Do You Struggle to Teach All Your Standards?
No matter what course they teach, most teachers have at least one common problem: covering all their standards.
Over my twenty-odd years of teaching, standards changed multiple times – and usually increased in number. So how can teachers fit it all in?
I’ll be honest and admit that it isn’t easy. Elementary teachers can integrate subjects to save some time, but it still takes a lot of careful planning to teach all of the standards in a school year. I have created a 5th Grade Curriculum Map you can download by signing up for my weekly emails.
Creating Curriculum Mapping
Using curriculum mapping can help teachers make sure they have enough time to cover all of their standards. A curriculum map is a year-long plan of when different topics and skills will be taught. By taking the time to create a plan, teachers can easily see how much time they have to teach different topics. (It’s so easy to spend a lot of time on a favorite topic, like Colonial Times, and then not have time to cover the rest of the standards.)
Depending upon what grade level and subject you teach, you’ll use different strategies to create your curriculum map. A few things you will need to get started are:
Your District’s Curriculum Mapping – Many districts provide this for teachers. If yours does, be sure to use it as an outline for your own plan. My district’s plan includes far more skills than I can effectively teach, so I have to trim their suggestions down.
Your standards – If you can get a copy of your state standards, it will make this process a lot easier.
Blank Calendar or Blank Table – This really just depends upon your preference.
If you teach more than one class, see if you can integrate standards (such as 5th grade language arts and social studies). If you want to integrate, be sure to have a copy of each subjects’ standards.
If you teach only language arts, you may need to start the curriculum mapping process by determining what themes you will be using each quarter. Other subjects, including as math, science, and social studies, can start with their core topics.
For this post, I will explain how I created a map for integrating language arts and social studies in an upper elementary classroom. Although the process may be slightly different for other subjects, it will give you an idea of how to build a curriculum map.
Step 1: Map out the major topics.
I started my mapping by taking a table and labelling the first column Social Studies. For me, it is easier to match the language arts skills and materials to the social studies topic than the other way around – especially since my county teaches social studies in chronological order.
Step 2: Consider the time needed for each topic.
Although there are many standards to cover, teachers should next consider which ones are major and which are minor. In other words, they need to determine which standards will need more time to teach. Mark those major standards.
I then look at the number of standards and the location of the major standards to develop a rough estimate for how many weeks I could devote to each topic. (Don’t forget to subtract weeks for testing and other yearly events.)
Step 3: Make a list of reading skills to be taught.
Since I am integrating reading with social studies, I next created a list of reading skills I needed to teach. One I made a list of the skills, I marked which skills had been taught in previous grades and should be familiar to students and those which would be new or higher-level skills.
Step 4: Match reading skills to content topics.
Once I considered which skills I should teach before others, I thought about how they might match up to the social studies content. Sometimes skills and topics pair well together or I already have materials that would integrate the two items.
For example, I like to start the year with main idea, which students should know, and summarizing, which is often difficult for students and I have to review throughout the year. Both skills pair well with geography. For Native Americans, I know the standards focusing on understanding Native Americans cultures in different regions. I pair inference with that unit, as we can infer information from photographs as well as infer how the climate and physical geography would affect people living in the region.
Step 5: Repeat steps 4 & 4 for writing skills.
Writing is now expected to be taught or reinforced in every subject, so I just repeat the process in steps 3 and 4 for writing skills. However, as I am creating a map for upper elementary, I need to leave more time for writing in my plan than I might if I were teaching a middle school content area. (I have to teach both the subject and the writing skills themselves. Middle school subjects can focus more on students’ ability to express themselves in their writing and less on the actual writing mechanics.)
For upper elementary, teachers need to consider their standards for the different types of writing: narrative, informational/explanatory, opinion, and research. Be sure to include time for each of the types of writing that your grade is expected to teach. (Different grades focus more on some types of writing than others as well.)
Step 6: Plan the language standards.
It’s important to plan the language skills – these often get pushed aside when time gets tight. Language skills include grammar, mechanics, speaking, and listening. Some of these can be integrated within units, while others will need to be taught on their own.
For grammar, I like to start with parts of speech and move into mechanics as the year goes on. Be sure to check what students should already know and build in some review time.
I also like to plan when I will expect students to present projects in class. (A great time for project presentations is right before winter and spring break.)
Step 7: Plan the Read Aloud genres.
You might skip this step for some subjects, but for upper elementary I like to plan out when I will teach different genres. I don’t necessarily know which books I plan to read, but I at least map out the genres.
If I have favorite read aloud novels or mentor texts that pair with certain social studies units, I map those in first. I also consider which types of writing I will be teaching, because a class read aloud can sometimes coordinate with the writing.
Using Curriculum Mapping
Once your curriculum map is complete, you can start to map out what resources you will use to teach each unit. If you stay in a grade level or subject for more than one year, this can help you save planning time every year.
Just be sure to make notes on each unit and adjust your plan as the year goes on. For example, let’s say your unit on Ancient Greece ended up taking far longer than expected, note that on your curriculum map and think about what worked well and what didn’t. Make adjustments on your plan so that you are ready when you teach it next year.