A curriculum map is exactly what it sounds like: a plan to keep your lessons on track and make sure your students are exposed to the correct material to enable them to arrive at the end of the year armed with the information and skills they need.
To create a curriculum map, you need a curriculum plan. This might be your own plan, or it might be derived from district, state or federal expectations of a particular subject. It may be mandated by your school district. It may simply be derived from your knowledge of your topic, and knowing what you have found valuable in your professional life. Probably it will be a some combination of all of the above.
A curriculum map should include the number of days of instruction, the length of each instruction period, and a clear list of the assignments that students are expected to finish. This will be invaluable when you reach the stage of creating individual lesson plans. A good curriculum map prevents the year-end scramble where the instructor is trying to cram in at the last minute all the things that somehow didn’t get covered as hoped.
If you are planning for an elementary school or high school, or even for a college, be sure to allow a little wiggle room for snow days, assemblies, or other interuptions to instruction.
There are a number of ways to do the physical planning. My personal favorite is to create a table using a word processor, number and lable the days as a calendar. Highlight each day of planned instruction with a specific color for a class or grade. This way, you have a color key to follow through the year for that class.
Next, make a list for each class of the days it will be taught. Take a good look at your curriculum goals. Plan the dept of coverage with a realistic eye toward the class time available. Will you need to assign homework to cover all the items? Outside reading? Are the goals unrealistically high for the time provided? Now is the time to ask those questions, before the course begins, rather than waiting till just before commencement. Good planning saves a great deal of frustration on your part and on the part of your students.
Beside each of the relevant days, make a note of holidays, contests or special seasonal material to be covered. Plan ways to incorporate the needed skills into these events. Fill in regular assignment goals on other days. I like to cut and paste from my guide into word documents on my computer, but you can also use sticky notes on a chart, note cards, production software, or plain old paper and pencil.
A good curriculum map is a valuable tool. Not only does it keep instruction from becoming hurried in some places and over-taught in others, it also avoids that “what am I going to teach next week” syndrome on Friday afternoons when you are tired beyond belief; it prevents hasty “filler” plans that use up time you later wish you could retrieve; in short, like any good map, it helps you get where you really want to go, rather than wandering about the countryside (or topic), arriving late and unprepared.