Baseball pitcher in 4 stages of throwing

Successful Curriculum Mapping: 5 Strategies to Consider

By Amber Villa-Zang, Rubicon International, featuring Ann Johnson

Ever watch a batter set up before the pitch? They often look at the plate to find the perfect footing. They then bend their knees, shift focus to the bat where they place their hands just so, feel out the correct grip, and take a few practice swings to make sure everything is aligned. This routine can appear casual, but is most likely the product of years of training and a fundamental understanding that any hope of a hit relies on proper set up. The same can be said for implementing a school or district initiative. Here, Ann Johnson, an experienced educator, administrator, consultant and instructional coach, speaks to us from the dugout to offer strategies for setting up Successful Curriculum Mapping at your school or district.

Stepping up to the Plate

As a building principal and Associate Superintendent implementing Curriculum Mapping in two systems and now as a consultant and coach working with schools across the country and internationally, there are some fundamental tasks that I believe help leaders establish a strong foundation needed to sustain this important work long term.

Like anything else, administrators always wrestle with the time it takes in Laying the Foundation versus getting to the actual work. Laying the Foundation is the cornerstone for the work. The problem is if you don’t take the time to establish the foundation, the likelihood of being successful is slim. It resurfaces through comments like: “Who made this decision?” “Why are we doing this?” “What is it?” And the dreaded, “Where are we going with it?”

Based on my experience, I would like to share 5 things and possible starter activities or examples for administrators to consider as you begin this work. If you have already started the work, these can be woven back in your process.

1. Determine Your Team: Think WE, Not I

Get away from the notion that you are leading the process. In order to do it effectively, you need to form a Core Team or Leadership Team. Think about who could help support the process and help serve as liaison with their colleagues. As you identify potential team members, consider: Who are some of the key players that staff respect? Who are risk takers? Who could help communicate and share information with their colleagues? Who is willing to spend the time to help work on the vision and problem solve issues as they occur?

Activity: Map Your Team
  • Clarify the purpose of the Team.
  • Identify the key individuals who currently support or could support implementation.
  • Consider other possible members for the team.
  • Define their roles and responsibilities.

2. Create a Shared Vision

A shared vision is critical for success. Taking the time to shape and craft it involving the key players helps to eliminate confusion and ensure that everyone is on the same page.

A Shared Vision:

  • Clarifies the purpose for implementing the Curriculum Mapping in your school
  • Helps create a common definition and terminology
  • Provides an opportunity to connect “all” the school improvement efforts
  • Lays the foundation for setting goals
  • Sets the stage for sustaining the work long term
Activity: Clarifying Your Vision

Record your team’s responses to the following questions:

  • Describe the curriculum a few years ago?
  • How would you describe the current curriculum?
  • When you implement Curriculum Mapping, how will you describe it.

This provides a visual that helps staff to see the progression.

3. Craft Your Goals and Identifying Your Action Steps

Determining your goals helps to crystallize and breathe life into your vision. As you think about your goals consider, What is it we want to accomplish between now and a year from now?  

Using the criteria from SMART Goals as a filter or lens can help make your goals more precise and tangible. Once you have crafted your goals, a natural step in the process is to break them down or “unpack them.” What are the action steps that will ensure success at completing each goal? When you break down the action steps, it also helps to identify the specific training needed by staff to be successful. This also helps to clearly determine the pieces. Once the Action Steps are determined, you can prioritize and sequence the steps.

Sample Goals and Action Steps:
  • Example that represents possible goals after you have started mapping. [ see example ].
  • Example that represents getting started [ see example ]

4. Develop An Implementation Plan

The previous four steps lay the foundation and set the stage for the Implementation/Professional Plan. The Rubicon Team has worked with me to customize a template in Atlas that my schools could use to develop their Implementation or Professional Development Plans. My Core Team and I worked collaboratively to develop it together and entered the professional development days as units. As an Associate Superintendent, I required each building Core Team to develop their own plan. The building principal then took responsibility for entering it into Atlas and keeping it updated. The plan served as a tremendous platform for clear communication with staff and helped to focus professional development and increase productivity.

Sample Plan in Atlas

[ see example ]

5. Help Staff Connect the Pieces

It is common for staff and administrators to feel overwhelmed in the initial phases of implementing any new initiative, including curriculum mapping. One strategy that I have used with a number of schools that seems to help staff make connections with all the school improvement initiatives taking place in their school is “Connecting the Pieces.” I have found by taking the time to do this activity, it helps staff see relationships and connections. They begin to see mapping as a “hub” or connector, and more importantly, they are the ones who have made the connections.

Activity: Connecting the Pieces

Pull up a quality unit in Atlas. In teams of 6-8, ask them to discuss – What information they can glean from the map? What are the elements? How could teachers use mapping to inform classroom instruction?

Next, ask them to brainstorm the different school improvement activities going on in the district. This can be done with sticky notes or using a digital 2.0 tool like Padlet. Encourage them to put a single item on a sticky note.

After brainstorming the initiatives, ask them to work in pairs and divide up the sticky notes and discuss the connection with mapping? Where would you find it on a map? Have each pair in the group share out their findings?

Batter up!

If you’re interested in using Atlas to create a PD plan of your own, contact us via email at atlas@rubicon.com or by phone (1.503.223.7600) and we’ll be happy to set you up.

Have questions for Ann? You can contact her through her website www.annjohnson.net and while you’re there, look through her robust collection of resources.

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