Guide To Creating An Awesome Special Education Lesson Plan Template

Writing lesson plans can be a daunting task. When we go through graduate school, we learn many ways (some of them way too long) to write appropriate lesson plans for all levels of learners. There’s not only one way to write a lesson plan. Here’s a simple guide along with a special education lesson plan template to get you started. Once you write enough lesson plans, using the special education lesson plan template, planning becomes innate in your thinking and a more automatic process when you’re preparing your lessons for the week. After a while, it will get a lot easier and you won’t need to write everything out in detail. But to start off, follow this special education lesson plan template to get you organized in the lesson planning process. I go into each section more in depth below.


Unit Objective

  • What do you want your students to learn from this unit? Look at the bigger picture here. At the end of this unit, what skills do you want your students to be able to demonstrate or understand? Make sure it’s attainable and appropriate for the level of learner you have.
  • Depending on what class you teach, unit objectives could be in line with the standards of learning OR aligned standards of learning for your state/school district.

Lesson Objective

  • What specific skill or idea do you want your student to understand or demonstrate? How will you get your students to learn the unit objective? Break down the unit into smaller lessons to help your students reach the end game. It’s okay if you have a lot of smaller lessons, sometimes students need things to be broken down into their smallest/easiest form to understand concepts.
  • Do what you can to make sure your students are understanding the material. You may also have to adapt as you go, depending on how your students respond to the material and your instruction.
  • Depending on the level of learner you teach and what subject you are teaching, you may even have a different lesson objective for each student and that’s okay too. As long as you’re keeping track and they are all still moving in the right direction. Be sure you know what the main goal of each lesson is and what the most important thing you want your students to get out of each lesson.

Warm up

  • Ask those leading questions that get their brain juices flowing! What do you guys know about ____? Who knows what ____ is? What would you do if _____? These questions will vary depending on what type of lesson you’re teaching.
  • Sometimes I show a brief video clip related to the lesson. Then I ask students… what are your thoughts on what you just saw? This starts the dialogue and gets students in the mindset of being more open to listen to what you have to say.
  • If you’re teaching something academic like Math or Reading, this can also just be a short ½ sheet of paper with a few questions on it to get students ready and available to learn (sometimes, that’s the biggest struggle!).

Guided Instruction

  • This will be where you teach your lesson. Many teachers have different methods and styles of teaching. I like to use power points and technology to help keep the focus of my students, no matter what I’m teaching. Even for our students with severe disabilities, the power point gives them a focus point so they can at the very least, visually attend to the lesson.
  • Be sure to not just lecture and have a one-way conversation with yourself during your lesson. Try to involve your students as much as you can. Engage your students so they’ll stay with you through the lesson.
  • Use a multi modal approach to teaching. We know that all students don’t learn the same way, so if we can break up instruction and come at students with different approaches and strategies, that equals a higher rate of success. Think about your students and all the ways they learn. Visuals. Hands on activities. Verbal questioning, etc.
  • Try to make teaching a 2-way dialogue so students can stay engaged. I know it’s not always possible depending on the topic you are teaching, but if it’s possible, go for it.
  • After the instructional part of the lesson, it’s a good idea to do a group or whole class activity. This can be something really small and short to something bigger that requires more work and planning. This also helps keep the students engaged in learning. I find that doing these types of activities also helps students retain information better (not always, but it helps!).


  • You can also do partner activities, jeopardy with teams, answer questions for points or candy, OR if you’re teach life skills, this is where you have students stand up and get hands on! For example, practice vacuuming, sweeping, practice making phone calls, using the vending machine etc.
  • If I have other video clips, I show them at this time as well.
  • This is also a good time for students to get some of their energy out, or take a break from just sitting and listening. Then you can bring them back as they move to their independent work.
  • This won’t be the same activity for every lesson but at least it’s a good way to break things up and keep your class focused.

Independent Work

  • In every lesson you should always have independent work (or as independent as your students are able to). This is a way for you to check for understanding and see what your students understand, or where you need to reteach.
  • Depending on the level of learner in your classroom, this could be more simple activities such as matching words to pictures related to the lesson, verbal questioning, or could be answering comprehension questions (multiple choice or short answer), writing prompts etc.
  • On holidays or less stressful lessons, you can even do fun things like crossword puzzles or picture prompts that students can write about.

Review/Wrap up/Check for Learning

  • At the end of each lesson, bring the class back together. Go over what you just learned. Have students tell you what they learned today. This is also another way to check for understanding or clarify and answer questions that students might have from their independent work.
  • Reiterate why it’s important to learn this information.
  • You can tell students what you’ll teach about tomorrow or the direction of the lessons/unit.

Post Lesson

  • If there’s any time left after your lesson, this is when I give students ‘break time’ to get on their phones or enjoy classroom appropriate leisure activities (computer, puzzles, books, magazines, quiet chatting with friends etc.).

As you continue planning the next lessons in your unit…

  • Use what you learned from your students when you checked for understanding (verbally or written work). This will help you take the right direction on your upcoming lessons. You’ll get a better idea of what approach or strategies work best as well as a better hold on what ideas/concepts may take more time to teach.
  • Keep the end goal in mind. Again, depending on what you teach, think about what are the main skills or concepts you want your students to gain from this unit. They may not get everything, but what are the most important things you want your students to get from this unit?
  • Remember, as you teach, you’re still learning too! Sometimes, lessons completely tank. No one teaches awesome lessons every time. Sometimes they are terrible and students just do not get what you’re trying to say. THAT IS NORMAL!!!! This has happened to every teacher, so don’t worry. This is where you can go back, figure out what you can do different next time. ADAPT. MODIFY. RETEACH. TRY DIFFERENT APPROACHES.

This is a basic special education lesson plan template that I follow when planning my lessons. Sometimes I still write my plans down to make sure I’ve covered everything I am aiming to do. Since I have used this same special education lesson plan template so many times and for so many years, it’s become automatic in my thinking process. Every time I plan a lesson, I’m always thinking about how I can engage my students. What can I do different today to pull them into this insanely boring topic I have to teach? How can I make them care about this? No matter what topic you’re teaching, you can follow this general plan. I have used this same special education lesson plan template to teach English, Math, History, Career Preparation, Life Skills, Cooking, Work Awareness & Transition, and more!

At many schools and districts, it is required to turn in actual lesson plans in, so this is a good template that’s easy to use and organize your ideas. When leaving substitute plans, it’s also a great idea to leave plans using this special education lesson plan template. Substitutes will have no questions about what they are teaching that day and have a clear plan for the class. The better we prepare our substitutes; the less meaningful instruction needs to be interrupted when you are not at school. Yes, of course subs should not be teaching brand new material, but this is still a great way to review lessons/skills as well.

If you are teaching students with severe disabilities, your lesson planning might look a bit different. Instead of just 1 objective for the entire class, you may have different objectives for each one of your students.


Lesson Objective: Students will be able to tell time to the hour on an analog clock.

  • Student 1: After this lesson, student will be able to tell time to the hour.
  • Student 2: After this lesson, student will be able to locate the 12 on an analog clock.
  • Student 3: Student will be able to locate where numbers 1-12 are on an analog block.
  • Student 4: Student will remain in seat for the duration of the lesson.
  • Student 5: Student will visually attend for the duration of the lesson.
  • Student 6: Student will be able to identify the short hand and long hand on an analog clock.

Even if the specific lesson objective for each student is different, they are all still getting something out of your lesson. We know that in a Special Education classroom, you will have students on every level. So, we have to find a way to be able to touch on everyone’s goals. Ideally, it’d be great to have 1 on 1 instruction all the time, but that is just not possible. Sometimes you’ll have to improvise and differentiate to find a way to reach all your learners the best you can. As long as you know and understand why you are doing what you are doing, keep on keeping on!  You can even make note of these specific student goals in your formal lesson plans so that you can remind yourself of specific goals and keep yourself focused and accountable.

Again, there is not one right way to write lesson plans. You just have to find the one that works best for you to help you meet the various needs of your students. After planning full class lesson plans, sometimes you may need to do small group or give some students some extra attention. When working with smaller groups, you can still use this special education lesson plan template. Of course, it’ll need to be adapted since you won’t be doing any ‘whole group activities’ with 1 or 3 students. However, this template is still beneficial to follow.


Please, don’t forget that teaching is still a learning process and we learn as we go. Some lessons you teach will just not work and you’ll say to yourself, “Okay, that was terrible, will not do that again! Lesson learned”. You’ll find out what works best for you and your students. Once you get it, it’ll become part of your routine and lesson planning will come a lot easier. It really does become embedded in the way you think as an educator and it will feel a lot more natural. Teaching is the fun part of the job. Coming up with new, fun, engaging ways to teach our students is what is all about.  I wish as educators we had more time to concentrate on it and truly be able to give all our students the time and attention they deserve and need to help them succeed (but that’s another BLOG for another time).

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