Please Stand By

October 21st, 2016


Hello All,

Some of you may have experienced widespread issues across the internet today. MasteryConnect, along with numerous popular sites, were affected by this outage.

“As of around 12 PM ET, Dyn says it’s investigating another DDOS attack, and is continuing to attempt to ‘mitigate’ the issue. Box, Twitter, and other sites appear to be down again. The White House press secretary has also said that the Department of Homeland Security is investigating the attacks.” – TechCrunch

These unexpected outages are not part of a site maintenance situation.

We apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused.

– The MasteryConnect Team

Click here for more coverage on the issue:

Evidence Capture

October 17th, 2016

With Halloween on the horizon, nails on chalkboard isn’t the only classroom activity sending shivers down spines; students everywhere shudder when they hear: “Explain Why,” “Show Your Work,” and “Justify Your Answer.”

Fortunately, we ghosts and goblins at MasteryConnect believe that capturing evidence of student learning isn’t always as ghoulish as it sounds. Being able to show student thinking during performance-based assessments helps teachers personalize learning and target individual needs.

MasteryConnect’s new evidence capture feature for Teacher App makes it easy and fun for teachers to capture learning as it happens, wherever it happens using your iPad! Easily snap photos of student work and add notes during field trips, performances, or other non-traditional settings—ideal for project-based learning.

‘Cause let’s be real, here… just putting down an answer isn’t always enough—sometimes students have to show what they know!





“MasteryConnect’s Teacher App with evidence capture has revolutionized mastery learning in my classroom,” says Kelly D’Annolfo, an 8th grade teacher from Highland Middle School in Medina, Ohio. “Having the ability to take photos of student work supports everything we do—from special education to parent-teacher conferences. We are finally able to provide visible, tangible evidence of student learning all in one place.”

This new feature bolsters MasteryConnect’s already robust capabilities, helping teachers to gather in-the-moment formative evidence of student work which can then be effortlessly and instantly shared with parents, teachers, and administrators.

Evidence capture to drive student growth… it’s so good, it’s spooky!

For more information about how to use evidence capture, check out our Help Center article here.


back to school with MCThe support team always looks forward to the back to school season. Maybe it’s the crisp fall air or the happy faces walking to school each morning. More likely, it’s when we get to help educators tackle another awesome year!

Read on for a step-by-step overview of the new support ticketing process and a few back-to-school tips to ensure smooth sailin’ with MasteryConnect.

How to Submit Support Tickets

Our team loves to interact with each of you, that’s why we’re excited to offer slick improvements to how you communicate with us. We’ve added the ability to manage your open support tickets from within the Help Center (no more trying to keep an eye on an email thread!).

The new support ticket process allows you to easily

  • See your open tickets in a single view
  • Make comments to your tickets
  • Add screenshots
  • View additional ticket details like status and assignee

Submit a support ticket by following these steps: 

1. After you login to MasteryConnect, click Help below the main navigation bar. Screen Shot 2016-09-06 at 10.31.55 AM

2. The Help Center will open in a separate browser. Click on your name again and select My Requests. Screen Shot 2016-09-06 at 10.32.08 AM 

3. From this page, you’ll be able to manage any submitted tickets. At a glance, you can see when the ticket was created, the last time there was any activity on it, and the current status. 

4. Click the subject line of the ticket to open it.Screen Shot 2016-09-06 at 10.35.52 AM

5. Here, you can see your original request and all communication concerning it. If the ticket has been assigned, you’ll also see the name of the support team member who’s handling it.Screen Shot 2016-09-06 at 10.36.42 AM

6. When you’re done, click the MasteryConnect logo to return to the Help Center, or close the browser window to continue working.

Firewalls Fixes

Sometimes a super strict firewall can wreak havoc on the MasteryConnect experience. Please ensure your IT Wizards double-check that the websites listed in this help article are allowed free passage through your network.

GradeCam Plugin

GradeCam is magical—no question. But that magic is all made possible by the GradeCam plugin.

We always recommend you keep your GradeCam plugin updated to ensure optimal performance. To grab the latest plugin and test your GradeCam settings, visit:

The Best Browsers

We always test our site using the latest versions of Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox. Whenever possible, we recommend keeping your browser version updated. Full details about our supported browsers and hardware specs can be found here.

Here’s to another successful school year and plenty of mastery tracking!

MasteryConnect helps over 2.5 million educators around the world with formative assessment, standards-based grading, data-driven instruction, and teacher collaboration. Take an on-demand demo to see how  MasteryConnect may help at your school or district.


As part of our Client Success series, this is the second of a two-part guide to unpacking and prioritizing standards like a pro. 

In our last article, we shared our tips for unpacking standards, including the process of determining big ideas and writing essential questions. This week we tackle the tricky question: How do you fit everything in?

Regardless of which set of standards you use in your classroom, the sheer volume of material can become daunting. And we’ve all heard the pitfalls of mile-wide-and-inch-deep instruction, which neither saves time nor impacts learning in a meaningful way.

Identifying priority or “power” standards is a process you can use to prioritize the content and skills you’ll need to address with your students. But this process is not about deciding what can be eliminated; rather, it’s designed to help you manage instructional time and determine a clear path for student learning. This prioritization process also brings us full circle back to the need for Big Ideas.

Let’s take a look at the two types of standards we’ll be working with: priority and supporting.

Priority standards are a carefully selected subset of the larger list of standards to be covered in a specific grade level or course that students must know and be able to demonstrate understanding of by the end of the grade-level or course in order to be prepared for the next grade-level or course.
Supporting standards are those standards that support, connect to, or enhance the priority standards. They are taught within the context of the priority standards, but do not receive the same degree of emphasis.

How to Identify Power Standards

Just as you followed a process to unpack standards, you should follow one when selecting priority or power standards. It’s best to prioritize collaboratively to ensure priority standards are identified across the team, so students move onto the next grade-level/course with consistent understanding of content.

Important note: Again, it is critical to remember that prioritizing standards has nothing to do with elimination; it has everything to do with degree of focus placed on standards.

When reviewing each standard you are targeting for instruction, consider the criteria and questions below. If the answers are “yes” for a particular standard, it should be labeled a priority/power standard.

Does this standard provide students with knowledge that will benefit them beyond the present?
Will proficiency of this standard help my students gain skills needed in the next grade-level/course or even in real-life situations?

Does this standard provide students with knowledge and/or skills that benefit them in other learning situations within the current grade level or course?
Does it have cross-curricular benefit?

Does this standard provide students with knowledge and/or skills that are prerequisite concepts and skills needed to be successful in the next grade-level/course?

Does this standard provide students with knowledge and/or skills that they are most likely to encounter on local, state, and/or national assessments?

Standards you have not identified as priority/power standards may be supporting standards. These standards often scaffold under a priority standard, much as a sub-standard (content or skill) would serve as a stepping stone to the overarching standard.

Start Prioritizing with “I Can” Statements

Once you have identified your priority standards and determined the supporting standards for each, you can begin designing your assessment and instruction. Also, you should now be more prepared to communicate clear learning objectives or targets to your students.

Many schools and districts use “I can” statements to clearly communicate learning objectives developed from priority standards, written in student-friendly language. When used consistently, “I can” statements have a profound effect on the learning of students, because students understand why they are learning the material.

“I can” statements help students:

  • take a more active role in their learning
  • become more reflective of their own work
  • feel more responsible for their learning

Let’s go through this exercise with the standard we unpacked in the last article.

Trace and evaluate the argument and specific claims in a text, distinguishing claims that are supported by reasons and evidence from claims that are not.

Let’s say we identified it as a priority standard based on the criteria above, and now we can create “I can” statements to more specifically convey the knowledge and skills tied to this standard.

Priority Standard I Can Statement
Trace and evaluate the argument and specific claims in a text, distinguishing claims that are supported by reasons and evidence from claims that are not.
  • I can define argument, claim, and evidence.
  • I can distinguish between supported and unsupported claims.
  • I can trace an argument in a text.

Priority standard identified? Check! Standard clearly communicated to students? Check! You now have a road map for instructional change! You can identify clear targets and enduring understanding, as well as effectively communicate the learning outcomes to students. It’s time to start planning lessons and gathering resources to make a difference in your classroom!

For MasteryConnect Educators

To help you get started with this work in MasteryConnect, we’ve pulled together some resources that will provide detailed instruction on how to add your unpacked standards and “I can” statements into your curriculum maps and trackers and how to flag priority standards.

The resources we’ve provided are for both curriculum maps and trackers. However, if you’re working with a collaborative school or district team, we highly suggest doing this work in curriculum maps, then creating your trackers from the maps.

Help Center Articles
Add Sub-Standards to a Curriculum Map
View and Customize Standards in a Curriculum Map
Set a Power Standards in a Curriculum Map
Add Sub-Standard to a Tracker
Customize or Reword Standards
Set a Power Standard in a Tracker

       Web Professional Development

Mindful Introduction Module: Tracker Basics

For on-site professional development on using curriculum maps for unpacking standards, contact your Client Success Manager. And be sure to check back for the next article in our Client Success Series!

MasteryConnect has Over 1 Million Standards!

Looking for solutions that support state or Common Core standards? Check out our FREE apps for educators or take a tour of the full MasteryConnect platform for school and district-level features.

unnamedCan you believe it ?!? MasteryCon is only one week away! To help you plan for the ultimate MasteryCon experience, we’ve compiled a list of last-minute info and reminders.

Schedule & Check In

The session schedule is now live—check it out! There is no need to sign up for sessions, but be sure to snag a program when you arrive. Check-in opens at 9:00 am on Wednesday, July 27th, at the Grand Summit Hotel. Pick up your conference materials any time before the welcome keynote at 5:30 pm. (You can skip printing conference tickets, schedules, or maps; we’ll have everything you need when you check in!)

Special Pre-Conference Workshop

We’ve added a free (yes, FREE!) pre-conference workshop on Wednesday for campers who want to start the MasteryCon fun early! A limited number of seats are available, so register now!

Bunks & Transportation

If you haven’t already booked your lodging, NOW IS THE TIME to reserve your room at the discounted rate. And, if you need to hitch a ride from the SLC airport to MasteryCon, may we suggest scheduling with our preferred transportation partner.

If you’re not staying onsite, you can park for free in the Red Hawk lot, located just below the Silverado Lodge.

Get Your Gear Ready

Dress is casual and comfortable (it is summer camp). But, because MasteryCon is nestled in the most beautiful mountains in the whole wide world, it’s best to bring along the right gear. You’ll want to pack up that sunscreen and a light jacket (warm days, cool nights). And, if you want to join the vista-filled group hikes, don’t forget comfy hiking boots and anything else you may want on the trail.

Make the Most of It!

You’ll want to take in everything at MasteryCon! Be sure to attend conference meals and evening entertainment; they’re all included in your registration, and they are awesome for networking. Also, keep your eyes peeled at the conference for ways to get involved, including earning MasteryCon merit badges and participating in activities wherever you see this guy.

See You Soon!

The MasteryCon counselors can’t wait to meet you at summer camp! Join the fun NOW by connecting with MasteryConnect and other attendees on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Remember to use our conference hashtag, #masterycon, and follow us for updates while at the conference.

See you in seven, campers!

Announcing the New Socrative PRO


The countdown is over for the launch of the new premium version of our classroom engagement app, Socrative! Users from around the world have already jumped on board to be the first to experience the new functionality. 

Socrative PRO gives you everything you love about the free app plus a heap of awesome new features to help you personalize learning, amp up engagement, and work formative assessment magic. Thinking about upgrading? Here’s five reasons why you’ll love Socrative PRO.

Multiple Rooms

Each Socrative PRO account allows you to have 10 unique activity rooms. Run quizzes, polls, exit tickets, or Space Races at the same time to better manage multiple classes, remote and blended learning, and differentiated instruction. Create a room for each of your classes, divide students into groups, or assign homework activities—or do it all!

More Students

Large class, PTA meeting, or district-wide training on the horizon? No problem. You can accommodate up to 150 students in Socrative PRO rooms. With three times the student capacity of the free app, Socrative PRO is perfect for conferences, professional development, and grade-level assessments.

Secure Rostering

Save time and energy by uploading class rosters straight from a CSV or Excel file  into Socrative PRO (or enter rosters manually, if you’d prefer). Restrict access to your rostered classrooms by requiring students to enter their personal ID number. And students will save time; they’re only required to enter their ID once into rostered rooms for immediate and future access.

Space Race Timer

Set the timer to have your Space Race end automatically. You can then more freely move around the classroom to answer questions, listen to students, and interact with the class.

More Features Coming this Fall

We’ll be rolling out new premium features to Socrative PRO users in the coming months. What should you expect? Well, instant quiz sharing, a searchable quiz community, and a silent hand raise featurejust to name a few. And you’ll soon get the ability to upload your own icon for a personalized Space Race experience (what will you race?!?).

Whether you’re a seasoned Socrative aficionado or you’re just discovering the formative assessment app, you’ll want to check out all the great new features you’ll get when you upgrade to Socrative PRO.


Socrative by MasteryConnect allows you to gather formative data instantly. Looking to gather formative data over time? Check out other K-12 solutions from MasteryConnect.




As part of our Client Success series, this is the first of a two-part guide to unpacking and prioritizing standards like a pro. 

Have you ever looked at a standard—local, state, or national—and wondered, “What is this? And how am I going to teach it?” If so, you’re not alone!

In the ever-changing world of which standards are we using this year?!, the work of learning and implementing new standards must often happen quickly. Implementing standards effectively requires teachers to dive deep into the standards to fully understand expectations and make them clear to students.

Why “Unpack” Standards?

Because standards are sometimes written as overarching—and often complex—statements that can be interpreted in different ways, it’s important that teachers share a common understanding about the goals and targets of a standard. (You’ve probably been in a PLC conversation and thought, “I had no idea that’s what that standard meant!” or “Whoa, we’re reading the same book, but we’re not on the same page.”)

“Unpacking” is a technique teachers can use to make sense of standards, and then create focused learning targets to make them actionable. This process, also called “deconstructing” or “unwrapping” standards, fosters a collaborative dialogue that supports growth and effectiveness.

Once you have unpacked standards to identify what students should know and be able to do, you can do three important things:

  • Craft your vision of mastery for specific standards.
  • Align lesson plans and accompanying resources to that vision.
  • As you teach and report progress, create student-friendly learning objectives to better communicate required skills to students and community stakeholders.

So what does unpacking look like? Read on as we break down the unpacking process and go through a couple examples to help get you started.

The Unpacking Process

There are four key steps to unpacking standards:


Identify what students need to know and what they need to do. We like to highlight nouns (content) in blue and verbs (skills) in green.


Next, you’ll determine which concepts are content/knowledge targets, reasoning/cognitive targets, skill/performance targets, and product targets.


The next step is to list the conceptual understandings that students discover during the learning process (the ah-ha! moments).


To focus and guide classroom instruction and assessment, write open-ended questions to help stimulate student interest and make new connections.

Think of this unpacking process as a journey with a destination in mind. The journey will include packing and preparation, travel arrangements, perhaps some new experiences, and ultimately an endpoint (student learning), which may very well begin a new journey.

An Unpacking Example

With the journey theme in mind, let’s use the analogy of planning a destination trip to help illustrate the process (it’s summertime, after all!). We’ll start with the learning target and break it down with Steps 1 and 2.


Organize and plan for a trip to the beach.

What should I know?

  • Lodging availability
  • Location of area restaurants
  • Day/night temperature at location

What should I be able to do?

  • Swim
  • Locate the surf shop
  • Apply sunscreen evenly

What should I understand?

  • Recognize changes in tide
  • Assess surroundings for safety
  • Devise a plan if stranded at sea on catamaran

This breakdown of the familiar process of planning a trip makes sense: It provides clearly outlined steps and a better vision of the target after unpacking the original standard.

Example 2: Unpacking a Complex Standard

Now let’s take a closer look at examples of Steps 1 through 4 with a more complex, real-world standard. For this demonstration, we’ll use a sixth grade English Language Arts national/state standard.


We’ll start by highlighting the nouns (concepts) in green and the verbs (skills) in blue, just like we did in the destination trip example.


Trace and evaluate the argument and specific claims in a text, distinguishing claims that are supported by reasons and evidence from claims that are not.


Next, we’ll identify the types of targets the standard represents. You may benefit by using a graphic organizer like the one below.

Knowledge Targets Reasoning Targets
Define argument

Define claim

Define evidence

Evaluate an argument

Distinguish between supported and unsupported claims

Skill/Performance Targets Product Targets
Trace an argument in a text Not applicable for this standard

Identifying specific targets within a standard provides clear direction for instructional planning. It helps to not only focus on important content students should know, but also what skills they should develop. This is a critical balance that can easily get a little lopsided if there’s too much on content and not enough the skills.


You’re halfway there! Determining Big Ideas is next, and it’s one of the most important parts of the learning process. This is where we help students to make connections and attach relevance to new information.

We want student thinking to extend beyond fact retention, because, let’s face it, facts alone aren’t going to get you where you need to go unless you’re a contestant on Jeopardy!

Below are some examples of Big Ideas for our standard:

  • Presenting an argument with evidence is more persuasive than sharing an opinion.
  • Unsupported claims can lead to an invalid argument.
  • Identifying a claim supported with evidence is a skill applicable to all areas of life.

These Big Ideas go beyond one standard, unit of study, or even a class. They are the key learnings that move with students to new targets, new applications, and new connections.


In our opinion, the real fun begins in Step 4. As teachers, our favorite moments were those that allowed us to watch a student learn, grow in understanding, or have an ah-ha! Moment. Essential Questions can get you there every time!

These questions are open-ended opportunities to stimulate interest, stretch thinking, make connections that haven’t been made before, and much more. They can be used at the beginning of the instruction on a learning target or during instruction to advance the thinking process.

Examples of Essential Questions for our standard include:

  • Why is evidence important?
  • Why do we need to be able to recognize an argument that has support versus one that does not?
  • When do we use argumentation in daily life?

One important point to remember when using Essential Questions is to keep them truly open-ended. Craft questions to have more than one possible response or to generate discussion when different or conflicting ideas are presented. As teachers, our role in this process is to facilitate thinking and discussion, not to validate. Be wary of responding with, “I agree with you” or “That’s correct”; other students may not speak up if their thinking is different than the answer you’ve identified as “right”.

Get Unpacking!

Congrats! You’ve now gone through the unpacking process. By unpacking this standard, you now have a clear path forward. This process will enable you to plan effectively and ultimately save you time to focus on your students. Not only will you have a deeper understanding of the standards you teach, but your students will be more engaged in their learning. Sounds like a win-win for everyone!

Be sure to check back in a few weeks for Part 2 of Unpacking Standards – Moving from Content Standards to Student-Friendly Learning Targets. We’ll explore priority standards and student-friendly “I Can” statements.

MasteryConnect has Every Standard for Every State!

Looking for solutions that support state or Common Core standards? Check out our FREE apps for educators or take a tour of the full MasteryConnect platform for school and district-level features.

Summer Apps for Teachers

You may have experienced the collective sigh of another school year drawing to a close. After a marathon of year-end testing, classroom cleaning, and general exhaustion, you’re probably more than ready for your summer break. (And they’re still great for year-round educators!)

Whether you spend your summer days gearing up for next year’s lessons or getting out of Dodge with the fam, there’s an app to help you do it smarter. Here’s the list of apps we’re digging this season.


workflowyRoadtrippers (Free)

Plan a road trip that would make Clark Griswald drool. The Roadtrippers app helps you discover the most interesting route to your destination, and points out a slew of awesome sites along the way. Layer your attraction bucket list with your travel preferences, and Roadtrippers will return a plan for the ultimate journey.


evernoteEvernote  (Free)

Evernote works across multiple platforms and devices and helps you manage all of kinds of tasks. Think of it like a digital notebook that you can access anywhere, anywhere. Clip webpages, create text notes, upload files and images, scan papers, receipts, and anything else you may lose track of. Teachers can use Evernote to create lesson plans and schedules, keep track of resources and ideas, and so much more. You can even create shared notebooks for students, colleagues, and parents.


skyguideSky Guide ($2.99)

Spend summer nights stargazing with the Sky Guide, an award-winning, out-of-this world app that lets you explore the cosmos by holding your iPad or iPhone to the sky. Discover new constellations, teach your own kiddos about the stars, or just be amazed by the summer sky.


dropboxDropBox (Free)

If you have a tendency to take your work home with you (ahem), then DropBox is essential. This  cloud storage platform syncs across all of your devices, so you can work from your classroom, home, or summer beachside cabana. You can also use it as backup storage for your favorite vacation photos, your teaching blog, classroom resources, recipes, and more.


fandangoFandango (Free)

Escape the sun by kicking back to watch a summer blockbuster in your local (and air-conditioned) theatre. Check out showtimes, read reviews, and buy tickets right from your phone to bypass the box office line.


productiveProductive-Habit Tracker (Free)

You’ve probably heard the theory that it takes approximately 21 days to form or break a habit. So why not have an app that’ll help you build positive ones? For example, drinking enough water in between homeroom announcements and after-school tutoring programs. Summer’s a great time to embrace some good habits before another busy year. Productive-Habit Tracker helps you build any positive habit you can think, keeping track of your positive-habit ‘streaks’.


packpointPack Point (Free)

With the arrival of summer, you’re probably looking forward to trading teaching days to beaching days. Use the PackPoint app to ensure you have everything you need for maximum R&R. This sleek tool will give you a complete packing list based on your destination, forecasted weather, length of stay, and vacation activities.


workflowyWorkFlowy (Free)

If you like to make lists, outlines, and strategic plans, WorkFlowy is your tool—perfect for planning for next year. It’s simple, clean, and intuitive. Use it to gather resources for next school year or plan the summer of destiny.


graditudeGratitude Journal ($2.99)

Looking to boost your mood after year-end burnout?The Gratitude Journal may help you overcome those intermittent bouts of meh. Use the app to track things you’re grateful for to develop an ‘attitude of gratitude’.


Moostimoosti (Free)

If you find yourself getting easily distracted or procrastinating, Moosti may be for you. It’s a  clean, simple web app that allows you to set a timer for a specified amount of time with scheduled breaks. Have some housework you want to get done in record time? Try ‘sprinting’ for 30 minutes through your task list, and then taking a 10-minute break. When your breaks over, do it again. Lesson planning to do? Do it in sprints, and use Moosti to help keep you motivated.


grocerypalGrocery Pal (Free)

For many, grocery shopping is one of the most dreaded task on their never-ending to-do list, especially when planning a summer campout or backyard BBQ. Make your shopping life easier with Grocery Pal. Keep track of all your needed grocery items, and then find which stores have the best sales and coupons to save a little moula. Less time wandering the aisles, more time doing whatever you want.


back2schoolBack to School Countdown ($1.39)

Get a second-by-second countdown to the first bell of the next school year. This app will help you keep track of how many more days you have to plan the 2016-2017 curriculum–or count the remaining days you can sleep in past six.


pocketPocket (Free)

Summer is the primo time to catch up on your personal reading. Pocket allows you keep track of articles and videos (like this one!) that you’ll want to peruse later–all in one place. Then share your top picks with friends. And if your summer vacation plans take you out of wi-fi range, no problem: You can view your saved items from any device sans internet.


campandrvCamp & RV ($9.99)

Before you set out into the great outdoors, be sure to snag this app that is worth the extra change. Camp & RV gives you a rundown on everything you need to know for roughing it, including 30,000 campgrounds, rest area locations, camper reviews, hikes, and more. Ready, set, adventure!


Tell us about the apps you love for life both in and outside of the classroom on Facebook or Twitter!


Have you seen our apps?

MasteryConnect has a whole collection of apps for educators—and they’re free! Get solutions for formative assessment, track student progress of state standards, or collaborate with 3 million educators who’ve already joined the community. Collect ’em all! And keep an eye out for Socrative PRO, launching this summer.


Formative Assessment Guide

You may have noticed that we are BIG fans of formative assessment around here. And as we meet with educators around the country, we continually find ourselves in (very) good company.

More and more teachers are using formative assessment in their classrooms everyday to answer important questions about student growth:

  • What do my students know?
  • What do they still need to learn?
  • How should I adapt my instruction?

Unlike it’s more traditional cousin, summative assessment, the formative process embeds checks for understanding into the learning cycle, so teachers can provide personalized learning opportunities based on students’ unique needs. It also helps students track their progress and take greater ownership of their learning. Both super sweet wins in our book.

Over the past few months, we’ve shared a series of articles on the ins and outs of formative assessment and strategies to put it to integrate it into your instruction. But we thought it’d be nice to have all that formative know-how in one handy, comprehensive guide.

Now you can become the hot-footed, whiz-bang, undisputed champion of formative assessment by downloading The Definitive K-12 Guide to Formative Assessment, a free 20-page resource designed specifically for K-12 teachers and administrators. 

What’s inside?

  • An overview of formative assessment and its benefits for students and teachers
  • The difference between formative and summative assessment
  • The three must-haves for meaningful formative assessments
  • Ideas to start using in your own classroom

Whether you’re new to formative assessment or you’re already a diehard believer, there’s something for you in this guide. 

Download now!  

Looking for a formative assessment solution? MasteryConnect can help you collect more formative data more frequently. View our online demo to see how we may be able to help in your school or district.

Best Practices for Long Term Planning

This week we kick off a special series of articles written by our Client Success Managers. They’ll be sharing insights and best practices designed to help you make the most of your summer months and plan for the upcoming year.

Another school year in the books! Your friends are probably already sending the standard “Must be nice…Where are you planning to vacation?” messages. Summers off?! (As a former educator, I’m laughing with you.) Let’s be real: You’ve already planned the staycation in your classroom so you can begin next school year in a less Tasmanian-devil like state.

So when we think of the lists and lists of things to get done in the summer, you may be wondering why I’d suggest beginning with long term plan creation. But it makes sense.

Imagine the layers of the Earth; the long-term plan is like the crust. It is the outermost layer of your teaching plan and a necessary starting point before drilling any deeper. Creating a long term plan (LTP) will help you avoid becoming overwhelmed in the frenzy that is back to school season. It’ll also help you focus on every educator’s primary goal: student learning. And we all know that doesn’t happen without a specific, charted course of action.

Read on for tips I learned by going through the LTP process myself.

Answer a Few Key Questions

Before you dive right into the writing your LTP, take the time to answer the questions that’ll help you in the process.

What do you want your students to learn?
Use your standards to answer this! Your district may also provide a Scope & Sequence or Pacing Guide you can use as guidance.

Which standards are “power” or “priority” standards?
When working with standards, you may need to prioritize a little. Best place to start is with power standards.

How will you know if students have learned?
Identify what you’ll accept as evidence of learning or mastery. You may use released interim or end-of-level assessments to review standards-aligned questions or tasks. This helps to identify how your school district or state expects students to demonstrate proficiency and ensures that the level of rigor in your expectation is consistent.

If this all sounds a little daunting, hang in there! You don’t have to go it alone. This is a great opportunity to collaborate with your colleagues, whether you do it informally or in your PLCs / teacher teams. Teaming up will help you create a great comprehensive plan while lightening the load.

Now let’s get into the details of crafting your LTP.

What a Long Term Plan Is and Isn’t

A long term plan is a document or tool that details logical and sequenced standards-aligned learning goals for your course, grouping them into cohesive units that build upon one another. More simply put, your LTP is an instructional plan crafted to help you meet your learning goals (which you’ve outlined by answering the questions above).

An LTP is not your textbook’s table of contents, though I’ll personally admit that I’ve used that to drive my own instruction in the past. Major oops and missed opportunity. I learned (and you may have, too) that it’s impossible to cram an entire textbook’s worth of content into a single school year, and there’s often a lot of unnecessary “fluff” between those pages.

How LTPs Help Educators

When I based my plan on a textbook, I didn’t know WHY I was teaching the prescribed content; I essentially allowed it to determine what I should teach and when I should teach it. When I began to use my course standards to drive my long-term planning and leveraged my textbook as a supporting resource, I found that I had more time than I thought I would.

I was then able to approach each instructional day with a clear purpose. That purpose was for my students to demonstrate learning of a very clear set of skills, as outlined by the standards that I prioritized. Building an LTP that you’re invested in is exciting. Really. It helped me enter the school year with a PLAN that I was invested in. Additionally, it helped me to get to know the standards that I am accountable to teach, and it was the first step to exercising my creative teaching abilities.

A Long Term Plan Example

My first LTP was built in a Word document. Here’s an example from a 5th grade Science class.



In this particular unit, I grouped fifth grade science standards on Physical and Chemical Change. Notice that this precedes types and forms of energy and eventually builds to energy flow and the advanced concepts of photosynthesis.

Developing your LTP involves more than grouping standards into a logical sequence; it involves looking at each standard to determine specific and measurable learning goals. Though there are only two standards in this particular unit, there are eight learning objectives. (Psst! Stay tuned for an upcoming article on deriving learning goals from standards.)

The Need for Flexibility

Creating the beginnings of this extensive plan in Microsoft Word is absolutely doable, but it has its limitations. As I moved through the school year, I found the Word doc inflexible. Oftentimes, I would assume a skill would take a certain amount of time to teach; my predictions weren’t always accurate.

An LTP is not fixed; it’s a living document. This means it should be constantly informed and manipulated as you gauge student understanding. You should feel empowered to adjust pace to meet your student’s needs.

Because I needed more flexibility, I built my LTPs in Google Sheets the following year. You can also use an Excel sheet for this. This still requires a significant amount of copy/paste and cut commands to manipulate standards into logical units of learning.

Creating an LTP in MasteryConnect

If you’re writing an LTP, I’d like to introduce you to your new best friend: Curriculum Mapping from MasteryConnect. The Curriculum Map feature is IDEAL for crafting your LTP. It allows you to pre-populate your state specific standards and easily organize them into a unit structure, complete with notes, resources, and aligned assessments.

Below, you’ll find an example of my 5th Grade Science Curriculum Map in MasteryConnect after having organized it into logical and sequential units. Prior to this organization, the map exists as a list of standards based on the core I chose to align it to. Note that this is a collapsed view: I have the option to expand any unit to view embedded standards, learning objectives, and resources.


You can see an example of my expanded unit on Physical and Chemical change below.


The Curriculum Map feature in MasteryConnect revolutionized my LTP. And it will help you knock out an awesome plan while saving time in the process.

Create Your Long Term Plan

Now is time for you to start crafting your LTP. To help you get started, I’ve rounded up some valuable resources that will provide you with detailed instruction on how to build your LTP through the MasteryConnect Curriculum Map feature.

Help Center

Video Tutorial: Create a Curriculum Map

Video Tutorial: Organize a Curriculum Map

Article: View/Customize Standards in a Curriculum Map

Article: Set Power Standards in a Curriculum Map

Web PD

Mindful Intermediate Module: Creating Curriculum Maps

For on-site professional development on using Curriculum Maps for long term planning, contact your Customer Success Manager. And be sure to check back for upcoming articles in our Client Success Series. We’ll be covering topics like unpacking standards, analyzing student data, teaching for mastery, and more!

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