Website review by Ana Beltran, Common Sense Education | Updated October 2020

Common Curriculum

Sleek lesson planner replaces bulky binders, promotes collaboration

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Pros: Take organization to the next level while also keeping important goals in mind.

Cons: A couple of additional features like A/B block formatting, tablet compatibility, and more integrations would be useful.

Bottom Line: Flexible and collaborative lesson planning, calendar design, and classroom site creator save teachers precious time.

Teachers can use Common Curriculum as a planning tool and a platform for collaboration. Getting started will be easiest if you know your schedule and have a clear idea of what your typical lesson looks like. It's best to start with dates and timelines that guide your day-to-day and yearly calendars. Then, create some lesson templates that fit with your subject area and personal teaching style. It has great flexibility: Newer teachers could embrace more standard models, while practiced teachers might adopt more of an informal design. Common Curriculum simplifies planning by incorporating tools that allow teachers to consolidate resources, attachments, links, and documents from Google Docs, Dropbox, or other websites into one printable and sharable document. They can even add links that illustrate anchor charts or key vocabulary. To maximize time, teachers can find inspiration in past lessons or can import lessons planned in previous years. Add standards to units and lessons with a simple click. The website integrates Common Core State Standards, Next Generation Standards, state-based standards, and even some district-specific standards. 

Departments, grade-level teams, mentors and mentees, or any other groups working together could make great use of the site's Collaborate features. These features allow users to share plans for an entire class with a colleague (or multiple collaborators, with a school-wide subscription). The included class website feature might be handy since its calendar can automatically populate with lesson components. Some teachers might not love the design or functionality, otherwise. Nevertheless, you can link it to your existing class website, allowing kids and parents to see updates on homework and class activities.

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Common Curriculum is an online curriculum mapping, lesson-planning, and calendaring tool. After creating an account (only a name and email are required), teachers can create a Planbook and customize it by adding subjects, color-coding, sequencing the flow of the day, and choosing a planning template. The help page and user-submitted suggestions  -- along with some to-the-point video tutorials -- give new users quick, clear guidance. Teachers can go through all the how-tos or dive right in to calendar setup and planning.

The Standard Tracker function tallies the standards addressed in lessons and their frequency for a snapshot of progress toward instructional expectation and gaps that need addressing. Teachers also have the option of uploading files from their device, attaching files from Dropbox, Google Docs, or OneDrive, and inserting images or URLs. Lesson customization and accessibility is taken a step further with the option of recording and including audio or video in the plan. The option to import previous lessons or units adds efficiency. The platform gives teachers the option of viewing each day, week, month, or unit timeline. The Lesson Menu and Day Menu allow teachers to reorder classes, turn classes on or off, bump lessons to another day, and add special events, such as field trips, holidays, or snow days. Under these menus, teachers can also customize the download or print format.

Teachers can invite colleagues to be collaborators in their Planbook, which allows them to share, make comments on lessons, and make changes that can be seen in real time. Through Common Curriculum, teachers can also create class websites. It provides a pregenerated URL. Teachers simply personalize the website title and select the subjects they want displayed. Any component of the lesson plans, including independent practice, homework, or differentiated work, can be activated to appear on the class website for students and families to access. The website's tools are designed to meet the needs of individual teachers, collaborative teacher teams, or administrators seeking to promote school-wide collaboration.   

As any experienced teacher can tell you, lesson planning can sometimes require a bit of thoughtful simmering. While Common Curriculum can't replace this part of the process, it can definitely help with those stare-at-the-screen moments that can derail an otherwise productive planning period. The site allows for simple manipulation of lesson and unit plans. The net outcomes may be varied, but most teachers should end up with more time to tend to their students' needs. While the tool itself may or may not directly impact your students' learning, it can definitely help you make the most of your kid-contact time.

With both the Common Core as well as state standards available across grade levels and content areas, it's easy to plan with meaningful goals in mind. Also, the planning templates can be personalized, allowing teachers to implement a variety of lesson steps no matter what subject they teach. Users can even include sections on areas of instruction they're looking to enhance, whether it's inquiry in science, active reading in history, or any other unique goal. This website makes curriculum planning and lesson planning much more efficient by allowing teachers to consolidate resources, attachments, links, and images in one place. The option to add audio or video to plans is ideal for teachers who want to emphasize certain aspects of the plan. Teachers can even include video with a brief model of the lesson to share with colleagues. The flexibility here supports both creation and revision; after all, good lesson design is a creative process. 

Overall Rating

Engagement

Appealing site design and customizable templates promote teachers' productivity as they plan. With options for organized sharing, commenting, and collaboration, lesson planning might even seem downright fun.

Pedagogy

Teachers can design standards-aligned custom lesson templates while considering school-wide goals. Streamlining these common teacher tasks can potentially allow more time to focus on students' learning and mastery.

Support

Teachers can access the Common Curriculum blog, tips, and announcements, which share a slew of useful information. The Help and Connect option offers technical support, and there's also a link to a thread of user suggestions. 


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Ana Beltran Other

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Featured review by
Alanna G. , Classroom teacher
Classroom teacher
Gaynor McCown Expeditionary Learning School
Staten Island, United States
Excellent tool for collaborating with colleagues!
I love Common Curriculum! Not only can I keep students updated and on track on a daily basis, but I can also share my lesson plans and my curriculum with colleagues. Creating my PlanBook took a little time at first, but once I figured out the norms of the site, I had no problem advancing to sharing my lesson within a group of other math teachers in my school on Common Curriculum's website.
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