Curriculum Design Basics

There are infinite ways to map your curriculum. Your curriculum mapping template helps create focus and articulate the most important aspects for your school or district. Whether you are beginning an entirely new curriculum process or deep in the trenches of a current curriculum initiative, your curriculum mapping template is integral to your work, and the work of your school or district.

Supporting schools in building, revamping, and updating their template is our forte. Here, we share some examples, insights, and best practices learned from years in the education field helping schools design and mange curriculum processes. In this template overview, we provide example templates to get you thinking about how you want to structure – or restructure – your curriculum mapping template.

In the beginning stages of parsing out your curriculum map, we encourage you to reflect on the following questions: What is the purpose of your curriculum? Is your curriculum aligned to a specific pedagogy? Are there external mandates for your curriculum? What key initiatives do you want capture?

Knowing what characterizes your curriculum will help determine the design of it. Moreover, questions like these begin to inform the structure of your curriculum template. Establishing your template is a key aspect of initiating a curriculum design and development process. Consider how you want to use the curriculum and what specifically you want to capture, such as core content, interdisciplinary connections, standards alignment, or school mission.

Begin With Basics

Over The Years, We Have Found That Most Curriculum Maps Have Some Consistent Categories: Skills Or Objectives, Content Or Knowledge, Assessment, Resources Or Materials.

Add To The Curriculum Map

As You Continue To Grow Your Curriculum Development Process, You Can Always Add Additional Categories: Standards, Essential Questions, And Enduring Understandings.

Lead With Prompting Questions

In Addition To Adding Categories, Schools Also Opt To Add In Prompting Questions And Headings To Guide The Curriculum Development Process.

Curriculum Mapping Template Library

Beyond the basics, the heart of curriculum design lies in capturing the essence of schools and districts, and this is often manifested through different initiatives.

Whether mission-driven or academically-based, these examples highlight the numerous ways schools globally make curriculum development truly their own and elevate their curriculum as a representation of their purpose.

21st Century Skills

The Partnership for 21st Century Learning developed a comprehensive framework aimed at integrating 21st century preparedness into curriculum. The framework is an amalgamation of skills, knowledge, and support systems necessary to foster students capable of satisfying the needs and demands of the 21st century.


Assessment Accommodations

To support student achievement in standardized tests, schools may include an assessment accommodation category in the curriculum mapping template that lists the different accommodations students may be expected to use. By introducing these within curriculum, students are familiar with them when large summative assessments approach.

Backwards Design

Starting with the end in mind is definitely a best practice. This curriculum mapping template breaks the curriculum design into three stages that articulate student learning from content to process.


British Columbia Standards

The British Columbia Ministry of Education recently updated its standards. The new standards are delineated into multiple categories. In some cases, schools choose to represent this with separate standards categories on their curriculum map.


Career and Technical Education (CTE)

For decades, Career & Technical Education (CTE) classrooms have offered rigorous, hands-on learning to prepare students to succeed in the real world. Different from traditional academic subject areas CTE curriculum design often requires a separate approach.

College, Career, and Civic Life (C3) Framework

Beyond just aligning to standards, some schools opt to build standards-specific unit planners. For example, the C3 is organized into four dimensions embodying the four steps in the inquiry Arc, which is reflected in the curriculum map below.

Concept-based curriculum

Concept-based curriculum (CBC) is an approach to curriculum design that moves away from subject-specific content and instead emphasizes “big ideas” that span multiple subject areas or disciplines.



Differentiation is crucial to elevating student learning. For example, a school whose template is featured (left) designed their curriculum mapping template to catalog differentiation through unit instruction and formative and summative assessments.


Early childhood

Early childhood education is a great example of a curriculum area with a multitude of pedagogical approaches, and curriculum maps can be designed to suit any of these. Here, we are featuring a thematic design as well as a Reggio Emilia example.

Faith Integration

Schools with religious affiliations integrate faith into their curriculum map.



There is a lot of overlap from one subject to another. Schools make this overlap intentional by defining it outwardly in the curriculum mapping template.



Curriculum can also capture student-centric information.

Learning Plan

Sometimes we want to really focus on the “how” the curriculum gets taught. Schools will choose to capture not just Learning Activities but other areas of focus like Differentiated Instruction, 21st Century Skills, and Tech Integration in the curriculum map.



Why stop at curriculum? Schools are also employing their mapping template to capture meeting notes from administration to PLC’s.



Many schools aspire to incorporate their school mission into the curriculum mapping template. As curriculum is a detailed journey of student learning throughout their time at the school, it should in turn connect to the mission of the school – answering how a mission statement will be applied to student experience.


Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)

To delve into the three dimensions of the NGSS by breaking out the dimensions into separate standards categories.


Portrait of a Graduate

Now that your school has determined the core qualities and skills of a graduating student, the next step in the plan is designing a system that shows when, where, and how those skills and qualities are being taught and modelled through a student’s curricular and co-curricular experiences.


Project-Based Learning

Project-Based Learning (PBL) involves designing student learning around a sustained, real-world project. This usually includes an interdisciplinary approach.



Schools also opt to add in a category for teacher reflection throughout and after the unit.


Social and emotional learning

Social and emotional learning facilitates the development of important non-cognitive skills. By incorporating it into curriculum, schools outline how it will be incorporated throughout instruction.


Aspiring Curriculum Design

Find inspiration from these template examples and consider how you can refresh your template or design an entirely new one.

  • What is the purpose of your curriculum?
  • Is your curriculum aligned to a specific pedagogy?
  • Are there external mandates for your curriculum?
  • What key initiatives do you want capture?
Use these questions to guide your curriculum design and development. If you are interested in adding similar categories to your curriculum map or want to discuss ways to refresh your mapping template, a reach out to our Support team. And if you’re not (yet!) an Atlas client, learn more about the curriculum design platform featured here.

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