5 steps for planning lessons

During my years teaching at the elementary level, when planning lessons, I always followed a set of steps routinely. When I moved to early childhood, I found myself looking for fun and engaging preschool activities that matched whatever theme I was teaching. After several weeks, I felt frustrated that my students were not carrying over what I was teaching.  

After reflection, I realized I was not applying the same sequence of planning that I had used with my older students for years. In planning my very next theme, bears, I utilized the steps below. It felt impactful. My students were successful with the vocabulary, the language and carrying these things over into their daily play.


Here are those steps: 


 Step 1: Know your students’ vocabulary and language levels. Look at formal assessments, formal and informal language samples, classroom observations and your syntax goals and tracking system. (TAGS) 

Remember, a student who is in third grade may not have the language level of a third grader. We must know this information. 


 Step 2: Determine the concepts you will teach. Pull from the curriculum, what is age appropriate and within any applicable standards. Prioritize foundational concepts necessary for future units. You will most likely need to modify these concepts to fit the students’ receptive and expressive language skills.  


Step 3: Think about the vocabulary needed to support the concepts. If the students do not know the vocabulary, they will not learn the concepts. Time spent pre-teaching and practicing vocabulary will lead to better understanding of the academic material. This will allow them to think about and apply what they know. (Content Vocabulary Assessment Brandout)

Note: When providing meanings, look out for words within the definitions the students might not know! 


Step 4: Pre-determine the questions you will ask during instruction. These questions should elicit the vocabulary and concepts being targeted. In other words, questions should directly match what you want the students to learn and be able to use.  


Step 5: Determine the syntax needed to answer the questions and lead to receptive and expressive mastery of the concepts. This might vary from student to student.  


Early Childhood Lesson Plan Example

Elementary Lesson Plan Example




Abby Zoia 200x300

Abby Zoia is currently serving as the Coordinator of the Emerson Center for Professional Development at Central Institute for the Deaf (CID). Ms. Zoia holds a Missouri teacher of the deaf certificate (K-12), professional certification from the national Council of Education of the Deaf, as well as Listening and Spoken Language Specialist certification from the AG Bell Academy.  She has served as a teacher at various age-levels for more than 16 years and was recently the Coordinator of the Virginia J. Browning Primary School at CID.  In addition to presenting at numerous CID workshops, Ms. Zoia has presented at the international conventions of the Alexander Graham Bell Association for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing and the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association.

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