Vertical Alignment in 4 Easy Steps

Recently I held a vertical alignment session and I have had educators reach out, request, and ask for advice on how to get started in a similar process.  Vertical alignment across grade levels can be the most powerful meeting ever attended by both teachers and adminstrators.  Teachers can collaborate, share, and work together to do what is best for their content and students.  On the flip side, many believe there are documents provided for teachers to see the alignment of the TEKS. within the content area.  This is true, some of my favorite documents actually, but as educators we must also discuss implementation of the TEKS and how it looks across grade levels.  Directly aligning common practices from grade level to grade level within each content area will provide students with a consistent message as well as hold high expectations.
In this blog post, I will share the organizational document that I created to assist in my alignment journey, how to use it, and suggestions to improve future alignment day(s).  I saw there was not many resources such as these available for leaders to utilize and wanted to provide this for others to use when beginning alignment on a campus or within a district.  Simply download (for FREE), adjust as needed (fonts, etc..), fill in, and put to use!

So with that said ... Let's Get Started!

Step One: Plan

This step is the easiest of all.  You will need to decide your date, time, location, rooms used, as well as gather materials that may be necessary for each planning room (I left this part off - OOPS - do not forget the colored markers, post-it notes, and large chart paper). 

Step Two: Organize Groups

In this step, you will need to go through all teachers participating in the alignment, view teaching assignments, and adequately place each teacher into the correct sub-group.  The four core content groups I used were mathematics, science, social studies, and ELAR.  Elective supports were sprinkled within the groups to help gain and generate ideas to assist in their classrooms as well. Separate sub-groups can be made for each elective if desired.  Each subject area is color-coded and stays consistent throughout the sub-groups.

It is recommended at in the first grey column that bold names of campuses (if doing district alignment) or grade levels (if doing campus alignment) be entered.  Follow under each row with teachers names for easy identification when sending out assignments the week or two prior to the alignment day.
*Note: This concept can also be used on each sub-group sheet.  Simply copy and paste into the top column then fill in the row with the coordinating teachers names.

Step 3: Organize Sub-Groups

Now that the department groups are assigned it is time to break them down into sub-groups. This process is relatively simple since the overall core is already broken down.  On each sub-group document there are 'conversation starters' to help get the discussion flowing.  At first I started with 'essential questions' but then when discussing the plan with my colleagues the suggestion was made to use the term conversation starters and we all thought BINGO!  This helps assist in taking the check box compliance piece out of the equation and help develop true meaningful discourse between staff members.  Smaller school districts with teachers teaching multiple subjects/content areas could take this same document and subgroups breaking each subject into a few hours of alignment or two subjects per half a day of planning.

Below you will see the list of subjects and sub-groups.   As you will notice I have implemented vocabulary in all four subjects.  This was a focus for my alignment day and can be changed for yours.  The template can be edited and changed to fit your districts needs.


  • Vocabulary
  • Mnemonic Devices
  • Interactive Notebooks
  • Elective Supports


  • Vocabulary
  • Procedures/Labs
  • Word Walls
  • Interactive Notebooks

Social Studies:

  • Vocabulary
  • Kindergarten - Grade 3 Alignment
  • 4th and 7th (Texas History)
    Grade Alignment
  • 5th, 8th, and 11th Grade (US History) Alignment


  • Vocabulary
  • Reading Comprehension and Inferencing 
  • Writing
  • Revising and Editing
  • Mnemonic Devices

Step Four: Feedback Survey

I always try to follow up any professional development with a Google Forms feedback survey. No e-mails or names need to be collected just focus the feedback on pros/cons, take-a-ways, and suggestions for improvements on similar professional development in the future. 

Recommendations would be to print the document on card stock for easy use.  Pre-arrange tables and chairs afternoon before the alignment day to meet each groups needs in each room.  Use a document display to put sub-groups' assignment/conversation starters sheet on the tables.  This will help staff know where to sit upon entering each room.  Supply tables with candy and materials such as pens, pencils, markers, sticky notes, and large post-it paper.

Good Luck and I would love to hear about how your day goes!

Click here to download Christine's FREE vertical alignment document.

No comments:

Post a Comment