Believe it or not, the end of the school year is nearly on the horizon! With just a few months left to go, you may already be thinking about creating next year’s English language arts curriculum. But where do you even begin? In this post, we’ll discuss six ways to evaluate your current curriculum’s strengths and weaknesses and brainstorm any changes you’d like to make as the new year approaches.

When it comes to curriculum planning, English language arts teachers all face different circumstances. Many must use whatever materials their department, school, or district provides. Others have more freedom to select their own resources. If your power is limited and you’re unable to make significant curriculum changes without permission, you can still use some of these tips as conversation starters the next time your department or district meets to discuss curriculum strategy.

1. Use Backwards Planning to Reach Teaching Goals

Before you make any changes to your English language arts curriculum, you need to define your academic objectives for the new year. From there, you can use backwards planning to draft a roadmap to those goals.

The concept of backwards planning is simple. First, you identify which standards or skills students should master by the end of a unit. Then, you determine how you will evaluate those skills (e.g., a final assessment or project). After that, you can begin creating a sequence of lessons and activities to help students acquire those skills.

Backwards planning is valuable for both teachers and students because it focuses on the goals rather than the process of getting there. When students are given clear learning objectives from the start, it helps them understand that they’re working toward something rather than just mindlessly completing assignments. For teachers, this type of planning makes it easier to build structured, engaging lessons that cover key content.

2. Identify Weaknesses in Your Current Curriculum

Determining potential weaknesses in your current curriculum is all about the evidence. Simply, did students achieve the academic objectives set for them?

Quantitative data like that collected from standardized tests may reveal valuable information about student development. Administering a skills-based diagnostic assessment at the end of the school year can also help you identify areas in which students are succeeding or struggling after having learned the content. For a quick and easy evaluation, our free English language arts diagnostic assessment tests core grammar and writing skills that high school students should know.

After getting an idea of where students stand, review the resources and activities you used this year, from textbooks to assignments, to see which ones cover the skills students are lacking. From there, you can figure out which materials should be added or removed.

3. Consider Literature Unit Themes

Although informational texts have taken priority in recent years, literature remains a key component of many ELA curricula in schools across the country. But have you found yourself teaching the same books the same way year after year? Sometimes reorganizing existing literature units by common themes can be enough of a change to make your curriculum seem fresh. 

When we say theme, we don’t mean genre, such as a novel or poetry unit. Rather, theme refers to an overarching idea or concept that students will explore throughout the unit. For example, a literature unit focusing on the American Dream might include “I Hear America Singing,” by Walt Whitman, The Great Gatsby, and Death of a Salesman as texts to study. 

Sorting and exploring books by theme helps tie together concepts and create a more cohesive literature curriculum. Creating themed units relating to adolescent issues such as identity, community, and friendship can also boost student engagement. 

4. Seek Out Student Opinions

If you believe your class is up for the task, consider asking your students for feedback about this year’s curriculum. What lessons did they enjoy? Were there any stories they read that didn’t hold their interest? Are they still unsure about certain concepts you covered? Their responses can give you insight on your current curriculum’s efficacy. 

Depending on your preference, you can collect student feedback through class discussion or a formal survey. If you don’t want to make your own, Edutopia has a short and simple feedback survey available to download for free. In both cases, remind your students that while honesty is appreciated, you expect them to keep their answers respectful.

5. Preview Potential Teaching Resources

It goes without saying that you should properly vet any potential teaching resources before you bring them into the classroom. Failing to do so could cost you hours of planning time, not to mention all those dollars wasted on unsuitable materials.

At Prestwick House, we’re more than happy to share free sample copies of our bestselling grammar, writing, vocabulary, and reading resources so that you can see how they’ll meet your academic requirements. Free sample books are available for these Prestwick House titles:

Grammar and Writing



If you’d like to review sample copies for any of these titles, please email our customer service team at We’d be happy to ship them to you for free!

6. Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help

For some, this last tip may be the most intimidating of the bunch, but it’s valuable nonetheless. No matter how you go about creating next year’s English language arts curriculum, remember that it’s okay to ask for help along the way. 

Not sure if your lesson ideas are up to standard? Have others in your department review your plans and offer suggestions for improvement. You can also turn to online communities like TeachersConnect and the ELA Teachers Reddit page to share tips and search for resource recommendations.

If you have concerns about parts of the curriculum, but making changes is totally out of your control, don’t throw in the towel just yet. Try to have a conversation with your department chair to see if there are any opportunities for flexibility. The worst they can say is no, but you’ll never know if there’s room for change unless you ask. 

Now, are you ready to start planning for the new year? Our curriculum specialists are here to lend a hand if needed. With years of experience in English language arts instruction, we’re happy to help you find the right resources to meet your teaching goals. Contact us at to get started!