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All About the Layered Curriculum Approach

Janelle Cox

The Layered Curriculum Approach to learning was developed by Dr. Kathie Nunley. Since students differ in their abilities, intelligence, and learning styles, she developed a strategy for differentiating instruction. This strategy helps to address all of these issues, while encouraging students to rely on their own strengths in order to learn a concept. A layered curriculum is designed to match each individual student to different activities that suits student needs and abilities.

What are the Layers?

This approach consists of three layers, A, B, and C. Each layer represents a different depth of study through the means of different assignments. Let’s take a closer look at what each layer represents.

Layer C - The bottom, or ground layer, of the strategy provides a basic understanding of the topic and builds upon a student’s core information about the topic. This level is constructed of 15 to 20 assignment choices that they need to perform in order to attain this standard of learning. During this level, students are guided before they are allowed to move to the next level.

Layer B – During this layer, students rely on the factual information that was learned in the previous level. This level consist of 3-5 assignments that require students to apply what they learned in layer C. Problem solving and higher-order thinking skills are usually required here. Once all assignments are complete during this layer, then a student may receive a B grade.

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Layer A – Students are able to choose one questions from a set of 5-7 to complete during this layer. The goal is for students to analyze and form an opinion based on the facts and evidence collected during the first two layers.

What are the Benefits?

The Layered Curriculum approach gives students a choice and some control over which activities they need to complete in order to meet their learning objectives. They get to take ownership over their learning when they have the opportunity to choose activities based upon their abilities. When students choose activities based on their individual interests, it also increases their motivation, which therefore increases their performance.

The most important advantage to using this approach to learning is that it promotes individualized learning. Every single student has the opportunity to learn and grow at his or her own pace. Therefore, no child is ever left behind.

How to Use the Strategy in the Classroom

In order to implement this strategy into your classroom you should first conduct a student survey to help gain knowledge on each students’ individual interests, abilities, and learning style. Then, using that information, you can create assignments for each layer of the strategy. Here is a brief look at the types of assignments that you can create for each layer. This example is based on a middle school English class.

Layer C Tasks (15-20 choices are recommended)

  • Create a poster.
  • Write an original song or poem.
  • Construct a diorama.
  • Create an ad campaign.
  • Perform a skit.
  • Construct a board game.
  • In a small group, perform a talk show skit.
  • Create a PowerPoint presentation.
  • Create a set of flashcards.
  • Write an original story.

Layer B Tasks (3 -5 choices are recommended)

  • Write a character analysis.
  • Write an essay question and answers.
  • Write a compare and contrast essay.

Layer A Tasks (One question is chosen out of 5-7 questions and there is no right answer)

  • Examine some of the characters’ beliefs.
  • Rewrite the ending of the book.
  • Tell what important events occurred.
  • Create a new cover for the book.
  • Assume the role of an interviewer and come up with five questions to ask the author.

The Layered Curriculum Approach provides students a freedom to choose within their learning environment. Once students are a part of the process of their own learning, then they will be more motivated and engaged in what they learn. Empower your students with the freedom of choice by creating a student-centered classroom where students will learn at their own pace and expand their academic learning. Students will then be able to connect the information learned on a deeper level than just having a basic knowledge.

Do you use the Layered Curriculum Approach in your classroom? What kinds of assignments do you like to give your students for each layer in the strategy? Please share your thoughts on this topic in the comment section below, we would love to hear what you have to say.

Janelle Cox is an education writer who uses her experience and knowledge to provide creative and original writing in the field of education. Janelle holds Masters of Science in Education from the State University of New York College at Buffalo. She is a contributing writer to, TeachHUB Magazine, and Hey Teach. She was also the Elementary Education Expert for for five years. You can follow her on Twitter @Empoweringk6ed, on Facebook at Empowering K6 Educators, or contact her at

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