I wrote a syllabus!

This morning I put the finishing touches to a three-year syllabus aimed at preparing Italian teenagers to sit for the Cambridge IGCSE in Extended Mathematics.

Even writing it down feels strange, but I’m slowly coming to terms with it. I did this. I designed a full teaching programme for CLIL students at a local state school, and heaven knows I did it with very little help.

I’m not particularly proud of the latter part, especially since my school were kind enough to send me to the official Cambridge training session in Rome last year. Unfortunately, when I got there, the workshop leader decided that addressing the topic of syllabus design wasn’t the best way of “catering to the needs of the teachers in the room”, leaving me feeling somewhat short-changed but nevertheless challenged to see what I could do about it.

Luckily, having spent most of my teaching career working in the EFL industry, I am no stranger to being asked to do something in which you have received minimal training and will be expected to learn about on the job. We can discuss the merits of that in a later post, but the fact remains: I would never have known I was capable of doing this if I hadn’t been asked to do it. Besides, I already knew the school, the course and the students inside out. If there was ever a perfect syllabus-writing situation, this was it.

The actual nitty-gritty of it wasn’t anywhere near as glamorous as I’d imagined, and mostly consisted of me spending long weekends and weekday mornings poring over the IGCSE exam syllabus from the Cambridge website, various English-language GCSE textbooks, a couple of Italian-language textbooks for the first three years of liceo, and the Italian-language maths curriculum that the students would be following simultaneously.

I started off by using a three-year wall planner to subdivide the IGCSE syllabus into ‘layers’ that could more or less be mapped onto each of the three years available for teaching. These layers were then broken down into study units using a huge academic diary. I blocked these off month-by-month, including several review opportunities and significant assessment time as advised by the exam syllabus. Then each unit had to be further subdivided into individual lessons, using the textbooks for guidance, all the while trying to mirror the meander of the Italian curriculum as closely as possible.

And now that it’s complete, two weeks later, the only thing left to do is see how it works in practice. From now until May, I get to teach the first two years of my own syllabus, which means any changes can easily be made as and when the need arises. By the end of the year I hope to have a tried-and-tested syllabus document on file, complete with lesson plans and homework tasks, and hopefully some student feedback to help me adjust and refine it for the next academic session.

Wish me luck!

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