Common Curriculum: Digital Lesson Planner for Teachers (lifesaver!)
I happen to be the type of teacher who deeply values aesthetic and organization in preparing for a new school year. Once school starts, I totally embrace the beautiful production of organized chaos which follows. I primarily teach 12th grade English and there are many moving parts in my weekly routine. One way I keep the “organized” in “organized chaos” is by using a digital lesson planner.
Before you say, “No way, that’s totally unnecessary and overly complex,” hear me out. When I was in college at UNC Asheville we frequently turned in lesson plans as assignments and our professors had different expectations for what that should look like. I spent way too much time editing lesson plan templates in Word/Google Docs. I spent way too much time (unsuccessfully) creating my own template and attempting to make it a reasonable system for daily use. And I spent way too much time flipping between tabs on my browser. After many Google searches and trying different websites, I found the most incredible online lesson planner: Common Curriculum
I have been using Common Curriculum for several years now in the classroom. It has consistently saved me time, increased the quality of my plans, and kept me organized semester to semester. Here are some of my favorite features:
It’s FREE! The basic account on CommonCurriculum.com is absolutely free and includes the most important features the website offers. There is a paid version and school-based version if you want added features (you can explore more on their website).
The first step is creating a new planbook. This is where you will keep all of your lesson plans for the semester/year. Once you have done this, you can either add your classes or if you have used Cc before you can import previously taught classes and lessons (woah, time saver alert). You can name your classes and color code them as you wish.
The next step to setting up your planbook is selecting the lesson plan format you would like to use. This is really up to you and your teaching style / requirements set by your principal. In some schools you may be required to have certain elements in your lessons. For this reason, I use the “Extra Detailed Template” and customize it on the next step. See the following image for how I set up my planbook:
On the left you will see the template that I use for my daily lesson plans. Title: This is the title for your lesson. For example “First Day of School,” “Intro to Ethos/Pathos/Logos,” “Substitute / Review Packet.”
Standards: This is a drop down selection of Common Core standards. This feature on its own is a game-changer. Within the lesson planner you can select your state and content area and the standards will populate. You can also search key terms and find them such as “vocabulary.” I absolutely love this feature and it helps me to consistently keep the standards in mind as I am planning.
Learning Targets: Learning targets, objectives, “I can statements”…
Materials: What do you need for class today? I always review this the morning before class and many times I have realized that I had forgotten to copy a document (but caught the mistake just in time!).
Instruction and Activities: I prefer to have one section here and to break it up as needed from day to day. You may prefer to have a daily warm up card, a review card, a direction instruction card, etc. You can create as many sections as your heart desires!
Homework: For my classroom this is typically turning in forms, reading, due date reminders, etc. By having it on my lesson plan I remember to write it on the board for students.
Accommodations and Modifications: This section is super important and I hope you all include it on your lesson plans! Here I address needs for students with IEPs, 504s, or other plans that may need accommodations or modifications. However, I also use this as a daily challenge to look at my lesson and think about what I can do to make it more accessible for all students.
Reflections: This section is important, especially if you use Cc for more than one semester. Let’s say that you taught a lesson in which one activity completely fell apart and ended up derailing your goals (it happens to all of us). This is information that you would add to your reflection piece post-lesson. When next semester rolls around you may have already forgotten that the activity was not successful. However, when you import your lessons the reminder will be right there for you! How handy! (Of course, it’s also generally good practice to reflect daily on your teaching.)
Here is a sample lesson plan from a class last year. There are definitely places I could improve here but to give you a frame of reference:
Other great features:
- You can shift lessons backwards and forwards. In Western North Carolina we often have unpredictable snow days. It only takes one click and all of my lesson plans automatically switch to the correct dates!
- Download/Print: Download your lesson plans into beautifully organized PDFs and print them if you wish. At my last district we had to keep all of our lesson plans in Google Drive. I simply downloaded my PDFs and uploaded them to my Google Drive folder. Easy peasy!
- Mark days as “not teaching.” This is a great feature for non-school days and keeps you from accidentally planning material for that day.
- Daily, Weekly, Monthly planbook views.
- Unlimited file uploads, lessons, and templates.
- Create groups / view colleagues’ lessons.
- You cannot “forget” a digital lesson planner, you can login wherever you are!
I was not paid to write this post. I truly love this lesson planner and using technology in my classroom. Do you use CommonCurriculum? Did you just create an account? Leave me a comment below!
I am, etc.
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