What is “scope and sequence”?



We often hear the phrase “Scope and Sequence” when talking about books, courses and curriculum products.

What exactly does it mean?

In a nutshell, a scope and sequence is a list of all the ideas, concepts and topics that will be covered in the book, or in the course, or in the lesson plans assigned within a curriculum.

So, for instance, the scope and sequence for a course about geology would be a list of all of the geology concepts covered in the course.  The scope and sequence for a curriculum in high school writing would list all of the concepts taught in the writing course.  And the scope and sequence for a middle school math text would list everything covered in the math book.

Usually, scope and sequence comes in the form of a list, and usually the topics are listed in the order that they appear in the book/curriculum/course.  But, sometimes, scope and sequence is written in narrative form, and sometimes it is indexed a little bit differently, too.

Nevertheless, no matter how scope and sequence is written, it’s purpose is always the same: to indicate what material is covered in the book, and what the author/publisher has intended to teach during the course.  In other words, what successful students will have learned after finishing the book.

The value of reading the scope and sequence — particularly for homeschool parents – is to determine whether a particular product is appropriate for the student, and will cover the material they want to teach.  A quick glance down the list should easily help parents determine whether the concepts have already been covered in an earlier grade, are too advanced for the student this year, or seem to be appropriate for the age/grade level child being taught.

Examples of scope and sequence can be found online.

One example, which lists topics in a yearly format, is available HERE.

Another example, one which ties scope and sequence to individual lessons, and provides more in depth information about what is covered, and when, can be found  HERE  and HERE.  These are especially helpful since they give parents a glimpse of what the actual lessons look like to a student.

And though scope and sequence is usually available at no cost, some publishers/vendors make parents work for it, either requiring a download and print version (example) or having them purchase it separately (example).

In summary, scope and sequence is helpful because:

  • it helps determine what will be taught in the course;
  • it helps parents decide which level is best for the student; and,
  • it [usually] provides a list of topics in the order they will be taught that year.

Additionally, for those on the fence about using a particular product, the scope and sequence can also be helpful for:

  • deciding whether to use the product alone or combined 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.

Marie-Claire Moreau, Quick Start Homeschool



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