Keys to Curriculum Mapping: Strategies and Tools to Make It Work


Susan Udelhofen

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    List of Figures

    • 2.1 Questions to Consider Before Beginning the Curriculum Mapping Process 11
    • 2.2 Curriculum Questionnaire for Teachers 13
    • 2.3 Steering Committee Planning Template 15
    • 2.4 Suggested Timetable Worksheet 17
    • 2.5 Backward (Journal) Mapping Versus Forward (Projection) Mapping 19
    • 2.6 Curriculum Mapping Timetable 22
    • 2.7 Faculty Discussion Questions 24
    • 3.1 Curriculum Mapping Template 30
    • 3.2 Math Topics and Content 32
    • 3.3 Language Arts Topics and Content 32
    • 3.4 Action Verbs 33
    • 3.5 Activities Versus Skills 34
    • 3.6 Fourth Grade Language Arts Map Sample 36
    • 3.7 Assessment Types 36
    • 3.8 Fourth Grade Language Arts Map Excerpt 37
    • 3.9 Step 2: Reviewing the Maps 41
    • 3.10 Step 2: Reviewing the Maps Sample 42
    • 3.11 Step 3: Sharing the Reviews With Colleagues 44
    • 3.12 Step 3: Sharing the Reviews With Colleagues Sample 45
    • 3.13 Action Plan Form 49
    • 3.14 Action Plan Sample 50
    • 4.1 Steps for Continuing Curriculum Mapping Beyond the Initial Cycle 54
    • 4.2 Essential Questions Sample 57
    • 4.3 Big Picture: Communication Flow Sample 59
    • 4.4 Configuration of Curriculum Teams and Communication Patterns 60
    • 4.5 Curriculum Review and Change Protocol 62
    • 5.1 Criteria to Consider When Choosing Curriculum Mapping Software 70


    Recently I was on the phone with a school principal and was struck with the respect and enthusiasm emanating from his voice when he spoke about Susan Udelhofen. We were discussing his work on curriculum mapping. “Susan has worked with us. She has made such a difference with our faculty. They trust her. She is credible because she has this no-nonsense way of going to the heart of how to really make mapping work.” It occurred to me that this is always the case with Susan. She is an exceptional educator and human being who inspires loyalty. There is wisdom in paying attention to her thinking, for she is consistently committed to the highest level of professionalism.

    Vividly I remember my first encounter with Dr. Udelhofen in Orlando, Florida, about 10 years ago. I had just presented at a conference there and was putting my materials on my model for curriculum mapping back into my briefcase. An open and warm educator approached me with wonderful questions, new angles, and ideas for mapping. Clearly, this earnest and intelligent woman was someone to listen to. This person was Susan Udelhofen. I consider it an honor to be her colleague. She has extended and deepened the field of curriculum mapping.

    The book you hold in your hands is filled with experience and insight into the curriculum mapping process. Based on her work as a teacher and consultant throughout the United States, she shares suggestions for the daunting task of getting started: how to engage your faculty, how to avoid the pitfalls, how to begin with an eye to the long view. Curriculum mapping is not the latest trend. It is a genuine shift in how we make decisions and communicate as professionals. By employing technology and rethinking what educators document and how they review and revise their curriculum, a 21st-century solution emerges.

    Dr. Udelhofen has enriched this exciting new field in education. Mapping did not exist 10 years ago in the way that we think of it now, because we did not have the means of communicating as we do now. By bringing technology into every classroom and between classrooms K–12, we can replace our more dated ways of planning. But making the transition is tough, even daunting. Dr. Udelhofen's contribution in these pages will help any educator interested in bringing their faculty into the new time with new tools to help their learners.

    Detailed coaching on the strategies for helping teachers enter data on maps with a strong understanding of each component on the maps is a highlight. One of the strongest features of the book is laying out ways to assist colleagues in communicating with one another about maps and assessment data. Dr. Udelhofen is always practical. She grapples with the intriguing and complex realities of a range of school settings: elementary, middle, and high school; the district office; private and public. She knows that “one size fits all” has never worked in education. This book will be of enormous help to staff developers, building and district administrators, and to classroom teachers at all levels of instruction.

    One of Dr. Udelhofen's great strengths is mentoring, as evidenced in her first book, The Mentoring Year (2000). She has a knack for guiding us through the obstacles and challenges of mapping with a steadiness and practicality that is reassuring. In a sense we are mentored by this master educator as we read through the pages of Keys to Curriculum Mapping: Strategies and Tools to Make it Work.

    Heidi HayesJacobs


    My deepest gratitude and respect to Heidi Hayes Jacobs for providing the Foreword. Her knowledge, encouragement, and generous spirit paved the way for this book and I am forever grateful.

    My sincere appreciation goes to the following colleagues, friends, and family members for their support and expertise:

    • Kathryn Udelhofen, my lovely daughter, who brought me Starbucks coffee and urged me to take breaks from my writing when she knew I needed them most.
    • Jean Ward, Corwin Press Editor, for her encouragement, sound advice, meaningful feedback, and ongoing support.
    • Dr. Jane Meyers, educator and very good friend, who gave up a portion of her Wisconsin vacation to read drafts and offer suggestions as I organized and completed my writing. I wish Arizona and Wisconsin were in closer proximity!
    • Tim Peterson, curriculum expert and colleague who read the manuscript, offered thoughtful feedback, and provided a much needed sounding board.
    • Greg and Claudia Quam, sister and brother-in-law and friends, who have dedicated their professional lives to education and offered valuable insight into this project.
    • Ann Johnson, Associate Superintendent of Instruction and curriculum mapping expert, for generously sharing curriculum map samples.

    The following educators and their respective faculties are at the heart of this book. They worked collaboratively with me as they implemented curriculum mapping in their districts, provided important curriculum mapping data, read drafts of the manuscript, and offered their feedback. This book would not have been possible without their help and I am Very grateful.

    • Sue Dohr, and Carol Topinka, Media Specialist and Curriculum Director, St. Francis School District, St. Francis, Wisconsin
    • Patti Kunz, and Brenda Bredeson, media/curriculum director and teacher, Juda School District, Juda, Wisconsin
    • Sue Pedro, Director of Elementary Curriculum and Instruction, Washington Local School District, Toledo, Ohio
    • Tammy Bauck, Curriculum Director, South Dakota Department of Education, Pierre, South Dakota
    • Kathy Hood, Curriculum Director, Spearfish School District, Spearfish, South Dakota
    • Glenn Bugni, Director of Instruction and Achievement, Antigo School District, Antigo, Wisconsin
    • David Bowman, Curriculum Director, Shawnee Heights School District, Tecumseh, Kansas
    • The many teachers who shall remain unnamed but are much appreciated for sharing their stories

    About the Author

    Susan Udelhofen is a national staff development leader providing consulting services to school districts, education agencies, universities, and colleges. Her work concentrates primarily on issues and practices related to curriculum mapping, teacher mentoring, assessment, standards, and program evaluation.

    Dr. Udelhofen earned a doctorate in curriculum and instruction and an M.S. in educational psychology, both from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

    Her experience includes work at the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction as a Goals 2000 consultant and gifted and talented consultant. She has taught courses in teacher mentoring, assessment, reading methods, children's literature, gifted and talented education, and also served as supervisor/instructor of preservice teachers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She is an experienced classroom teacher and holds current licensure.

    She is the coauthor of The Mentoring Year: A Step-by-Step Guide to Professional Development (2003, Corwin Press) and The Teacher Journal: Reflections About Teaching and Learning (self-published).

    Her presentation experience includes appearances at the National Staff Development Conference, Curriculum Mapping Institutes, New Teacher Center Symposium, American Research Association, National Reading Association, National School Conference Institute, and Wisconsin Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

    She resides in Madison, Wisconsin, with her husband and is the mother of two college-aged children. She can be contacted by e-mail at


    This book is dedicated to John, my husband and best friend, for his support, encouragement, patience, and love. I am very lucky.

    Introduction: The Curriculum Mapping Journey

    Good curriculum begins by asking all teachers to document the content and skills they teach and then providing opportunities for them to talk with one another about their real classroom teaching and how those practices affect our students. That was the message Heidi Hayes Jacobs shared with her audience at a national staff development conference in Orlando, Florida, in 1997. I was attending this session as a consultant for the Wisconsin State Department of Education and hoping to learn more about effective staff development. Little did I realize the profound ways that her thought-provoking perception of curriculum development would guide my professional journey.

    As I listened to her that morning, I began to reflect upon my experiences as a classroom teacher and realized that I had never been asked what I really taught in the classroom. Certainly my colleagues and I shared anecdotal comments about lessons and activities, but we did not discuss specific content, skills, and assessment issues. As I thought about the concept of curriculum mapping, I realized what a powerful exercise it would have been for me, and my colleagues, to have had the opportunity to write about and discuss our real classroom practices. I feel certain that the teachers in my building would have worked more closely together, our discussions would have been richer, and, most important, student learning would have improved.

    From that point I was determined to learn all I could about curriculum mapping. I attended curriculum mapping trainings, workshops, and conferences and read as much as I could about the process. I talked with numerous colleagues and educators who were leading teachers through the curriculum mapping steps. It was also at this time that I left the state department and started my own consulting practice, with a portion of it devoted to curriculum mapping.

    Now, recalling those first districts I worked with to implement curriculum mapping, I realize how much I learned and better understand the many complexities associated with changing the historic structure of curriculum development. The culture of the school, previous curriculum work, teacher attitudes, administrative commitment, time, and technology support were issues that had profound influences on the successful implementation of curriculum mapping. What began as a relatively simple process I soon discovered was a very complex endeavor.

    The purpose of this book is to help those who are beginning curriculum mapping and others who may be in the midst of implementation. The book presents the challenges and successes of curriculum mapping, strategies for implementation, and guidelines for long-term planning.

    What Is Curriculum Mapping and Why Is It Important?

    Curriculum mapping is a process by which all teachers document their own curriculum, then share and examine each other's curriculums for gaps, overlaps, redundancies, and new learning, creating a coherent, consistent, curriculum within and across schools that is ultimately aligned to standards and responsive to student data and other school initiatives. The concept of curriculum mapping originated in the 1980s with the work of Fenwick English, who defined curriculum mapping as a reality-based record of the content that is actually taught, how long it is being taught, and the match between what is taught and the district's assessment program (English, 1980). In the 1990s, Heidi Hayes Jacobs broadened English's definition of curriculum mapping and created a multiphased process for mapping the curriculum in her book Mapping the Big Picture (1997) and in her latest publication, Getting Results With Curriculum Mapping (2004). It is her concept of curriculum mapping that provides the basis for this practical guide, which connects curriculum mapping to current reform initiatives, and provides working templates that I have developed to help school teams with the process of digging into curriculum mapping and discussion, and true case stories of schools that have used this process to transform and revitalize teaching and learning.

    Curriculum mapping is the process where each teacher records the content and skills taught and how they are assessed and aligned to academic standards. These data are recorded by the month, which provides a common reference point and time-bound element to the maps. Essential questions are also components on the maps that provide the overarching questions that hold the curriculum together and guide our instruction to help students better understand the content and make real-world connections. Following the data collection, teachers read one another's maps, come together in small and large groups to discuss what they discovered as they read the maps, and finally make recommendations and suggestions for curriculum reform. By collecting their own curriculum data and discussing it with peers, teachers see the vertical grade-to-grade curriculum relationships as well as the horizontal curriculum picture within a grade level. This reflective, shared process invites teachers to think, write, reflect, discuss, and revise curriculum in thoughtful and collaborative ways. It is a long-term, ongoing process, and while challenging, it is a journey with remarkable outcomes.

    As Steffy and English (1997) suggest, curriculum is developed from any material a teacher refers to or uses to decide what to teach, when to teach it, and how much of it to teach. These sources or materials include the following:

    • Textbooks
    • Teachers' guides to textbooks
    • School board directives
    • Scope and sequence charts
    • Curriculum guides
    • State department guidelines
    • National guidelines
    • Administrator directives
    • Supervisor recommendations
    • Work plans
    • Purchased education materials
    • Prepackaged units and standards
    • Personal interest/travel experiences

    Often, these curriculum sources and practices are not documented in a consistent, comprehensive manner, nor are they shared among colleagues in meaningful ways. The result is an inconsistent, fragmented curriculum that does not optimize grade-to-grade, cross-content area learning experiences for our students.

    Heidi Hayes Jacobs (1997) expanded curriculum mapping in four significant ways: (1) a time element was introduced where each teacher documented the curriculum elements by month, (2) coordination and review of the curriculum information was established among buildings, (3) assessment information was included, and (4) the curriculum information was entered electronically. This work provided a framework to map the curriculum and change traditional curriculum development.

    As I learned more about the curriculum mapping process, I recalled my experiences as a second grade teacher and remembered a very large and significant gap in my curriculum: I didn't teach science. My science curriculum consisted of the science kits that sat unused in the back corner of my classroom. However, I felt I made up for my lack of science teaching with my stellar social studies units. I was convinced my students would get more than enough science education as they progressed to the upper grades. Although my elementary classroom experience occurred a number of years ago, this remains a relatively common occurrence in many of our schools today. While all teachers have areas of expertise and teaching preferences, we have to consider what is in the best interests of students. History suggests that for many teachers, a perception of “self-employment” is very common due to the isolated nature of the profession. This isolated approach to curriculum development and teaching practice pays little credence to the students' experiences beyond the scope of the individual teacher's classroom or to the current age of state-mandated standards and high accountability. Mapping the curriculum brings teachers out of isolation and provides a focused, reflective, and collaborative process that has a positive impact on all stakeholders—most important, on students, but also on teachers who benefit from the new collegiality and shared purpose, support, and responsibility.

    What I Have Learned

    Over the course of the past seven years, I have worked with thousands of teachers in large urban and small rural schools throughout the United States. While my confidence, excitement, and motivation about curriculum mapping continues to grow, I acknowledge that it is a multilayered, complex journey. I have learned, at times the hard way, the factors that influence the successful implementation of curriculum mapping.

    Before beginning the curriculum mapping process, it is vital to examine the history, culture, and climate of a district, including teacher and administrator fear of change and the ever-pressing lack of time. Combining the strong support of administration with shared leadership among teachers is essential for success. Flexibility and patience further impact the degree to which curriculum mapping thrives. In addition, as a result of working with many school districts at various times during the mapping process, I've learned that curriculum mapping can be more easily implemented with the expertise and objectivity of external assistance. A knowledgeable, experienced curriculum mapping expert can provide vital training, if not to the entire staff, then to those leading the initiative. Guidance at the beginning, and support during the curriculum mapping process, will serve to be a wise and time-saving choice.

    Curriculum mapping goes far beyond creating a set of maps. The process itself has far-reaching implications for building healthy school environments. Curriculum mapping creates an environment for collaboration, reflection on practice, and discussion of individual and collective belief systems about teaching and learning. Curriculum mapping also provides the authentic process data sorely needed in this age of accountability, high-stakes exams, and federal legislation. This process respects the knowledge and expertise of teachers and serves to elevate the teaching profession.

    The Design of the Book

    This book is designed to assist teachers, curriculum leaders, and administrators in the process of curriculum mapping. While presenting the strengths and challenges associated with curriculum mapping, I offer strategies for addressing the challenges, detailed curriculum mapping steps, teacher stories and anecdotal comments, and implementation forms and templates. These tools can help any district embarking upon this most rewarding and meaningful journey.

    Structural Overview of the Book
    Chapter 1: Making the Case for Curriculum Mapping

    This chapter provides the research base for curriculum mapping and the ways the process builds collaboration, encourages reflective thought, explores the shared vision of teaching and learning, and focuses on student learning. It includes an examination of the reasons why curriculum mapping is superior to other curriculum models and connects to other school initiatives.

    Chapter 2: Before You Begin: What Is Necessary

    Building a foundation before beginning curriculum mapping is the focus of Chapter 2. Strategies for setting the stage, building shared leadership, finding the necessary time, and establishing an implementation plan are presented. Questions and surveys are offered that assist educators in receiving valuable baseline information from staff members before implementing curriculum mapping.

    Chapter 3: The Curriculum Mapping Process: The Initial Cycle

    Chapter 3 offers a detailed description of each step of the initial curriculum mapping cycle. Templates, suggestions for implementation, and teacher stories are presented to assist those leading the initiative to understand the step-by-step process of the initial cycle of curriculum mapping.

    Chapter 4: Implementing the Action Plan and Beyond

    How to use the maps beyond the initial curriculum mapping cycle is the focus of Chapter 4. Strategies for establishing a communication system, revising and modifying existing maps, and using curriculum mapping data to direct staff development opportunities complete this chapter.

    Chapter 5: Curriculum Mapping Software

    Choosing a curriculum mapping software program to better facilitate the curriculum mapping process is the emphasis of this chapter. A checklist of criteria to consider when choosing a particular software program and descriptions of the most common curriculum mapping software products are offered.


    The last chapter offers final thoughts and reflections about the book and presents future directions for curriculum mapping.


    The appendix includes a variety of curriculum map samples.

  • Conclusion

    Curriculum mapping is a multilayered, complex journey that requires a strong foundation, shared leadership, external assistance, and an understanding that curriculum is never finished. While the process of curriculum mapping begins with the goal of creating authentic curriculum maps, the value goes far beyond creating good curriculum. I have learned that as educators progress through the steps of curriculum mapping, they build professional relationships, analyze their own and others' beliefs about teaching, and create more meaningful learning environments for students. It is an ongoing process that changes and evolves as our learning and circumstances change and evolve.

    Writing this book was much like the process of curriculum mapping. It created opportunities for me to collaborate with other professionals and reflect on my own beliefs about teaching, learning, and curriculum building while focusing on what is most beneficial and practical for teachers and students. I've discovered that just as the maps are never finished, this book is difficult to wrap up in a tidy conclusion. This final section doesn't really mark the end but, rather, indicates a temporary, reflective stopping point. There are many more stories to be told, more experiences to share, perspectives to consider, and new mapping avenues to discover.

    Many schools benefit from embarking on the curriculum mapping journey. There will emerge new areas of curriculum mapping to be developed and explored. As more teachers are mapping and the technological capabilities advance and improve, the possibilities for sharing maps and creating collaborative, professional relationships beyond district boundaries to state, national, and international levels are astounding. Data management software companies are developing new products that will coordinate with mapping data that hold great promise for more efficient analysis and consequently more meaningful action. These are exciting areas that hold great opportunity and promise for continued learning and growth.


    The following pages include a variety of map samples. Some of the samples illustrate maps in progress where the content, skills, and assessments are included but the essential questions and/or academic standards have not yet been completed. Those sections are to be finished as the mapping cycle continues. Other samples include activities and/or resources, which were referred to in Chapter 3. It is also noted that some maps follow a slightly different format where the component titles are listed down the left margin instead of across the top. The format makes little difference as long as all components are included.

    These samples provide illustrations of various content areas and grade-level maps, the connection between content, skills, and assessments, the use of action verbs when describing skills, and a combination of assessments. Anecdotal commentary is included on the samples pointing out map variations.

    Sample A.1 Kindergarten Vocal Music Curriculum Map

    Sample A.2 Second Grade Math Curriculum Map

    Sample A.3 Second Grade Reading Curriculum Map

    Sample A.4 Third Grade Social Studies Curriculum Map This completed map includes all components of a curriculum map.

    Sample A.5 Seventh Grade Science Curriculum Map

    Sample A.6 Eighth Grade English Curriculum Map—Newspaper Unit This completed map includes all components of a curriculum map.

    Sample A.7 Ninth Grade Physical Science Curriculum Map The standards will need to be added as the mapping cycle continues

    Sample A.8 Grades 9/10 Physical Education Curriculum Map

    Sample A.9 Grades 10–12 World History Curriculum Map


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    Corwin Press

    The Corwin Press logo—a raven striding across an open book—represents the union of courage and learning. Corwin Press is committed to improving education for all learners by publishing books and other professional development resources for those serving the field of K–12 education. By providing practical, hands-on materials, Corwin Press continues to carry out the promise of its motto: “Helping Educators Do Their Work Better.”

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