Ground Lesson Plans in Equity and Acceleration to Address Unfinished Learning
By Sonya Murray and Gwendolyn Y. Turner
As educators gather the shattered pieces from a broken, unprecedented time in education, research suggests more students are experiencing unfinished learning. According to NAEP reading and mathematics data, scores have declined in grades 4 and 8 compared to data in 2019 (Education Week, 2022). Educators should ground lesson plans in equity and acceleration to address unfinished learning. First, we as educators should examine our mindsets, perceptions, and biases about students. Next, we maintain high expectations for all students regardless of their ability level or background in our planning. Moreover, we scaffold student learning and build relevant experiential learning experiences by incorporating active student learning. We must respect our students’ vast needs, voices, and agency in planning.
Educators planning for equitable learning should consider the following strategies:
Start with YOU: Assess mindset and disrupt deficit thinking in planning.
The most crucial phase in equitable lesson planning is examining your own bias and deficit thinking about students’ capabilities before initiating the lesson planning. This action requires exploring mental models, which are the images, assumptions, and stories we carry in our minds of ourselves, other people, institutions, and every aspect of our world. Educators should constantly ask themselves in planning, “Do I hold preconceived ideas about my students’ abilities that prevent giving all students access to “the good stuff”- rigorous mathematics problems, complex text, and challenging tasks?”
Maintain High Expectations and a Grade Level of Focus
High expectations have a positive effect on students’ learning and grade-level performance.
Lowering expectations and rigor do not promote student learning acceleration, even for those students who need more support.
Educators should instead plan tasks that promote critical thinking and problem-solving at grade level. A study of more than 2 million students in more than 100,000 classrooms found that students are more successful when they can work at their grade level (TNTP, 2021; ZEARN, 2021).
Scaffold Instruction Through Relevant Learning Opportunities
Moreover, as we plan, we scaffold student learning and build relevant experiential learning experiences by incorporating active student learning.
- Plan for Small or Individual Grouping that elevates students’ needs, voice, and agency.
- Utilize rich curricular activities, resources, and technology to enhance student motivation and engagement.
- Provide students with multiple attempts on formative assessments and assignments.
- Use scoring guides and personalized lessons for experiential learning opportunities.
- Foster peer collaboration and shared responsibility for learning.
Scaffolding Ensures Equity for Multilingual Learners
By Beth Skelton and Tan Huynh
As part of my (Tan) 10th grade social studies curriculum, I had to teach students business concepts. I designed a culturally responsive unit where students strategically applied the business concepts to a food truck that highlighted the food from students’ respective countries. I purposefully planned for students to draw on their rich backgrounds to make the business concepts more comprehensible.
For learning to be equitable for my multilingual learners, my instructions and the writing assignments had to have a variety of scaffolds. In one particular lesson, the students had to produce a description of their signature dish. I provided sensory, interactive, and linguistic scaffolds to make the lesson more equitable for all learners. I first presented some visual examples of dishes (sensory scaffold) from each of the team’s different food truck concepts and invited the students to use sensory adjectives to describe the taste, smell, and texture of their signature dish. First, students brainstormed some adjectives they could use to describe the dishes. I wrote these on the board and then modeled how I would describe a dish for my own hypothetical food truck using some of the adjectives (linguistic scaffold). Then, students orally shared their description to a classmate (interactive scaffold) to receive feedback. Finally, I annotated an example description from an actual food truck, clearly labeling each part of the description and noting the structure students could use for their own descriptive writing (linguistic scaffold). At this point, students were ready to write their signature dish descriptions successfully.
All students now had a clear understanding of the need to use adjectives effectively to talk about the ingredients of their signature dish.
When instruction is designed to be comprehensible, lessons become equitable.
In addition, students had a clear model of how to organize their descriptive writing, which scaffolded their use of business language. They also had the chance to orally rehearse their descriptions with a team member before writing. These last two scaffolds structured their academic output, adding another level of equity. With this intentional use of sensory, interactive, and linguistic scaffolds, the instructions for writing a signature dish, all students, especially the multilingual students, stand a better chance at reaching the highest level.
In our book called Long-Term Success for Experienced Multilinguals, designing lessons that are comprehensible and ones that structure output for secondary students are just two parts of our instructional framework. With this framework, Beth and I hope to provide a practical, systematic way for secondary teachers to create the conditions for their multilinguals to be highly successful. We believe that equity is not an illusive dream, especially for multilinguals, but alive and thriving by the way we design our instruction.
Build Access and Opportunity For All Through High Expectations
By Colleen Urlik & Rebecca McKinney
Addressing equity concerns in education requires a multi-faceted approach. Current practices result in students’ lack of access and opportunity to high expectations in curriculum and instruction throughout their education career which is an on-going equity issue.
To change these practices, the goal must be authentic engagement, embedded critical thinking, and autonomy for all students. You can build these practices through creating lesson plans that weave together first best instruction along with strategies typically reserved for advanced learners, including:
- Integration of students’ voices, experiences, interests, passions, and goals
- Construction of conceptual understandings across content areas
- Responsive instructional strategies selected based on pre assessment, not presumption
- Rigorous questioning and learning tasks integrating and layering multiple frameworks together over existing curriculum
High expectations for all students is the foundational practice of this approach to developing lesson plans.
High expectations allow you to recognize and eliminate the false ceilings, unnecessary barriers, and assumptions that limit the students’ opportunities to grow and reach their potential. Your expectations become your students’ realities.
To ensure high expectations for all, we encourage the use of guiding questions when selecting and planning for the implementation of strategies to use with students. Some questions we include are:
- What does our data tell me about which students are thriving with current instructional strategies and who is not?
- Am I using data to confirm my assumptions or broaden my understanding of my students?
- What data am I missing to ensure I have a full picture of my students? What qualitative data have I gathered or do I have to support the quantitative data?
- What does success look like for my students, and how will I monitor student progress?
- What cultural values are present in the classroom/ school? How do the students’ cultural values align to this strategy?
- What assumptions might I hold about students? How do these assumptions affect my instructional practices and expectations? How might these assumptions be affecting my students’ performance?
- What implicit biases and personal experiences might I have that I need to be mindful of as I implement this strategy?
Once you learn to lesson plan from a place of high expectations for all students, equitable learning becomes the cultural norm within your classroom and school.