Admit it: thinking, talking or in any other way engaging about curriculum makes you want to gag. It’s okay – I won’t think any less of you for admitting it. Curriculum writing and development is one of the driest subjects I can imagine in education today. I have been on those curriculum writing committees. For as much as you think you are changing the very nature in which children will learn material, the reality is much less gratifying.
TYPICAL CURRICULUM WRITING
Here’s what it normally looks like: a group of people crammed together in a small musty room with several laptops. The first hour or so is spent sifting through the state curriculum guides (if you can get past the dust that covers the binders) and then discussing a couple of ideas for improving the presentation of that material. You might get to spend an entire day on this part if you’re lucky. People are given the privilege of bickering about what should be taught at what time (1st quarter versus 3rd quarter, etc) and then a final sketch of the curriculum is laid out.
The next several days are spent with everyone sitting at their laptops typing out lesson plans and curriculum writing with the final draft being given to the supervisor at the end of the week. The curriculum is presented to the staff in the early fall and then the whole process starts again the following spring. If given the choice between writing curriculum and having a filling put in at the dentist’s office, I would actually need a few minutes to think it over and decide which I’d rather do. In fact, I might need more than a few minutes. Come back in about an hour.
Now, having fully acknowledged how dull this can be (give me that pencil to poke my eye again), I am going to try and convince you to get excited about curriculum alignment. Here’s what’s so fantastic about The Curriculum Map. This nifty invention aligns both content objective and arts objectives to visually show you which areas make a natural connection.
Once you have those natural connections between the content and the arts in place, surprising things begin to happen. Teachers start dreaming about possibilities for lessons. Possibilities lead to collaboration. Collaboration with other teachers and artists lead to excitement. Excitement leads to engaging lessons. And engaging lessons lead to student achievement! See? I told you curriculum could be exciting!
This is not an easy process, however. This requires a lot of time, preferably from a group of people, to look through the objectives of each content and fine arts area and determine if there are any natural objective matches. Once you find one, you simply write both of the down and create a chart.
Here’s an example of what a curriculum map looks like:
The preceding chart is for a kindergarten curriculum during the 3rd quarter in math. We have done these for every grade level, every quarter and every content area. Definitely a big undertaking (a year long process for me), but well worth the effort.
WHY DO THIS?
You see, there are two big complaints from teachers for starting an arts integration program: they can’t find the objectives for the arts areas and there’s not enough time to write the lessons. These maps take care of both of those problems. With these, you can be assured that a lesson will be an authentic arts integration lesson because the objectives are already naturally aligned and waiting.
Teachers no longer have to sift through binder after binder to find objectives that work well together. In addition, once teachers see the multitude of ways in which the areas connect, their own creativity will begin to be engaged and lessons will start to practically write themselves.
Curriculum mapping is an exhaustive task, but one that will certainly allow your arts integration program to jump light years ahead in a very short period of time. Your teachers will appreciate the time saved and will get excited about the possibilities for teaching again. And your student body will have access to so many new ways to learn content that they will be fully engaged each new day. So what’s keeping you from getting started? Map away!
Susan Riley is the founder and President of EducationCloset.com. She focuses on teacher professional development in arts integration, Common Core State Standards, 21st century learning skills, and technology. She is also a published author and frequent presenter at national conferences on Arts Integration and Arts and the Common Core.
Susan holds a Bachelor of Music degree in Music Education from the prestigious Westminster Choir College in Princeton, NJ and a Master of Science in Education Administration from McDaniel College in Westminster, MD. She lives in Westminster, MD with her husband and daughter.