7 Critical Components In a Standards-Based Lesson Plan

Lesson plans can be your greatest tool or your worst nightmare. I always thought that after a few years, I wouldn’t need lesson plans so much. I would just have it down. Sadly, as time went on 15 years later… I needed them more than ever. The lesson plan expectations at my school only increased with time, as well as the rigor of teaching. I needed my plans for me too! I began to look at my plans as a way to keep myself on track and to prove to admin. that I knew what I was doing.

I’ve always felt lesson plans should be for the teacher. However, as time has gone on it appears to me that lesson plans are used as evidence of effective teaching. I am still on the fence with this one. Anyone can write a good lesson plan, right?  In case you aren’t one of those master lesson planners, here are 7 critical components to include in your standards-based lesson plan.

7 Critical Components to Include in a Standards-Based Lesson Plan:


The standards should be the focus of the lesson plan. Once upon a time, teachers taught skills and then tied standards to what they were already doing. There has been a move towards understanding the standards and creating lessons based on the skills surrounding the standard. There are many resources that help you unpack a standard. These tools can be a lifesaver!

Free tools

Teaching Channel
Teaching Channel
North Carolina's Tools for Unpacking the Standards
North Carolina’s Tools for Unpacking the Standards

Essential Questions

Inquiry-based learning has proven to be highly effective with students. Taking the standards and turning them into a question keeps me on track. It allows me to use the standard as a guided question. This keeps the students and me on track.

Example:  Readers ask and answer questions to demonstrate an understanding of key details in the text.

Essential Questions
Essential Questions

High Engagement

High engagement learning motivates all students to invest in their own learning. There are many tips and strategies you can find to encourage high engagement. Many teachers have used technology, Marzo’s high yield strategies, Kagan Cooperative Learning, Project-Based Learning, and Social and Emotional Learning  (with a focus on first impressions and emotional ties to learning) as methods and strategies to engage all learners.

Gradual Release of Responsibility

The gradual release model ensures that all students are supported with the learning of new skills and information. It often looks like this:

I Do… {Teacher models how to do/approach a skill such as asking and answering questions. They do a think aloud. Works well with Shared Reading, Interactive Read Aloud, and Close Reading.

We Do… {This is where students can work alongside the teacher or work in partnerships or small groups. The teacher is guiding the students in this stage. He or she is checking in with groups or individuals. There may be a sharing out with the entire group at the completion of this stage.

You Do… {This is the independent practice section. Students will show what they know during this time.}

Beginning and Ending Review

A beginning review sets the stage for learning. This can involve a hook to the lesson, as well as review, of past material. This is also a great time to tell students what they will learn and how they will be assessed upon completion of the lesson.

The end review allows the teacher to reiterate the point or skill learned. This can also be used as a formative assessment. If you use essential questions, this might be a good time to ask students how to answer your question. Check for understanding at this point. Self-assessment works well during this time, as well. For example, give me a thumbs up if you understand how to ask a text-based question. {Or a sideways thumb if you aren’t too sure, or a thumb down if they don’t understand at all. This gives the teacher valuable information about what the students think they know.}

Quick formative assessment using thumbs up or down

Materials Needed

Any good recipe will tell you what to include in the preparation. This is the same with a lesson plan! Having yourself all ready prior to the start of the lesson sets you up for success. Having the materials ready to go with the book pre-marked with stickie notes on the pages on which to focus for vocabulary instruction or to make a prediction, or ask a text-based question, is helpful. It is also valuable to have your anchor chart ready to go. Personally, I like to do the anchor chart with the student input, but having one in mind prior to this process can be really helpful. Here is an example:

Character Traits Anchor Chart
Character Traits Anchor Chart

Formative/Summative Assessment

Lesson plans should include some form of assessment whether it be a formative assessment (a quick check for understanding) or a summative assessment (a more thorough assessment such as a chapter test or a graphic organizer focusing specifically on a standard that you use as more of a final and complete understanding).

Some examples of formative assessments can be a thumbs up or down for understanding, a whiteboard used to show thinking that you have the students hold up, a quick walk around observation, or a simple exit ticket.

Here is an example of an easy exit ticket to use in language arts:


Exit Ticket
Exit Ticket

Summative assessments can be formal tests or can be a graphic organizer or think sheet that you have used previously to teach students how to respond to text in writing. The difference between using them as think sheets and using them as assessments is you aren’t assisting them and you may be taking a grade (a formal grade or a standards-based grade).

Here is an example of a think sheet/graphic organizer used as a summative assessment:

Standards Based Character Assessment
Standards Based Character Assessment

Higher Order Questions

Higher order questions challenge your students and help you determine if they are understanding the content on a deeper level. There is a great slideshow on Edutopia explaining the purpose of higher order questions, as well as determining the difference between these deeper questions and essential questions.

Writing Lesson Plans Can Be hard!

Lesson plans can be very time consuming, but having a good plan helps ensure a successful learning. I know many amazing teachers that can teach on the cuff. I have my moments of having a brilliant lesson on the fly, but I also know how important it is to me to have everything well planned. There are also some pretty strict expectations at different schools across the country. If you fall into this category and are in need of some guidance or just plain want your weekends back, then check out these complete reading plans for second grade.

Either way, I hope you gained some valuable help on the critical elements to include in your plans. Happy lesson planning!


How To Easily Integrate Reading Into Science

I know as a teacher it can be so difficult to cover EVERYTHING! Integrating reading into science is a little harder than it sounds even with the use of Lap Books. Most people, usually the ones who aren’t doing it, tell us to use our Science materials. They never mention that it takes some time to be sure the materials are covering everything we need to teach or how exactly to integrate reading standards and on which ones to focus. So, let’s uncover the steps to successfully integrating reading into science.

How To Easily Integrate Reading Into Science

Step One: Determine What You Need to Teach

The first place to start is with your standards in science and your standards in reading and writing. Most districts provide a roadmap or guide from which to follow. Some districts want everyone on the same page, and some are a lot more flexible. {I never understood being on the same page while meeting the needs of my own students or kids.} Either way, you need to keep the end in mind when you are beginning. For example, if you need to teach your students to define energy as well as demonstrate an understanding of the basic forms of energy then you need to think about how you are going to get there.

Step Two: Determine The Sequence of Learning in Science

I usually start with a list of the create a list of the standards and expectation for both science and reading. My next step is to determine what science information needs to come first. I know I need to provide a basic definition of energy before I begin explaining the forms of energy. That’s the good news about integrating reading into science. Science is logical and sequential. There are steps and processes in most science topics. So breaking it down is a little easier than you think.

After you have determined what needs to come first you can start to create a plan (again some districts have done this for you). It’s like building a model. You want to have a strong foundation from which to build upon.

Step Three: Gather Your Resources

In this next step, you need to determine what text and or media you are going to use to share with the students. This can be the tricky part. Finding the perfect text to teach the concepts in the way you want to present them can challenging. Most teachers say this is the hardest part. I’ve made this a little easier for fourth-grade teachers who want to teach Energy to their students.

Step Four: Analyze Your Science Resources with the ELA Standards in Mind

Step four takes a closer look at the standards that you need to cover in reading. In particular, Informational Text standards can easily be taught during your science block if you know what you need to teach. Often our reading series give us random nonfiction text to teach the main idea, author’s purpose and so on. Why not use informational text that covers our science topics? Genius, right?! You are now killing one two birds with one stone. {I never really got that expression. Why do you want to kill a bird?}

Therefore, the trick to determining which Informational Text standard to use is making sure you have read and analyzed the science text first. Some nonfiction text lends itself well to focusing on internal text structures like cause and effect or compare and contrast. You don’t want to miss out on the obvious standards. This takes a little practice, but before you know everything you read will conjure up a standard from which to teach.

Step Five: Integrate Reading by Putting it All Together And Go For It

Finally, you are ready to integrate reading into science. I couldn’t be easier, right? If you are feeling a little less than thrilled and you don’t want to grab your science book and figure it out, then be sure to check out Weekly Science Reading Passages: Quarter 1 Energy. This is the perfect resource to use for integration, homework, science bell work, small group, or whole group lessons.

Good luck and Happy Teaching and Learning!


P.S. How do you integrate reading into the content areas? I would love to hear your thoughts and ideas.

Inspirational Moments Begin at Back to School Night

When does the inspiration start at your school?

At my school, inspiration starts at Back to School Night. Each year our school embraces a new learning adventure with a new theme. This year we are saddling up for a new adventure with a Western theme!

Inspirational Moments Begin at Back to School Night

Inspirational Moments Begin at Back to School Night

Inspirational Moments Begin at Back to School Night

My Inspirational Moment

My inspirational moment came in the package of a small kindergartener who came eagerly into the building holding his Welcome to Virgil Mills sign. (We put signs in the yards of all our incoming kindergarteners to welcome them to school.)

The bright-eyed boy looked like had just entered an amusement park. His eyes were wide open in astonishment. I reached down to take his sign, and at that moment he looked up at me with so much pride and happiness. He quickly passed his sign to his mom and held out his hand to shake mine. I could tell that he thought I was there to welcome him to our school. Just him. So I went with it! I decided to make this a life shifting moment for him. I reached out and shook his hand and with pure joy and excitement I told him Welcome to Mills. We are so happy you are here. 

Watching this young boy’s whole face light up, was the best part of my night. My enthusiastic welcome was his first experience at school! I was part of that moment.  That young boy had reminded me that we can make lasting impressions on children. We can and should give them something to remember.

Inspirational Moments Begin at Back to School Night

Something to remember

As we go into this new school year, I hope that we all are reminded of the incredible gift we have been given- the opportunity to touch lives. It begins with our first impressions. Make yours the best you can! Remember how important your jobs are, and have an outstanding year!

Happy Teaching and Learning!



How Can LapBooks Inspire and Engage Children in Learning?

How Can Lap Books Inspire and Engage Children In Learning?

Inspiring and engaging children in learning are the keys to developing habits of life-long learners. Above all, Educators are constantly looking for ideas and tools that get kids excited about the learning process. No doubt, Lap Books are a powerful tool to inspire and engage children in learning content while using creativity. For this reason, creative learning instruments such as Lap Books provide, an innovative collection of relevant and exciting information that children can learn from and in turn share with others.

All things considered, whether your classroom is your dining room table or a room in a traditional school; lap books can be used to inspire learning.

Lap Books Inspire and Engage Children:

Lap Books Are Project-Based

Continue reading “How Can LapBooks Inspire and Engage Children in Learning?”

What Do You Do With a Life Shifting Story?

I love learning. If I could go to school full time for the rest of my life, I would die a happy girl. I especially love to learn about how to change a culture in education.

mom and daughter learningI think the best way to teach kids to love themselves and to see themselves as the gifts that they are, is to share our life shifting stories with them. What is a life shifting story? It is a story that inspires us to do something differently.  It is a story that touches us deeply and has the potential to shape our future.

Continue reading “What Do You Do With a Life Shifting Story?”