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Carolyn's Blog

Vol. 5, No. 4

Curriculum Mapping and Differentiation: How They Work Together

Many schools are developing curriculum maps in order to have a better understanding of what is taught at what grade levels and to discover any gaps or overlaps in curriculum. Curriculum mapping creates both opportunities and challenges for teachers and schools embarked on differentiating curriculum. In this article we will examine some of the basics of curriculum mapping along with some of the advantages and challenges when combined with differentiation.

Curriculum Mapping: The Basics

  • Creates a snapshot of what is happening in curriculum throughout the building or district.
  • Are generally developed by a team, but the data in the maps must be collected from all teachers.
  • Organizes information about curriculum visually.
  • Gives a scope and sequence of what is actually being taught.
  • Should give a picture of what was actually taught and compare this to what was planned. These are not always the same!
  • Makes both gaps and overlaps obvious.
  • Should address not just what is being taught but also what is being learned.
  • Doing curriculum maps is an ongoing process. They are never “done”.
  • Opens up a dialogue between teachers about teaching and learning.
  • Can be developed and maintained through an Internet curriculum mapping system (eg. TechPaths)

What Might Be Contained in a Curriculum Map?

  • Essential questions
  • Content
  • Skills
  • Assessments
  • Resources
  • State standards
  • Common Core Standards
  • Lesson plans and activities
  • Products, projects and performances
  • Differentiation for different types of learners

Vertical Alignment in Curriculum Maps

  • Shows what students should have been introduced to, are working on or have mastered in the previous grade.
  • Allows teachers to build on students’ previous knowledge. Facilitates cross grade level connections that can be essential for differentiation.
  • Advantage for differentiation: Teachers can more easily look at the map and see ways to remediate (go back within the map) or accelerate (go forward within the map) certain students.
  • Challenge for differentiation: How can we individualize curriculum maps to include the fact that some students are working above grade level and some are working below grade level?

Horizontal Alignment (Pacing Guides) in Curriculum Maps

  • Teachers at the same grade level follow the same pacing as they address the subject matter.
  • Allows for grade level team planning of units.
  • Advantage for differentiation: Teams of teachers at a grade level who are teaching the same thing at the same time can regroup students and specifically target needs.
  • Challenge for differentiation: Students do not all work at the same pace. Some need more time to finish assignments and learn the basic knowledge and skills. Others need less time. How can this be included on curriculum maps?

Interdisciplinary Connections

  • Helps show connections between subjects.
  • Students can link information between subjects which makes learning more relevant.
  • Advantage for differentiation: Many strategies in differentiation lend themselves to interdisciplinary projects and activities. Curriculum mapping can help in planning for this to happen.
  • Challenge for differentiation: Targeting specific strengths and weaknesses in individual students and making sure higher level thinking skills are included throughout..

Coil, C. (2011). Curriculum Mapping and Differentiation: How They Work Together. E-Zine, Vol. 5, 4. www.carolyncoil.com.