Rear view mirror Diary Map

Documenting the Curriculum through Diary Mapping

By Amber Villa-Zang, Rubicon International

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For those who have ever kept a diary, the term Diary Mapping might be self-explanatory. While a personal diary records the events of a day, what you did, and perhaps how you felt about it, a diary map is a unit plan that records what you taught, the assessments you used, and perhaps a reflection of how it went and changes you will make next time. The goal of a diary map is to accurately reflect what you taught each year. Sometimes this is referred to as the “operational curriculum.” This is simply another way of saying that your unit plan reflects what actually occurred in the classroom.

Getting Started with Your Diary Map:

For those new to documenting your curriculum or creating unit plans, Diary maps can be a user-friendly place to start.

What to include: One method of getting started is to take 30-60 minutes after you wrap up a unit and identify the key learning targets you focused on in the units. This will probably include specific Standards, Content and Skills. If you used Essential Questions be sure to include them. This is also a good time to step back and reflect on what the Big Ideas or Enduring Understandings were, and record them in your unit plan (if there is a place to do so). If none emerge, no worries. That might be an area to return to later (see below).

Assessments: Go ahead and include any major assessments you used in the unit: chapter tests, essays, presentations or a combination of methods. A unit plan doesn’t need to contain every assessment you use (such as daily homework), but they should include assessments which anchor the unit. Be sure to attach instructions, handouts and rubrics so you can easily access them for future use. And think about including student examples by scanning and attaching copies or photographs. These can become valuable models to share with students in years to come!

Learning Activities: Here is where you record the HOW. In a unit plan this will be a summary of the key strategies and activities you used in class to engage students and allow them to learn the content and develop the skills which are the focus of the unit. Examples might include:

  • Independent Reading Journals
  • Math notebook
  • Socratic Seminar
  • Silencing Activity
  • Lab: Can you Shatter Glass with Soundwaves?
  • Cause vs Causation: Reading Jigsaw

Resources: A strong practice is to list any resources you used which helped bring the content to life.  Atlas is a perfect place to store resources so you don’t have to worry about hard copies or remembering which word or google file you saved them in. It’s also an easy way to access and share resources with others in the future.

Circling Back to Your Diary Map:

Documenting our curriculum and recording what actually occurs allows us to formally reflect on what we planned, what worked, what never happened, and why.  This allows us to constantly streamline instruction, year-to-year.

Returning Next Year: After you’ve creating a diary map for each unit within the school year, you’ll be able to return to it the following year as the Planned Map to review before you teach the unit again. This is a great time to think strategically about any changes you might want to make, such as:

  • Tweaking your Essential Questions
  • Developing an Enduring Understanding to guide the unit
  • Creating a fun and enriching new student-centered learning activity
  • Adding as assessment you’ve been thinking about that will help increase student engagement

Capture Reflections: After you’ve taught the unit, circle back again and treat the unit plan as a Diary Map, making sure your unit reflects what you actually did with your students. As we all know, what we do each year shifts based on a number of factors, and your units will need to be updated in order to capture those changes. Once you have a diary map established, depending on the changes you’ve made, you’ll want to take 15 to 20 minutes to update your unit.

How are you capturing the differences between your planned and taught curriculum? What trends in your own instruction do you notice? We’d love to hear about it at pd@rubicon.com!

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