Lesson Planning in Special Education

Lesson planning in special education can be complicated. We often have multiple grades in one classroom not to mention the wide variety of skills and needs. Right?! I have tried many different lesson planning options and have never found the perfect fit. Here is how I write and organize lesson plans.

Lesson planning in special education can be challenging. Planning for a classroom with students in multiple grades with variety of needs and skill levels doesn't always fit neatly into a form. Here is an alternate way to plan.
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Once I have a schedule in place, I type it out in a word document. I put one day one each day. I type out the whole day even if I don't have to plan for a specific activity or time slot. Here is what a single day's template might look like:

Typing out the whole schedule and not just the activities I need to plan for  allows teaching assistants, therapists and subs to follow the schedule without any real explanation from me.

I use thematic units in my classroom. We work on each theme for 2 weeks. This allows me to really immerse students in the vocabulary and concepts while keeping the materials fresh and novel...even when we are targeting the same skill over and over. Click here to read more on how and why we use thematic units in my classroom. Want a closer look at the theme unit materials we use? Click HERE.

As we prep the theme unit materials, I store them in this organizer right next to my desk:

The easiest system for organizing materials for lesson planning in special education.

This bin has 2 sections. I put the current theme's materials in the front section and the next theme's materials in the back section. 

The easiest system for organizing materials for lesson planning in special education.

Once the materials are prepped and sorted this way, it is super easy for me to plan activities for our day. Her is an example of how my lesson plan sheet looks for a whole group lesson:

Lesson planning for whole group activities.

Under the time, I write the initials of the student(s) that won't be in the room along with the therapy. This helps me quickly set up and call people to tables.

Here is what my lesson planning sheet looks like for small group planning:

Lesson planning for small group activities.

Once I have decided which materials I will need for the lesson, I move them to the folder designated for that lesson on that day. Click HERE for more details on the easiest lesson organziation system. Seriously.... it is so easy!!!

The easiest way to store and organzie materials for this week's lessons.

Each day is color coded and each folder is designated for a specific lesson on that day. It is simple and easy for staff to quickly get set up for lessons. Win! All you need for this super easy system are magazine holders and colored folders.

This post has more information on how I decide which type of instruction I use and in my classroom: Instruction Options Post.

Do you have a different way to write and organzie your lesson plans? Add a comment below.

Lesson planning in a special education classroom can be challenging. Meeting the needs of multiple grades, skills and needs don't fit neatly into forms. Here is an easy lesson planning system to try out.


  1. what grade levels/age group and disabilities do you teach? First year in SPED that's non preschool. 15th year teaching. Need a community to learn more from. Thanks.

    1. Hi Melissa,
      I have a self-contained elementary sped classroom. What grade are you teaching this year?

  2. what about your aides...how do you plan for them? do they do groups, so do you have separate files for them, separate plans for them to follow? this is where I'm struggling... to organize for them. thanks.

    1. Hi Sonja!
      Yes, my teaching assistants are able to lead groups. I generally only plan for the students. If I'm splitting the class into small groups, then I run one group while they run the other groups. I tell them what I want my students to be doing in the group and give them the materials... from the folder. I have already trained my staff on how to collect data, to switch up their instructions, etc.

      During work centers, 3 of my paras run a center while the 4th person floats to which ever center needs more support. I pull students for 1:1 direct instruction with me while they're running the centers.
      Let me know if you have any other questions!

  3. WOW! I want to teach at your school/district! 4 aides, 6 hour day, 4 hours of academics...compared to my 2 aides 6.5 hour day, 6 hours of academics - no recess at Middle School, oh and I also go to the cafeteria and supervise lunch w/my aides. Your organization looks great for you class, would also like to see how you organize for your aides.

  4. For those who have a child who is a schoolboy, then you have to go to varsity for a children's school that has a child's school

  5. Wow sounds great. I teach at an elementary school Pk-5th and I have 50 resource kids with a co- worker and no aides. We do traffic duty and now I do daycare too.

  6. Amazing guidelines for Lesson planning in special education. I also have tried many different lesson planning options and have never found the perfect fit. You have organized it in a well manner an I feel so great that you have shared this with us. Thank you so much for sharing this and tell us your super easy system for planning sheet in the classroom.