Website review by Christie Thomas, Common Sense Education | Updated February 2017

Common Curriculum

Sleek lesson planner replaces bulky binders, promotes collaboration

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Editorial review by Common Sense Education
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Based on 12 reviews
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Pre-K–12 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: Take organization to the next level while also keeping important goals in mind.

Cons: A couple of additional features (A/B block formatting, tablet compatibility) would be useful.

Bottom Line: Ditch pen-and-paper planning; embrace the flexibility of collaborative lesson planning and calendar design.

Getting started with Common Curriculum 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. There’s great flexibility: Newer teachers could embrace more standard models, while practiced teachers might adopt more of an informal design. For any lesson, add a “next year” heading to tag for future reflection and revision.

Departments, grade-level teams, mentors and mentees, or any other groups working together could make great use of the site's Collaborate feature. These features allow users to share plans for an entire class with a colleague (or multiple collaborators, with a schoolwide 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 a gracefully designed online lesson-planning and calendaring tool. After creating an account (only a name and email are required), teachers see a set of example classes pre-loaded by the site (or Chrome app). These examples -- along with some to-the-point video tutorials -- give new users quick, clear guidance. Teachers can go through all the how-to’s or dive right into calendar setup and planning.

The Collections are the site’s organizational system for viewing classes. Teachers can view these separately or in groups organized by schedule, topic, or grade level. The Classes, Schedule, & Settings tab is used to personalize calendars (start date, holidays, class times) as well as create or tweak templates for both lesson and unit plans. Users can shift views for a single day, a week, or an entire month. The Long Range Planner assists teachers as they work on entire units. The Common Core standards, as well as those for individual states, are available to guide; users can even peruse several side by side as they build lessons.

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 and fast 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. Furthermore, access to the side-by-side state and CCSS objectives may even help those working on the Common Core transition. 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. The flexibility here supports both creation and revision; after all, good lesson design is a creative process.

Overall Rating

Engagement Would it motivate students and hold their interest? Is it visually appealing? Would it inspire teachers to try something new or change their instruction?

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 Does the tool help teachers promote a more student-centered experience? Will students gain conceptual understanding or think critically? Does it deepen teachers’ pedagogical thinking?

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

Support Can students and teachers get assistance when they need it? Is it created with people of different abilities and backgrounds in mind? Is learning reinforced and extended beyond the digital experience?

Tutorial videos are concise, and the example classes make it easy to get started, even if site navigation is a bit clunky. The help tool fabulously combines info-searching and the ability to send messages for help.

Common Sense reviewer
Christie Thomas Classroom teacher

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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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