While this online tool is primarily designed for instructional planning at the lesson level, it also helps users think about design at the unit level, as it stresses coherence among clusters of standards. Through a series of guiding questions, it walks users through some of the key, conceptual thinking and preparation necessary for the development of a lesson that is aligned with the Common Core State Standards. After selecting a standard (or standards) for planning at the lesson level, users are prompted to think about several aspects of lesson design, including: learning goals; prior, current, and future learning; mathematical explanations and language; grade-level problems; and formative assessment strategies. The tool is designed for use by teachers and coaches, in a non-evaluative context, and work can be saved and printed.
For some teachers, the level of detail and analysis involved in using this tool for instructional planning might be unfamiliar. In this case, initial training, support, and coaching will make the tool much more accessible and useful. As users work through the tool, helpful definitions, links, and background information are presented in a sidebar on the right side of the workspace. Some great features include a section on mathematical language as well as several guiding questions related to anticipated challenges and responses. While the online platform is attractive and easy to navigate, using it to design a lesson requires a substantial time commitment—perhaps an hour for first-time users, maybe twenty minutes for more experienced users. If, however, users have already used the tool to map out a cluster of standards at the unit level, then individual lesson plans for that unit will not take as long. Differentiation and scaffolding are mentioned, but the tool does not provide strong support in these areas, so teachers will need to address these aspects of lesson design elsewhere.