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Curriculum Best Practices

Curriculum allows you to build a unified and digital curriculum that can guide teachers’ daily instruction. The benefit of using this solution is creating a consolidated, living curriculum that can automate standards coverage and create a collaborative, easy-to-use environment for your teachers to pull curriculum content and apply it directly to lesson plans.

Your school’s first step will be to create and build your curriculum maps in Curriculum. You can create maps to help guide teachers with units, suggested unit duration, and unit content. Teachers will then be able to follow the maps as they create their lesson plans. 

If your institution also has the Instruction solution, teachers have the option to link the maps to their account and begin to add map content to their lessons.

Establish Goals for Launching Curriculum

Here are some key points to go over with your team to ensure you get the most value out of Curriculum and the maps you create benefit your school or district.


Establish who your Champions will be for your school. This is typically your main point of contact with our team, someone who is leading the project within the school. If your institution has more than one school, it's best to ensure that you have a Champion in every building. This will help lead groups, guide any questions, and speed up any troubleshooting or answer any questions that you might run into in the future. 


What is your overall goal? Why did your team invest in Curriculum? What is the overarching objective that your school or district will be aligning with this year?

For example:

  • Centralize curriculum content in one place for accreditation compliance.

  • Understand competencies and learning targets usage throughout the school district.

  • Ensure equity across the district by standardizing the content for core subjects.

Success Criteria

Establish the Success Criteria for the initial implementation. What are the criteria that your school or district is going to measure success based on? How do you know you've met your identified goal? Best practices suggest setting realistic success criteria that can be transparently communicated to all stakeholders.

Here are some examples of success criteria: 

Teachers will…

  • be able to easily add standards and eligible content where applicable to all their lesson plans.

  • be able to incorporate instructional resources into their lessons with the aim of being able to reuse and build upon this content for next year.

  • be able to collaborate on creating instructional resources with the goal of being able to share content to reduce time spent planning.

Instructional Coaches will...

  • be able to draw meaning from the curriculum structure and provide guidance on how it supports classroom best practices

  • have the resources and skills necessary to support teachers in being able to realize the above success criteria.

Administrators will…

  • have the resources and skills necessary to help teachers and instructional coaches in being able to accomplish the above success criteria.

  • be able to provide helpful guidance and feedback to teachers in a time-efficient manner.


There are a number of resources available to better prepare you for the curriculum mapping process. 

Curriculum Maps

A curriculum map is a combination of resources structured into sequenced units of instruction. Each unit of instruction can consist of many components including, but not limited to:

  • A suggested timeline for completion (for example, 3-4 weeks)

  • An area of focus (for example, Big Idea / Theme)

  • Identified Skills that will be learned by completing this unit (for example, Skills & Knowledge)

  • Alignment to standards (for example, Common Core State Standards, independently developed learning targets)

  • Instructional resources (for example, small group activities, project themes, etc.)

  • Check for understanding (for example, Formative and Summative assessments)

The goal of a curriculum map is to provide an organized scope and sequence to support teaching a specific subject matter over a specified period of time.

For example, if a high school has a biology course offering, then there would be a curriculum map labeled Grade 11 Biology that would provide the resources necessary to plan effectively for the instruction of this course.

The number of maps and their scope should tightly align with how teachers teach this content throughout the school year.

As decisions are being made on how to break down the curriculum maps, consider how teachers would use the content; if you’re not sure, involve them in the process.

Unit Templates

A curriculum map consists of many units of instruction. Each of these units will follow a specified template which provides a structure to organize curricular resources. Having a unified template is an essential part of developing an effective curriculum. Without having a structure to guide the creation of a unit of instruction, it leaves too much room for error in missing key components that make for an effective unit.

Here are some questions to consider when developing a unit template:

  • What is generally true of good design, regardless of the course content or style of the teacher?

  • Are these based on a specific school of thought? If so, are we using language that will be easily understood by our audience?

  • Is the template detailed enough to encompass all required resources?

  • Is the template simple enough to actually be utilized in developing daily instruction without being overwhelming?

  • How does it align with how teachers are planning their daily instruction?

Having a unified template also supports the sharing of resources and can lead to further collaboration. It keeps everyone on the same page when group-driven activities are undertaken. This goes a long way to ensuring that they are communicated and used effectively.

An important takeaway here is that communication is key. All the work in the world can be put into developing a very in-depth, effective unit of instruction. If, however, considerations haven’t been made to ensure it’s legible and usable by the teachers that will actually be implementing this instruction, then it can prove a fruitless exercise.

With this in mind, it is highly recommended to develop one unit template that will apply to all curriculum maps developed in your institution.

Best Practices for Developing Unit Templates

Developing unit templates should be an iterative process. It'll be important to get input from others and work with a template before creating whole maps with it. The steps we recommend you follow are:

  1. Create your first template

  2. Create a map and populate a unit. Be sure to involve others in this step.

  3. If you also have the Instruction solution, publish the unit and use it in the Planner to create a lesson.
    This step won't be possible if you only have Curriculum Base. 

  4. As a team, review how Steps 2 and 3 went based on this discussion:

    1. If you determine changes should be made, update the template as appropriate using the guidance below and repeat Steps 2-4. 

    2. If you are happy with the current template and feel it will allow you to accomplish your identified goals, then you are ready to start creating curriculum maps using this template.

Developing a Unit Template

Within Curriculum, unit templates consist of various fields. Each field allows you to create and manage information in a specific way.  There are two main types of fields:

  • Standards Field: This tracks the standards associated with this unit and has the option to enable or disable learning targets. 

  • Text Field: This allows for rich text editing, Google file integration, and attaching resources and standards.

Each unit template will always consist of one standards field and one or more multi-text fields.

In developing your unit template, you will make the following decisions:

  1. For my one standards field, do I want to enable or disable learning targets?

  2. How many multi-text fields do I want, and will they be blank or pre-populated?

  3. In what order do I want my fields?

Let's walk through each of these steps in detail.

Step 1: Enabling or disabling learning targets on the standards field

What is a Standards Field?

A standards field allows for individual standards to be applied to a unit of instruction. Once standards have been applied to a unit they will be shown as having been covered in standards coverage for that map. Learn more about tracking standards usage.

What are Learning Targets?

Learning targets are a further breakdown of standards and can be used in many different ways. If enabled, you can customize this title as you see fit. Here are some examples to help with deciding whether you want to enable learning targets and what you might want to call them:

  • Learning Targets: In this use case, they represent a further breakdown of a given standard into individual, focused "I can.." statements

  • Mastery Level: In this use case, they represent a level of mastery for the associated standard, many times this use case leads to there always being the same number of Mastery Levels associated with any given standard (ex: Mastery Level 1 to Mastery Level 4)

Learn more about creating learning targets within Curriculum.

Enabling learning targets allows you to create and track these within your units. Not only will these exist in the unit, but they can then be populated on both lessons and assessments.  

If you don't already have an identified need for learning targets, we recommend leaving these disabled. You can enable them at a later date.

Step 2: Creating multi-text fields

Multi-Text Fields

A multi-text field allows for rich text editing, attaching resources from your computer (for example, PDF, presentations, hand-outs, etc.), or attaching files through the Google Drive integration. It is also possible to attach standards to these, which will automatically populate that unit's standards field. 

A multi-text field can be pre-populated with content so that any new units created will not require starting from scratch. 

Naming a Multi-Text Field

Each multi-text field will require a title that accurately describes the content in that field. The title is what everyone will see when they look at the curriculum map. It's important that the title uses common language that everyone will understand, so it's clear what the purpose of the field is.

Pre-populating a Multi-Text Field

By default, each multi-text field will be empty when a new unit is created. If you enter content directly within the template, this will pre-populate that field. This means that any new unit created within a curriculum map will start with this pre-populated content rather than starting completely blank.

Pre-populating content can help guide the structure of a given field. It's important that this pre-populated content is generic, as it will be pre-populated for every new unit created on every map in your institution.

In most cases, the title of the text field should be more than sufficient in guiding what content is entered in that field. If, however, there is a specific structure you would like to see consistently, it is recommended you pre-populate this in the template.

Step 3: Ordering your fields

The order of your unit fields can help emphasize the flow of a unit. When writing a unit you may find it ideal to have a certain flow. On the other hand, when the unit is being used in the classroom to inform instruction, it may make sense to adjust this flow. It's important to consider everyone who will be using the maps and understand that the order can impact how they will use it to meet their needs. 

In addition to keeping in mind the audience, you'll also want to consider the pedagogical approach you're using. Understanding By Design, for example, has three stages that can help decide the order in which you want your unit fields.

Here are some helpful questions to ask yourself:

  • If I were writing a lesson using these resources, which field would I want to start with?

  • Do the fields flow logically from one to the other?

  • Considering our pedagogical approach, does the order emphasize the content we want people to focus on?

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