Review by Jennifer Sitkin, Common Sense Education | Updated June 2014


Exemplary Common Core-aligned lessons from rock star peers at large

Grades This grade range is based on learning appropriateness and doesn't take into account privacy. It's determined by Common Sense Education, not the product's publisher.
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Pros: All lessons are classroom-ready; they're aligned directly to the ELA and Math Common Core standards and include teachers' notes and reflections.

Cons: Lessons are often presented as a series, sometimes making it harder to teach them individually.

Bottom Line: Get a head start on the Common Core transition with this professional community for great classroom-ready lessons.

Take your time exploring the site to get a sense of all that it offers. While it may be easiest to implement the complete units or sets of related lessons, you can still use and adapt specific lessons that might help you teach a particular standard or topic. As an example, for kindergarten math, the Working with Numbers 0-10 unit has 15 lessons that are linked to various standards -- these could be taught separately or all together, as a full suite.

As you search and try out different lessons, you're bound to come across a Master Teacher who matches your teaching style more than others. It's easy to search for and use any of that teacher's lessons -- you can even start a dialogue with the teacher. Also, while the lessons here center on ELA and Math, you can also search for different subjects. For instance, if you're a social studies teacher who wants to find a Common Core-aligned lesson about presidents, a number of lessons will appear in your search. Overall, embrace the site's encouragement to collaborate and implement well-known best practices as you make the Common Core shift.

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BetterLesson is a website with searchable and browsable lesson plans, strategies, activities, and professional development for ELA and math. One key aspect of BetterLesson is its Master Teachers mentor program. The Master Teachers are more than 130 highly qualified ELA and math teachers from across the U.S. who create and share exemplary lessons and resources for Common Core implementation. Any teacher can search these exemplary lessons by standard, by subject, or by grade level. It's also possible to view all of the contributions from a particular Master Teacher. Users can also browse by standard or just search by keyword.

There's a consistent structure to the design of each Master Teacher lesson, including a title, an objective, a big idea, links to standards, suggested timing, detailed procedures, resources, related lessons, and feedback. In addition to searching the site's exemplars, teachers can still create their own collections through the original BetterLesson platform. There's space to plan, create, and upload lessons and resources (documents, videos, slides), and you can ask questions of the community. 

Full Disclosure: BetterLesson and Common Sense Education share a funder; however, that relationship does not impact Common Sense Education's editorial independence and this learning rating.

Common Core implementation continues to be a big challenge, and BetterLesson serves as a great resource for teachers wrestling with their curriculum.  BetterLesson offers a well-organized platform that delivers quality, Common Core-aligned lessons and professional development. Beyond this, there are multiple ways teachers can use the site, whether pulling specific lessons, finding entire units, adapting resources to their own needs, or even creating and sharing their own lessons. Many of the exemplar lessons are interdisciplinary and encourage critical thinking. For example, a pair of lessons asks students to use Malcolm X's story to make evidence-based inferences from informational texts. This kind of work engages students in high-level thinking about a challenging topic. Note, however, that while it's easy to search for lessons, not all will be easy to teach individually, because many come in sets.

One helpful aspect of the site is that every lesson's basic structure is consistent -- this makes finding and comparing the best lessons a breeze. Many lessons are available for each standard, so teachers can choose ones that make sense with their particular teaching style or classroom needs. Also, any user can give feedback about the exemplars, and the Master Teachers often include reflections about their own lessons: what worked and what didn't. What's more, those in the Master Teacher Project are continually adding lessons, responding to questions and feedback, and reflecting on their practice. Taken all together, the site's features create just the kind of collaborative community that can help support the profession and drive student achievement.

Overall Rating

Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return?

Exemplary lessons should be well-received given that they're coming from esteemed peers. Students' interest will of course be partially dependent on how the lessons are implemented by individual teachers.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer?

Lessons employ a variety of instructional strategies to support many types of learners. There are a range of approaches, from highly interactive to more traditional. The site itself serves as a model for collaborative, professional teaching.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students?

The Master Teachers' overviews are extensive and provide a rationale and description for each lesson. All users are encouraged to give feedback, ask questions, and discuss how the exemplars worked.

Common Sense Reviewer
Jennifer Sitkin Classroom teacher

Teacher Reviews

(See all 14 reviews) (14 reviews) Write a review
Featured review by
Sandy W. , Classroom teacher
Classroom teacher
Catalyst Charter Middle School
Ripon, United States
Great Teacher Resource for Lessons Connected to Common Core
Better Lesson is an excellent resource for all levels of teachers. It is organized clearly with sound materials connected to standards. The lessons are complete and broken into steps that can easily be adjusted to various classrooms. One suggestion would be to have a separate bank of rubrics for each of the standards.
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