Writing Lesson Plans in the Self-Contained Classroom

Teachers in self-contained classrooms—those that are specifically designated for children with disabilities—face real challenges when writing lesson plans. They need to be conscious of their obligations to each student's IEP and also align their objectives with state or national standards. That is doubly true if your students are going to participate in your state's high-stakes tests.

Special education teachers in most U.S. states are responsible for following the Common Core education standards and must also provide students with a free and appropriate public education (better known as FAPE). This legal requirement implies that students who are best served in a self-contained special education classroom need to be given as much access as possible to the general education curriculum. So, creating adequate lesson plans for self-contained classrooms that helps them achieve this goal is vital.

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Align IEP Goals and State Standards

A list of standards from the Common Core State Standards to use when planning. Websterlearning

A good first step in writing lesson plans in a self-contained classroom is to create a bank of standards from your state's or the Common Core educational standards that align with your students IEP goals. As of April 2018, 42 states have adopted the Common Core curriculum for all students attending public schools, which involves teaching standards for each grade level in English, mathematics, reading, social studies, history, and science.

IEP goals tend to be based on having students learn functional skills, ranging from learning to tie their shoes, for example, to creating shopping lists and even doing consumer math (such as adding up prices from a shopping list). IEP goals do align with Common Core standards, and many curriculums, such as the Basics Curriculum, include banks of IEP goals specifically aligned to these standards.

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Create a Plan Mirroring the General Education Curriculum

A model lesson plan
A model lesson plan. Websterlearning

After you have gathered your standards—either your state's or the Common Core standards—begin laying out the workflow in your classroom. The plan should include all of the elements of a general education lesson plan but with modifications based on student IEPs. For a lesson plan designed to help teach students improve their reading comprehension, for example, you might state that at the end of the lesson, students should be able to read and  understand figurative language, plot, climax, and other fiction characteristics, as well as the elements of nonfiction, and display the ability to find specific information in the text.

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Create a Plan That Aligns IEP Goals to Standards

teacher resources,lesson plans,common core state standards
A model plan that aligns Common Core Standards to IEP's. Websterlearning

With students whose functions are lower, you may need to modify your lesson plan to focus more specifically on IEP goals, including the steps that you as a teacher would take to help them arrive at a more age-appropriate level of function.

The image for this slide, for example, was created using Microsoft Word, but you could use any word-processing program. It includes basic skill-building goals, such as learning and comprehending Dolce site words. Rather than simply listing this as a goal for the lesson, you would provide a space in your lesson template to measure each of the students' individual instruction and list the activities and work that would be placed in their folders or visual schedules. Each student, then, might be given individual work depending on his level of ability. The template includes space that allows you to track the progress of each student.

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Challenges in a Self-Contained Classroom

Self contained-contained classes create special challenges for planning
Self contained-contained classes create special challenges for planning. Sean Gallup

The challenge in self-contained classrooms is that many of students aren't able to succeed in grade-level general education classes, especially those who are placed for even part of the day in a self-contained setting. With children on the autism spectrum, for example, that is complicated by the fact that some students actually can be successful on high-stakes standardized tests, and with the right kind of support, might be able to earn a regular high school diploma.

In many settings, students may have fallen behind academically because their special education teachers—educators in self-contained classrooms—have not been able to teach the general education curriculum, either because of students' behavioral or functional skills issues or because these teachers do not have enough experience with the breadth of the general education curriculum. Lesson plans designed for self-contained classrooms allow you to cater your teaching to individual student needs while aligning lesson plans to state or national general education standards so that students can succeed to the highest level of their abilities.