relate to students' lives. 

Click here to access a more comprehensive brochure that will provide additional guidance when considering different, nested levels of curriculum planning. 



Key Instructional Cultures

 Once teachers have figured out what they will teach, the natural next step is to make closely related decisions about how it will be delivered. 

We have organized thinking about instruction around developing cultures of caring, competence, and excellence for both teachers and students.

 A culture of caring needs to be in place before substantive learning can occur.  It is foundational to children’s success, as it ensures that they feel safe, valued, and accepted by adults and classmates.  A culture of competence ensures each child is a productive, successful, and contributing member of the classroom team, and a culture of excellence enables each learner to excel beyond minimal competencies.


Click here to access a more comprehensive brochure that will give you a further overview of the instructional practices that contribute to developing these cultures.

Click here to access an inventory of instructional design and delivery practices designed to faciliate teacher reflection & instructional goal-setting.



Promoting Vocabulary Development

As part of our focus on helping teachers develop more integrated curriculum, Dr. Cristina Gillanders, a member of the FirstSchool team and a Scientist at the FPG Child Development Institute, has created a resource for building vocabulary skills in English Language Learners.

Click here to access this resource, called "Promoting Vocabulary Development in Young English Learners".