About Atlas

Curriculum Mapping Requires the Best Student in Me

by Stephanie Van Raden, Rubicon International

  • Sit down, open the textbook, planner, and school calendar.
  • Fire up the computer; opening a search window to Wikipedia, my favorite curriculum resource links, student IEPs, behavioral plans, notes from previous teachers, and my Atlas site.
  • Run to the copy room for a cup of coffee. Snag a rice crispy treat.
  • Sit down, put on my glasses, roll my shoulders back, set a timer for one hour.
  • Map Curriculum

The words are short and sweet, “Map Curriculum”, but the process is complex as I compile, summarize, compare, validate, adjust, and plan for the next unit of instruction. There is a gap of knowledge between the standards I taught last year and the outcome I hoped to see in my student’s performance assessments. There are a couple skills that will require re-teaching during our next unit.

My time is limited today and so I forge ahead and adjust my curriculum, making notes to prompt my memory later. Now, I need to begin work on a brand new unit of instruction. I open up a blank template and prepare to write.

To Map Curriculum Requires the Best Student in Me

Every time I teach content feels like the first time and this time, I will be introducing new content based on a shift we have made to common core standards in our school. Preparing to teach this content requires the whole toolbox. We all have a smattering of experiences preparing us to teach from our own education; skills learned from other teachers, any work we have done with action research; as well as the hands on experience in our teaching careers thus far. Writing curriculum, the art of teaching that curriculum, and using that research to inform your practice is complex, stretching each of us on a yearly basis to benefit students.

I inform my planning & make the most of resources:

  • Pre-test to see what the baseline of learning is for my classroom and individual students. This includes looking at learning plans, behavior plans, and notes from teachers/admin/special education instructors/counselors. I also gauge much on interactions with them, looking for undiagnosed LDs, family/housing issues, dispositions, and indications of their engagement with school. Add on top of this a smattering of pre-tests and the student’s own beliefs about their ability to success in my class.
  • Time Management & Planning Flexibility
    I have 90 minutes two days per week with 30 students. They come with their own needs and attention spans, which may or may not mesh with the learning objective I have that day. Often, I adjust entire plans, speeding up, slowing down, or re-teaching a topic.
  • Reflection from Results
    At the end of a unit, I assess my students in some cumulative way. This allows me to see gauge what they gained as a result of our time together. I use the results to reflect on where we need to go next as a class, and how I can inform my teaching next time around.

Through this cycle of pre-testing, planning flexibly, and reflecting from my results, I jot down notes, take mental snap shots, and open up my Atlas site to map curriculum, make quick notes, and changes.

My School Has Provided Resources to Map Curriculum in My Atlas System

Now sitting here at my desk, with my resources in front of me, I feel a little overwhelmed with where to start. I am teaching new (to me) content and I feel a little lost on how to take what is in my head and formulate a plan.

On one side of my desk is a collection of content I want my students to learn. On the other side is a system with standards I should align to, a calendar that limits my time, and the reality of where my students are starting.

I Begin….. with a link a colleague sent me. Doctor Ann Johnson did a webinar recently, on how to begin drafting a unit of instruction. She called it, “Coaching for Quality Curriculum”. I called it, “Put my thoughts on paper so I can stop staring at a blank piece of paper”.

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