Scripted Curriculum: Friend or Foe? (Part #1)

Before I get started this week on one of my tangential musings about an issue in education, I think it best that I first lay some foundation through a couple of definitions. You can probably guess one just by looking at the title of this post – scripted curriculum.

#1, Scripted Curriculum: Teaching practices that are ‘scripted.’ In essence, you’re going by the book. And the book is literally right there in front of you with assigned goals, agendas, lesson plans, activities, and in the most extreme cases, a script for the educator to read follow.

Okay, that was the first. The second is a little different, but bear with me – it’ll make sense soon enough.

#2, Character Education: A branch of social-emotional learning programs that help students develop moral and value competencies to be applied to real world situations. There’s a lot of variation in character education programs, but essentially students are being taught what it means to embody certain traits (ex. Courage, respect) and then how to apply them in meaningful ways within a school and life context (ex. Drug resistance, peer mediation/conflict management). Think about D.A.R.E or Second Step if that helps.

All right, now that that’s over, I should add a little disclaimer… These definitions are how I’m defining the concepts at the moment. Because of that, it’s good to have a decent feel for and understanding of what I mean when I use certain terms in this post. So don’t be offended if you had a different idea of what these concepts mean – yours can still be valid (and probably is).

So let’s begin.

Scripted curriculum is a relatively new concept for me. I hadn’t heard about it in much detail prior to a couple of weeks ago. I always knew of it, but it’s not anything that I ever saw in the classroom setting – all of my teachers in K-12 taught with that magical store of ability and tenacity that teachers seem to just possess. Projects, games, lessons, lectures, agendas – all done by the teacher. I think there’s a lot of unique ownership that goes into that process. As a teacher, you’re using your personal abilities to help students make progress and thrive. And in line with this thought, my first introduction to scripted curriculum (I’m going to be lazy and say SC from now on) was biased against it. I’m sure for other reasons, but by the end of that introduction to SC, I was convinced that the devil was in the details, so he decided to write an extensively rigid curriculum.

There are also other factors at play, such as what happens when students aren’t “getting” the material and you need extra time or how do you adjust for unexpected absences or issues.

But the simple thing to know is that scripted curriculum equaled badddd (yes, with four d’s).

On the other hand, there are some character education programs out there, like Second Step, that use scripted curriculums. The teacher or specialist grabs the course material for the week, reads it out loud, plays a catchy video or two, instructs the students through an activity, asks a few questions already provided, and boom. That’s all she wrote – literally. But Second Step (at least at the elementary school level) has a lot of research to support it.

So what’s the difference in teaching character scripted vs. academics scripted?

I think it has to do with the nature of teaching in these two domains. Social and emotional skills are more fluid and influenced by ‘teachable moments.’ Essentially, good teaching in those domains can happen anytime. But for the hard academics, if you don’t spend deliberate and meaningful time on them, it’s difficult to say your student is going to pick up the themes of Animal Farm or make progress in long division. Being able to adjust to the needs of students is key.

Lucky for you all, I’m still investigating the difference. And I haven’t gone into as much detail as I’d like. So if and when I learn more and develop some stronger opinions about the similarities and differences of SC in these two areas, I’ll do a follow-up post to this one.

Be on the lookout: Scripted Curriculum: Friend or Foe? Part #2

[Casper Rhay]

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One Response to Scripted Curriculum: Friend or Foe? (Part #1)

  1. leighahall says:

    Does it have to be good/bad, friend foe? Could scripted curriculum sometime be both, neither, or something entirely different?


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