Curriculum mapping is a process that helps teachers understand what students must know and be able to do after teaching, how content will be taught, and how learning outcomes will be assessed. Creating a curriculum map at the beginning of the school year allows teachers to pace their teaching so there is no end-of-year scramble to squeeze it all in before testing.
Having a curriculum map on hand will allow you to be more productive during your planning time, too, because you’ll know what topics can be integrated, the scope and sequence of skills, and what’s coming next.
Common Misconceptions About Curriculum Mapping
When you think about curriculum mapping, it may sound like something that will take a long time and is restricting. Neither one of those things is true.
While curriculum mapping does take some time initially, it saves you more time when planning throughout the year. I usually spent one day with my grade level team or two days if I was planning on my own. With a curriculum map laid out, I knew what I was teaching when and about how long I had to teach each unit.
When I was ready to sit down and plan for the following week, I pulled out my curriculum map and knew what was next. It saved me time because I didn’t have to pull out all of my planning materials and figure out what I should teach.
A curriculum map is always a work in progress and it will never be set in stone. It’s meant to be used as a guide that helps you teach similar topics across subjects at the same time. You’re able to look at your map and know what you’ve taught, where you currently are as far as hitting all of the standards, and what’s still to come.
At the end of each quarter, I’d take an hour and look at my curriculum map to see if anything needed to be adjusted. Sometimes a standard would need to be moved due to materials from the district being unavailable for a project or a field trip being scheduled. It was no sweat off my back because I could easily switch things around and know that I’m still going to meet deadlines for testing with time to spare for review.
Essential Materials for Curriculum Mapping
Before you start your curriculum map, you need to gather all of the materials you have access to. This will make your planning time more productive and effective.
The Materials you need are:
- district pacing guides
- state standards and unpacking documents
- scope and sequence of subject programs (like math and reading programs your district uses)
- district/school calendars to note teacher work days/PD, days off, early dismissals, and programs, assemblies, etc. that take time away from teaching
- testing dates or timeframe
- curriculum map template
- Post-It notes, pens, highlighters, notebook
Unpack the Standards
Unpacking the standards is something that will teach you so much about what you’re actually supposed to teach your students. Simply reading a one sentence standard doesn’t always give you the insight to know exactly what students are supposed to know and be able to do after you teach them.
When unpacking, you’ll learn what skills students need to have mastered ahead of teaching, the extent of teaching that needs to happen within a skill set, important vocabulary and strategies students must know, and where you can integrate across the curriculum.
In my first few years of teaching, I did not unpack the standards and instead read them for their face value. I was spending time teaching my students beyond what they needed to know at my grade level and wasting time going deeper than I needed to. This cut into my time to teach other skills, and things ended up being squeezed in last minute. Not my best work.
Know What Resources You Already Have Access To
When you know what resources you have access to, such as website subscriptions through your district, resources you have purchased from TpT, and resources that your district has available, a few things happen.
You save money. Nothing is more frustrating than rushing to TpT last minute to purchase an activity for practicing multiplying factions, only to realize a week later that you already had something to use.
You save time. Need a video to better explain how hurricanes are formed to accompany your science unit? If your district provides you with access to Discovery Education for free and there’s a great video already available, save the link to that video so it’s easy to find and pull up later. Just make a note in your plans. (Otherwise, you may go down a rabbit hole searching for videos.)
You save more money. If you have a district that provides materials for hands-on learning experiences when teaching about ecosystems, you can utilize those materials instead of spending your own money or your classroom allowance on items. My district provided organisms for creating eco-columns in our classroom to observe in science.
When thinking about what you already have access to, consider these resources:
- TpT purchases
- district-created resources
- district/school subscription websites – StudyIsland, Achieve 3000, Discovery Education, etc.
- local outreach programs provided by universities, museums, news stations, etc.
- district sponsored hands-on projects – providing loaned materials for learning about grade level curriculum
- self- or team-created resources
- free educational websites with kid-friendly content (always fully review the content prior to using it in your own classroom)
If you need an easy (and free!) way to organize all of your resources so you can easily utilize them as needed, check out my blog post about How to Save Time Planning with Airtable.
Are You Ready to Get Started With Curriculum Mapping?
If you’re looking for an easy-to-use and editable template, you can get my curriculum map templates in my store. Every year you can redownload the updates for free from your account, so you don’t have to worry about changing the dates yourself!