Spiral Curriculum









Tina M. Clark


Spiral Curriculum:


Using spiral curriculum in the classroom seems to be such a great concept for child-centered learning.  Re-introducing topics so that each child picks it up in their own time is an essential part of spiraling.  It’s just too bad that all teachers don’t use this type of curriculum in their classroom. The spiral curriculum falls right in line with Bruner's quote mentioned above.  A spiral curriculum is a curriculum that develops as basic ideas are repeated and built upon until the student grasps the full concept of what is being taught.  Bruner feels that nothing is impossible to teach or to learn; he believes that putting off subject matter of important areas that need to be taught because they may be considered too difficult for the student to learn has wasted a lot of time in the classroom.  As a parent, I can see how Bruner's theory has been implemented within the classroom since its inception.  When my boys were in the early grades of elementary school I could see how spiral curriculum was used as they were learning math.  The math that they were learning at that time included concepts that I did not broach as a young student until junior high school.  To me this appears to be a perfect example of how the use of spiral curriculum has allowed students to grasp math concepts much earlier because of the way they are taught to them.




Spiral curriculum has an automatic connection to math curriculum – it’s easy to see how it would fit.  This link that connects to a school’s website, reflects on spiral curriculum used in communication arts education.  It shows how spiral curriculum is used K-12 and how each learning phase is grouped into three separate grade ranges.  Traditional teachers have used this type of spiraling, however; at the time, probably without much concrete assessment in regards to how it played out as the student moved through the grade levels.  Content standards did help with this process, but is certainly isn’t driven by content standards only.




I came across this blog as I was googling spiral curriculum – it has spiral drawings.  The blog also reflects on the need for a software program to assist with spiral curriculum planning across grades levels.  The blog makes reference to a spiral model called progressive inquiry.  The blog is a good reflection on the organization aspect of spiral curriculum.




Nathan Morris


"The Spiral Curriculum" by: Greg Cruey http://www.helium.com/items/343559-the-spiral-curriculum


This article discusses the differences between a "traditional" curriculum and a "spiral" curriculum. According to the author when teaching from a traditional curruculum there will be a specific time to learn a new topic. When that time comes, your learn it or memorize it but you do it now, then move onto the next topic that you will work on. Where as with a spiral curriculum, the belief is that not all students will be able to grasp concepts at the same time on the same level. Therefore as a teacher, you teach a topic and assume that some students are ready to learn and will pick it up and that some are not ready. However you move on and eventually that concept will come up again, for that student to learn. So where a traditional curriculum looks at a few topics for an extended period of time, the spiral curriculum gives you many topics over and over and over. He explains that a spiral mind set is difficult for traditionalist to switch to, because sometimes you teach a lesson and not many students understand, but you move onto the next lesson with the assumption that the topic will come around again for them to learn.



"Spiral Math May be Causing Trouble for Your Child"  by: Brandy Madison



"The Spiral vs. Mastery Debate" by: Bethany Ruth Barnosky



I came across these two articles during my research and decided to put them together. It was very interesting in these articles because they were each debating on which is the better way for students to learn. In the end BOTH agreed that the more traditional way was more beneficial for their student (both were Mom's who homeschooled). However one parent said that saxon was a more mastery style of teaching and the other used saxon as an example for the spiral method of teaching. Each gave some thoughtful examples of why they choose the more traditional method. Reading the articles made me go back and examine my original thoughts about saxon. I still would have to agree with Bethany, to me saxon is Spiral. Bruner stated, " students return to topics throughout their academic careers, continually building upon what they have already learned as they develop and mature." To me, that is Saxon.



Kim Craigs




"It's Branded In Our Brains"  by Sue Caldwell

Mathematics Teaching  May, 2008


This article reviews the concept of the Spiral Curriculum as is it being implemented in the mathematics classroom.  The author followed a group of students and discovered that the version of Spiral Curriculum as envisioned by Jerome Bruner is, more often than not, is not what is being followed.  She interviewed curriculum through the grades, and found that the school used repetition to try to reinforce math facts.  By teaching to the test, the students came to believe that math was about memory more than comprehension.  The students, as a result, became bored and "tuned out" after a time.   The author advocates straying from the textbook and bringing imagination to the mathematics classroom.