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curriculum mapping early years

21 Nov Mapping the Early Years: To Template or Not To Template

Beginning an Early Years mapping initiative can be daunting for schools. Various moving parts, like different pedagogies and class structure, can encumber consistency in approach and expectations.

In partnering with schools all over the world, we have seen a number of approaches to capturing Early Years curriculum in Atlas. The two most common approaches are creating an Early Years-specific template or integrating the Early Years into the general mapping template. In this post, we are asking the question ‘to template or not to template?’

To answer our question, we reached out to two of our partner schools to learn about their approach to mapping the Early Years in Atlas. Read on to see how either approach can benefit your school’s process, and click the images to view their templates!

Creating an Early Years-Specific Template

Gemma Cleverley, Nursery Teacher, Gulf English School

curriculum map early years
Why did you choose to create a separate template for the Nursery program?

“We decided to do this as we work from a completely different curriculum, which covers completely different areas of learning to KS1 and KS2.”

What are the benefits of having a unique template for Nursery?

“The template we have chosen to use is much more adaptable to our curriculum that we follow, thus meaning it’s much more useful for our staff and children’s learning.”

How does curriculum mapping for Nursery differ from other levels?

“It’s different because we work from the 7 different areas of learning being: communication and language, physical development, personal, social and emotional development, literacy, mathematics, understanding the world and expressive arts and design. So, we have these to consider as we map out the curriculum. We also plan our lessons around a book and a theme, which then using this we cover all seven areas of learning.”

Based on template feedback from your Nursery teachers, have you modified your template?

“Yes, we modify all the time, if staff feel something would work better we discuss the ideas that they have and if we all agree the change or changes are in the best interests of the staff and children’s learning, then modifications are made. We see the template as a working document that must work for our staff and children and evolve with both, otherwise it’s a meaningless piece of paperwork.”

Integrating the Early Years into the General Mapping Template

Whitney Drennan, Head of Lower School, Louise S. McGehee School

curriculum map early years
Why did you choose to preserve the Pre-K maps within the default template?

“We are a PK – 12 school so it made the most sense to keep them on the same template.  This way we could truly align our skills and curriculum.  It was a little tricky at times, but overall worked very well.  The types of assessment categories were helpful as well.”

What are the benefits of keeping the template uniform across grade levels?

“It makes it easier to search and set up specific grade level meetings to discuss the various categories in the template.  A number of the programs we use in lower school begin pre-K so it wasn’t as difficult as it seemed at the onset.”

How do Pre-K teachers adapt their mapping to the specific needs of the program in the default template?

“The pre-K teachers and kindergarten teachers cover their skills in large units or projects. They also have specific skills that they break apart such as phonics, reading, math.”

Has the Pre-K program informed the development of the default template?

“The rest of the school dictated more of the types of categories we chose for the maps. We were then able to adapt the categories to work for pre-K and kindergarten. The use of Bloom’s Taxonomy and our assessment categories were easily applied to all grade levels. It was also fairly easy for teachers to identify the big ideas and essential questions even at the pre-K and kindergarten level. The teachers were uncomfortable with the process at the beginning; however, after years of mapping they have become quite skilled at the process.”

Are there any other insights about mapping Pre-K you want to share?

It is helpful to have at least one teacher per grade level that is really excited about the mapping process. This has made it easy to set up grade level meetings that are just focused on mapping. I also periodically go through the Maps and come up with suggestions for the lower school teachers to focus on during the curriculum mapping meetings. Having structure set to those meetings has been helpful for our teachers.

To see Early Years specific templates, visit our blog here!

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