Time is a far more valuable resource for teachers than any curriculum, classroom material, or computer. We are always running out of time no matter how hard we work to manage it. The hardest part is that we are given more expectations of standards we need to teach without any more time. Besides actual teaching, we must make phone calls, attend meetings, plan lessons, and grade papers. The to-do list of a teacher never ends.
Watching Veteran Teachers Struggle to Find Time
When I first taught as a paraprofessional in a fourth-grade classroom it wasn’t long until I was being pulled to cover meetings, or the classroom teacher ask me to help grade homework. They weren’t difficult tasks, and I was happy to help, but you could see how the teachers were desperate for time.
Become a Curriculum Mapper and More Time in Your Schedule to Teach
It’s impossible to fit everything that must be done in each day and take care of all the questions, social problems, and manage the chaos. Teachers need to use everyone and everything they can to do their job well and teach everything they are supposed to. Here are seven steps that will help you manage your curriculum schedule more effectively.
What is a Curriculum Map?
A curriculum map is a plan for the whole school year of how curriculum and lessons are going to be used. Usually, it is a plan of how teachers should use their textbooks, and what parts should be finished before state testing. Often times, to make sure the topics tested are taught before the test, the curriculum won’t be taught in the order it was written.
Part of this map is a timetable. Maybe you get two weeks for each math unit or something like that. It tells the teacher when things should be taught. Often we are handed the curriculum map and expected to follow it.
Articles About Curriculum Mapping
If you want some more ideas about what curriculum map are and why they are important check out these great reads.
Becoming a Next-Level Curriculum Mapper
Rather than taking the curriculum map handed to us as more work, or being told what to do, I think we should embrace it. If we become next-level curriculum mappers we can have a better plan for our school year, less stress through the year, and see our students be successful.
1. A Curriculum Mapper Takes Time to Plan
I know when your schedule is packed it’s hard to take time to plan and make a curriculum mapper schedule, but in the long run, it will actually save you time. Set aside an hour to plan your ELA block for the year. Start with a basic plan using your school’s curriculum map and add more details to it as you work. The next steps will guide you through what to do with the hour you set aside.
2. A Curriculum Mapper Gets to Know Their Standards Better
Some teachers know their standards well, and others don’t. There’s a lot of them so it can be hard to keep track. Print and read the standards, but as you read over them write a lesson you already plan on teaching in the margin that meets the standard. Or maybe you’ll get a brilliant idea of what to teach while you read them. This exercise will give you a good idea of what areas you will still need lessons for.
3. Become a Curriculum Mapper
Many schools provide a curriculum map that is a basic outline of what should be taught when, but it’s time to add your own plans on top of it. First, write specific lessons for each part of the map the school provided. If they want you to teach informational writing in November then write the name of the unit you are going to teach (even if you will be creating it). Then add the title of the lesson and standards you are going to meet by teaching it. As you assign standards cross them off your standards list.
Remember you do not have to cover all the standards in one lesson or unit. For example, you do not have to cover all the narrative writing standards with your first narrative writing lesson. Your focus could be on story structure early in the year and later you cover sensory details and hooks.
You don’t always have to create a whole unit to teach a standard. There is likely a way you can teach students about sensory details without writing a whole story. Personally, I love poetry as a fun way to teach sensory detail lessons.
4. Curriculum Mappers Work Smart
Let one lesson meet standards in two subject areas. Just like you do not have to teach all the narrative standards in one lesson you can try to meet standards across multiple subjects with one lesson. For example, in fourth grade the students wrote a persuasive piece about visiting their assigned state, it met both ELA and history standards.
5. Curriculum Mappers Know What Else They Need to Teach
What standards do you have left? If you’ve used your list of standards to guide you while completing your curriculum map and plan you know what standards you still need to complete. Think about how you can meet these standards throughout the year. You may need to add more lessons, but you might just need some bell ringer activities, educational games, homework ideas, or even sub plans. Get creative.
6. Curriculum Mappers Have a Weekly Plan for ELA.
I have taught ELA in two ways over my years of teaching.
First, I have done a little bit of each part of ELA each day. For example, I would start with a spelling activity, followed by grammar, then a writing mini-lesson, and wrap up with reading.
The second way I have taught ELA is to assign one day to grammar, one day to reading, one day to writing, and so forth. It made it easy to plan and gave me long chunks of time to work on one subject.
I think the former is a more effective way to teach ELA because that way students are practicing their ELA skills almost every day. The biggest challenge with this method was it was harder to manage my time effectively in the given block.
7. Curriculum Mappers Find and Make Time
It takes some work to find more time for ELA. Most administrations have a schedule set up for you. You might have to talk to your admin to make this work. It’s about finding a few minutes here and there that can add up to a decent amount of time. Even 10 extra minutes of ELA can give you a lot more time to work with your students.
Can you shorten your morning meeting by 5 minutes? Can you work on having fast and consistent transitions? Less homework because there is more time to work in class is a good motivator. Can you simplify your homework recording process so it’s faster? There are definitely parts of your day that you can’t move around like specials, but you have to look for the little parts you can change so you have time to teach what you need to.
Follow Your Plan and Let Go
Have you noticed that some of the more seasoned teachers teach the standards, but don’t stress over them? They have learned to let go, trust that they are good teachers, and their students will learn. Don’t wait until late in your career to do this. Let go of the stress and trust yourself because you have a good plan and are a good teacher.
More Classroom Management, Poetry and Writing Tips and Resources
Here are some more great tips and ideas on how to include poetry in your classroom.
Here is Your FREE Prompt for Writing Poetry
I know that you needed a prompt to help kickstart your students’ writing. Here is an entire lesson for FREE. My Our School Poem guides students through using sensory language to describe their school. The step-by-step directions guide your class through the writing process with all the necessary worksheets make this the perfect lesson for your classroom.