Making Sense of Curriculum Through Mapping

We have rich Saskatchewan curricula, and an important step in planning is to make sense of what curriculum is asking students to know, do, and understand, and to connect to our local context. I just recently had a chance to work with the CTEP students in Cumberland House under the guidance of their instructor Lily McKay-Carrier. She calls this Nistota Curriculum (Understand Curriculum). Place matters, our students matter, and our own professional and personal knowledge matters when planning for instruction and assessment. Our professional judgment and expertise are what helps us design units of study that honour who are where we are teaching.

We know that outcomes are what students need to know, do and understand. They are the destination of instruction, while indicators are the ways that students might show us that they know.

So what is a process that we might use to make sense of curriculum? Mind mapping is a visual way to see connections between curricular ideas and link to our teaching context.

Steps for Mind Mapping:

  1. Determine what course(s) and outcome(s) you are going to cluster into one unit of study.
    • If you are creating a cross-curricular unit, then you might want to start with one course and then link to others.
    • Some curricula cluster outcomes into strands that make sense to teach as one unit (i.e. science and social studies), while others make sense to cluster outcomes from different strands or teach them alone (i.e. mathematics), as a strand is too large.
    • Sample Unit: Diversity of Living Things – Science 6
  2. Identify what concepts students would have interacted with BEFORE this unit that would have provided a foundation, and what concepts this unit feeds into next.
  3. Read over the outcomes to get a general sense of what the unit of study will be about. If you were to describe this unit to someone who is not a teacher, what might you say in a sentence or two?
  4. Highlight the main concepts identified in the outcomes and indicators. These are often the NOUNS.
  5. Mind map the main concepts to see how they connect. Often, there is repetition between outcomes, so this helps to streamline the unit.
    • Ask yourself what activities based on your community or your personal and professional knowledge might connect to curricular ideas. Add these to your mind map.
    • Sample Unit: Mind Map of Diversity of Living Things generated in collaboration with CTEP students fall, 2020.

Once you have generated teaching ideas, ask yourself if these honour the intent of the indicators in your curriculum. If a student did these things, would they be able to show that they know, do or understand this outcome?

Developing your Mind Map into a Unit of Study

Once you have created a mind map of key concepts and teaching activities, you can

  1. develop essential questions that pull together the unit.
  2. Develop an instructional sequence that includes:
    • Learning Activities
    • Assessment – both formative and summative
    • Materials/resources required

You can see the beginning of a draft unit of study created in collaboration with CTEP students in fall, 2020 focusing on Diversity of Life in Science 6.

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