Being Intentional About Planning a Lesson

Oh the life of a teacher. First we plan, then plan, and finish up with planning some more. Our lives center around the planning process. We know that we have to plan our days and weeks to be as efficient as possible, but finding time to do it properly is always a challenge. We have to-do lists, checklists, sticky notes on our computer screen, and notebooks with scribbled information. Our desk has stacks of papers of cool things we would like to try someday and our email inbox is overflowing.

When you have a blueprint or a template to follow to complete a goal, it makes the process more time-efficient and stream-lined.

Lesson Plan Template

When we purposely act with a goal in mind and have some kind of a plan to accomplish it, we are being intentional. Having a blueprint or a template to follow forces you to think about the important essentials of your goal.

Below is a lesson plan template I created to help streamline the process of being intentional.

The template I created is a blueprint for the essentials of a lesson or activity. Are these the only essentials we should follow? Absolutely not. You can always customize any of the essentials listed to fit the needs of your class.

You can click on the following link to make a copy of this template. You may use it as is or change it in anyway to fit your personal lesson plan design needs.

Lets take a closer look at the 6 essentials I have included in my template so you can get a better understanding of why being intentional is so important.

1. Student Learning Outcomes

Learning outcomes should be about what we want students to understand and what they will be able to do when they complete your lesson. They should be written in a way that they are measurable in some way or can be assessed. Do not think of this section as a teaching outcome like “I need to teach about DNA.” The learning outcomes should be focused on student forms of learning, thinking, and behavior.

Below is a generic example of a teaching outcome vs. a learning outcome:

Teacher Outcome: Present topic _______ in an engaging way.

Learning Outcome: Students will use their understanding of topic __________ to create _________ with the use of technology.

Student Competencies

How often do we think about student competency when we are planning a lesson? Most likely, not often enough. Teachers talk about wanting their students to have 21st century skills, but do we intentionally think about how we can integrate these skills into our lessons. This part is challenging, but crucial.

There are many definitions and interpretation of student competencies. Many of us have heard about the 4 C’s of education. A simple way to look at it may be the desired skills, behaviors, and knowledge we want our students to have when they are finished with school. When you search for lists of student competencies, it is easy to get overwhelmed by the possibilities. Each content area may have competencies that are specific to them, but many competencies will reach across all disciplines.

My suggestion is that you create a short list of one’s that you feel are the most important and attempt to foster these skills in your students through your lessons. Below is a short-list that I came up with:

  1. Communication (Written and Oral)
  2. Critical Thinking
  3. Collaboration
  4. Creativity
  5. Imagination/Curiosity
  6. Adaptability/Flexibility
  7. Application of Knowledge
  8. Initiative/Leadership
  9. Analyzing Data
  10. Accessing Information

Essential Standards

We want are students to have a guaranteed and viable curriculum and a common first step is to come up with essential standards. Essential standards should be thought of as the minimum we want all students to learn. They do not represent all that we are going to teach in our classes.

When you are unwrapping the standards you are using to create your curriculum, focus on the verb(s) that are contained in the standard. Many teachers get caught up in the content information that is found within the standard, but forget that the verbs in the standards apply to many of the 21st century skills we want our students to have when they leave our school walls.

The bold words in the examples below are those skills and competencies built into a standard that we want our students to learn.

A. Compare and contrast orally and in writing a similar theme or topic across several genres by using detailed sentences.

B. Apply concepts of density based on area and volume in modeling situations (e.g., persons per square mile, BTUs per cubic foot).

C. Gather and synthesize information about the technologies that have changed the way humans influence the inheritance of desired traits in organisms.

D. Integrate changing employment trends, societal needs, and economic conditions into career planning.

Assessing Our Students

The assessment of students is a complex issue. We teach all of our essential standards that are contained within a given unit and then give the students some sort of test at the end. The test is supposed to tell the teacher what they students know and don’t know.

What process are we using when we create an assessment? Do teachers create their assessment first, then build their unit based on the assessment? Do the questions on the test reflect the verbs that are contained within our essential standards? These are just a few questions that we need to consider before we start creating our assessment.

What if we started to think more intentional about assessing our students. Instead of coming up with multiple choice, true and false, matching, and fill in the blank questions strictly based on the content, what if we assessed based on the skills and competencies that are built into our standards. Many teachers are already doing this, but unfortunately we are still seeing assessments built on the lower levels of Bloom’s taxonomy.

Levels of SAMR

The SAMR model is a widely popular and accepted model to follow for the integration of technology in classrooms. This model is separated into 4 parts with each letter of SAMR representing a specific level of technology integration.

The “S” stands for “Substitution” and is the lowest of of technology integration. This means that the technology you are using is a direct substitute for what you are currently doing. An example of substitution would be putting a worksheet you currently run off for your students online for them to complete.

The “A” stands for “Augmentation”. This level of technology integration still acts as a direct substitute, but we would see a functional improvement. An example of augmentation would be to take a previously created presentation and add audio, video, or hyperlinks to make the presentation more engaging.

The “M” stands for “Modification”. This level of technology integration allows teachers and students to take a task and completely redesign it. Here is an example of modification. Instead of a student taken a hand written quiz, they would be given the option to write an essay about the concepts of the quiz and then create an audio or video narration of the essay.

The “R” stands for “Redefinition”. This is the highest level of technology integration and calls for the creation of brand new tasks, products, and ideas based off a previously studied task. An example of redefinition would be if students were studying Greece, they could explore locations in Greece and then interview people from or have visited Greece.

The introduction of the use of technology can be a powerful strategy for teachers. When teachers are intentional about what skills and competencies they want their students to be more proficient at, technology can make this a better process.

Digital Tools and Apps

One of the last things we should consider in the planning of our lessons if the use of a digital tools or app. Sometimes we find a cool tool or app and we immediately want to jump right in and create an activity using them and forget to be intentional about the most important parts of the lesson. Digital tools and apps should be used to help make your lesson more engaging, efficient, and effective. Do we have to use technology for ever lesson we create? Absolutely not, but many of our lessons can be enhanced using technology.


Being intentional about planning your lessons will benefit your students. It will also give you a rock-solid starting point each time you start creating a new lesson to ensure that you are always intentional about the needs of your students first.

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