Tips & Tricks for Curriculum Mapping
Now that you have a good idea of the steps to build out a curriculum map, we hope you’re excited to get going! Before getting started, we recommend considering the following questions, so that you have a better understanding of why your institution is curriculum mapping, and what type of maps will serve you best.
- Why are we mapping? Are we mapping for consensus maps, essential maps and/or diary maps?
- How does mapping relate to our school improvement plans and initiatives?
- Who initiated mapping in our district?
- Who are the lead map makers in our school?
- What are the obstacles/constraints of mapping in our school?
- How are we going to introduce the curriculum mapping process?
- What professional development and support will be needed?
- Do our maps contain accurate data?
- What do we do when areas of need or concern are identified?
- How can we keep the process simple and purposeful?
- How do we keep communication open and clear?
- How do we celebrate successes along the way?
- How do we support teachers, administration, and the process?
- How can we access technology to assist us?
- How will we use maps as part of our everyday work?
- How do we use data to make informed curriculum decisions?
- How will we support the next cycle of mapping?
Once you have got the handle on these questions, check out these links to template and sample curriculum maps that you can use and modify to what works best for your school:
- NYCCurriculum – Curriculum Map Templates and Forms
- Massachusetts Department of Elementary & Secondary Education – Model Curriculum Maps
- Texas Education Agency – STAAR Alternate 2 TEKS Curriculum Framework Documents
Leveraging Open Education Resources
Hardcover texts are often used year after year, leading many to become out of date. Technology has had a significant impact on this. However, digital textbooks may cost as much, or more, than physical textbooks. A dynamic curriculum process that leverages Open Education Resources can alleviate costs and adapt to evolving student needs.
Why do we use textbooks?
Textbooks are safe. Whenever teachers or students are afraid that they won’t have the right answer, they can refer to their textbook. Daily homework can be easily assigned by giving students a few pages of the textbook to read. Administrators can check which pages of the textbook will be covered in each teacher’s lesson plan to make sure that they are on track. Going without textbooks is a risk that many educators do not feel ready to take. Textbooks provide teachers with some compelling benefits:
- Supply reading passages, questions, and projects for students
- Organize the class material to maintain a steady course
- Make it easy for colleagues teaching the same classes to stay on the same page
Textbooks in and of themselves are not ‘bad’ or ‘good’. However, an over-reliance on textbooks makes the book the expert and not the teacher. The textbook should be a base and not the driver behind the conversation or the information, if used at all.
The point of schooling is to educate the next generation to have the courage and sensibility to make decisions that better our society – not to keep the book industry afloat. Once curriculum mapping has become the standard curriculum development procedure in your school or district, textbooks will begin to become obsolete.
Unfortunately, the textbook does not serve the students quite as well. Students do not necessarily learn better because a teacher’s role is easier. Students learn better when they take an active role in finding and choosing texts, asking their own questions, and creating their own projects. This may mean learning directly from primary sources rather than textbooks. Students are able to go beyond basic level learning through project-based, performance-based, and gaming-based assessment that go well beyond the range a textbook allows. The textbook is generally a medium that inspires neither motivation nor imagination.
The point of schooling is to educate the next generation to have the courage and sensibility to make decisions that better our society – not to keep the book industry afloat.
Going One Step Further
Curriculum mapping allows for the elimination of textbooks in the classroom entirely. Once curriculum mapping becomes a standard practice in your school or district, content will be updated every year to reflect the applicable standards. Teachers are given the freedom to choose to include additional resources based on current events or recent discoveries. Administrators are able to refer to current curriculum maps to ensure that teachers are covering the appropriate standards and content. Curriculum mapping helps return education back into the hands of educators.
Curriculum mapping allows for the elimination of textbooks in the classroom entirely.
Limiting the use of textbooks has been shown to increase student engagement, and allows teachers to only present information to the class that is current and relevant. Textbooks are not necessarily as useful as they are made out to seem – even once turned into digital PDFs. Consider the following:
- Common Core – Schools, states and even the federal education department send the message to teachers that everyone must be taught the same curriculum. Many textbooks and resources claim they are aligned to standards such as Common Core, but they are not. Considering that Common Core has a focus on non-fiction, as well as fiction, other resources like class sets of news magazines, leveled readers and other resources may make Common Core more engaging and give teachers the freedom they need.
- Leveled readers – Leveled readers are a much better alternative to a textbook for those who still want to use physical books. Leveled readers provide an indication of the student’s reading level and encourage a smooth transition to higher reading levels. Leveled readers help boost self-esteem and also build literacy skills. They come in nonfiction and fiction, and focus on every possible subject area.
- Technology – Schools are offering Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) which is the choice that most students prefer, because they can do their own research and find their own resources. Even schools that do not offer BYOD have netbooks, desktops and tablets for students to use. Technology is a tool that, when used correctly, can offer much more than any textbook.
- Winners Point of View – Textbooks are written from the winner’s point of view. Students need to learn that what they read in textbooks is sometimes a perspective of the winner. There is often another side to the story. Make sure students are researching online or using other resources for different perspectives on the same topic.
- Diversity – Too often, even chapter books do not include the necessary diversity. Make sure that whatever books are used in the classroom setting depict the diverse lives of students.
- Personalization – Schools do not all use the same resources, nor should they. Teachers do not teach the same way, so students will never get the same experience. Education doesn’t work that way. Schools and states must do what they can to make sure the best teachers are guiding student learning, the best principals are helping to create inclusive environments, and all of these stakeholders have access to the best resources.
- Student Engagement – Encourage classroom discussion about topics instead of reading relevant passages in textbooks. Everyone has the opportunity to share what they know and what they really care about with one another. This allows for the active creation of their own courses of study. Students will depend on and appreciate each other’s knowledge, wisdom, and professionalism both face to face and through social networks.
The Effect of Technology
Hardcover texts are often used year after year, leading many to become out of date. Technology has had a significant impact on this. Tablets and computers allow teachers and students to download textbooks as PDFs directly to their devices. This has a huge positive environmental impact, as paper textbooks become more and more rare in the classroom.
However, digital textbooks may cost as much or more than physical textbooks. Schools spend a good part of their budgets on texts every year. Educators may hate large publishers, but they support them every day when they open up their textbook. Those companies, right or wrong, are driving the way kids learn if teachers have an over-reliance on their textbooks. In addition, digital textbooks are typically still static. On the other hand, online resources:
- Are updated in real time to reflect the most current scholarship, thinking, argument, and debate as it happens
- Are manageable through contemporary mobile modes of communication and organization
- Reflect new media as fundamental to the classroom experience
- Are available for free or minimal cost to teachers and students
- Can be easily added or removed without significantly affecting curriculum
Congratulations! You now have an understanding of the fundamentals of curriculum mapping.
Curriculum mapping is a crucial step to making sure that your school’s curriculum is aligned with standards and flows consistently from year to year. This process requires involvement from many different representatives within your institution’s community. Successfully managing the process will both improve the level of education at your institution, and also create a robust method of communicating curriculum goals throughout the entire community.
Throughout this process, you should be working towards establishing a strong professional learning community in your school. This community will ensure that curriculum maps are a living document used by every teacher in your school!
Chalk offers a curriculum mapping tool that allows you to create units around the standards. We’ve made it even easier for you by uploading state and Common Core standards directly into the platform. We are working with several districts around the United States and globally to help them utilize data to use instruction. Here are a few more resources you can utilize for your school.
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