The Curriculum Integration Chart


Early in the evolution of the fabrication of Long-Range Planning Boards— before the Red Cups —as a first step toward, Doreen had teachers complete two-dimensional Curriculum Integration Charts (one for each month of the school semester or year) to display their Design Challenges with related subject matter to develop an integrated curriculum.  The Curriculum Integration Chart did not achieve what she intended. Because the Chart had only one color for Guided Lessons, teachers had difficulty imagining how a single Design Challenge leads to the teaching of multiple subjects. Instead, they planned all of their lessons around only one subject per Design Challenge.


This stumbling block was all about color. Doreen changed the Design Challenge triangle on the Chart from blue, a cool color, to a dynamic red and used two different colors to show state required Standards and Guided Lessons. Revising the Curriculum Integration Chart proved that visual perception matters.


With the addition of the three-dimensional Red Cups as the crucial starting point in a Design-Based Learning teacher’s curricular planning, the multicolored Curriculum Integration Charts document the story-driven, multi-subject content that the teacher writes on and in each Red Cup. The process of completing the Red Cups and the Curriculum Integration Charts culminates in the fabrication of Long-Range Planning Boards that reflect each teacher’s unique, semester or yearlong curriculum in a comprehensive, creative, and highly professional display.

What a Blank Curriculum Integration Chart Looks Like

A Curriculum Integration Chart Example

A Teacher's Point of View

Jen Sobara, a high school math and science teacher and Design-Based Learning trainer who graduated from the Master’s Degree program at Cal Poly in 2008, was part of Doreen Nelson’s group exploring the possibility of teaching teachers about sequence using the Red Cups.  Jen took some convincing that the three-dimensional Red Cups experience mattered, feeling that it was too time-consuming.


“We discussed the Red Cups, and honestly I wasn’t buying into them,” Jen said. “There was general consensus in the group that the Red Cups would be awkward to work with and that their purpose was not really clear. Yes, we ask our teachers to have their kids solve problems in 3-D, so it would be hypocritical if we didn't ask our teachers to do the same. Yes, the Red Cups represented the Design Challenges that brought together the Standards and Guided Lessons, but we thought we could do better.


“After playing around with a bunch of different designs for the container, and talking about them with Doreen, I realized that my lack of enthusiasm and subsequent marginal presentation of the Red Cups was because I didn't get it. What Doreen meant, hadn’t sunk in: that the Red Cups were, in fact, a 3-D representation of a 2-D planning chart—and that using them asked novice Design-Based Learning teachers to think in the same way we teach them to get their kids to think. It really came together,” Jen said, “when we started working on revising the Curriculum Integration Chart. It was a revelation to me when Doreen held up a Red Cup, pointed out the way it tapers down, and related it to the upside down triangle on the Curriculum Integration Chart. (Duh.)


“The only major modification we made was to revise the requirements for the Red Cup process. We clearly stated that each Red Cup represented one Design Challenge. Standards and Guided Lessons with colors coded to at least five different subjects had to fill the Red Cups. A series of Red Cups needed to be linked, but the order had to be able to change. And, the links between the Red Cups needed to be adjustable to show the varied amounts of time spent on the Design Challenges, and the lengths of time between them.


“Now in teacher training it is amazing how significant the Red Cups are. The teachers’ solutions are fun, well thought out, creative and unique. What is really fun, was to watch the participants work with the Red Cups and to see what didn’t make sense to me at first,  makes perfect sense to them.”


The Red Cups, the Curriculum Integration Charts, and the Long-Range Planning Boards are planning tools for delivering a semester or yearlong curriculum as a progression of Design Challenges from simple to complex. Through this physical planning process, integral to my Design-Based Learning methodology, teachers develop an integrated curriculum, implementing a story that captures the imagination of students as they build three-dimensional artifacts to represent what they are learning. Over the 40-plus years that Doreen Nelson has taught teachers to do this, what has surfaced is that when K-12 students see what’s in store for them over the semester or year, they hurry to learn basic skills and Guided Lessons, eagerly awaiting the next Design Challenge.


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