When browsing the virtual curriculum market shelves or talking personally with exhibit vendors, one often hears the phrase scope and sequence.  It can be very important to take a look at the scope and sequence if one is available, as it can greatly affect the decision making process and/or choosing one level over another.

What scope and sequence does is list the ideas that will be taught (the goals or objectives) in a particular book, curriculum or educational product.  Every scope and sequence looks slightly different depending on the grade or resource being offered, and sometimes the format is different, too.  But despite the differences by author, publisher or web site, the value of the scope and sequence remains the same — it always helps determine whether a particular product is appropriate for the student you are shopping for.

In the scope and sequence, one generally finds a list of all of the major concepts covered that year (or that quarter, or that semester).  A quick glance down the list helps parents determine if these ideas have already been covered in an earlier grade, are too advanced for right now, or seem to be appropriate for the age/grade level child being taught.  An example of a scope and sequence that lists yearly topics can be seen HERE.

Sometimes a scope and sequence is tied to individual lessons, providing specific details about what will be covered, and exactly when.  Sample lessons may also be offered, giving buyers an understanding of how the actual lessons might look to a child.  To see a sample of this type of overview, check HERE or HERE.

While scope and sequence is usually offered free, some vendors require buyers to download and print their own (example) or even purchase it separately (example).  Despite the extra hassle, it is always worth the time and effort.

Overall, scope and sequence is helpful because:

  • the topic list helps determine which level is best for a student; and,
  • the list of topics shows exactly what will be taught that year.

Plus, if families aren’t sure about a product, the scope and sequence can also be helpful for:

  • deciding whether to use the product alone or as a spine with something else;
  • comparing it against other, similar products to decide between several different treatments of the same subject; and,
  • giving parents (and sometimes students) a feel for whether they like the entire product line or not.