Common Sense Review
Updated June 2014

Common Curriculum

Sleek lesson planner replaces bulky binders, promotes collaboration
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Common Sense Rating 4
  • Pre-loaded example classes help new users visualize options and purposes.
  • The tutorial videos are efficient, effective, and even slightly humorous.
  • While searching for help it's easy to send a message, complete with a useful screen-shot option.
  • Manipulating lessons and text is a quick and easy process.
  • Keep everything in one place; files can be uploaded or simply linked from Dropbox or Google Drive.
Take organization to the next level while also keeping important goals in mind.
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.
Christie Thomas
Common Sense Reviewer
Classroom teacher
Common Sense Rating 4
Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return? 4

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 Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer? 4

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 Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students? 4

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.

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How Can Teachers Use It?

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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What's It Like?

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.

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Is It Good For Learning?

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.

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