By Amber Villa-Zang, Rubicon International, featuring Ann Johnson
Ever watch a batter set up before the pitch? They often look at the plate to find the perfect footing. They then bend their knees, shift focus to the bat where they place their hands just so, feel out the correct grip, and take a few practice swings to make sure everything is aligned. This routine can appear casual, but is most likely the product of years of training and a fundamental understanding that any hope of a hit relies on proper set up. The same can be said for implementing a school or district initiative. Here, Ann Johnson, an experienced educator, administrator, consultant and instructional coach, speaks to us from the dugout to offer strategies for setting up Successful Curriculum Mapping at your school or district.
Stepping up to the Plate
As a building principal and Associate Superintendent implementing Curriculum Mapping in two systems and now as a consultant and coach working with schools across the country and internationally, there are some fundamental tasks that I believe help leaders establish a strong foundation needed to sustain this important work long term.
Like anything else, administrators always wrestle with the time it takes in Laying the Foundation versus getting to the actual work. Laying the Foundation is the cornerstone for the work. The problem is if you don’t take the time to establish the foundation, the likelihood of being successful is slim. It resurfaces through comments like: “Who made this decision?” “Why are we doing this?” “What is it?” And the dreaded, “Where are we going with it?”
Based on my experience, I would like to share 5 things and possible starter activities or examples for administrators to consider as you begin this work. If you have already started the work, these can be woven back in your process.
1. Determine Your Team: Think WE, Not I
Activity: Map Your Team
- Clarify the purpose of the Team.
- Identify the key individuals who currently support or could support implementation.
- Consider other possible members for the team.
- Define their roles and responsibilities.
2. Create a Shared Vision
A shared vision is critical for success. Taking the time to shape and craft it involving the key players helps to eliminate confusion and ensure that everyone is on the same page.
A Shared Vision:
- Clarifies the purpose for implementing the Curriculum Mapping in your school
- Helps create a common definition and terminology
- Provides an opportunity to connect “all” the school improvement efforts
- Lays the foundation for setting goals
- Sets the stage for sustaining the work long term
Activity: Clarifying Your Vision
Record your team’s responses to the following questions:
- Describe the curriculum a few years ago?
- How would you describe the current curriculum?
- When you implement Curriculum Mapping, how will you describe it.
This provides a visual that helps staff to see the progression.
3. Craft Your Goals and Identifying Your Action Steps
Determining your goals helps to crystallize and breathe life into your vision. As you think about your goals consider, What is it we want to accomplish between now and a year from now?
Using the criteria from SMART Goals as a filter or lens can help make your goals more precise and tangible. Once you have crafted your goals, a natural step in the process is to break them down or “unpack them.” What are the action steps that will ensure success at completing each goal? When you break down the action steps, it also helps to identify the specific training needed by staff to be successful. This also helps to clearly determine the pieces. Once the Action Steps are determined, you can prioritize and sequence the steps.
Sample Goals and Action Steps:
- Example that represents possible goals after you have started mapping. [ see example ].
- Example that represents getting started [ see example ]
4. Develop An Implementation Plan
Sample Plan in Atlas
[ see example ]
5. Help Staff Connect the Pieces
Activity: Connecting the Pieces
Pull up a quality unit in Atlas. In teams of 6-8, ask them to discuss – What information they can glean from the map? What are the elements? How could teachers use mapping to inform classroom instruction?
Next, ask them to brainstorm the different school improvement activities going on in the district. This can be done with sticky notes or using a digital 2.0 tool like Padlet. Encourage them to put a single item on a sticky note.
After brainstorming the initiatives, ask them to work in pairs and divide up the sticky notes and discuss the connection with mapping? Where would you find it on a map? Have each pair in the group share out their findings?
Have questions for Ann? You can contact her through her website www.annjohnson.net and while you’re there, look through her robust collection of resources.