One of the most overwhelming things about teaching can be looking at the course of study objectives. It doesn’t matter if you are following the Common Core State Standards, state objectives, or carving your own way, having a curriculum map for the year can help organize what needs to be done and how to get there. If you are already well into the new school year, no problem. You can always take the objectives you need to meet, grab a calendar, and be on your way to creating successful students.
The first consideration for any curriculum has to be learning objectives. Find CCSS objectives from your state to get started. Even though many states share the same objectives, up to 15 percent can be altered by your state. This may be an addition of state information, or it can be as simple as renumbering some standards. You need to know exactly what your state requires of your learners. In addition, find the standards for health, technology, science, and social studies. Know if you are moving to Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) or if you will dovetail with your current standards. If your district has additional objectives, you will need those as well. By “get the standards,” I mean physically print these in a way that you can alter. Don’t have them in a book or online. Get them in your hands.
Know what curriculum your district purchases. Know what the programs are and if you have to follow them to fidelity. You might be able to use some aspects of a program interchangeably, but some schools will require you to teach only what is on the page. For example, my district requires a specific reading program, however, we can teach the phonics and skills progression while selecting our own reading text. Get the requirements for each and every program and then find what other resources you have available. Are you able to access online books, such as Storia? Do you have required technology programs? What resources can you pull from in the school or community? Having unit summaries or arching themes will be useful as well.
Know if you have pacing guides set by your district. A pacing guide may be as general as what skills should be covered in a given semester, but they may be as specific as daily guidelines. Having a firm understanding of what the pacing is and what is expected can make a big difference. Certain objectives need to be covered in a timely manner if, for instance, your district conducts end-of-quarter skill testing. Also, know your school’s expectations. Some schools may follow pacing to the letter, while others use them as general guidelines. Finally, decide on your personal timeline. You might need to condense your objectives into a seven-month plan, or you might have the school year to spread objectives over. Having a school calendar with holidays and special events is also useful.
Seriously — you will need them. Maybe it is the Martha-Stewart-wannabe in me, but I need to have colored paper, scissors, and tape to effectively lay out curriculum. This can be done alone, but eight of my coworkers and I were able to all work together at one time and easily discuss our choices as a group. Start with your most prescribed program in terms of pacing. Cut out the unit summaries and lay them in place on the months where they fall. For example, I know that I will teach Unit 2 Math Geometry in October, so I tape that on my October page. Then fill in with the objectives met by each unit. You can handwrite in overlaps if the objectives are met in multiple places. Don’t worry about the day to day; you just need an overview at this point.
Depending on how you develop your curriculum, you may decide to arrange science and social studies first, and fill in with English Language Arts standards last. You might decide to build everything you do around themed units of study, and so you select literature first. In my case, we have a specific phonics progression and math units of study. We put these in place and then began the real work. We physically sliced apart the science objectives and put them together by theme. Once that was done, we decided which months best served teaching those objectives. For example, all the literature study at the beginning of the year is about animals, so putting the animal habitat objectives in that same time makes sense.
While technology will be taught throughout other areas of study all year long, we put technology objectives with specific months based on other projects being taught. Physically moving the objectives around like a puzzle, we settled on an order that included all standards while lumping together like-themes.
Once the standards are in place, finding ways to tie in math curriculum with the rest of the day becomes easy. Tangrams of animals in geometry now makes sense with all animal study in reading and science. Graphing facts about our state works seamlessly with technology research presentations on state resources. To bring the entire year together, use the curriculum map to dictate class visitors, field trips, and celebrations. Seeing the year laid out in this way can help create driving questions for project based learning, identify weak points and standards that need additional attention, and find places to draw in resources.
How to finalize your plan depends on you. Fellow blogger Genia Connell uses math and ELA tracking guides for elementary and middle grades to keep on task. I couldn’t stand a stack of taped up, handwritten notes as my basis for the year, but maybe you are more of a free spirit. I took our notes and typed them into a matrix showing each subject and objectives week by week throughout the year. Some skills are concrete (such as short /a/ being taught the third week), while others are more fluid. I adjusted for holidays and three-day weeks as well as traditional celebrations throughout the year. Every 10 days I left an extra math day for catch-up, field trips, or extension activities.
The map is a working document. Our grade meets each week to develop plans and adjust as necessary. The point of the map is to ensure that all objectives are being met, in a logical order, while serving as a guide for all other resources we might pull in. Much like a road trip, we might take detours, but I always know how to get to our destination. All I need is a good map.
What ways have you been successful in balancing state, district, and local standards and curriculum?