special education lesson planning

Lesson Planning for Special Education Students

Did you ever have an assignment in college where you had to write a detailed lesson plan? Let’s be honest, I am sure you had this assignment in almost every single one of your education classes. I’ll bet each lesson plan was anywhere from two to five pages with detailed activating strategies and formative assessment techniques. Those lesson plans were so cute.


I’m not throwing shade on college professors (because I am an adjunct professor some evenings). There is great value in writing thorough plans like that, especially when you are a newbie teacher. I’m just saying that special education lesson planning is a tricky beast. How do you write a special ed lesson plan when you are working with a whole group of students each with individualized goals?


special education lesson plan template


In this post, we will discuss:

  • How to start special education lesson planning
  • What to include in your special ed lesson plan
  • Example of a lesson plan in special education


How to Start Special Education Lesson Planning


Where do you even start? Well, do you coteach, push-in, or pull-out? Your plans are going to look different for each thing! If you coteach, ideally you are lesson planning with your coteacher. Here is what it looks like for me and my coteacher:


Shout out to my wonderful work wife, Heather! This sweet gem and I both tried coteaching for the first time last year and fell in love – both with coteaching and working together. Though it was tricky at first, we quickly found a good groove. We only truly cotaught math instruction. We chose a double-direct model where the students would meet with her first, then meet with me for their second rotation, and end with their pull-out instruction on their IEP goals. Year two, we are running our math time the same way and are still loving it!


Each week, we come together to plan the next week. We discuss how the current week’s instruction is going. Sometimes, we decide to extend lessons to two days and push our other plans back. Then, we look at our district’s expectations and try to see what materials we can use to teach it well. We brainstorm what the main lesson and stations will look like. Last year I also started creating these daily math warm ups for our whole math class as a spiral review and a way to preteach new concepts. During our weekly planning sessions, we figure out what I should include in next week’s warm up.


The rest of my planning is done on my own! I consult my coteacher and look at the district’s scope and sequence, but ultimately, my pull-out instruction is based on each student’s individual IEP goals. 


My first year of teaching, I had a teacher friend who would hand write her plans each day in a notebook after school. She said she had no idea how far she would get that day so she had no way to plan ahead. That poor girl was so burned out after year one.


Have you heard of batching? Basically you try to do similar tasks in the same sitting instead of doing a variety of tasks each day. This is how I do special education lesson planning. On Wednesdays, Heather and I plan our math lessons, stations, and homework for the following week. Right after that, I copy everything we will need and label it with individual stickies. On Thursdays, I plan out my comprehension groups for the whole next week and pull any of those materials. Then on Fridays, I plan phonics lessons, fluency groups, and spelling lists. When I leave for the night on Friday, I am (almost always) completely planned out and all my copies are done. 


What to Include in your Special Ed Lesson Plan


So what do these plans actually look like? Well, since I’ve been teaching almost a decade, they are pretty brief. For the programs I teach over and over again, I have written super detailed lesson plans over the years. For example, we use Wilson Reading System for phonics instruction. I now have lesson plans, activities, and spelling lists to go along with every substep from Book 1 to Book 6. Now, I can just go to my binder, pull out that lesson plan and go!


example of a lesson plan in special education


In action, this lesson planning is super simple. I use one of these book bins for each group/lesson. I grab a ton of clipboards from Dollar Tree and put one in each bin. Then, I just use a simple table to write my plans. At the top, I list the group/subject, students, and goal focuses. I make a row for each day of the week and briefly include my lessons. This sheet goes on the clipboard and any needed materials go behind the clipboard. 


What happens if I need to adjust my plans? So easy! I just grab a pencil and write myself a note! While I am teaching, I can write down notes I want to remember about student performance or other resources I want to incorporate. When it’s time for lesson planning, I just grab that clipboard and can see what we have done for the last week at a glance.


Example of a Lesson Plan in Special Education


Okay, want a peek at my actual lesson plans? Sure! Here is a look at a coteaching lesson plan:


special education lesson planning


Here is what my plans look like for a pull-out math group:




Maybe this plan would work for you! I really think batching my special education lesson planning saves me so much time because it allows my brain to focus on just one area and not get distracted. I would love to hear how you plan your lessons! Send me a message on instagram to let me know what works best for you!


For more special ed organization tips, check out:

How to Organize Progress Monitoring

5 Tips for Setting up your Classroom as a Resource Room Teacher

Techniques for Classroom Management for Resource Room Teachers


special ed lesson plan

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Hi, I'm Rachel!

I am a second grade learning support teacher, adjunct professor and momma to two little girls! I help teachers like you get organized and create systems to save time.

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