Part 1 of 4: Strategic and Intentional Lesson Planning

*This blog post is part of a four part series on lesson planning that will be published in the next few weeks.

Strategic or intentional lesson planning is a plan that is clearly developed based on the standards, and the different types and levels of students in your classroom.  It is intentional by having well defined learning objectives. By creating strategic and intentional lesson plans, you are meeting all students’ needs. You are providing them appropriate supports based on their academic language and abilities that will enable them to be successful in the classroom.  You are creating learning scenarios that are appropriate and doable for all your students. In other words, you are meeting each student at a level that they can be successful in.

Like most teachers, I am guilty of “winging it” on some days.  There could be many different reasons for it:

  • my previously planned lesson is bombing;
  • there was a sudden change in the day’s schedule;
  • I’m having a tough day and I know that this lesson needs my 110%;
  • the students are having a tough day and I can already foresee disaster;
  • Or, an awesome teachable moment just presented itself!

Whatever my reason be, I give myself a pass some days to “wing it”.  Doing it from time to time is normal and acceptable.

However, in teaching, we all know that strategic lesson planning is often the key to a successful lesson.  It is especially important to create intentional lesson plans when we teach a very diverse class (Whose class is not these days?).  Teaching English language learners (ELLs) require very specific objectives, process, and assessments. We have to be aware of–not only the standards–but the language proficiency of the students which will dictate our lesson expectations.

Know Your Students

It is important to know who and what level your students are in.  You can look at formative assessments or previous summative assessments.  You can look at their language proficiency levels and their educational status–GATE, SpED, EL or EO (English only).   

Knowing who comprises your class will help you write purposeful lesson objectives (Lesson objectives will be discussed further in part 2 of the series.).  Lesson objectives should include a content objective and a language objective. The content objective focuses on the skill needed to access the core content.  The language objective is the the language form and function needed to complete the objective. It is always important to keep in mind that language objectives should promote academic language growth in all your students.


Know Your Standards

Because I know my students, I am aware that their needs vary.  The one size fits all lesson plan is not going to be as effective as a differentiated one.  In order to create a good differentiated lesson plan for instructing ELs, you’ll need to be familiar with your content area standards, and your state’s English language development (ELD) standards.  In California, ELD standards are based on the ELPAC (English Language Proficiency Assessment of California). The ELPAC is a test that that has two components:  initial assessment–to be administered once when an EL student enters a United States school system; and the summative assessment–a yearly assessment carried out in the spring semester to all ELLs. The assessment results place each student at a certain level in a language proficiency continuum. Other states follow their own–most follow WIDA (formerly known as World-Class Instructional Design and Assessment).

ELPAC and WIDA have different levels of language proficiency.  Each level dictates what EL students are capable of in language skills and what should be expected of each.  ELPAC has three proficiency levels and four performance levels. WlDA, on the other hand, has six proficiency and performance levels.

Knowing your ELPAC or WIDA proficiency levels and your state’s ELD standards will help when creating strategic language objectives.  By creating targeted lessons, you are setting students up for success. You are meeting the students at their instructional level. You are providing them with opportunities to practice at a language level that they are capable of.  Think about it…a level 3 student is able to participate in a much more complex language discourse than a level 1 student. So, next time you plan a lesson, ask yourself the question, “Are my expectations appropriate for all my students to be successful?”

*This concludes part 1 of the 4-part series on lesson planning.  Please come back next week to learn about creating clearly defined lesson objectives.