Curriculum mapping is a reflective process that allows teachers to plan for the future by reviewing what happened in the past. When done correctly, this method can help you plan your curriculum for an entire year and meet the developmental and educational goals set for your children.
In this article, we’ll discuss curriculum mapping—what it is, its benefits, and how you can create one for your preschool class.
What is curriculum mapping?
Curriculum mapping is a planning process where educators collect, record, and diagram curriculum-related data—content, skills, processes, assessments, and standards—into a map that keeps track of what children have been taught and informs future instruction. A curriculum map acts as a guide to ensure that your early childhood education plan covers preschool standards and meets the needs of all children in your classroom.
When educators incorporate mapping into preschool curriculum planning, it allows them to document how each component of the curriculum works with or against each other. Reviewing a curriculum map can help identify gaps, redundancies, and inconsistencies by evaluating expected learning outcomes against what is taught and assessed. A curriculum map allows you to analyze what your preschoolers have learned and use that information to build on their prior knowledge. Once you have a better understanding of what your children know, you can bridge any gaps and avoid repeating content or skills they’ve covered.
As education becomes more standards-based, at both the state and national levels, curriculum mapping allows you to create a complete and well-rounded educational experience for your preschoolers. Curriculum mapping is often viewed as an individual effort; however, it is most effective when it is implemented as a system-wide process. The benefits of this collaborative effort become obvious when curriculum mapping boosts achievement of the following goals:
- Horizontal coherence: A curriculum that is horizontally coherent or horizontally aligned means that the knowledge and skills being taught in one preschool classroom reflect what other children are learning in another preschool classroom. This ensures that any assessment method, whether formal or informal assessments, used to evaluate your children’s progress and success are based on what has been taught and the early learning standards that preschool children are expected to meet.
- Vertical coherence: A curriculum that is vertically coherent or vertically aligned means that it prepares preschoolers for what’s next, whether it’s a lesson or their next grade level. The goal of curriculum mapping through vertical coherence is to ensure that your preschool lesson plans are structured and sequenced so children are building on what they’ve already learned and acquiring the knowledge and skills they need to prepare them for more challenging work.
- Subject-area coherence: The goal of curriculum mapping for subject-area coherence is to ensure that teachers are working toward the same learning standards in similar courses. This means that your children are receiving the same quality of instruction and are learning the same amount of content as other preschoolers. For example, if your preschoolers are learning how to count and recognize numbers, other preschoolers on the same level are learning the same math concepts.
- Interdisciplinary coherence: A curriculum that is coherent in an interdisciplinary sense—aligned across multiple subject areas—means that educators work together to focus on skills that children need to succeed in any course. For your preschoolers, these skills can include fine and gross motor skills, social skills, and listening skills. In a curriculum that has interdisciplinary coherence, you might focus on the children’s writing skills as they learn to use a pencil, color, count, and practice letter recognition.
Curriculum maps can be created for each grade or subject level. To ensure that your preschool curriculum map meets the goals above, it is necessary to look at the scope and sequence of your plan.
The scope defines the topics or learning objectives you’ll cover in your course. Your scope answers the question, “What will my preschoolers know and be able to do?” The sequence is the order in which your learning objectives are taught. Your sequence answers the question, “When will we learn about a specific objective?” This allows you to implement effective scaffolding to continue building on the knowledge and skills of your preschoolers.
The scope and sequence are the foundation of your map; however; a preschool curriculum pacing guide will keep you on track to deliver the curriculum.
Preschool curriculum pacing guide
Curriculum guides are like itineraries for teaching. While they are sometimes used interchangeably with curriculum maps, there is a distinction between the two. A pacing guide outlines the sequential order of your preschool instruction and is intended to regulate the pace. This means it predicts and determines how much time is spent on your learning objectives.
You’ll find that a curriculum pacing guide shares many of the same benefits as a curriculum map. It helps avoid gaps in learning. It allows you to avoid unintentional repetition during teaching. Using a preschool curriculum pacing guide will also save you time throughout the year. As you prepare for any given week, your guide will clue you into what to teach, when to teach it, and for how long.
The biggest benefit of a curriculum pacing guide is that it provides a reference for making your lessons more effective for your preschoolers. Like with a curriculum map, with a curriculum pacing guide, your work is never complete. It should be updated regularly. Review your guide. Note where your children needed more or less time to master a skill. This allows you to ensure that the pace of your lessons is appropriate and effective for optimal learning.
How to create a curriculum map
The goal of creating your curriculum map is to guarantee coherence and alignment, from the second your preschoolers walk into your classroom to their last day of instruction. Use the following steps to create your curriculum map and maximize learning for your children.
1. Identify program goals
When creating your preschool curriculum map, it is helpful to think about it as a backward process. Start with your program goals first and build your map from there. This will include any state or government standards that are related to preschool-age children. Because each state is responsible for determining its early learning standards, a tool like brightwheel’s lesson planning feature makes the process easier, as it comes preloaded with the learning standards of each state.
2. Identify learning objectives
After identifying your program goals, use them to create the learning objectives for your preschoolers. This is where you determine the knowledge and skills they need to achieve by the end of the school year. In this context, your program goals are high-level ambitions for your preschoolers, while your objectives are specific, measurable abilities that determine whether the goals were met. For example, common preschool learning objectives include recognizing letter sounds and identifying the patterns of two objects, as well as working on several listening, communication, fine motor, and problem-solving skills.
3. Gather instructional materials
The next step in creating your preschool curriculum map is to prepare your instruction materials. At this stage in the process, you’re not focusing on how you will teach the information. Instead, you are focusing on what you will use. These resources will both assist you in teaching and help your children achieve their learning objectives. Examples of instructional materials you may use include textbooks, workbooks, videos, software, and web tools.
4. Plan your assessments
How do you plan to assess your preschoolers? As you build your curriculum map, decide what informal and formal assessments you will use. Examples of informal assessments include observations, one-to-one conversations, and samples of a child’s work. Alternatively, formal assessments include portfolios and progress report cards. The assessments you decide to use will offer insight into how well your children are learning the material. They can also help guide your process, improve your strategy, and decide what design and lesson plan templates you will use for future lessons and curriculum planning.
5. Plan your delivery
At this point in your curriculum map building, you are ready to outline and plan your delivery. Ask yourself, “How will I teach so the children can learn and achieve their objectives?” This step involves lesson planning strategies, using concepts and learning goals to create units, and creating timelines for teaching each unit. This is an ideal time to use all the work you’ve done to create a curriculum pacing guide to keep your lessons on track.
6. Create your map
Once you have identified what, when, and how you’re going to teach, you’re ready to create your map. While you can create your map with tools like Microsoft Word or Excel, you can also use the next section as a resource for templates to make the process easier.
Curriculum map template
Monthly curriculum map
This curriculum map from the Kalkaska public school system in Michigan can be adapted for your preschool class and creates a clear view of a lesson, from start to finish. In the last column, the education standards for the class are listed. The columns to the left demonstrate how your children will get to that point. For example, in September, one of the standards is listed as CCSS 8 (recall information and experiences). According to the map, we see that the children will work toward mastering this skill in lessons on introductory writing and getting ideas. Additionally, there are numerous resources and assessments that are outlined to test for mastery.
Yearly curriculum map
Your curriculum map should work cohesively to meet your state’s learning standards by helping your preschoolers master their learning objectives. The example above, from Pre-K Pages, demonstrates how your curriculum map can combine literacy, math, and science to teach children about winter, or any topic. It also outlines what information you can include in your map building, for example, book lists, vocabulary, questions to ask, and additional resources.
Themed curriculum map
The template above from Pocket of Preschool offers a look into their simple, easy-to-create curriculum map that is centered around themes. When using this template, you’ll assign two themes to each month, working on each for two weeks. You can create objectives that are related to the current theme for each subject.
Your map is never finished
Preschool curriculum maps are great tools for keeping track of what your children have learned and for ensuring that your curriculum meets their needs and the early learning standards of your state. As you’ve likely learned, in early childhood education, some strategies work better than others. Use your experience with each curriculum map to review what worked and what didn’t. This will give you a solid foundation for what you should include in future curriculum maps and confirm that each group of preschoolers who enters your classroom receives a fully-developed, constantly evolving education experience.