Planning to Assess: How to Align Your Instruction

January 9, 2015 / by Gretchen Vierstra

For many of us, the new year brings new assessments -- and undoubtedly, some anxiety. This can be a great time to reflect on what you and your students have achieved so far, as well as think about what's ahead. While you obviously need to think about the specific needs of your own students, it often helps to talk things through with colleagues. When I was teaching middle school, my grade level team addressed our worries head on by getting together to review our instructional planning -- making sure we were giving our students plenty of opportunities to demonstrate standards. Over the past few months at Teaching Channel, we've been trying to help you with this task.

Next up, we've partnered with PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers) to bring you a set of tools and a process for carefully analyzing how standards, evidence, and tasks interact, and applying these understandings to inform instructional decisions. This process encourages you to think about answers to important questions, such as:

  • What do students need to know and be able to do in order to answer a sample assessment "item"?
  • How do I design instructional tasks that demonstrate standards in order to prepare students for assessments?
  • How do I choose complex and meaningful texts?
  • How do I develop worthwhile math problems?

To learn more about the PARCC processes and tools, check out this overview video.

To see tools specifically designed for the ELA/literacy and math standards, check out the videos below.

ELA Tools

If ELA is your focus, take a look at the introduction to the process, Planning ELA Instruction with PARCC Tools. Then, download the ELA Performance-Based Assessment Tasks Flowchart and watch these six Teaching Channel videos sequentially to see a process for analyzing and learning from sample assessment items.

  1. Identifying Texts Worth Reading
  2. Connecting Texts to ELA Standards
  3. The Power of Pairing Texts to Demonstrate Standards
  4. Assessing Text Complexity
  5. Unpacking Sample Assessment Items
  6. Designing Purposeful ELA Instruction

Math Tools

If you are planning math instruction, download the Math Performance-Based Assessment Tasks Flowchart and watch the introduction, Planning Math Instruction with PARCC Tools, then watch the three-step videos for the math process.

  1. Developing Worthwhile Math Problems
  2. Aligning to Math Standards
  3. Determining Instructional Approaches for Math

You'll see that these tools and processes can help you and your colleagues make instructional choices that match the rigor and richness of the standards and assessments. And, even if you don't teach in these subjects areas or in a Common Core state, the reflective process could easily be adapted to other subject areas, as well as different local or state standards.

So, take a look, gather a team of colleagues, and try a little unpacking. Once you try it, let us know how it worked!

Topics: Assessment, Lesson Planning, English Language Arts, Math, Literacy, Video Playlist

Gretchen Vierstra

Written by Gretchen Vierstra

Gretchen Vierstra taught middle school for ten years in the San Francisco Bay Area. During her 15+ years in education, she’s also been a department chair, new teacher coach, curriculum developer, and policy analyst. She is Director of Educational Content at Teaching Channel.

Read Next

Sign up for the Teaching Channel newsletter to get the latest articles, videos, and resources delivered to your inbox every Saturday morning.

Recent Blogs

Search Blogs

      2022-July11-12months_300x600 (003)


      We're always looking for new TCHERS' VOICE bloggers! If you're interested in writing an article, please get in touch with us. 

      Learn More