Standards-Based Curriculum and Instructional Planning

As stated in earlier in the previous chapter: The Special Education Teacher incorporates high-leverage and evidence-based practices, specialized instruction, and intensive interventions, to enable students with disabilities access to the general education classroom (curricula).  (Instruction chapter)

Tables of Contents

  • Key terms in Standards Based Curriculum
  • What is a Learning Standard?
  • IRIS Center Module readings and learning objectives
  • Voices from the field

Key terms in Standards Based Curriculum

Content standards– refer to the curriculum standards or subject area standards.

Performance standards– identify the skills needed to be successful with the content standards.

Benchmarks– benchmarks identify the expected understandings and skills needed for content standards by grade level and are tracked according to predetermined time intervals. (IRIS, the terms student learning objective, benchmark, grade-level indicator, learning target, performance indicator, and learning standard—to name just a few of the more common terms—may refer to specific types of learning objectives in specific educational contexts.

Educational Standards- according the Common Core “are the learning goals for what students should know and be able to do at each grade level. Local communities and educators choose their own curriculum…the Common Core is what students need to know and be able to do, and curriculum is how students will learn it.”

Learning progressions refers to the purposeful sequencing of teaching and learning expectations across multiple developmental stages, ages, or grade levels. They may be called grade level expectations or grade level-standards.

*It is difficult to define these key terms without overlapping and finding exceptions to the rule.


Pay particular attention to these pages in the IRIS Center Module that are central to the role of the special educator.

In New Hampshire, the Department of Education (DOE) has adopted the Common Core State Standards in English Language Arts/Literacy and Mathematics. It refers to these standards are NH College and Career Ready Standards (NH CCRS). Other content area standards can be found at the NH DOE website.  On the NH DOE website, it says; “District schools, public charter schools, and private schools each adopt their own curriculum, not the Department of Education nor the State Board of Education.”

 As a rule of thumb, state standards tend to be more comprehensive than national standards, both in coverage of grade levels and of subjects. The difference reflects the broad responsibility of states in the United States for all aspects of public education; national organizations, in contrast, usually assume responsibility only for a particular subject area or a particular group of students. Either type of standards provides a first step, however, toward transforming the grandest purposes of schooling (like developing the individual or preparing for society) into practical classroom activities. But they provide a first step only. Most statements of standards do not make numerous or detailed suggestions of actual activities or tasks for students, though some might include brief classroom examples—enough to clarify the meaning of a standard, but not enough to plan an actual classroom program for extended periods of time. For these latter purposes, teachers rely on more detailed documents, the ones often called curriculum frameworks and curriculum guides.  (Nicole Arduini-Van Hoose).

Learning Standards. Authored by: S. Abbott (Ed.). Provided by: Great Schools Partnership. Located at: Project: The Glossary of Education Reform. License: CC BY-NC-SA: Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike

What is a learning standard?

Learning standards are concise, written descriptions of what students are expected to know and be able to do at a specific stage of their education. Learning standards describe educational objectives—i.e., what students should have learned by the end of a course, grade level, or grade span—but they do not describe any particular teaching practice, curriculum, or assessment method (although this is a source of ongoing confusion and debate).

Following the adoption of a variety of federal and state policies—notably the No Child Left Behind Act, a reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965—all states now use standardized assessments designed to evaluate academic achievement in relation to a set of learning standards. Until the development and widespread adoption of the Common Core State Standards for the subjects of English language arts and mathematics, and more recently the Next Generation Science Standards, learning standards in the United States were independently developed by states, usually as part of a collaborative committee process overseen by a state’s department of education that included educators and subject-area specialists, as well as public-commentary periods (although both development and adoption processes varied from state to state). When investigating or reporting on learning standards, it is important to know how they were developed, what knowledge and skills they describe, and how they are actually used in schools.

While learning standards vary in content, purpose, and design from state to state, most standards systems in the United States share a few common attributes:

  • Subject areas: Learning standards are typically organized by subject area—e.g., English language arts, mathematics, science, social studies, health and wellness, etc. Most standards systems use the same general subject-area categories that public schools have been using for decades, although some may be refined to reflect new knowledge or changing educational priorities, such as “science and technology” or “health and wellness.”
  • Learning progressions: In each subject area, standards are typically organized by grade level or grade span—consequently, they may be called grade-level expectations or grade-level standards—and the sequencing of standards across grades or stages of academic progress is called a “learning progression” (although terminology may vary from place to place). Learning progressions map out a specific sequence of knowledge and skills that students are expected to learn as they progress through their education. There are two main characteristics of learning progressions: (1) the standards described at each level are intended to address the specific learning needs and abilities of students at a particular stage of their intellectual, emotional, social, and physical development, and (2) the standards reflect clearly articulated sequences—that is, each grade-level learning expectation builds upon previous expectations while preparing students for more challenging concepts and more sophisticated coursework at the next level. The basic idea is to make sure that students are learning age-appropriate material (knowledge and skills that are neither too advanced nor too rudimentary), and that teachers are sequencing learning effectively or avoiding the inadvertent repetition of material that was taught in earlier grades. For a more detailed discussion, see learning progression.
  • Educational goals: Many sets of learning standards also include overarching, long-term educational goals—i.e., what students should be able to do when they have completed their public-school education. These overarching goals will typically describe the knowledge, skills, work habits, and character traits that public schools should be teaching and cultivating in stages throughout a student’s education. For example, they may address critical thinking, logical reasoning, and problem solving; oral and written communication; perseverance and work ethic; digital technology and media; or multicultural literacy (valuing and understanding other perspectives, races, and cultures)—i.e., broadly applicable skills that will help students succeed in adult life.
  • Content: While each set of learning standards is unique, there is often a great deal of commonality from system to system or state to state. For example, while different sets of mathematics standards may use different descriptions, or they may sequence specific learning expectations differently, most mathematics standards describe similar quantitative concepts, principles, and reasoning. That said, in subjects such as history, social studies, or science—which contain an enormous variety of possible concepts, facts, skill sets, and areas of study, not to mention politically and ideologically contentious issues—learning standards will likely reflect greater content-related disparities. In addition, some learning standards are considered to be more precise, exacting, and prescriptive—e.g., they will describe the specific punctuation marks that students should know how to use correctly at a particular grade level—while others are considered to be more general, encompassing, and descriptive—e.g., they will explain more broadly what students should be able to do when writing (articulate concepts clearly, use grammatical conventions correctly, cite sources accurately, etc.).

The following examples, taken from the Common Core State Standards English Language Arts Standards for grades 9–10, can serve to illustrate what learning standards are and how they describe educational expectations:

*Note these are broad standards, not measurable learning objectives.


  • Determine a central idea of a text and analyze its development over the course of the text, including how it emerges and is shaped and refined by specific details; provide an objective summary of the text.
  • Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative, connotative, and technical meanings; analyze the cumulative impact of specific word choices on meaning and tone (e.g., how the language of a court opinion differs from that of a newspaper).
  • Delineate and evaluate the argument and specific claims in a text, assessing whether the reasoning is valid and the evidence is relevant and sufficient; identify false statements and fallacious reasoning.


  • Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts, using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence.
  • Write informative/explanatory texts to examine and convey complex ideas, concepts, and information clearly and accurately through the effective selection, organization, and analysis of content.
  • Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, well-chosen details, and well-structured event sequences.


  • Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English grammar and usage when writing and speaking.
  • Apply knowledge of language to understand how language functions in different contexts, to make effective choices for meaning or style, and to comprehend more fully when reading or listening.
  • Demonstrate understanding of figurative language, word relationships, and nuances in word meanings.

Speaking and listening

  • Initiate and participate effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grades 9–10 topics, texts, and issues, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.
  • Evaluate a speaker’s point of view, reasoning, and use of evidence and rhetoric, identifying any fallacious reasoning or exaggerated or distorted evidence.
  • Present information, findings, and supporting evidence clearly, concisely, and logically such that listeners can follow the line of reasoning and the organization, development, substance, and style are appropriate to purpose, audience, and task.

In the United States, learning standards could be considered a de facto reform strategy, given that they are a relatively recent historical development, and they are generally intended to improve the effectiveness of schools, the quality and consistency of teaching, and the academic achievement of students (whether or not they accomplish this goal remains a subject of debate).

voices from the field

Voices from the Field

Content standards, performance standards and benchmarks

Before the reading this week, I realized I didn’t have a complete understanding of the difference between all three. I also learned this week from the reading that benchmarks not only provide a timeline of when students should learn specific information, but it helps students acknowledge how their work ethic is impacting their ability to reach these goals and tells teachers whether students are successfully learning/understanding taught material, or if they need further support. While I thought that sharing with a student, whether they are meeting certain benchmarks would negatively impact their self-confidence or desire to want to learn (especially students with disabilities), I learned that this can actually be helpful and a motivator for some students. It can also help make them more responsible for their learning. Karissa Peltier


Content standards create a clear outline of essential knowledge, skills, and understanding that students need to master in the given content area. An example of this is making sure that students are really understanding what is being taught, students should know their timetables while also understanding how to apply multiplication to their everyday life.

Performance standards or achievement standards refer to the level of mastery of the specific content that the student is expected to understand. What this means is schools take the information students are learning from the content and have outcomes or educational goals that students are expected to reach to show understanding. These standards should be written per grade level and match the level of proficiency they are expected to reach within the given school year.

Benchmarks are “subcomponents” of content standards. This means that benchmarks identify the expected understanding and skills needed for the content standards specifically by grade level and are tracked at different intervals. Benchmarks are different from content standards because they break up the standard into manageable pieces and define expectations and expected performance from the standard at each step in the content standard.  Madelyn Grierson

Student Learning Characteristics

Last year, we worked on Learner Profiles for our students.  I work at the middle school, and our goal was to send that information to the high school with them so teachers could get a snapshot of the student.  The Learner Profile included surveys about personality traits, learning styles, and preferences for rewards/positive reinforcements.  I started at the school last year, so it was very helpful for me to have those to refer to when working with a student. Jessica Warn


Some basic demographic information students can provide can be helpful for teachers. Things such as speaking a foreign language, deaf or blind adults or siblings, guardianship or custody arrangements, adoption, and other major life events can impact a student’s ability to learn. Getting to know students on a personal level will help build strong bonds and make developing valuable lessons plans easier.

Teachers need to understand the previous learning level of the students, meaning, they need to know if students have been taught and have an understanding of the previous material. For example, a student who does not have a firm grasp of the addition process will not be successful at subtraction, so if the CCSS is that students be able to subtract single digits, the teacher may first have to reteach addition skills and integrate information about the relationship between addition and subtraction to make the learning relevant and give it context. Amy Welch


Teachers should look at the following learning characteristics before developing instruction: background knowledge and experience, learning preferences, academic strengths and improvement areas, responsiveness to instruction and correction, social and interpersonal behaviors, interests, talents,  home language and any second language issues and cultural, community, and religious factors.

After gathering that knowledge, a teacher can then make decisions on reading level(s) of materials, topics, concepts, and skills of relevance or interest, concepts in relation to those of students’ own cultures, opportunity for individual, small group, and large group instruction, opportunity for students and families to contribute to the classroom experiences and how instructional material is presented. All of those details will  help create a stronger learning environment in the classroom and a pathway to success for students. It can also help students build relationships among their classroom peers, while aiding in communication between the teacher and each child’s family. Rachel Gourvitz


Working with kindergarten students, I find a lot of information on them from their preschool (or already existing kindergarten) IEPs. These documents contain the student’s strengths and weaknesses as well as accommodations and modifications that have proven to be effective. I also make sure to have the student engage in conversation with me about their interests, dislikes, and family experiences. I do this during breaks from instruction such as during recess or lunch. My case study student is incredibly vocal and loves to talk with adults. I also have meetings with his parents to ask more about their child, how the student socially interacts/handles learning moments outside of school to get a more complete picture. I have met with my case student’s mother a few times to check in on how the student is doing outside of school and how the parent is teaching the student when they are at home.

A final source of information that I use is the classroom teacher. I pull the student out of class for individualized instruction, but the student is in their classroom for the majority of the day so the classroom teacher is a great source of information in areas of social skills, participation, and instruction reception on a larger scale. Jake Muniz


After gathering this these learning characteristics about their students, the teacher can craft lesson plans and develop their instructional style based on the needs of her students. Additional considerations for a special education teacher when considering lesson plans and instruction are:

  • The reading level(s) of materials
  • Topics, concepts, and skills of relevance or interest
  • Concepts in relation to those of students’ own cultures
  • Opportunity for individual, small group, and large group instruction
  • An opportunity for students and families to contribute to the classroom experiences
  • How instructional material is presented

Not considering these factors is basically like choosing topics and instruction style blindly. It does not respect how these factors can make or break a student’s ability to be engaged with the instruction. We want to appeal to our students and make our instruction as accessible as possible. Colleen Mehalko

 Information Processing

Students with disabilities often have deficits in the area of information processing. Being able to recognize those deficits and support the student with evidence-based strategies and accommodations is a key role of the special educator. The more aware the teacher is of this information processing model, the more mindful and purposeful they will be in recognizing a student’s current level of understanding and be able to analyze learning difficulties.

Take a look at the SlideShare that illustrates the brain science behind teaching and learning.

Hassan, B, Fattah, B. (2015). Information Processing Model and its implications in learning and teaching. Retrieved from       Paula Lombardi

Adapting Instruction

Adapting and modifying can also be linked to the difference between accommodations and modifications. The modifications do change the curriculum expectations and accommodating as you said changes the elements or strategies to get to the intended result.

I like to use analogies.  For example, take long jumping.  Making an adaptation may be making the posts a different color, having a grip on the pole that is more suited to the jumper, or having a different type of landing mat.  A modification would be changing the level of the jump.  Kari Grimes


When evaluating adaptations, like accommodations or modifications, the IRIS module suggests considering the elements of C.R.I.M.E (Curriculum, Rules, Instruction, Materials, Environment) (The IRIS Center, 2004). Optimizing these 5 elements will ensure that all students are receiving an appropriate and meaningful education.

I adapt instruction for my students by ensuring access to instructional materials. I also make sure to provide instruction in various forms, written, visual, and auditory. I provide appropriate modifications according to students’ IEP (when applicable). Lately, I have been focusing on different scheduling adaptations. I incorporate a weekly assignment checklist, as well as a list of daily expectations for each class. I have found that this allows for students to be more self-paced and helps them prioritize work that should be completed in class vs. work that they can do on their own (in study hall or at home on a remote learning day). The IRIS Module reading inspired me to have a more distinct “group learning” time with the goal of direct instruction. Alicia Jobson


In my daily role as an educational assistant, I find myself adapting instruction on a daily basis, but less of the time modifying instruction. This can be due to the individual needs of students I work with, but can also be a result of the general education teacher’s effectiveness in fulfilling their position. As I spend significant time in different math classes, examples of my adaptive instruction includes things such as providing extra manipulatives, modeling the question or simplifying what it’s asking, and breaking down the question into a step-by-step procedure. With each of these adaptive instruction strategies, I typically only use them after the student has shown difficulty initially understanding the content.

In the few instances where I’m responsible for implementing modified instruction, it usually comes after a discussion with the student’s case manager. There is one student in particular who I work with, that displays great knowledge in one of his preferred subjects, Anatomy and Physiology. Within this subject, there is a significant amount of group activities, and demanding social interactions. However, for a student with Aspergers, this causes a learning barrier due to their social difficulties and interpersonal anxieties (What is Asperger Syndrome?). By modifying instruction for this student through alternative activities, and removing the social element, we often find that he is able to gain a deeper understanding of the same content. Anonymous


Accommodations can be a critical aspect in the overall success of a learner. When I began training for a position working 1:1 with children diagnosed with ASD in 2014, part of our training focused on accommodations and their importance. I cannot remember the exact quote from that training, but it went to say that even simple changes within the environment can be the difference between success and struggle for our students. Something that I enjoy about the IEP process is that there is an entire section within that document that is for listing accommodations and modifications that have proven to be successful for the student and other strategies that may also add to their overall success. (Jake Muniz)


The difference between adapting and modifying instruction is, adapting the instruction is changing how the curriculum is taught, or presented, so that a student can access the curriculum. Whereas modifying the instruction is changing what is being taught or what the student is expected to learn. The main areas of importance when adapting instruction include, “maximizing individual student independence, maximizing student participation in all class activities with peers, maximizing student skill development, and minimizing the use of temporary solutions” (IRIS Center, 2004). Teachers need to know their students ability levels so that they can successfully adapt or modify instruction in ways that will most benefit the students. When adapting instruction it is important to keep in mind five elements of the classroom so that you will know what areas need adaptations. These five elements are comprised of; curriculum, rules, instruction, materials and environment. Michelle Shaw

The IRIS Center. (2004). Content standards: Connecting standards-based curriculum to instructional planning. Retrieved from (page 8)


 During remote learning, I have adapted assignments by providing closed captioning for my students with auditory problems. I have also modified assignments to be shorter while we are remote so the students do not have to spend as much time in front of a screen. Another way I have adapted instruction for my students is by providing structured notes. Structured notes help them follow along to the lecture and guide them to the important points that are being made in class. Anonymous


I am a para educator and at the Pre-K level find myself mainly working on accommodations rather than modifications.  I really love how much we have at our fingertips to make accommodations so easy for our students.  Whether it using visual diagrams and pictures added to our lessons or giving a student choices to express their understanding, it all makes a huge difference in each student’s progress.  Deanna Hanley

Progress Monitoring

An example might include working aloud with students to complete single digit multiplication problems. If the desired evidence and outcome is one that has students showcasing their ability to complete the task, then as an educator, you might read the problems aloud and guide students to completing each one step by step. This would allow for tangible evidence that students are grasping the concept (or not). This verbal assessment is one that can be completed aloud in a group or 1-on-1 and allows for the educator to gauge progress and guide students in the right direction if they struggle. This also gives effective feedback for educators to tweak and adjust future lessons and instruction to ensure students are getting the most out of them.

Along with this, it is important to keep in mind that as an educator there is a responsibility to return tests and provide feedback in a prompt manner. This ensures that these tests are valuable to students and that the feedback is understood by students before moving on. There are also things to avoid in the development of assessments, such as; testing only memory or recall, including only questions of one level of difficulty, using only multiple-choice formats, making use of trick questions. The assessment should be one that includes the most important and meaningful information. Alex Levesque


Exit tickets are an excellent and quick method to get a daily formative.  If it is happening daily, it does get a routine down that can be beneficial for students.  It is also a short term method to keep students engaged if they know there is a 5 minute exit ticket they need to complete after a lesson.  This is a great way to keep data as well.  These can be useful tools as well as a way to review a unit and give students examples of what they need to know for a summative. Kari Grimes


In our school we had a training early in the year to go over how teachers can conduct a quick, informal reading assessment (running record) on any student, on any day.  The goal of this training was to prepare teachers to be able to do more assessing there for more progress monitoring.  If it is quick and easy it can be done more often.  But, quick and easy doesn’t matter if it isn’t valuable, understood or used to inform instruction.  A running record can be a very valuable tool if the results are then analyzed to be used to find a student’s strengths and identify the areas to be worked on.  Danielle Durkee


In the school I work in we use DIBLES on a consistent basis to monitor every students reading progress. We then have monthly data meetings to go over where each student is at in literacy and math. The data is tracked using these DIBLES for literacy, and weekly math assessments. Our students with IEPS are pulled and monitored periodically using small, informal assessments, and using online programs like Splash Math, Zearn, and Reading Eggs, which are continually monitoring and sending reports to classroom and special ed teachers. Progress monitoring is important so that students are not falling behind. We’re able to see their progress on a daily basis, and therefore giving them the supports they need immediately when they’re needed. If students were monitored less, then we may not catch a rough patch in time to try and help. Rachel Spain

The Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills (DIBELS) 8th Edition is an assessment that can be used for benchmark screening and monitoring growth of students in grades K-8. The early literacy development tool is a valid dyslexia screener as well. (Annenberg, Brown University)


In my school we use AIMSweb to assess students on reading and math, I really like how the program easily lays out how much progress students have or haven’t made and in what areas. I’ve found that we can see how their work in school and extra assistance directly correlates to their scores; such as if a student started receiving tutoring services and their scores improved accordingly.  Sarah Harkness

Aimsweb is a K-12 benchmark and progress monitoring system based on direct, frequent and continuous student assessment using brief, accurate measures of reading, math, spelling, and writing


In the 7th grade at my school, the general classroom teachers use various forms of assessments to monitor progress.  One teacher has her students do reflections at the end of each lesson which they then share with her.  This allows her to see what the students thought about the lesson and if any changes need to be made.  The math teacher uses quick quizzes in her units.  There are usually at least two quick quizzes per unit.  These let her see how well the students are doing with the math.  She then determines if she needs to spend more time on that unit or if she can move one.  If she spends more time on a unit that they are having trouble with, she will also have more quick quizzes.  Allison Gibson


Speaking with my supervising practitioner some ways she monitors her students’ day to day progress is with daily notes about students. The daily notes can be reviewed daily to see how a student was doing yesterday compared to today or the next week. Another way is with OGAP tasks. The ongoing assessment project is ” A systematic, intentional, and iterative formative assessment system grounded in the research on how students learn mathematics. The OGAP system is seamlessly integrated into a set of tools, practices, support materials, and in-depth professional development.”  Travis Rockett


cautionWhile these web-based progress monitoring systems are popular in schools, they are not the perfect fit for all students for a variety of reasons.

I have mixed feelings about some of these online assessment tools. My school uses iReady to assess reading and math. I have a fifth grade student who can do long division in his head, but got put on a kindergarten level on iReady because he clicked through and did not try the diagnostic assessment. We had him retake it, but he refused to try again. I know some teachers or paraprofessionals that have held the mouse and clicked the answers that the student provided verbally, to prevent them from just clicking through the assessment. It is also not always accurate because the iReady curriculum and benchmarks do not necessarily align with the curriculum and benchmarks at our school. For example, iReady might ask a first grader about halves and fourths, but at our school they do not learn fractions until about third grade. So iReady would put them lower than grade level just because they didn’t know a skill that they had not been taught and were not expected to know.

On the other hand, with long-term or short-term remote learning, online assessment tools can be extremely valuable! It is very challenging and sometimes near impossible to get accurate assessments over video meets, especially trying to assess IEP goals that were not intended to be worked on remotely. Anonymous


Monitoring a student’s IEP goals and objectives:

One thing that is different about students with IEPs is that in their IEP they have an annual measurable goal. The special educator needs a system of collecting data for when it’s time to fill out a progress report. The methods a teacher use might also depend on the student’s goals and objectives. I know some professionals who use Google Forms and spreadsheets to collect and store data, and others who use clipboards and physical folders. Rachel Stoudt.


One way that I have seen the teachers I work with monitor/check students’ progress is by having exit tickets. These can be presented in a multitude of ways depending on what the lesson was that was taught. However, it allows the teacher to check each individual students grasp of the content so they know if that student can move on or if they require more help in the current area. Some specific exit tickets that I have seen are writing the letter on the board that we worked on today (when working on letter identification), solve this math problem (when working on new math concepts), or answer this question after reading/listening to this short prompt (when checking reading comprehension). There are so many ways that we could apply an exit ticket and I think it is important to implement daily monitoring of students’ progress because if you don’t, you could push them on to the next concept when they simply aren’t ready for it.  Which only sets them up to struggle and have a difficult time. Nicole Coonrod


In my experience, much of kindergarten progress is done somewhat informally — a lot of the teachers I’ve worked with don’t use “fill in the blank” so much as they ask questions for comprehension.  On a day-by-day basis, the method that comes to mind is “snap words”— they learn and practice about five words on Monday, and by Friday the expectation is that they’ll recognize the word “in a snap”. Anonymous

Three stages of the instructional cycle

The instructional cycle directly aligns with the lesson planning template. In the lesson plan template, there is a section to write the learning objectives, the standards that align with the lesson objective, and the essential question that the lesson targets. That all relates to the first stage, intended instructional outcomes. In the next stage, the planning stage, the lesson planning template has an area to describe what formative/summative assessments will be done to determine students’ progress toward the lesson objective. The instruction/activities section of the template is also part of the planning stage. For the assessment stage of the instructional cycle, the lesson plan template  has an area to write preassessment data and analysis of the data to help gauge where students are at prior to teaching the lesson. At the bottom of the planning template, there is a portion for reflection at the end titled data analysis, where the teacher candidate can share whether or not the instructional objectives were met based on the assessment data. Anonymous

Curriculum mapping and yearlong planning 

These can be particularly useful tools for special educators. It can give them extra time to accommodate or modify lesson plans. It will give special educators time to gather any necessary material which may be beneficial to their students. It gives special educators an outline of the classroom teacher’s plans for the year, which in turn will help them design their own lesson plans.  Anonymous


Curriculum mapping takes a lot of planning and a lot of collaboration. But it really does pay off in the long run. It helps both teachers and students see the big picture and gives a better road map of where people are going, what routes they are taking, and makes the journey have more meaning. Keeping the “eye on the prize” can be motivational for a student, and gives them context for their day to day work.

Curriculum mapping is a natural part of a regular content teacher’s teaching agenda. It is very helpful for the teacher, administration, and ultimately the students to gain insight of what a course might entail and the nuts and bolts so to speak behind the course objectives. This is also so important in maintaining the integrity of a school and their curriculum in aligning with state and federal guidelines. For students on an Individualized Education Program, one of the parameters by law is the fact that we must provide information on how the child is progressing in the general curriculum. The definition of FAPE includes having a child make educational benefit that is “reasonably calculated” in terms of a nondisabled child’s educational program. Without having these mapping and yearlong planning, a special educator does not have a solid foundation by which educational benefit can be measured. Kari Grimes


Curriculum mapping is when you map out the curriculum for the entire school year. In this curriculum map, you include all the standards you are going to cover and how you plan to teach each of the standards. As well as when you will be teaching them. We all know that it is so important for teachers and special educators to plan out their curriculum. Showing up the day of and trying to teach something with no planning isn’t setting yourself up for success. Teachers have specific standards they have to teach. Without curriculum planning, there is no way to make sure you know you are covering everything you need over the school year. It also helps make sure that the school is following all of the state and federal guidelines when it comes to curriculum.

Curriculum mapping is a very good tool for not only the classroom teachers but also special educators. First the classroom teacher will map out her curriculum plan for the whole school year. Then they pass that along to the special educators who can then plan their instruction around what the classroom teacher is doing. The special educator will be able to plan the modified lessons for their student. This allows the student to be following the same path as their peers while getting their accommodations made.  At the school I work at, teachers use curriculum maps. We have a curriculum coordinator who meets with each grade level to help plan out the school year. They also meet periodically throughout the year to see what they have covered and if they have to tweak any of the previous plans. Mariah Brown

Unit Planning

At the early childhood levels, I have seen a lot of times where the project is more of the focus (because it is fun or cute) and not necessarily the skill or outcome that is supposed to come from doing the lesson.  I’ve recently started planning lessons for my classroom and I have had to remind myself that there needs to be a goal and have been using the concept of backwards design.  It has helped me tremendously with staying on track for our classroom and individual student goals.  You cannot build a strong lesson without understanding what you want the outcome to be.

It is important to vary assessments based on the student.  I recently was able to observe assessments taking place throughout my school and was impressed with how each teacher approaches the students so differently based on their needs.  Being able to understand how your students can express their understanding is a huge skill on its own. Some of our teachers were really great and would fill me in beforehand, for example, they’d say, “Watch, John won’t verbalize, but he will point to the correct answer.”  It is clear they really understand their students. Deanna Hanley


In general, unit plans should have long term and short term goals; from what you want them to learn in today’s lesson to what you want them to know (content) and what you want them to be able to do (skills) by the end of the unit. Teachers need to plan out their methods of instruction for all students, but also need to consider the needs of their special education students as well. “This is an opportune moment to consider the special needs of students in the classroom. Will instruction include direct instruction, cooperative learning experiences, or the re-teaching of content to a peer? Some students with writing difficulties might require the additional assistance of peer help or partially completed notes. By planning ahead, teachers can include strategies to help ensure the success of all students” (The IRIS Center,2004). In my experience, most teachers make modifications to their instructional methods for special needs students long after they’ve planned the instruction in their units. This is not ideal, but it is just what I see most commonly happen. A good way to avoid this is to plan your instruction by universal design and having those supports in your plan even if they are not needed.

Lastly, you need to know how you are going to know those standards and benchmarks are reached, so you need to have a plan for assessment. In terms of special education and the inclusive classroom, teachers need to be flexible in how they gain that proof of proficiency. Simply creating an exam is not enough. Proof of proficiency should be multi-modal. That means teachers should be able to assess in a variety of ways from a written test or essay to a conversation with the student (oral). With special education students, teachers should always play to their strengths when trying to measure the level of learning if they really want to know how effective their instruction was. Arthur Rafus


Understanding by Design(UbD) or Backward design is widely used as a unit planning template/model. Unit plans help the special educators support students with disabilities by providing the time needed to be proactive and preteach concepts and share accommodations/modifications as needed for the student to be successful with the curriculum. Here is an example of a 15 lesson unit plan on 1st grade Place Value: Representing and Comparing Numbers  Paula Lombardi


Instructional Planning. Authored by: Nicole Arduini-Van Hoose. Provided by: Hudson Valley Community College. Located at: . LicensePublic Domain: No Known Copyright

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Updated 10.13.22