Pacing Calendar to Support Students' Self-Paced Work

A Mastery-Based Progression unleashes students to work at their own pace so creating and monitoring a simple pacing calendar can help
127 teachers like this strategy
Introduction on How to Use a Pacing Calendar
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About This Strategy

This strategy supports teachers to create a pacing calendar for students in a mastery-based or self-paced progression. When students are allowed to work at their own pace and focus on what they need the most, some of them handle this independence really well right away. It is, in a sense, something they have waiting for a long time to have. For other students, having a chance to work at their own pace might mean that they are allowed to slow down on certain skills to work with the teacher one on one or in small groups, while keeping pace with the class on other skills. When students start having this type of flexibility, it is important to continue to provide them with guidance around a suggested pace that would help them stay on track, while closing some gaps.

This strategy will help you create this resource and give you examples from classrooms of teachers who have tested this idea successfully.

Implementation Steps

90 minutes
  1. Start by breaking down your curriculum (or simply the unit you want to test out mastery-based progression on) into smaller competencies or standards. Create a map of these competencies that students can see at all time in the classroom, and possibly move a marker on to indicate mastery of different competencies (See strategy called “Mastery Map and Standard-Based Peer Tutoring” in the BetterLesson Lab). Create also a student-facing mastery tracker that will help your students have an individual view of their progress. You will find great examples of trackers in the strategy called “Progress and Mastery Trackers” in the BetterLesson Lab.
  2. Once this map is created, students should be able to progress through these different competencies at their own pace via a combination of online activities organized, for example, in playlists (See Playlist strategy in the BetterLesson Lab) and face to face activities run by you or your students (Small group instruction, 1:1 conference, peer tutoring, etc…)
  3. At this point of your process, create a suggested pacing calendar for mastering the different competencies inside a given unit of time. Make this calendar available to all your students via a poster and individual copies. You will find examples of what these calendars can look like in the resources below.
  4. Explain to students that the suggested pace is to help them stay on track, even though they might need at times to speed up or slow down. In order to do that, it is recommended to hold a weekly class meeting to review the pacing calendar as a group and allow students to reflect on where they are in relation to the suggested pace.
  5. Support them to set goals for an upcoming week. Some of the pacing calendars included below have a space included in the template for students to set goals for an upcoming week when it comes to what they want to try to master. Teachers sometimes prefer to have students complete a separate document, like a contract, in which they commit to master a certain number of skills in a given week. You will find an example of a self-paced contract below.
  6. Do not forget to consider the case of students who will move way faster than the suggested pace. This is one of the reasons why one would want to move to mastery-based progression: remove barriers between units, and allow students to keep learning at their pace. Two scenarios are possible:
    • Completely remove the unit barriers and have students continue to move through your entire curriculum at their own pace, mastering one competency after another.
    • Try an intermediate approach, in which students move through a unit at their own pace but still remain in the same unit together. If that is the approach chosen first, it is imperative to consider adding relevant and rigorous culminating projects combining multiple competencies so that your students will continue to work on meaningful tasks while other students complete the unit.

Pacing Calendar to Support Student Self-Paced Work For Distance Learning

Tori Todd
BetterLesson Instructional Coach

Distance learning provides a natural opportunity for students to self-pace their learning. A pacing calendar helps students stay on track and accomplish tasks when working in a distance format.

Implementation steps:

  1. Start by breaking down your curriculum (or simply the unit you want to test out mastery-based progression on) into smaller competencies or standards. Create a map of these competencies and share it online with students (See strategy called “Mastery Map and Standard-Based Peer Tutoring” in the BetterLesson Lab). Create also a student-facing mastery tracker that will help your students have an individual view of their progress. You will find great examples of trackers in the strategy called “Progress and Mastery Trackers” in the BetterLesson Lab.

  2. Once this map is created, students should be able to progress through these different competencies at their own pace via a combination of online activities organized, for example, in playlists (See Playlist strategy in the BetterLesson Lab).

    • Consider using a learning management system, such as Canvas or Google Classroom, to host playlists.

  3. At this point of your process, create a suggested pacing calendar for mastering the different competencies inside a given unit of time. Make this calendar available to all your students via a digital poster and individual copies.

    • Use a program like ThingLink, Adobe Spark, or Piktochart to create a digital pacing calendar poster.

  4. Explain to students that the suggested pace is to help them stay on track, even though they might need at times to speed up or slow down. In order to do that, it is recommended to hold a weekly class meeting to review the pacing calendar as a group and allow students to reflect on where they are in relation to the suggested pace.

    • To hold these conversations asynchronously, create a screencast to review the pacing calendar. Ask students to reflect on their progress by posting to Flipgrid or Padlet.

  5. Support students to set goals for each week. Meet with students one-on-one or provide them with a goal-setting template to submit before the week begins See the Progress and Mastery Tracking strategy for examples of student goal-setting and progress tracking templates.

Special Education Modification

Nedra Massenburg
Special Education Specialist

Using a pacing calendar can help support students with disabilities keep track of their own mastery and help them build self-advocacy skills.

Successful use of a pacing calendar requires teachers planning for the variety of skills required of students: emotional regulation,  significant executive functioning skills (task initiation, prioritization, working memory, etc.), written expression skills, reading skills and verbal expression skills.  In order to support students with disabilities who have difficulty in these areas consider the following modifications:

Modifications:

  1. Teachers should think carefully about the approach of quality over quantity when helping students with disabilities track their mastery using a pacing calendar.  Special emphasis for these students could be put on mastery of the highest leverage skills in a unit. 

  2. Depending on the percentage of students with disabilities present in a classroom, a teacher may either increase the amount of modeling time built in to prepare students for self-pacing or pre-teach effective goal-setting skills. See the resources in the resource section below for more information.
  3. If multiple teachers are present in a setting, consider having one teacher work in a small group of students with more intensive disabilities to help provide more targeted guidance on how to set goals and use pacing calendars.

EL Modification

Shannon Coyle
English Learner Specialist

Self-pacing is an important academic skill for English learners to learn. This strategy provides support and guidance to learners as they navigate goal setting and plotting mastery. Learners also benefit from seeing what is ahead of and behind them as they progress through units of study. 

English learners may need to use all four domains of language: reading, writing, speaking, and listening to engage with the presentation and activities associated with this strategy. In order to support English Learners consider the following modifications:

Modifications:

  1. Ensure English learners understand the language, context, and directions included pacing calendars and associated activities, for instance, ask learners to restate directions or use TPR, e.g., thumbs up. Give learners hard copies of all referenced materials to follow along. Consider previewing or 1:1 check-ins to read aloud and/or go over calendar and any new-to-the-learner activities. See the "Teacher Tool: Leveled Question Stems" resource in the resource section below for more information.
  2. Provide comprehensible content in activities that require learners to read-to-learn. Consider providing home language content as available during independent or technology-based activities. When available, home language content can be a powerful tool in developing and progressing skills. See the "Research Resources for English Learners" resource in the resource section below for more information.
  3. Perform 1:1 check-ins with English learners. Use independent work time to give English learners an opportunity to use their academic language, and learning facilitators a chance to formatively assess content language use, to guide goal setting and redirect to more suitable pacing as needed. Consider consulting learners’ language specialist for insight about appropriate pacing expectations.
  4. Provide English learners with familiar reference sheets such as graphic organizers, word banks, sentence stems, formula sheets, etc., to use as needed during activities.