How to start curriculum compacting in elementary school

Have you ever planned a perfect 45 minute lesson only to have a student come running up to your desk after twenty minutes asking what to do next? If you have, you’re not alone. There may be times when some of your students breeze through materials much faster than you anticipated, leaving you to help them and your students who still need support on the main learning objective. If this sounds at all familiar to you, you may want to take a look at incorporating curriculum compacting into your classroom.

Curriculum compacting is a great and easy way to keep your entire class learning and growing, no matter what your lesson plans and learning objectives are. Ready to get started? Let’s learn more about curriculum compacting first!

What is curriculum compacting?

Curriculum compacting is a differentiated instruction strategy that provides additional materials or opportunities to students who have already mastered the majority of outcomes for an upcoming lesson. This strategy helps your early finishers and quick learners stay engaged and keep learning while the rest of your class continues with your lesson plan.

By having additional material for your students to continue working on, you free up your own time to help ensure every student meets your lesson objectives.

How to start curriculum compacting

Here are a few steps to help you get started with curriculum compacting:

1. Get to know your students

Understanding your students’ unique strengths and areas of expertise is the best way to ensure that early finishers won’t catch you by surprise. If you can collaborate with your colleagues to understand a student's strengths, you can come into the classroom prepared to help all your little learners grow.

Another great way to better understand your students is by using assessment tools to understand your students' understanding of different topics. A good pre-assessment can help you know before a lesson if you need to prepare an anchor activity for students that already have a good understanding of the topic.

2. Gather resources

Prepare a treasure trove of additional resources, stem activities, educational games, and more to cater to your students. This can include books, puzzles, games, online tools, and other enrichment projects. Have your activities organized and in an easily accessible place in the classroom so when students partake in them they don’t disrupt the rest of the class.

3. Set learning goals

Just like you set learning objectives for your lesson plans, you should set learning goals for your curriculum compacting activities. While these activities should be seen as a reward for students, they should still be tied to learning goals.

4. Track student progress

Progress tracking allows you to monitor student growth and adjust instructional strategies to better meet their needs. This not only goes for your main lesson plan, but also for your students who finish and move on to other tasks.

5. Be flexible

No lesson plan is perfect, no matter how much planning goes into it! It’s helpful to remember that as you go into any day on the job. Be flexible when it comes to your lesson planning and additional activities. Flexibility can help you steer your students’ learning in the most fruitful direction.

6. Reflect and improve

Whenever you can, be sure to reflect on how your classroom is running, including your curriculum compacting. These reflection points can help you understand how your process is going and if you need to make changes. These changes can include changing up your enrichment activities, the process for students’ accessing them, or something else.

Curriculum compacting examples

There are a number of different ways to incorporate curriculum compacting into your lesson planning. Below are just a few examples of enrichment activities you can incorporate into your classroom.

Math Marvels

Have an upcoming math lesson? Having additional math problems or math problems that are slightly more challenging ready to go is a great way to continue to engage your more advanced math students while you help the rest of the class.

Word Crossword

Have a spelling or vocabulary activity coming up? Consider making an additional crossword puzzle for your students to complete after finishing the main activity!

Reading Rockets

Individual reading time is always a great activity to offer up to students after they finish their initial lesson.

Playing Kodable

Kodable is a K-5 game that helps teach students the basics of computer science in a fun and engaging way. Used in over 50% of the elementary schools in the US, Kodable is a great enrichment activity that teachers use to keep students learning after they finish their main lesson.

You can sign up for your free Kodable account to get started and bring this activity into your classroom today!