Have you been looking for new ideas for special education classroom lesson planning?

Don't miss the the update and my reflection on the special education lesson plan process below!

I've been asked to share ideas on lesson planning, but first – I have a few questions for you!  


  • How does your school or grade-level team lesson plan?  
  • Do you lesson plan together as a team, vertical plan based on content, or individually plan for your own class?  
  • Are you required to submit special education lesson plans to a “coach” or administrator?  
  • Is there a required lesson plan template that you follow?
  • Do special ed lesson plans look different than general education?

My Answers

  • Our grade-level teams plan in the following way: each teacher tackles one content area: Math, Comprehension, Writing, Language, Vocabulary/Morning Message, and Phonics. This general education teacher writes the unit plans and assessments, weekly lessons, resources for class (flipcharts, activity pages, exit tickets), and homework. These lesson plans are shared out 2 weeks (10 days minimum) in advance on our “intranet” where we can upload files. Each teacher is also required to presubmit their lesson plan to a designated Teacher Development Leader (often an administrator) for review. This review is a big process at the beginning of the year with constructive feedback, and then often falls into a “check for completion” after the first quarter of the school year. 
  • We backwards plan the year, so the scope and sequence and unit plans/calendar are already shared out before the school year starts (we work during the summer!). This “big picture” is extremely helpful to the special educator (me!) and I access them often. Weekly grade-level team meetings often include discussions regarding timing adjustments to the completed plans due to field trips, snow days, and/or data review (i.e.: our students need more practice!).
  • The lesson planners also meet vertically with other grade levels planning the same content area. For example, the first grade teacher planning math will meet with the kindergarten and 2nd-4th grade math teachers to discuss key teaching points. 
  • As the special educator, I download the general education weekly lesson plans and then differentiate them for students on my caseload. I'd love to say I do it the same way every week/month/year, but as my students' needs change,  so does my planning!
  • This year, I've often “stuck to the script” for comprehension, phonics, and math, and then differentiated the presentation  (small groups, more guided practice, parallel teaching).  Next, I supplement and add in tons and TONS of spiral review based on data analysis (I collect data daily!). In previous years, my students have been in a completely different place than the general education population, so my lessons were following a  different (more “bare bones”) scope and sequence. It completely depends on my students' IEP goals and objectives and their areas of strength/growth. VERY interesting, especially because my first graders seem to grow and change WEEKLY!  This makes my job exhausting exciting! 🙂
  • I submit my lesson plans 10 days in advance to my team leader. This is the accountability piece our school has built in for every teacher. I find that my lesson plans can be cumbersome and I don't refer to them too often throughout the week. Still, they are a great resource when I'm prepping and/or a student is absent and we need to find a way to catch up the instruction. 

That was A LOT of information about lesson planning!

Here's what my weekly lesson plan overview looks like:

special education lesson planning
special education lessons

Sorry about those “fancy” font choices I made back in 2012 😉

UPDATE – Wow, this post brings back a lot of memories! It was originally written in 2012 and has received many revisions along the way.

Upon a lot of reflection and opportunities to have meaningful conversations with other special educators, I actually can't believe the expectations we had way back when. It was a WHOLE lot of extra and while the intentions were well-meaning, it was just so much.

I'm keeping the information here because I think (hope!) it may still be helpful for others, especially if you've tried out many special education activities and lesson formats and still haven't found one that works. Maybe some components of these sped lesson plans will be helpful to you and spark some fresh ideas!

If you interested in learning more about special education lesson planning, check out this video:

Hi there.

I'm Jennifer!

I’m Jennifer and I was a special educator in the elementary school setting over the past decade. I entered the classroom every day dedicated to making learning inclusive AND engaging.

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