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Planning lessons is an integral part of the job of a teacher. Planning and preparing are crucial to the success of your lessons. Planning in advance allows the teacher to remain organized, use class time efficiently (so as not be scrambling for what to do), keep the bigger picture in sight, and remain on track for the curriculum and SOLs. It is also important to be flexible, and be able to adapt the lesson plan as you are teaching, dealing with unexpected curve balls that may be thrown at you, such as student behaviors or unexpected difficulties in understanding the information.

Throughout my student teaching experiences, I planned my lessons a week in advance. At Warwick High School, teachers were required to post their lesson plans for the next week before they left school on Friday afternoon! I think this is an excellent idea, as it forced teachers to plan ahead, and also allowed them to have some free time on the weekends!

Competency 6: Plan lessons that align with local, state, and national standards
Starting in 3rd grade, students in the state of Virginia are required to take Standards of Learning (SOL) tests at the end of the year to demonstrate their knowledge of the required grade and subject standards. In my lesson planning, I made sure that all my lessons were aligned to the state standards, and that the corresponding SOL was clearly noted on my lesson plan.

As an elementary resource teacher, I did not have to plan the curriculum for the year, but I was given the topics and standards that were going to be taught a week in advance. This allowed me to plan my pull-out lessons to complement the general curriculum lessons, and reference the standards to keep my students' goals in mind.

Competencies 7 & 8: Select instructional strategies and materials/resources to use that are responsive to diverse student needs and appropriate for the subject matter and effectively integrate technology into your lessons
When planning lessons for special education students, it is particularly important to vary the instruction and make sure that the lessons meet the student's individual needs. The nature of my lessons in the elementary resource classroom was such that they needed to be different from the lessons taught in the general education classroom. They need to reinforce the main ideas taught, and target the students' individual needs and areas of weakness.

It is also important to differentiate the lesson for each student, since they each have such unique strengths and weaknesses. Some of the factors I considered when planning lessons were: what was being taught in the general education classroom, the student's prior knowledge, using multiple sensory modalities (such as oral instruction, whiteboards, and manipulatives), and their disabilities, strengths and weaknesses. Based on lesson plans created by my general education classmates, I designed modifications and differentiation for four students. The student descriptions and accommodations are based on actual students from my student teaching experience. These Lesson Plan Modifications demonstrate my ability to take an existing lesson and adapt it to meet the diverse needs of individual students.

In my self-contained autism classroom, I had the opportunity to use a great deal of technology in my lessons. Their classroom was equipped with a SmartBoard, which I used for almost all of my lessons on a daily basis. In both math and reading, I pulled up the documents on the SmartBoard, so that the students would have a visual reference of what we were talking about. The SmartBoard also allowed opportunities for the students to get out of their seats, come up to the board, and underline or circle important information. I was also able to play short videos before beginning a lesson in order to activate the students' prior knowledge.

Additionally, Assistive Technology (AT) is important to use in the classroom. AT is any high- or low-tech device or service that allows students to meet their IEP goals and participate in the general curriculum. AT can be almost anything- ranging from pencil grips and slanted desks to help a student write, to a motorized wheelchair to help him get around, to an augmented communication device to help him communicate, to a computer or keyboard to type responses. It is important as a special education to consider AT devices and services when writing a student's IEP, and to train the student and his teachers how to use the device. Students can even have an AT evaluation performed by the Virginia Assistive Technology System (http://www.vats.org/), which can help them determine which devices and services would be most helpful to them! I completed the IRIS Assistive Technology Module, which demonstrates my understanding of AT and how to use it effectively in the classroom. Technology in the classroom can be extremely helpful, especially in working to meet the needs of students with disabilities!

CEC Standard #7: Instructional Planning
Students receiving special education are required to have an Individualized Education Program (IEP) on file, which is reviewed at least annually. The IEP includes the student's placement (time spent in the general education and special education settings), annual goals, services, accommodations, and modifications. It is designed to consider the student's needs and strengths, and create a plan to utilize their strengths to help them remedy their needs. The student's accommodations help to "level the playing field" and provide them access to the general curriculum.

When planning lessons, it is important to differentiate the lesson based on each students needs. It is also important to provide direct, explicit instruction, and include modeling, guided practice, independent practice, and the opportunity for generalization of the skill. Through constant progress monitoring, the teacher can make data-based decisions and modify the rest of the lessons appropriately. It is also important to collaborate with other special education teachers, general education teachers, families, and related service personnel, such as the Speech, Occupational, and Physical Therapists, the Guidance Counselor, and anyone else the student receives services from. Collaboration allows these professionals to work together in order to use resources most effectively and maximize the benefit to the student. During my teaching experience at Matoaka Elementary, I had the opportunity to co-plan and co-teach a lesson with the third grade general education teacher. Working together allowed us to maximize both of our resources. We split up the content, and each "specialized" in one area. While one of us was teaching, the other was circulating the room, helping the students with their notes. The station activity allowed the students to practice each skill in a small group setting and receive individual attention. This lesson demonstrates my ability to co-plan and co-teach effectively.

Planning for post-secondary transitions is another important part of special education. Planning for transition is required by federal law to begin at age 16, and at age 14 in Virginia. At this point, students must be invited to their IEP meetings, and the IEPs must include post-secondary goals and coordinated transition services in the areas of Education, Employment, Training and Independent Living. Creation of these goals includes collecting data through age-appropriate transition assessments. In addition, students should be taught to be self-determined, and able to advocate for their own needs. Students and their families should be connected with adult service agencies, such as the Department of Rehabilitative Services (http://www.vadrs.org/) who can provide them with additional supports and services both while in high school and after graduation. This mock Transition IEP demonstrates my ability to plan for a student's transitions, taking into consideration the results of the students assessments, as well as his strengths, needs, preferences, and interests!