Best Ways To Align Curriculum Maps for Common Core

April 15, 2015
CJ Cannizzaro

Aligning Your Curriculum Maps for Common Core Mastery

The Common Core Standards reflect a major paradigm shift in the process by which students learn. For decades, instruction has been “a mile wide and an inch deep.” Teaching was all about exposing students to as much content as possible before the high stakes testing. The Common Core is constructed to facilitate the way students should learn – by mastering small skills one at a time. Since we know what skills are needed, they can be deconstructed into smaller targets. Students become proficient through scaffolded learning – one day at a time.


Just say NO to rote learning!

The Common Core Standards for Mathematics are a particular challenge for teachers when designing a curriculum map. What happens if your students have not mastered addition and subtraction? Do you move on to multiplication and division just because the map says so? It becomes quite clear that particularly in math, the importance of scaffolded learning should guide your instruction.

Gone are the days when students recited multiplication facts – in under a minute! Telling is not teaching – or learning for that matter.  It is all about understanding what 7 x 3 really means! Common Core Math not only requires students to find the answer, but explain how they solved the problem as well as identify the specific mathematical tools they used. Ask your students why we invert and multiply when we divide fractions – most will say “because that is the rule.” Few will know the why behind the rule. (HINT: It relies upon understanding the relationship of the numerator and denominator and the fact that you are looking for a fraction of a fraction!)

Since the Common Core Math Standards call for a greater focus on fewer topics, instruction can be designed to “dig deeper” into the why behind the rule. Students will develop a conceptual understanding of mathematical principles and the ability to apply the math they know to solve problems inside and outside the classroom.

common core

Curriculum Maps are not written in stone

Exemplary curriculum mapping should be a collaborative effort with all stakeholders. The creation of a quality “blueprint” cuts across grade levels, schools, districts as well as statewide. Backward Design is the key to ensuring that the first six weeks of the new school year are not wasted by reviewing the previous year’s skill sets – but rather, an extra six weeks of effective learning!

Assessments provide the foundation for the “diagnosis” which in turn guides the creation of the “prescription” for improving student performance – curriculum maps. Well constructed curriculum maps require effective communication between administrators and teachers – it is important that administrators know mapping well enough to model it for their teachers.


Curriculum Map Summary

Once teachers become proficient at curriculum mapping they will be able to implement the teaching strategies that best support mastery of the Common Core Standards.

This basically involves three simple steps:

  1. Identify the desired results (goals or standards)
  2. Develop the curriculum based upon evidence of learning (performance indicators)
  3. Design instructional strategies/learning experiences for student success

It is important to understand that this is not “teaching the test” but rather “teaching to the test” — and that is exactly what teachers should be doing! Teaching the problem solving and critical thinking skills students need will ensure that they will be prepared for success on the assessments.

CJ is a certified professional educator with a MS in Instructional Technology. With over 25 years in education she is a consultant  to educational textbook publishers, school districts and corporations. As a professional development and training specialist  she was a major contributor to the CPALMS project, as well as a designer and facilitator for the Florida PROMiSE Grant Initiative.  She has written professional development courses to integrate technology in the classroom and collaborated with school districts  on Common Core for Math grades K-8. Originally a NJ native, she now resides in Florida where she continues to share her teaching strategies and educational technology ideas.