Five words every educator should think about before planning

By Tammy Jones, Guest blogger

She was also a featured author! Check out her interview here.

As educators, our planning must be intentional and deliberate, so our instruction will be impactful, consistent, and effective! Educators today are faced with a variety of challenges: classrooms are more diverse; demands for students’ success is at an all-time high; time is at a premium. For educators, this is a balancing act. Teachers need resources to support the learning needs of students at all levels.

Intentional & Deliberate Planning:


John Maxwell, The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, in his 4th Law – The Law of Navigation – says that “first rate navigators always have in mind that other people are depending on them, and their ability to chart a good course and the secret to successful navigators is preparation…”  Educators must plan purposefully. Knowing where the students are expected to go on their journey in your class is as important as knowing from where they have come. It’s just as important for educators to look at student data and understand standards as to have the necessary content knowledge and pedagogical strategies.  

As educators plan, they need to consider the diversity of learning styles and multiple intelligences found among students, cultural diversities, language and reading challenges, as well as gaps that may be identified through data or pre-assessment. As a result, choosing resources that are rich, have a low threshold and a high ceiling, are engaging, and are cognitively demanding is necessary. Resources that provide opportunities for students to engage in writing and reflection are a priority, given today’s more rigorous standards and expectations. Incorporating literature, trade books, and opportunities for reading are another priority when looking for resources. Since students, in all disciplines, are building practices and the Habits of Mind associated with their particular content area, resources that provide opportunities for students to engage in the Roles that Build the Habits of Mind are valued. Some buzz words to consider when looking for good resources are Differentiation and RtI.

Effective questioning can be used to differentiate when students are engaged in a task or activity. Four opportunities for effective questioning have been identified for moving both the learner and the learning forward.  (Opportunities for Questioning: Moving Both the Learner and the Learning Forward, whitepaper, Tammy L. Jones, Leslie A. Texas, 2013).  Engaging in the activity or task as a student prior to assigning it to the class, offers the teacher a view from the students’ perspectives. These tasks should offer the opportunity to use four types of questions.

Impactful, Consistent, & Effective Instruction:

So you have planned a lesson, now what? In today’s classrooms, teachers are more often than not facilitating parallel structures. For example, there is a greater emphasis on content delivered via computers: students write on computers, practice on computers, create on computers, etc. There is still a place for direct, large group instruction; but now student-led groups could be working together, engaged in independent research, or working in cooperative groups on a project at the same time.

Over the years, many teachers have visited my classroom. There were no desks – only tables and chairs, no real “front of the room.” It was a community – a community of learning. Many teachers loved the concept, but what they did not realize was the time and effort that it took to create that environment. The environment in a classroom plays a large role in how impactful and effective the instruction is. As a teacher, like a parent, we must be consistent. Consistent with the delivery of our instruction, the management of our classroom, and the expectations and treatment of our students. Remember that a rising tide raises all ships. Engaging students in effective discourse allows the opportunity for students to learn from other students. This can often be more powerful and impactful than if students hear the same thing from the teacher!

One of the challenges facing educators today is how to engage students. Students just need some diversity during the development of a topic. Providing visuals, manipulatives, using color – even just colored paper — when printing, making connections to previously learned material or to student interests, supporting vocabulary development, maintaining high expectations, and making cross-curricular connections, when possible, are but a few of the ways teachers can support student engagement. It’s relatively easy to offer choices to students in their assignments and in the products they produce to show evidence of learning. Using Cubing, Think Dots and variations of these strategies offers students an engaging way to make choices while still leveling the learning for students who need it.

One of the new resources that is available to teachers is TES. Writing and Vocabulary, incorporating trade books and literature into the classroom, content delivery for all subjects and grade levels, as well as resources for librarians and parents are but a small sampling of the many resources available to teachers. Remember, taking the time to find a quality set of core activities, tasks, and resources that complement and supplement your curriculum materials as you are planning deliberately and intentionally, will ensure your instruction will be consistent, effective, and impactful.

Have a great school year and be sure to email me at if I can be of any support.