You may already have a scope and sequence provided for you by your department or district. But if you don’t, or if you want to custom create your own — here’s how.

What is a scope and sequence?

First, it’s important to understand what it is.

It is a basic framework for what and when you are going to teach something.

In simplest terms, Scope refers to what you actually going to teach based on your standards (content). Sequence refers to when you’ll be teaching it (the order).

It’s the 10,000 foot view of your year. More detailed than a Year at a Glance plan and less detailed than a unit plan.

Why is this important?

For teachers, a scope and sequence is a life saver! It helps you plan lessons and units in logical, cohesive ways.

For students, a scope and sequence takes in mind what skills your students will learn and how you can build on them. You don’t want to teach your students to read and analyze War and Peace if they struggle with Green Eggs and Ham (okay, that’s an extreme example!).

A school, department, district, or team needs a scope and sequence so you can build each year on what your students have been taught.

If your students studied verb tenses last year, you should be able to complete a quick review this year and go deeper into writing with varied tenses this year.

How to build your own scope and sequence

Create your own scope and sequence

If you don’t have a workable scope and sequence, you may just want to create your own.

Here’s how:

Find the Scope

First, determine the scope by starting with your standards.

Are you teaching all the ELA standards for one grade level? Or are you teaching writing and language? Make sure you’re clear on exactly what standards you are responsible for. This is important if you’re splitting the reading and writing standards between two teachers.

Next, be sure you understand what they are. You don’t really need to decide how you are going to teach them at this point.

In ELA and depending where you live, most of our standards are broken into:

  • writing
  • reading literature
  • reading informational texts
  • language
  • speaking and listening

For example, let’s look at writing standards.

The Common Core State Standards, for example, begin with an opinion (Grade 5) and argument (Grade 6, 7, 8).

But here’s the problem:

If you start at the top of the standards (because they’re labeled W.1 after all), you’re most likely dropping your students into the deep end of the writing pool — and setting them (and yourself) up for frustration.

Why?

At the start of the school year, most students aren’t ready to write complex texts that require evidence, research, logic, and counterclaims.

What should you do instead?

Order the standards logically

Read through all the standards in a strand (that means all the writing standards, for example). Decide what makes sense to teach first.

To help you do that, here are some questions to consider:

  • What do you know about your students?
  • How do you want to start the year?
  • What do you love to teach — you might want to start there!

For me, the writing standards are the easiest to break up since they are already grouped by genre. They are easy to “plop” into a chart and use to build the rest of your sequence.

Why start your scope and sequence with narrative?

I think that starting with narrative writing and reading makes the most sense.

If you aren’t teaching writing, you can still start the year with narrative texts.

Why?

Humans are generally exposed to some kind of narration practically from birth on. We can even find narration in commercials — both print and on screen.

Beginning with narration and story telling is usually the easiest place to start. Plus, our students can connect with it. They already have experience in writing and reading stories from earlier grades.

Another benefit of beginning your scope and sequence with narration is that it is a great way to get to know your students.

How to create a Yearlong Plan

Determine the sequence

Once you have a clear idea of where you want to start, it’s time to start working on your sequence.

Do you want to plan by the quarter, in six-week increments, by the unit?

If you’re not sure, keep it it simple and focus on quarters.

The easiest way to do this is to start with a chart or table. You can see with the example below for how you might start a quarter-by-quarter scope and sequence:

Scope and sequence chart for grade 5

Add notes as you go along to help you keep track of all your great ideas.

Find connections

Once the framework of your Scope and Sequence is set up, you’ll want to start adding other standards.

Often, you’ll find standards that you’re not sure where to teach.

For example, CCSS L.5.1A is: Explain the function of conjunctions, prepositions, and interjections in general and their function in particular sentences.

Where do you want that to go on your chart?

It can be tempting to think you’ll teach it somewhere and that maybe you don’t need it on your chart, but you do!

Put the standard where it makes the most sense to you. Conjunction, prepositions, and especially interjections feel like they belong with a narrative text. As a matter of fact, you’d be able to teach many language standards when teaching narrative writing.

Putting it all together

Continue going through the standards and plotting them on your Scope and Sequence chart.

Things you’ll discover:

You’ll see that some standards can be taught anywhere — and some can be taught all year long.

Include repeated standards as you teach them.

For example: Let’s say you teach CCSS L.5.2.B: Use a comma to separate an introductory element from the rest of the sentence in the third quarter. You’ll probably want to review it in the fourth quarter.

Additionally, you’ll want to note W.5.10 in each quarter since students will be “writing routinely” throughout each quarter (right??!).

What is my Scope and Sequence going to look like?

Here’s an example of a Grade 5 Scope and Sequence.

Pretty basic, but it includes the standards you’ll be focusing on for each quarter.

How to create a scope and sequence chart

Getting Fancy

If you want to take your Scope and Sequence up a notch, you can. You can add more specific examples in the notes. You can add a separate column for specific books or texts you’ll use each quarter. Add in links to online resources.

Yes, you can get waaaay more specific.

But why shouldn’t you?

By keeping your Scope and Sequence lean it will be a much more flexible tool for you.

If you are taking time to create your own S&S, make it a tool you can use for years to come. Creating something that is locked down to particular assignments and texts means it’s less flexible.

What could go wrong?

The most important thing to keep in mind is that a Scope and Sequence is a tool. It should make planning your units and lesson plans easier.

If you take the time to create a S&S, use it. And as you use it, adjust and edit it. Think of it as that little black dress (or suit — or sweat pants!) that is an essential element to your wardrobe.

The temptation that comes along in the school year is that you’ll see a cool assignment on Pinterest — or maybe a team member wants to do a special project. Suddenly your S&S is out the window.

If you are a seasoned teacher, you’ll be able to adjust and get back on track, but if you’re a new teacher, this will be a bigger challenge.

Try to stay on track with your S&S.

And, that’s another reason why it’s a good idea to keep your S&S general rather than super specific with assignments, etc. You’ll be able to fit in new ideas and projects and still keep on track to teach all your standards in the year.

Next steps…

Now that you have an idea of how to create your Scope and Sequence, give it a try.

When you really dive into standards with this, you’ll understand them and see how they will fit together as you build units and lessons.

Once your Scope and Sequence is complete, you’ll be ready to create your units.

Check out some of these resources below that will help you do just that!