Streamlining the Curriculum Review: First Impressions by Nancy Lhoest-Squicciarini


The concepts behind Streamlining the Curriculum were impacting educators and curriculum writers far before its publication, but it’s also making an impression in its own right. When Heidi Hayes Jacobs spoke with longtime facilitator and trainer Nancy Lhoest-Squicciarini about her thoughts after reading the book, she quickly shared three observations that caught her eye.

1. Episodes, Not Chapters

The first aspect of Streamlining the Curriculum that caught Lhoest-Squicciarini’s attention was the way Jacobs and co-author Allison Zmuda formatted the book.

“Rather than using the word ‘chapter,’ you used ‘episode,’” she said, “and I just love that because episode, to me, shows that it’s interconnected. There’s a straight line or a thread going through each one. Chapter, to me, can be a silo.”

In the book’s prologue, Jacobs and Zmuda state that they will refer to chapters as episodes.

“Each starts out by highlighting a learning target and three action verbs – engage, examine, and act,” it reads. “These frame what we intend you to engage with and examine as you make your way through the text and possible actions you might take.”

2. Leading with Learning Targets

As the text states, each of the book’s episodes begins with a learning target, which was also a key element that caught Lhoest-Squicciarini’s attention.

“I love that you started off with that idea,” she said. “It already put my mind into, ‘Okay, this is how you’re going to channel your thinking,’ and then always having those three verbs set up the structure for how I knew I was going to unpack what I was reading.”

Episode 1, ‘Breaking Free from the Tyranny of Templates,’ for example, begins with the following:

Learning Target: We can evaluate the need for streamlining the curriculum templates to increase their effectiveness and ease of use and better engage our learners.

Engage: Probe the problems that ensue from cumbersome curriculum templates and formats.

Examine: Analyze examples of problematic templates and their effect on teachers and learners.

Act: Identify the degree to which your curriculum needs streamlining for end users.

A chart that includes Learning Target, Engage, Examine, and Act.

3. Use of Imagery

Imagery is a common theme throughout Streamlining the Curriculum, both as a learning tool and a component of the text. In the book’s prologue, for example, Jacobs and Zmuda use the analogy of a lantern to illustrate the use of curriculum storyboards.

“As educators begin to see ourselves in these interconnected roles,” write Jacobs and Zmuda, “our curriculum documents can become lanterns, lighting the way for the kind of heroic exploration that led most of us to teaching in the first place and allowing us to pursue wonderment alongside our students.”

Lhoest-Squicciarini loved that analogy, immediately envisioning in her mind the way this concept would impact students.

“What a great idea,” she said. “I think another one you mentioned was the idea that curriculum has become a rutted path versus a well-worn track. All of that imagery allowed me to really get into your minds and what you were thinking about when you wrote the book.”

Enthusiastic Feedback

The enthusiasm Lhoest-Squicciarini showed while recounting the elements of Streamlining the Curriculum that spoke to her was a showing of the impact the book’s format and approach is already making on educators and curriculum writers.

If you’ve read Streamlining the Curriculum, what spoke to you?

You can watch Nancy Lhoest-Squicciarini’s full interview with Heidi Hayes Jacobs on the Curriculum Storyboards YouTube channel.

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