At this point every year, I begin to reflect on my units and think about what next year might look like. Which units worked well? Which units need to be tweaked? Which units need to be tossed entirely? Do my units need to be rearranged? Where should my focus go this summer (other than the beach, haha)? All of those decisions are reflected in my curriculum map, and I wanted to share my decision-making process with you. I wish someone had set everything out this way for me!
As a new teacher, I didn’t use a curriculum map. My first year, I followed the other teachers in my grade level and mostly moved through the basal. It was safe, met the standards, and provided me lots of support as a new teacher. During my first year, however, I also attending a series of professional development courses on reading and writing workshops. Our school began trying those ideas, and I started noticing more growth in my students as a result.
In my third year teaching, I decided to throw out the basal map, most of the workbook pages, and the spelling program too. I’ve received tons of questions about this and know I know it can be an overwhelming process, so I hope this helps.
I kept any stories from the basal that I felt were truly quality stories. They were the ones that were well-written, engaging, and most loved by my students the year before. I did the same with the leveled readers that came with the textbook. Lots of them went out the window. This meant I needed more guided reading books. I went into the old textbook adoption materials and pulled out more leveled readers. I picked through them the same way. I also went into our school book room and organized it by genre (yes, myself while I had a student teacher). The books were already sorted by level, so I only had to regroup them by genre and make little shelf labels. In the process, I noted favorite books that I wanted to use in addition to leveled readers. I played nice and left them in the book room (ahem, that’s the way book rooms work people you can’t use the same books all year so please share them). When I finished that process, I had the bulk of my reading material.
Now what do you do with all of those books? I took the reading material and sorted it by genre. This meant breaking up basal stories and their assigned leveled readers. Then I pieced everything back together into my monthly units. Instead of following the basal themes, I was now following my own curriculum map. It just made more sense to me to teach this way.
My last step was to start pulling and creating materials for minilessons within each unit. This part changes from year to year depending on my class, but I’ve created binders to organize myself. Now when I’m looking for inferring lesson, I have a whole toolbox of them. I’ll share more on the specifics of the binders later, but for now I want to let the idea of creating your own curriculum map set in.
Here are some of my documents so you can see my thought process. This is my first attempt with sheets for reading, writing, and word study. I obviously didn’t only teach the strategies and skills for one month, but the months listed were the ones where I knew I needed to hit those skills heavily. I was still using the basal map more than I wanted to and some classes needed different skills at different times. I was glad I had all of the materials organized into binders, but I needed to be less rigid with my map. I tossed out that part of my map and tried again.
This is my current version. It’s actually copied from my lesson plan book so you can see the specific stories I taught for whole-class reading as well as my colored guided reading groups. It also lists my writing, science, and social studies units. It makes long-term planning so much easier! I’ll be back to share my binders just as soon as I can get pictures together for you. Until then, I encourage you to create something like this for yourself if you don’t already have it.