Strategically Planning to Internalize a Lesson in OUR 6-8/IM 6-12 Math

Identify key elements of the lesson to focus on scope and depth, anticipate student responses, and to plan instructional routines
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About This Strategy

While the OUR 6-8/IM 6-12 Math curricula provide a detailed lesson narrative, strategically planning from those narratives is a critical step in implementing the curriculum with integrity. Strategic planning reveals how activities within the curriculum are connected to build understanding and achieve the learning purpose of each task. This strategy supports teachers to internalize how the structure of each lesson builds understanding and moves students towards the learning expectations. By internalizing the why and how of each lesson, instructors can strategically personalize the instruction using routines and strategies.

Implementation Steps

30 minutes
  1. Create a copy of the Strategic Planner, located in the resource section below.

    • The guide included as a resource below was created for the OUR 6-8/IM 6-12 math curricula,  but can be adapted so that it could work for any math curriculum.

  2. Review the lesson narrative to complete the strategic planning process. As you strategically plan, it is important to do the math for each activity. This enables you to see the purpose of the task and the math that students must be able to do. 

  3. After reading the lesson narrative, determine the purpose of the lesson. This is typically found in the first sentence, but review the entire paragraph. Capture your notes in the strategic planning template. 

    • Review the  “Strategic Planning to Determine Lesson Video” in the resource section below for a coach to walk you through this step.

  4. Review the cool down and do the math. The cool-down is the formative assessment and is what students must be able to do by the end of the lesson. Compare the cool down to the lesson purpose and goals.

    • What must students need to be able to do by the end of the lesson? 

    • Is it similar to the learning objectives?

    • Review the  “Strategic Planning to Determine Lesson Goals and Purpose Video” in the resource section below for a coach to walk you through this step.

  5. Once you have a strong understanding of what students must be able to do by the end of the lesson, move on to the warm-up and activities.

    • For each activity, do the math.

    • Determine the purpose of each task. Each task in the OUR 6-8/IM 6-12 math tasks have been carefully selected and sequenced. Capture the purpose in your strategic planning template.

    • Consider the suggested instructional routines and supports for each activity. Take notes in your planning template. 

    • Consider how each activity connects to one another, the learning goals, and the overall lesson purpose.

    • Finally, determine how you will synthesize each lesson.

      • For a coach model, review the videos for Activity 1-2 in the resource section below.

  6. Once you complete the strategic planning template for all the activities, consider how you will consolidate learning for students in the lesson synthesis. This is a critical component of the lesson. It is important to consider:

    • What info do you need to gather as students work on the task to prepare for the synthesis?

    • What questions (scaffolding and stretching questions) will you pose or use during the synthesis of this activity?

    • What instructional routines, MLRs, strategies are you going to use to help consolidate learning?

  7. Utilize the strategic planner and then jot some notes for future years. Save the strategic planner for next year.

For various ways to use the strategic planner or for more detailed implementation instructions, review the use cases below.

To see an example lesson "in action" check out the teaching clips located in the resource section below.


Strategically Planning: Instruction "Limits"

Strategic planning can be narrowed to focus on one element at a time. When thinking about instruction limits, the purpose is to avoid over-teaching. Focusing on the lesson purpose and assessment boundaries also helps with pacing and differentiation.

Implementation Steps: 

  1. Read the lesson narrative to identify the lesson purpose. This comes directly after the table which lists the Learning Targets and Goal, standards, and links to materials. These are critical instructional notes that identify what students should know as a result of this lesson. The purpose is usually found in the first sentence of this narrative, but read the entire narrative. Restate the lesson purpose in the strategic planner using your own words

  2. Read the end of lesson assessment, the Cool-Down. In order to deeply internalize this assessment, do the math first. Otherwise you may go beyond the assessment boundary. What will students need to be able to do as a result of this lesson? Note this information in your strategic planner as well as the suggested time to complete the Cool-Down.

  3. Compare what you wrote for the lesson goal, and what you noted as the lesson outcome. Are they aligned? Often the scope of the lesson is not fully realized until the assessment is analyzed. Did you overstate the learning goal? 

  4. Go on to examine the Warm-Up, listed as activity 1 of the lesson.

  5. Identify which of following four purposes this Warm-Up is intended to meet:

    1. remind students of a context they have seen before 

    2. get them thinking about where the previous lesson left off

    3. review a calculation that will happen in the lesson so that the calculation doesn't get in the way of learning new mathematics

    4. strengthen number sense or procedural fluency

  6. Go on to the next planning section (below), Strategically Planning: Task Purpose to complete the Strategic Planning Template.

Strategically Planning: Task Purposes

Each lesson activity has a narrow and specific learning purpose. The activities are also carefully sequenced so that each learning experience prepares the learner for the next. Identifying the purpose of each task, analyzing the connections between the activities, and anticipating student response to the activities are critical next steps after determining the scope of the lesson. Focusing on the task purpose in strategic planning will provide a clear understanding of the goal of each activity supporting your implementation.

Implementation steps:

  1. Continue using the Strategic Planner from "Strategically Planning: Lesson Limits."

  2. Learn more about Task Purposes by reading that section of the Open Up Resources 6-8 Math Course Guide, "About These Materials" tab, scroll down to "Task Purposes" (optional but informative).

  3. Review the warm-up to determine the task purpose. What is the purpose of this learning activity? It is important that you focus on the "instruction," not the math, in doing this analysis. 

    • For a coach walk-through of the warm up purpose, review the video in the resource section below.

  4. Note the purpose of the task in your Strategic Planning Template.

  5. Determine the connection to the learning goals.

    • How does the Warm-up connect to the Lesson Goal? Using your own words, make a note of this information in your planner, as well as the suggested time for the opening.

    • Read the Warm-up Synthesis. You will need this information in order to complete the Strategic Planning question about connections between this activity and the next. Note that the Synthesis is not listed as a separate activity and given additional time. The synthesis is the critical piece in each activity, and at the end of the entire lesson itself, where the teacher makes sure students "get" the main teaching point. There are a number of ways to ensure that the Synthesis occurs, and this topic is covered in a Case Purpose further below. For now, you are analyzing it for activity connections. This helps you to identify where your students may have a gap in understanding, and it also highlights how the activities build on each other in a curriculum where mastery builds over time.

  6. When moving to the next tasks, it is important to consider how the tasks connect. 

  7. Review the activities to determine the task purpose. Consider:

    • What is the purpose of this learning activity? It is important that you focus on the "instruction," not the math, in doing this analysis. 

  8. Note the purpose of the task in your Strategic Planning Template.

  9. Determine the connections.

    • How does the activity connect to previous activities and to the Lesson Goal? Using your own words, make a note of this information in your planner, as well as the suggested time for the activity.

  10. Read the synthesis for each activity. What ideas must you support students to consolidate? What needs to be clear? Make these notes in the Strategic Plan

  11. Continue until you have completed the task purpose for each of the activities in the lesson.

Strategically Planning: Structures/Routines to Support Student Ownership

In a problem-based curriculum, students "do the work." The teacher's heavy lifting comes during the strategic planning, where the teacher crafts the instruction so that students have the mathematical strategies, resources and supports that they will need to build on their prior understanding and to obtain the mathematical language related to their current topic. The lessons provide resources and instructional moves, but the teacher still needs to unpack that information, consider what their students will need, and anticipate their response to strategically plan instruction for this student-centered curriculum. 

Implementation Steps:

  1. Go to the first activity following the Warm-up. Read the narrative and then return to the task to identify the Task Purpose. 

    • What is the purpose of this task (the main teaching point)? 

    • Read the Synthesis. Consider: How does it connect to the prior activity, the Warm-up? Note this information, and the suggested time for the activity, in your strategic planner. 

  2. Each activity in the Open Up Resources Curriculum has suggested instructional routines. Review the routines and make notes about how you will utilize the routine within that task. 

    • Remember, the instructional routines are used to support student ownership and provide structure for engaging with the math. It is important to utilize these routines.

  3. If you notice a possible learning gap for your students following any activity, check to see if there is a section titled "Are you ready for more?" This section is provided in lessons where the authors felt it was possible students might need more support or an extension. It allows for additional learning or practice of new or challenging content. Make notes of these ideas in your planning template.

  4. If there are additional tasks, continue this process for each one.

EL Modification: Mathematical Language Routines

Part of the universal design of this curriculum is the Mathematical Language Routines (MLRs), created by Stanford University Graduate School of Education. The MLRs address language development and are built into the curriculum so that teachers use them as daily instructional routines. All students, not just English Learners, benefit from the use of these language routines. As you strategically plan, pay attention to the MLRs that are used with the routines as scaffolds for your EL students.

Special Education Modification

One of the design principles of the Open Up Resources 6-8 Math Curriculum is "universal design." The instructional goals, recommended practices, lesson plans, and assessments are all built to support a flexible approach to instruction, ensuring all students have an equitable opportunity to learn. Read the Open Up Resources 6-8 Course Guide for more information.

Questions to Consider

  • How does strategic planning differ from lesson planning? 

  • How could you use the strategic planning process to support challenges you are facing?

  • How can you add notes to your plan for the following year?

Coach Tips

Cheryl Belknap
BetterLesson Instructional Coach

Strategic planning to internalize a lesson may feel cumbersome for a curriculum that is fully developed. However, I strongly encourage you to use the strategic planning template to internalize lessons. This problem-based curriculum puts students in charge of their learning, and while teacher and student supports and rich instructional ideas are present, these require analysis, planning, and practice in order to implement with integrity.

Tech Tools

Digital Version of the Open Up Resources 6-8 Math Curriculum

  • While there is a printed edition available, it is important to also use the digital edition of this curriculum when planning for a number of reasons. (1) Opportunity to learn/use with students the applets that provide interactive learning experiences for students, (2) Community Resource links (found at the end), (3) Full descriptions of how to implement key instructional practices such as the Mathematical Language Routines, right within the context of the lesson.


  • GeoGebra is a math program that brings together geometry, algebra, spreadsheets, graphing, statistics and calculus in one easy-to-use package, and also supports teachers to develop their own materials using their dynamic tools.

  • Geogebra has a large number of activities built for the curriuclum.


  • Desmos began as a free interactive graphing calculator and has grown into a library of hands-on digital math activities for students. 

  • While Desmos doesn't have a separate "section" of Open Up Resources 6-8 Math activities, teachers using the curriculum have built many activities on this site. Use the Desmos search feature by entering the name of the lesson.


  • Teachers can use place curriculum content and their own materials on the ASSISTments platform and assign them to students using Google Classroom, can give students receive immediate feedback, and have tools to analyze the resulting student data.

  • The entire Open Up Resources 6-8 Math curriculum is already found on the ASSISTments website.