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IJEA Blog: Curriculum maps and pacing calendars can help keep you on track!

As IJEA board member Katie Comeford explains, a curriculum map holds the grand, overarching goals for the year while the pacing calendar is what helps a teacher actually figure out how to squeeze it all in between days off, assemblies and, of course, testing. Together they can help journalism teachers prepare even more effectively for their classes.

December 13, 2016

When I was first told that our school was asking all teachers to submit curriculum maps and pacing calendars for the following school year, I rolled my eyes, grumbled and added it to my already long list of things to do.

I assumed that this would be another “trend” to come and go, much like the weekly lesson plans we used to have to share to a folder no one checked or the maps we used to make on a website Chicago Public Schools stopped paying for before we were told to save all of our work elsewhere.

However, this is the third year of maps and calendars. Although I’m not doubting that the requirement could disappear any day now, much like our school’s budget, I’ve come to find the documents useful.

Curriculum maps are documents that organize a teacher’s plan for a course. Mine are now separated into two semesters, but can be done in different time increments. We have four quarters in a year, which breakdown to 10 weeks each. This is typically how often our maps are due — every 10 weeks.

The first time I sat down to make one, I spent a few hours organizing everything and then another few hours typing out the standards and essential questions that were required. It was definitely a tedious, time-consuming task, but when the following school year came all I had to do was tweak a few things and update a few others. My whole first semester was ready to be turned in within an hour. The best part was that I spent that time reflecting on what went well the preceding year and what I needed to replace for the following year.  

Pacing calendars are documents that map out each week and what will be assigned and accomplished. These are much more living documents than curriculum maps because as we all know things change all the time.

The curriculum map holds the grand, overarching goals for the year while the pacing calendar is what helps a teacher actually figure out how to squeeze it all in between days off, assemblies and, of course, testing. I think the true challenge with a pacing calendar is not sitting down to make one, but keeping it up to date.  

My first year I never looked at my pacing calendar after I made it. I finally looked at it after the school year had ended and realized that my ideal pacing and my actual pacing were way off.

This year I have taken more time to see where I wanted to be and where I actually am. This has helped me adjust for current events that I could not plan for and also take out parts that we just did not have time for. Overall, it has led to more learning because I am more in tune with where we are and where we are going.

Overall, pacing calendars and curriculum maps are two tools that can help organize a class and keep you on track! Feel free to check mine out at http://comefordsclassroom.blogspot.com/.

Katie Comeford teaches journalism and advises the award-winning newspaper and yearbook at Phoenix Military Academy, part of Chicago Public Schools. Katie is an IJEA board member and current president of the Scholastic Press Association of Chicago.

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