Special Education

Guidance Document - Lesson Plan Template - Accessing the Common Core for Students with Disabilities

Guidance Document - Lesson Plan Template - Accessing the Common Core for Students with Disabilities *

Students with diverse needs must be challenged to excel within the general curriculum and be prepared for success in their post-school lives. The implementation of the Common Core Learning Standards (CCLS) provides an historic opportunity to improve access to rigorous academic content standards for students with diverse needs.

* Created by Katy B. Weber and Valerie Cole members of the NYSED SDI Workgroup 2014

Guidance Document - Lesson Plan Template - Accessing the Common Core for Students with Disabilities - PDF PDF document (655 KB)


Table of Contents


Sample Lesson Plan Template

Specially Designed Instruction (SDI) Classroom Summary Sheet

Glossary of Terms



  • Appendix A: Completed sample lesson plan using Grade 6 – Module 1: Unit 1, Lesson 1
  • Appendix B:  A Completed SDI Classroom Summary
  • Appendix C: Individualized Education Program (IEP) and Lesson Plan Development Handbook
  • Appendix D:  Annotated Lesson Plan


The lesson plan template and the classroom summary were developed to support educators in embedding specially designed instruction (SDI) into lessons that are aligned with the Common Core Learning Standards (CCLS).  The foundation of these tools is rooted in the research around the elements of explicit instruction.  This approach is “a systematic method of teaching with emphasis on proceeding in small steps, checking for student understanding, and achieving active and successful participation by all students” (Rosenshine, 1987).  Over the past 20 years, research has shown that explicit instruction is the most effective evidence-based method for instructing all students and primarily those students with disabilities. 

Explicit instruction is the foundation by which SDI is delivered.  SDI is defined in 34 CFR section 300.39(a)(3) and section 200.1(vv) of the Regulations of the Commissioner of Education to mean “adapting, as appropriate to the needs of an eligible student, the content, methodology, or delivery of instruction to address the unique needs that result from the student’s disability; and to ensure access of the student to the general curriculum, so that he or she can meet the educational standards that apply to all students.”  SDI is the intentional and purposeful planning of instruction to ensure that students with disabilities can meaningfully access, participate and progress in the curriculum throughout the entire lesson.

These tools were created by the SDI Workgroup through the Regional Special Education Technical Assistance Support Center (RSE-TASC).  The RSE-TASC network is one of the P-12: Office of Special Education’s primary resources for school improvement in New York State.  Special Education School Improvement Specialists (SESIS), Valerie Cole and Katy B. Weber were instrumental in creating these tools and delivering professional development for educators across the State to improve results for students with disabilities.

Note:  These tools are a resource and may be adapted to meet varying needs of educators.

Glossary of Terms

(These definitions are following the order of the terms in the Lesson Plan Template)

SE Teacher (Special Education Teacher)Special education teacher means an individual who is certified or licensed to teach students with disabilities who is providing special education to the student. 

GE Teacher (General Education Teacher)General education teacher means a teacher who is qualified to serve nondisabled students who is providing general education instruction to the student. 

Teaching Assistant:  A teaching assistant can assist in the delivery of special education services but cannot serve in place of a special education teacher.  (e.g., working with groups of students on instructional projects, provide teacher information about students, assist with testing accommodations, development of materials, etc.)

Teacher Aides:  Teacher aides perform noninstructional duties.  (e.g., assisting students with behavioral needs, set-up centers, or upcoming activities, make copies, manage records, materials, equipment, watching students during recess, hall transitions, etc).

Class: For purposes of the lesson plan document, this term means the setting in which students with disabilities are receiving instruction in the general education curriculum.   

Consultant Teacher Services (CT)Consultant Teacher Services are defined as direct and/or indirect services provided to a school-aged student with a disability in the student’s general education classes, including career and technical education classes, and/or to such students’ general education teachers.

Direct Services mean specially designed instruction provided to an individual student with a disability or to a group of students with disabilities by a certified special education teacher to aid the student(s) to benefit from the general education class instruction.  Direct service can be combined with indirect services. 

Indirect services mean consultation provided by a certified special education teacher to a general education teacher to assist the general education teacher in adjusting the learning environment and/or modifying his/her instructional methods to meet the individual needs of a student with a disability who attends the general education class. 

Resource Room Program:  Resource room program is a special education program for a student with a disability who is in need of specialized supplementary instruction in an individual or small group setting for a portion of the school day. 

Related ServicesRelated Service means developmental, corrective and other supportive services as are required to assist a student with a disability (e.g., speech-language pathology, interpreting services, physical therapy, occupational therapy, counseling services, etc.).

Integrated Co-Teaching ServicesIntegrated co-teaching services means the provision of specially designed instruction and academic instruction provided jointly by a special education teacher and a general education teacher to a group of students with disabilities and nondisabled students. 

Special ClassSpecial class means a class consisting of students with disabilities who have been grouped together because of similarity of individual needs for purpose of receiving specially designed instruction in a self-contained setting, meaning that such students are receiving their primary instruction separate from their nondisabled peers. 

Objective (Learning Objective, Learning Target):  A learning objective is a statement that describes what the student will be able to do successfully and independently at the end of a specific lesson as a result of the classroom instruction.  All learning objectives contain a concept (main idea) and a skill (measureable student behavior).

Verb:  The skill is the verb in the learning objective.  (e.g., “Write a summary of a newspaper article,” write is the skill).  The measurable skill is the verb in the learning objectives.  (e.g., solve, identify, write, compute, and describe). 

Context:  A context is any specific condition under which the learning objective will be executed.  Often the context describes the resources or methods to be used.  (e.g., “Write a summary of a newspaper article,” the context describes the resources to be used - newspaper article). 

AccommodationsAccommodations mean adjustments to the environment, instruction or materials (e.g., instructional materials in alternative format such as large print or Braille, fewer items on each page; extra time to complete tasks) that allow a student with a disability to access the content or complete assigned tasks.  Accommodations do not alter what is being taught. 

Modifications (Program modifications):  Program modification may be used to describe a change in the curriculum or measurement of learning; for example, when a student with a disability is unable to comprehend all of the content a teacher is teaching (e.g., reduced number of assignments; alternative grading system). 

Assistive Technology (Assistive technology device, Assistive technology service):  Assistive technology device means an item, piece of equipment or product system that is used to increase, maintain or improve the functional capabilities of a student with a disability.  Assistive technology service means any service that directly assists a student with a disability in the selection, acquisition, or use of an assistive technology device.  The term includes: the evaluation of the needs, purchasing and leasing of the device, selecting, designing, fitting, customizing, and adapting the device, coordination of the therapy, intervention for the device, along with training and/or technical assistance for a student with a disability and the professionals who will provide the service. 

Strategies:  A plan of action designed to achieve a goal.

Learning Strategies: Learning strategies are techniques, steps or rules that are a fundamental part of the process to acquire, manipulate, integrate, store, and retrieve skills, and information to be applied in a variety of settings and situations.  Learning strategies may be subtle or overt and simple or complex - always matched to student need.  Learning strategies are student centered and designed to result in a new understanding, deeper knowledge, and generalization.   

Teacher Strategies: Teaching strategies are teacher centered and require student’s response or reaction.  Teaching strategies include the structure for effective teaching provided by the teacher in order to deliver specially designed instruction.  Teacher strategies include student’s engagement and positive behavior management strategies such as Hands Up/Hands Down, Give Me Five, Look/Lean/Whisper, Elbow Partners, and Think/Pair/Share. 

Necessary Prerequisite Skills:  A prerequisite skill is a skill that a student has mastered.  The skill needs to be mastered before the student will be able to learn a new skill. There prerequisite skills are reviewed during the opening of a lesson.

Assessment of Prerequisite Skills:  The key principal to a good review is to verify that all students know how to perform the prerequisite skills.  A review typically consists of giving students a task requiring the use of the prerequisite skill(s) and seeing whether the students can perform the task correctly.  There are several different assessments of prerequisite skills.  Some are direct measures, such as tests, quiz, concept maps, portfolios, and others are more indirect, such as self-reports, the student’s individualized education program (IEP), etc. 

Explicit InstructionExplicit instruction is a structured, systematic approach to teaching all students.  It is an unambiguous and direct method that includes instructional design and delivery.  Explicit instruction guides students though the learning process through the provision of clear statements regarding the purpose and rationale for learning the new skill/content, explanations and demonstrations of the instructional target, and supported scaffold practice with embedded, specific feedback in order to achieve independent mastery. 

Activate Prior Knowledge (APK):  Activating prior knowledge is purposefully moving something connected to the new lesson from the student’s long-term memories into their working memories so they can build upon existing knowledge.  Activating Prior Knowledge should be limited to no more than five minutes.  The bulk of the class time must be spent teaching students the new grade-level content. 

Vocabulary:  Prior to introducing vocabulary, a teacher must do three things: select appropriate vocabulary that will be the most useful to students both at this time and in the future; determine how each word’s meaning will be conveyed to students; and develop examples to illustrate each work and, when helpful, non-examples to establish what the concept is not. 

Specially Designed Instruction (SDI)Specially Designed Instruction means adapting, as appropriate to the needs of an eligible student, the content, methodology, or delivery of instruction to address the unique needs that result from the student’s disability; and to ensure access of the student to the general curriculum, so that he or she can meet the educational standards that apply to all students. 

Career Development and Occupational Learning Standards (CDOS):  The CDOS learning standards, which are provided at the Elementary, Intermediate and Commencement levels, include a progression of learning standards:

  1. Career Development: Students will be knowledgeable about the world of work, explore career options, and relate personal skills, aptitudes, and abilities to future career decisions.
  2. Integrated Learning: Students will demonstrate how academic knowledge and skills are applied in the workplace and other settings.

3a.Universal Foundation Skills: Students will demonstrate mastery of the foundation skills and competencies essential for success in the workplace.

3b.Career Majors: (Optional for this credential.) Students who choose a career major will acquire the career-specific technical knowledge/skills necessary to progress toward gainful employment, career advancement, and success in postsecondary programs.

Common Core Learning Standards (CCLS) or Common Core State Standards (CCSS):  The Common Core Learning Standards provide a consistent, clear understanding of what students are expected to learn.  The Standards set grade-specific standards but do not define the intervention methods or materials necessary to support students who are well below or well above grade-level expectations.

Modeling (I do it.):  Modeling involves teaching using think-aloud to reveal to students the strategic thinking required to solve a problem.  The teacher models the skill three times.  The teacher demonstrates and describes the skill performance.  

Demonstration:  Teaching using physical objects to clarify the content and to support kinesthetic learning.

Guided Practice (We do it.):  Guided practice starts with the teacher working problems together with the students.  This means that the teacher is working the problem step-by-step, usually on the board, and the students are working with the teacher at the same time.  Guided practice is a dynamic component in lessons.

Checking for Understanding (CFU):  Checking for Understanding means checking all students’ levels of understanding throughout each lesson to track learning and adapt instruction appropriately during instruction.

Independent Practice (You do it.):  Independent practice is having students practice what has been taught while it is being taught. 

Lesson Closure:  Lesson closure activities are activities at the end of the lesson that reinforce what students have learned, help students organize the information into a meaningful and personally relevant context.  Lesson closure activities can also serve as a brief assessment tool with which to evaluate student retention of information.


Hollingsworth, John, and Silvia Ybarra.  Explicit Direct Instruction (EDI):  The Power of the Well-Crafted, Well-Taught Lesson. California:  Corwin Press, 2009

Archer, A.L. and Charles A. Hughes.  Explicit Instruction:  Effective and Efficient Teaching.  London:  The Guilford Press, 2011

Regulations of the Commissioner of Education:  Part 200 Students with Disabilities and Part 201 Procedural Safeguards for Students with Disabilities Subject to Discipline:  The University of the State of New York, The State Education Department, Office of P-12 Education, Office of Special Education.  New York:  July 2013

DeLorenzo, J.P.  Continuum of Special Education Services for School-Age Students with Disabilities.  The New York State Education Department.  New York:  April, 2008

Chapter 408 – Providing Copies of the Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) for Students with Disabilities for detailed information
https://www.p12.nysed.gov/specialed/publications/policy/chap408final.pdfPDF document.

Common Core State Standards Initiative http://www.corestandards.org/the-standardsexternal link; Retrieved August 15, 2011.

Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), 34 CFR section 300.34 (a) (2004)

Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), 34 CFR section 300.39 (b)(3) (2004)

Thompson, Sandra J., Amanda B. Morse, Michael Sharpe, and Sharon Hall. “Accommodations Manual: How to Select, Administer and Evaluate Use of Accommodations and Assessment for Students with Disabilities,”2nd Edition. Council for Chief State School Officers, 2005
http://www.ccsso.org/content/pdfs/AccommodationsManual.pdf external link
(Accessed January, 29, 2010)

Kentucky Special Education Cooperatives:  IEP and Lesson Plan Development Handbook, Revised, January 2009 

Last Updated: June 23, 2014