Chapter Two

Creating a Curriculum Map

Creating a Curriculum Map

The most robust type of curriculum map includes a complete description of how the curriculum standards will be converted into lesson plans. However, a basic curriculum map can simply include the scope of the class and the sequence in which topics will be taught.

A basic curriculum map includes:

  • Standards – State, governmental or other standards related to the class.
  • Sequence – The order in which standards will be taught in the class.

More advanced curriculum maps will include content, skills, pacing guides, assessments, and resources. Adding the following fundamentals to your basic standards and sequence curriculum maps will make sure that teachers have a clear understanding of the material that must be covered in their classes:

  • Content – The subject matter itself. This includes the key concepts, facts and events that are being taught. Content is expressed as a noun (multiplication, evolution). There are three common formats for content:
    • Discipline based: focuses on a subject.
    • Interdisciplinary: focuses on connections between two or more subjects.
    • Student-centered: focuses on student-developed interests.
  • Skills – Strategies that students should be able to do. These are what teachers are assessing, observing, and documenting. Skills are expressed as verbs (write, calculate). These skills relate to the goals that the school has for their students beyond standards, although often expressed in similar language.
  • Assessments – Any number of broad approaches to gauge student learning.
  • Activities – Specific actions conducted within a classroom to drive student mastery in skills and/or standards.
  • Resources – Additional information that can be accessed in order to enhance the student’s understanding of content.
  • Essential Questions – Questions that students should be able to answer at the end of the class that indicate their understanding of the content that was presented and their mastery of skills.
  • Timelines – The expected time that it will take to teach each unit within the class.
  • Pacing Guide – Help teachers stay on track and to ensure curricular continuity across schools in the district.
  • Units – Concepts and learning goals that are taught over a period of time.

Types of Curriculum Maps

Although most curriculum maps will include the same elements, there are various methods of creating curriculum maps, depending on the needs of your teachers and students:

  • Diary – A record of what was actually taught by a teacher in one subject in the school. Each teacher records what they do for an agreed period of time. This can be used to adjust curriculum as necessary for the following year.
  • Projected – Created by an individual teacher for one course or subject before the term begins. Each teacher maps out what they plan to do for the term or entire school year.
  • Consensus – Used as a personal map by teachers for curricula guidelines at a school or district level. All designers agree on the course learning based on standards and it serves as the planned learning map. Those who teach the course use the Consensus map as a foundation for their course learning and instruction.
  • Essential – Entire school year of learning that is recorded by grading periods. These are district-level maps, created by a team of educators that are representative of district learning expectations. This serves as the base instruction map in which all who teach the course use the map to plan learning and create collaborative Consensus and/or Projected maps.

Start the curriculum mapping process by developing a list of topics based on teacher input, district curriculum, the district learning philosophy, student needs, and past experience.

Where Should You Start?

Now that we have a good understanding of the items included and the different ways of creating a curriculum map, it’s time to start writing.

For an essential map, 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.
  • District curriculum – The broad mission of the district, including criteria such as Common Core, TEKS, IB philosophy, and State Standards.
  • District learning philosophy – This might include a focus on citizenship, problem-solving, or the development of lifelong learners.
  • Student needs – Your students may struggle more in certain subjects but excel in others so keeping this in mind while planning content will help to ensure student success.
  • Past experience – Reviewing what worked and what didn’t in previous years will give you a solid foundation for what should be included in the future.

Consensus and projected maps will begin with the essential map, if it is available. This can be modified for the teacher’s specific needs. If no essential map is available, start with the list of topics as in the bullet points above.

Understanding by Design Stages

To us, the ultimate goal of education is to spark a pursuit of knowledge in the child, so that they keep on learning as they grow into whoever they choose to be John F Kennedy

Engaging learners in a thoughtful “meaning making” helps them develop and deepen their understanding of important ideas and processes that support such transfer. Knowledge and skills are learned and taught not for the sake of it but as a means to larger ends. 

There are two broad types of assessment: 

  • Performance tasks – Ask students to apply their learning to a new and authentic situation as a means of assessing their understanding and ability to transfer their learning.
  • Other evidence – Includes traditional quizzes, tests, observations, and work samples.

Assessments are used to ensure learners have developed an understanding of the topic being studied. Using this framework outlining the 6 facets of understanding, it can help determine where learners excel and where learners struggle:

  1. Learners can explain concepts, principles, and processes by putting it into their own words. They can teach it to others, justify their answers, and show their reasoning.
  2. Learners can interpret by making sense of data, text, and experience through images, analogies, stories, and models.
  3. They can apply themselves by effectively using and adapting what they know in new and complex contexts.
  4. Learners can demonstrate the big picture and recognize different points of view.
  5. They can display empathy by perceiving sensitively and walking in someone else’s shoes.
  6. Learners can display self-knowledge by showing metacognitive awareness, using productive habits of mind, and reflecting on the meaning of the learning and experience.

The understanding by design (UbD) process, an example of backward design, to outline the importance of looking at outcomes in order to design curriculum units, assessments, and instruction. There are 3 steps within the process that you should complete:  

Step 1 – Identify Desired Results

  • What are the established content standards and curriculum expectations that must be addressed?
  • What content will be a priority for your students?
  • What content can be removed if there is not enough time within the term?
  • What are the long-term performance goals for your students?
  • What important knowledge must be acquired?
  • What skills should students have after the class?

Step 2 – Determine Assessment Evidence

  • Which type of assessments will you use to assess understanding?
  • Which facets of understanding will you address with each assessment?
  • How will you ensure that have met the desired results identified in Step 1?

Step 3 – Plan Learning Experiences and Instruction

  • How will you address the three types of learning goals: transfer, meaning making, and acquisition?
  • How will you extend lessons beyond presenting information and modelling basic skills to help students make meaning and transfer their learning?
  • How will you give your students numerous opportunities to draw inferences and make generalizations for themselves?
  • How will you support your students in the learning process?
  • How will you give your students timely feedback on their performance?

Quality Curriculum Maps

When your curriculum maps are complete, look for the following to ensure that they are the highest quality possible:

  • What is taught and assessed is clearly articulated
  • Options for differentiated learning are identified and clearly outlined
  • Skills are clearly described
  • Assessments are linked to skills and content
  • Language and terminology are easily understood
  • A reader can understand the map without the writer explaining it

Chapter ThreeReviewing Curriculum Maps

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