New Teacher Advocate — New Teacher Advocate Spring 2016
Change Language:
Curriculum Mapping To Meet State Standards
Aaron R. Gierhart


I can relate to the experiences of a new teacher. After teaching first grade for 5 years, I recently elected to switch to third grade. Multiplication has replaced addition, and geography skills have expanded beyond the student’s route to school.

With the rigor of Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and upcoming testing for my small rural school district, it is imperative my third graders show they have learned the planned curriculum. Fortunately, my district began mapping our curriculum about three years ago, so I have digital maps to offer guidance as I teach third-grade content for the first time.

Essentially, curriculum maps are digital representations of what each grade level in a district teaches within each content area. They detail when and for how long content topics are taught during the school year. Additionally, maps can include further details, depending on the district’s scope and the components of the mapping software. My district maps each unit of instruction within a content area using the Rubicon Atlas ( The map of each unit includes learning standards, essential questions, learning objectives, and assessments.

Take advantage of previously created curriculum maps and opportunities to participate in creating or updating them. The benefits for you as a new professional educator and for your students fall into four main categories.

Lesson Planning

• Use curriculum maps as a convenient, centralized guide for daily lesson design. At the beginning of the school year, I saw on the curriculum map that I was to teach a short review unit on problem solving using the scientific method. The mapping software also contained the instructional objectives and essential questions. When I met with my new grade-level team, I was better prepared to ask specific questions about experiment designs we might use in this unit.

• Save team meeting time with prior use of curriculum maps. Without my prior access to the curriculum maps, my new team would have had to take considerable time explaining the unit and objectives to me before beginning specific, collaborative lesson-planning dialogue. As teachers, our time is precious. I highly recommend using curriculum maps to lesson plan and collaborate efficiently.


• See the progression and correlations of curriculum in one place. Viewing a timeline-style map allows me to see the entire year’s worth of third-grade math in a single web page. I can click on units of instruction and gain better understanding of each one in isolation; further, with a few clicks, I can gain insight into how each unit builds a progression of knowledge and skills leading to subsequent units or even the next grade level.

• Create and use curriculum maps to truly immerse yourself in the content you teach. As I continually work with my new grade level to revise curriculum, I have been able to really dig into the new content I teach simply by clicking on units on the timeline and opening the lesson plans and study materials. This has greatly expedited my understanding of the content and improved my instructional design and delivery.


• Eliminate content overlap between grade levels. To achieve progressions along grade levels, my district analyzed our current curriculum to determine where overlaps and deficits existed. Viewing the maps allowed us to see where the main teaching of a concept should take place, what instruction led up to and supported that main teaching, and when and how frequently the students should have re-teaching or review of various concepts.

• Align curriculum across grade levels. Common core or your state standards give specifics of what students in each grade level should master, with the depth of understanding and application increasing each time a concept is taught. Curriculum mapping facilitates the integration of CCSS by depicting at a glance what is being taught so that adjustments can be made to meet the current grade standards.


• Curriculum maps facilitate effective reflection. Curriculum mapping does not have a finish line. As you teach each unit of instruction, you will find that some techniques, activities, and strategies were more effective than others. The data we gather from our formative and summative assessments and our observations in our classrooms can be tracked for later discussion and potential curriculum revisions.

• Adjust your teaching as your team reflects on each unit. In my district, we refer to our curriculum maps as working documents because we review each unit together and make adjustments to the unit in our mapping software to reflect what worked and what we want to improve the next year. We can adjust scope and sequence, improve essential questions and learning activities, and fine-tune learning standard alignment with a few clicks.

Curriculum maps are fluid, representing the true art of teaching: We should always strive to improve our lessons and never teach a unit of instruction the same way twice. As you progress through your early years of teaching, participating in the work of curriculum mapping or revising curriculum maps will take your reflective efforts to a new level and help you improve local curriculum and your future instruction.

Curriculum Mapping Tools

• Rubicon Atlas:

• BuildYourOwnCurriculum:

• Curriculum 21™:

• Dynamic Internet Solutions Curriculum Trak:

• TODCM Curriculum Mapping System:

Mr. Gierhart teaches third grade at Millikin Elementary in Geneseo, IL. He holds a master’s degree in elementary education, specializing in elementary curriculum. In June, he will begin earning his doctorate in Teaching and Learning at Illinois State University.