He Who Would Search for Pearls Must Dive Below: The Written Curriculum

The Standards of Learning establish minimum expectations for what students should know and be able to do at the end of each grade or course. The Virginia Department of Education provides tools to support teachers in teaching the standards:

  • Curriculum frameworks detail the specific knowledge and skills students must possess to meet the standards.
  • Enhanced scope and sequence guides provide sample lesson plans and instructional resources to help teachers align classroom instruction with the standards.
  • Test blueprints detail specific standards covered by a test, reporting categories of test items, number of test items and general information about how test questions are constructed.
  • Released tests and test items are representative of the content and skills included in SOL assessments and present the format of the tests and questions.

desktop 2Feeling overwhelmed with the abundance of resources provided by the state and where to find them? Our Curriculum and Instruction team has integrated all those resources and made them easy to find on the CNET Curriculum and Instruction home page. According to Director of Curriculum and Instruction Stacey Austin, the Curriculum and Instruction CNET home page will serve as the place to start as you seek to meet the needs of students in your class, department or school.

Why should you visit the CNET Curriculum and Instruction home page? The simple answer is that it is designed to make lesson planning easier for Chesterfield County teachers. It’s also true that our curriculum frameworks are designed to guarantee that our written curriculum frameworks align with expectations of the Virginia Department of Education. True curriculum alignment occurs when what a teacher is teaching, how it is taught and how it is tested are aligned with the Standards of Learning curriculum frameworks.

Visit the Chesterfield County Public Schools curriculum frameworks on CNET to launch dive deep 3learning and dive deep into the curriculum. It is not enough to look only at the broad Standards of Learning or pacing guides. Teachers must dive deep into the curriculum to understand the essential knowledge, skills and processes that are measured on SOL tests. However, beyond SOL tests, the curriculum frameworks prepare a student to gain the knowledge and skills essential for them to master the standards, move to the next grade level and become college and career ready.

Chesterfield’s new curriculum frameworks dive deep into the curriculum and provide teachers resources to support the written curriculum:

  • deep divepacing guides
  • standards
  • essential knowledge, skills and understanding
  • resources
  • presentations
  • assessments
  • model lessons
  • multimedia
  • vocabulary
  • websites

By unpacking the curriculum, you can work with your teammates in professional learning communities to align your written and taught curriculum. Unpacking a standard involves three steps:

  • CONTEXT:  First, review the overarching standard in order to determine the context in which students are learning essential knowledge and skills. Within the context of core knowledge instruction, students must also learn the essential skills for success in today’s world, such as critical thinking, problem solving, communication and collaboration.


  • CONTENT:  Second, determine the significant content that students must learn. Pay attention to key vocabulary that students will need to master the standard.


  • COGNITIVE LEVEL:  Third, determine the cognitive level using Bloom’s Revised Taxonomy. The importance of the taxonomy for teachers is that it reminds us of what we are asking students to do and why. In the cognitive domain, Bloom arranges the objectives in increasing complexity from simple recall of knowledge to higher levels of rigor such as applying, analyzing or evaluating knowledge. Here are the six cognitive levels in Bloom’s Revised Taxonomy, from lowest order of thinking to highest order of thinking:
    • remember, in which the learner recalls previously learned information

    • understand, in which the learner demonstrates an understanding of the facts, such as explaining ideas or concepts
    • apply, in which the learner uses information in another familiar situation
    • analyze, in which the learner breaks information into parts to explore understanding and relationships
    • evaluate, in which the learner justifies a decision or a course of action
  •  create, in which a learner generates new ideas, products or ways of viewing things

Start with the standard and essential knowledge, skills and processes in the curriculum frameworks. With your teammates, discuss the overarching context for learning, underline the content, circle the words that provide information regarding cognitive level and, finally, classify the word into one of Bloom’s six cognitive levels. The next step is to work with your teammates to design objectives or learning targets (elementary teachers may create “I can” statements) with the content and cognitive level found in the curriculum framework.

That’s the first step to lesson planning and setting learning targets for students: Dive deep into the curriculum frameworks, identify the content that students must learn, then focus on the level of thinking that is required to teach the knowledge, skills and processes.

The next step is to plan for your assessed and taught curriculum so that it aligns with the written curriculum. I’ll save those topics for future blogs!

he who would searchTake the plunge and dive into the curriculum frameworks. Go deeper into the pacing guides and discover the rich content expectations, key vocabulary and higher level of rigor required to teach the standard. Let your deep dive into the curriculum drive the instructional planning process.

English poet John Dryden stated wisely, “He who would search for pearls must dive below.” What pearls of wisdom can you find in your curriculum frameworks?

About donnadalton

Currently, I am honored to serve as the Chief Academic Officer for Chesterfield County Public Schools. This year begins my 41st year in public education and my final year in Chesterfield. Prior to this position, I served as the Director of Professional Development, Director of Curriculum and Instruction, and Mathematics Instructional Specialist. I have taught mathematics at the elementary, middle and high school levels. I have been married for 40 years to my husband, Bob, and our house is ruled by our sweet dog, Bella. We have one son and a daughter-in-law and are proud grandparents to Tyler and Kinsley!
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3 Responses to He Who Would Search for Pearls Must Dive Below: The Written Curriculum

  1. cyndeeblount says:

    Thank you so much for offering this level of support regarding the elementary focus areas of the year! Principals and teachers can easily utilize this blog for their own professional development and reinforcement of the vision.
    Thank you, Mrs. Dalton!
    Cyndee Blount

  2. Kelly Tobe says:

    Thanks Donna. This was a clear and easy format to follow. And, I love the diving and pearl analogy! – Kelly Tobe

  3. Leigh DeFreitas says:

    This blog was awesome! I printed off some of the Bloom’s posters to use. Thanks for your support with the kick-off of our 2014-2015 school year. Leigh DeFreitas

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