Unwriting Our Starts

  1. Change Opportunity: Proactively “unwriting” the curriculum (Trd. 中文)
  2. Practical Toolbox: Alison Yang’s “16 ideas…”
  3. Shifting Schools Resource Library
  4. Bill’s Share: My World (2021 version)
  5. Deeper Dive 1: Culturally Responsive Teaching (Trd. & Simp. 中文)
    1. Some CRT Resources
  6. Deeper Dive 2: “Until Learning has no Limits” –Universal Design for Learning & Differentiation as a Mindset (Trd. & Simp. 中文)
    1. Some UDL Resources
  7. Deeper Dive 3: Educational Leadership’s Back-To-School Issue on Well-Being
  8. I-Shou International School: BTS MYP Update & Continuity With Last Year
    1. MYP resources from previous years

Half the curriculum walks in the room with the students, in the textbooks of their lives.

Emily Style

Change Opportunity: Proactively “unwriting” the curriculum (Trd. 中文)

Another rich explanation (2 min ) in the context of autistic learners from Dr. Brenda Smith Myles.

Emily Style articulated the most important aspect of the “hidden” (or “unwritten” or “informal”) curriculum by reminding us about that important half that walks through our doors each day. In Curriculum as Encounter: Selves and Shelves, Style positioned these encounters between learners and curriculums as a challenge for teachers, but also as an opportunity. The start of a new school year offers a powerful entry point to seize this opportunity by “unwriting” the formal curriculum in favor of exploring the hidden curriculums that represent learner identity, student well-being, and building community. In IB schools, this focus can take the form of initial inquiries into the Learner Profile, International-mindedness, and Approaches to Learning (ATLs).

The I-Shou International School back-to-school professional development activity that accompanies this post can be found here or ->

Sometimes referred to as the unwritten curriculum, the hidden curriculum (中文 definition courtesy of the 國家教育研究院/National Academy for Education Research) contains both promise and peril in equal measure. It is the embodiment of the 危機 (wéijī) danger/opportunity trope popularized by John F. Kennedy. He got the exact meaning wrong, but not the essence of the “change opportunity” represented by certain situations, the start of a new school year being a prime example. How can make the most out of our change opportunities for our students, ourselves, and our learning communities?

This post provides a primer on what is meant by a hidden curriculum, followed by a selection of curated resources aimed toward starting the year off on an unwritten page, not as a buffer to the work that needs to be done, but to set the stage for the formal curriculum that follows, thereby enriching learning throughout the year ahead.

When your students walk into the room, meet them halfway; co-author this shared chapter in the textbook of your lives.


Practical Toolbox: Alison Yang’s “16 ideas…”

One of the key inspirations for my back-to-school unwritten curriculum curated care package came from the generous and prolific Alison Yang who shared a post rich with ideas on her own blog. Check it out–great stuff there, freely shared.


Shifting Schools Resource Library

A treasure trove of more than 50 hidden curriculum and other activities & ideas.
Check out the activity above by clicking here, and for more from Shifting Schools, click here.

Bill’s Share: My World (2021 version)

Here is my back-to-school activity from 2021 that I will be updating for this year. The activity design and goals were inspired by aspects of Universal Design for Learning and Culturally Responsive Teaching and I hope to incorporate those elements more in my update this year. The component is linked below and you are welcome to borrow ideas and pillage materials as desired. The presentation itself is set up for blended approaches and can be adapted to fit your world.


Deeper Dive 1: Culturally Responsive Teaching (Trd. & Simp. 中文)

Culturally Responsive Teaching in action at the bilingual Amigos School in Cambridge, MA. [English captions available.]

This video from Edutopia provides an example of how one school and its teachers have applied Culturally Responsive Teaching in an additive bilingual context. CRT provides an incredible toolbox of practices and mindsets to adopt, especially for the international school teachers whose school communities represent diverse experiences. If you are interested in learning more, Zaretta Hammond’s Culturally Responsive Teaching and the Brain and the Ready for Rigor framework provides a cogent argument for leveraging CRT as a tool to achieve powerful cognitive benefits for learners without equating rigor to reductive focus on “grit” or “resilience.”

Some CRT Resources

回應教學 courtesy of…


Deeper Dive 2: “Until Learning has no Limits” —Universal Design for Learning & Differentiation as a Mindset (Trd. & Simp. 中文)

The video above provides an introduction to UDL and the video suggests that differentiation isn’t as hard as you think. You can also dive deeper: Differentiated Instruction and UDL. What’s the Difference?

Some UDL Resources


Deeper Dive 3: Educational Leadership’s Back-To-School Issue on Well-Being

July’s Educational Leadership has a wealth of articles on nurturing well-being in schools. Click the image to be taken to the online version or download the PDF here.


I-Shou International School: BTS MYP Update & Continuity With Last Year

Links to some useful start-of-the-year resources and readings for new and returning teachers in the I-Shou International School context.

MYP resources from previous years

Author: williamjtolley

IB Coordinator, IBEN Workshop Leader, Examiner, and DP/MYP Teacher | Inquiry, Mastery & Culturally Responsive-Learning Advocate

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