If I’m trying to get from Los Angeles to Minot, N.D., I start with a map. I build a route that includes the sights I’d like to visit, shows me the connecting roadways, and gives me a rough idea of how long it’ll take.
The same is true with teaching a class. I need a map to show how best to blend my curriculum and the school’s standards, scaffold skills on each other, and connect to all stakeholders that are involved. In education, that’s called a curriculum map.
What is a Curriculum Map?
A curriculum map is a way to collect and record curriculum-related data and use it to identify the core skills and content taught, the processes that were employed, and the assessments that were used for each subject area and grade level.
A curriculum map first and foremost is a planning tool, a procedure for examining and organizing curriculum that allows educators to determine how content, skills and assessments will unfold over the course of the year. It is an in-depth view of topics classroom teachers will instruct over the school year, their pacing, and how they blend with other subjects.
In general terms, a curriculum map includes:
- Specific skills
- Essential questions
- Big ideas
- Materials required
How Do You Use a Curriculum Map?
A curriculum map doesn’t tell teachers how to teach, but rather what needs to be taught to achieve goals. Because it’s a living document, notes added by the teacher each year address how varied student needs were accommodated within a lesson plan. These changes can be planned for the following year.
Entries are viewable by all personnel in a school or district, likely located on a secure server that can be accessed through the Internet. This allows educators to view within their grade level as well as vertically to see if students enter the grade level with the skills required and leave the grade prepared for requirements of the next grade.
How Do You Create a Curriculum Map?
Curriculum mapping is a process, not a one-time initiative. It is created by the core teacher with the assistance of all other involved teachers. With this collaboration, lesson plans integrate all subjects, spiral up or down as needed, and are scalable to student needs. Key to the map is that each teacher enters what is taught in real-time throughout the school year.
A curriculum map can be built from a basic spreadsheet tool or an online program. Whichever you pick, make sure it’s accessible online and allows for collaboration and sharing. It must become a living document that is part of the teaching process.
Here are basics. Start with a list of topics that will be taught that year. This is developed based on:
- Teacher input — grade-level teaching team and vertically aligned teachers
- School curriculum — the broad mission of the school; this includes criteria such as Common Core, TEKS, IB philosophy, and state standards
- School learning philosophy — this might include a focus on citizenship, problem solving, and the development of lifelong learners
- Student needs
- Past experience
Place the topics in the spreadsheet or online tool sequenced throughout the ten months of the school year. Add events that will impact your teaching time such as school holidays, parent-teacher conferences, professional development days, and others. This allows you to be sure you have sufficient time in the school year to complete the assigned tasks. Add other information that’s important to your school such as essential questions, assessments, pacing, and standards met.
There are a lot of templates for curriculum maps available online for teachers. The one you pick must work for you, your team, and your students. A curriculum map isn’t completed in a sitting or a weekend. It takes a year to do it right — planning it out, teaching with it, revising and reworking. What lessons took longer than you expected? When were students not ready for the unit? What events did you accommodate in your schedule that you wanted to involve students in? What tie-ins to other subjects were too good to be passed up? At the end of the year, look at what you have and prepare to start over the next year.
In a nutshell, curriculum mapping aligns and sequences skills within grade levels and from one grade level to the next. When you’ve finished your first year, you’ll be amazed how much better you understand the part your teaching plays in the school’s mission and the student’s goal of becoming a lifelong learner.