Curriculum Q&As: Is It Worth It? (Part 2)

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This is the second half of an article about what factors into the cost of Sunday school curriculum. In part 1 we explored the research that goes into curriculum development. Faith Alive’s curriculum team stays current on learning theories, faith development practices, and theological thought by reading, attending conferences, surveying and meeting with children’s ministry leaders, consulting with experts in the field of faith formation, and keeping an eye on what other publishers are doing.

Planning

The planning process is where the rubber meets the road — we’ve been learning, exploring, and thinking during the research phase, but now it’s time to get down to business! In the planning phase we begin asking practical questions like how children will be grouped. In broad age level grouping, K-3 and 4-6 for example, or standard grade levels, preschool, K-1, 2-3, etc? What kinds of children and leader’s resources would be helpful for teaching and learning? What format would be most helpful for churches — print, electronic, web-based? What do the in-class resources look like? How will they be used? What special features will this curriculum include?

When we developed Walk With Me we made a shift in the grade level groupings. We went from Preschool-Kindergarten, 1-2, 3-4, 5-6 groupings to Preschool, K-1, 2-3, 4-5, and 6-8. This decision was based on what we were seeing in language and reading development, and how schools were beginning to group children in 6-8 middle school settings. We also decided to include a special worship piece in the WWM curriculum — Sing With Me, a children's songbook and leader's edition. When we developed Kid Connection we saw the need for material that could serve smaller programs that would benefit from grouping kids in larger age spans like K-3 and 4-6 rather than by grade level. We also wanted to serve churches that were interested in having all the kids on the same story at the same time. With Dwell, we were conscious of the importance of leaders sharing their own faith stories with children, so we decided to incorporate a new kind of tip box labeled, “Faith Modeling Tips” to prompt leaders to share a little piece of their faith journey at different times in each lesson. These are the types of details we begin to think about as we plan.

We spend quite a lot of time thinking about the overall scope and sequence — how and when will each story be told? Which key stories should be repeated and how will the lessons grow in depth as the children grow? The curriculum team plans the focus and goals for each individual lesson — this requires a strong partnership between our theological editor and educators. We meet together to plan the focus, which is a nutshell summary of what the session will be about. Then we develop goals that are based on a head-hearts-hands model. Each session should bring greater knowledge of Scripture (head), nurture a deeper love for Christ, and growth in faith (hearts), and help kids and leaders identify ways to live in light of this story or passage (hands).

When the lesson focus and goals have been completed our theological editor will write a Bible background for each lesson. These serve as the backbone for the session — they point to the essential teaching within and develop the greater context for the story. The Bible backgrounds guide authors as they write individual sessions, and they also serve as a devotional to help prepare teachers for sharing the lesson with their groups of children.

Next, we assign units to various authors. Each author brings their own experience and unique perspective to the sessions, so we prefer to draw from a large pool of authors to add variety and fresh thinking to each unit. For Walk With Me, we had a multicultural team of over 30 authors working on lessons for preschool through grade 8! We paired authors from two different races or ethnicities together to work on each four-session unit. An editor for each grade level helped to fit every unit into a cohesive whole. The richness developed from so many voices partnering together resulted in a creative, compelling curriculum!

Next time we’ll take a look at the final step in the development process: editing and design.

Does anything surprise you about this curriculum development process? Who would you want to have around the table if you were planning a curriculum?

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