Key Action II.3

Determine expectations for use and the plan for collaborative planning

What is the goal?

The goal of this key action is to set up the plans for pacing, use, and planning. This key action includes ensuring the right time is in the daily schedule and setting the expectations for materials use and customizations.

Why this key action is important

Instructional judgment (deciding what to teach and what to adapt) is fundamental to good curriculum implementation. Developers include more content than would be needed so that teachers have a range of material to meet their students’ needs. Having a strong starting point creates relief for teachers from the constant hunt for resources. However, it does not eliminate the work of preparing for instruction. Setting up clear plans for use and lesson preparation creates clarity about what needs to be taught and the specific role the materials need to play in instruction. Quality collaboration opportunities invigorate practice and strengthen implementation; however, these structures require clarity, support, and a clear plan of action. This key action begins with a curriculum study to help all decision makers deeply understand the intent and design of the materials. This understanding supports strong decision-making about material adaptations.

Key Actions II.3-II.5 focus on systems for teacher and leader support, or the system’s overall plan for supporting professional learning. These systems must work together so that teachers do not receive mixed messages about how to use the materials. These systems also depend on a strong instructional culture within the school and district/charter network.

Explanation of language

We do NOT use the word “fidelity” because we have found that it is often used as a blanket term to the whole curriculum—as opposed to identifying which aspects of the curriculum (i.e., assessments, units, lessons) should be taught in a common way, across the school or district/charter network. The schedule refers to the daily plan for time. Pacing refers to the instructional calendar across the school year. We use the term collaborative planning to refer to the planning work that teachers may do with other teachers using the same materials. We do NOT use the term “professional learning collaborative/community” or “PLC” throughout this step, although many schools will probably equate collaborative planning with PLCs. We focus instead on collaborative planning.

We define collaborative planning as “time teachers spend together to prepare for and reflect on instruction.”

There are three practices within the collaborative planning structure:

  1. Unit internalization:
    • Unit internalization is the process by which teachers study a curriculum unit to deeply understand what students are expected to learn (the “big ideas”), how students will be assessed, and the arc of learning over the course of the unit. To address unfinished learning, teachers make adjustments to the timing of the unit and intentionally use pedagogical strategies to provide targeted support to specific students.
  2. Lesson preparation
    • Lesson preparation is the process by which teachers study an upcoming lesson(s) to deeply understand what students are expected to learn and how students will be assessed. Teachers make adjustments to the lesson and use pedagogical content strategies to support the needs of specific students with a focus on unfinished learning.
  3. Student work analysis
    • Student work analysis is the process of analyzing student work for two purposes: 1) to determine if the task is aligned to grade-level standards and 2) to inform instructional next steps based on the depth of student learning. By examining the work itself, teachers gain insight about what students understand in order to build off their knowledge in future lessons. This asset-based approach is also valuable for school leaders because, unlike standardized test results that take weeks to months to receive, it provides an immediate, timely view into student learning that can help inform instructional priorities and school improvement efforts.


guiding questions

notes & resources

  • 1.
    Which grade(s) are we studying? Which unit(s)?
  • 2.
    How many modules/units are there? How long are the units?
  • 3.
    How are units organized? What is the structure within the unit?
  • 4.
    How are lessons organized? Is there a structure within the lesson?
  • 5.
    Are there any supplemental materials that apply to this unit? What do those materials include?
  • The Implementation Support Team will make better decisions with a common understanding of the design of the materials.
  • There is an enormous amount of helpful information available for every set of materials (e.g., overview guides, videos, materials, sample student work). There is a lot you can learn from working through one grade of materials together. This takes time and close reading, but doing it upfront saves time on the back end.
  • Pick one grade, or a couple of grades if the structure of the materials is fundamentally different in different grade bands (i.e., K–2 is different than 3–5).
  • The resource Curriculum Study provides guidance, a sample agenda, and prep email. You can pick one member of the team to do a more comprehensive study and pull the key resources that the full team should review. Ask your materials developer or district/charter network colleagues that have used the materials before for a quick orientation and links to the most helpful materials.
  • 1.
    What guidance does the curriculum developer offer about scheduling and time needed per lesson?
  • 2.
    Does this match our current structure (for every school using these materials)?
  • 3.
    Are there intervention programs being used that currently take up ELA or math instructional minutes? How does that impact pacing?
  • 4.
    If not, how will we adjust?
  • It is very hard to implement a curriculum well if you do not have the same amount of time allocated in the schedule as intended in the designed lesson. Almost every early implementer we interviewed talked about matching the length of the curriculum as a key enabler of success.
  • If the school or district/charter network schedule has an immovable, shorter time for the block than the design, materials will likely need to be cut down or edited. If the school or district/charter network schedule has an immovable, longer time for the block than the design calls for, lessons will need to be doubled up. Making these types of adjustments requires a strong understanding of the intent of each lesson and unit, as well as the standards. Therefore, you’ll need to factor that time and support into your decision. Use the resource Scheduling Considerations to guide your thought process.
  • This step will require both district-/charter network- and school-level planning and decision-making.
  • 1.
    What guidance does the curriculum developer offer about pacing?
  • 2.
    How many units? How many days per unit across the year?
  • Revisit the Curriculum Study and the work your team did together during Step II.3.A: Study the design of the materials. Pick one grade to study as an Implementation Support Team. Developers and neighboring districts/charter networks can point you to the best resources for pacing guidance within your curriculum.
  • 3.
    What school or district-/charter network-wide events do we already know of that we need to plan around?
  • 4.
    How many units do we want all teachers to complete in common? Which units?
  • 5.
    What points in the curriculum (e.g., end of unit, end of module, mid-point assessment) do we want all teachers reaching at the same time?
  • 6.
    Do we want to build flexibility into the schedule?
  • 7.
    Are there additional topics that we need to add?
  • 8.
    What is our yearlong pacing schedule for this grade?
  • Though the pacing plan can start at the district /charter network level, typically each school may need to make it their own, given any school-specific considerations.
  • The resource Pacing Guidance can help you arrive at a pacing schedule.
  • 9.
    What needs to happen to get to a final pacing schedule for the other grades?
  •  This is a great place for teacher leadership. The Agenda and Email for Determining Pacing is a sample agenda and preparation email that you can send to grade leaders to draft pacing guidance.
  • 1.
    What guidance does the curriculum developer offer about planning routines and customizations?
  • 2.
    What decisions are teachers going to need to make within a given unit?
  • 3.
    What decisions are teachers going to need to make within a given lesson?
  • 4.
    Which aspects of the unit do we want all students to experience in a common way?
  • 5.
    Which aspects of the lessons do we want all teachers to teach in common?
  • There are heartfelt emotions that come up when teachers see the more scripted pieces of many materials. Some may love the clarity, but many experience a sense of restrictiveness when they see the instructional design done for them in complete form. In every curriculum, there are decisions that teachers will need to make within the lesson and unit to ensure instruction meets the needs of students. Effective instruction requires professional judgment – look for the places that judgment lives in the materials.
  • Guidance on Curriculum Use provides context on how to think about key decisions within a curriculum.
  • This step is about your guidance on use. Specific planning routines and support structures will come next, in Step II.3.E: Determine how you will support collaborative and individual planning.
  • 6.
    What kinds of customizations will we support? What kinds of customization would we not want to see?
  • 1.
    What are your current lesson planning structures or expectations? What is done with any plans that teachers submit?
  • 2.
    What routines/systems do you currently have in place for collaborative planning?
  • 3.
    What is done during any collaborative planning time? What is most valued and effective in this time?
  • Determining supports for collaborative and individual planning is part of your larger professional learning system. Over the next two key actions, you’ll continue to build your teacher support systems by thinking about coaching and training.
  • Gathering any lesson planning template requirements or conducting a focus group with teachers about the current use of collaborative planning time can be a good starting point. The resource Teacher Focus Group on Planning Support has some focus group questions you can use to ask teachers directly.
  • The answers to these questions may vary considerably from school to school or subject to subject, so include a group with multiple school perspectives.
  • 4.
    What planning do we want teachers to do together?
  • 5.
    What student work review and reflection do we want teachers to do together?
  • 6.
    When can they do this collaboration?
  • 7.
    What is the best structure for this time?
  • 8.
    Who is best positioned to support the effective use of this time?
  • Look back at your assessment and grading notes in Key Action II.2: Determine the plan for assessment and grading to connect student work reflection with your assessment and grading plans.
  • This can be done either at the district/charter network or school level (frequently at the school level). However, it requires a group of teachers who are teaching the same grade and materials. If that group does not exist within a single school, then explore options across schools.
  • Collaborative Planning Protocols includes protocols that you can explore for time use and an adaptable template for your agenda.
  • It’s important to consider any training implications for collaborative planning leaders.
  • 9.
    What individual preparation and analysis will teachers need to do outside of collaborative planning time?
  • 10.
    How do we best support individual preparation? What does this mean we need to change about any lesson planning routines or requirements?
  • The resource Lesson Planning Structures gives an overview of individual planning structures that early implementers used to ensure effective preparation. Some districts/charter networks opted to have teachers use the planning structures in their collaborative planning meetings. Review the resources from developers for guidance or supporting materials for lesson and unit preparation.
  • 11.
    Who is responsible for supporting collaborative planning and reflection?
  • 12.
    What will the people supporting collaborative planning and reflection need to know and be able to do?
  • 13.
    How will we train and support them to do this work well?
  • The resource Support Roles for Teacher Planning outlines the potential roles for supporting collaborative planning and the support needs for the individuals doing this work.
  • This is a ripe place for teacher leadership, and building the instructional leadership of teachers can also support your future leadership pipeline.
  • Protocols alone do not create a vision of how to facilitate effective collaboration. Facilitators benefit from seeing a model and collaborating with other facilitators.
  • Early implementers consistently indicated that it was beneficial to keep the collaboration structures grounded in the materials and student work. Straying too far from these touchstones often created challenges.
  • 1.
    In this key action, we reviewed the collaborative planning and reflection support structures. What are the next steps that we need to take based on the decisions we made together?
  • 2.
    What can we add to our roles and responsibilities tracker based on the work we outlined in this key action?
  • Go back to your Implementation Plan to track your next steps and add to your roles and responsibilities tracker.
  • 3.
    What information or training will all teachers need in order to be ready to engage in collaborative planning and reflection?
  • 4.
    What information or training will all leaders need prior to launching the materials to be ready for collaborative planning and reflection support structures?
  • 5.
    How do we plan to proactively communicate this information? Who will deliver the communication? When?
  • 6.
    What questions do we expect we will get? How will we answer them?


This workbook is designed to help a school or system leadership team work through the implementation process together. Assemble your team, print or download the workbook, find your starting point, and dig in together.

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