Home Equity, Diversity, Inclusion Five Strategies for Equitable Lesson Plans

Five Strategies for Equitable Lesson Plans

by Ashley Harden, M.Ed
5 Strategies for Equitable Lesson Plans

Take a moment and look at ALL the things around you. Pause. Now take a moment and look at EACH thing around you. What’s the difference? For me, there are three distinct differences. First, it took more time to look at each object around me. Second, I noticed the details I would have normally ignored or not noticed at all. Third, I was more intentional in understanding the importance of what was around me. Let’s apply this to what we do as educators. Because, whether you are a classroom teacher, administrator, or other staff member, we all must take the time to notice the details and importance of the students we serve. This requires us to take an EACH approach rather than “all” to achieve equitable educational. 

components to achieving equity

When we plan for all of our students and not EACH of our students, someone is bound to be forgotten. Most educators would agree that equity should be something that we strive for when educating students, but may struggle with how exactly to execute it. How do you turn a theory or educational belief into an actuality? Break down the components of the theory and develop an individual action plan for each. This is exactly what needs to be done for teachers to create lesson plans that will lead to equitable education and increased academic success.

When thinking about lesson plans, we can categorize our plans as input (content instruction) and output (evidence of student comprehension). Let’s go over five strategies for creating an equitable lesson plan that can meet the needs of EACH student you serve. 

5 strategies for creating equitable lesson plans

Input: Content Instruction

1. High Expectations Paired with Resources

Oftentimes, educators may feel that by lowering expectations and rigor they are helping students that require more support. The opposite is actually more imperative, especially in the case of required standardized exams. Educators that have an academic impact on students need to keep high expectations. The caveat here is that the high expectations need to be paired with more resources in order to be equitable, or it just perpetuates more inequity.

resources and high expectations to create equitable lessons

Resources that support high expectations:

  1. Curated or created videos
  2. Scaffolding to strengthen foundational content
  3. Small or individual study groups
  4. Provide multiple opportunities and avenues for evidence of comprehension
  5. Compassion, or what I like to call “tough love”

2. Accessibility for Disability and Flexibility

Each year, you may have students that require accessibility accommodations or modifications due to a disability. The adjustments needed are often made after you received your roster and SPED or 504 documentation. However, what if you created lessons with accessibility features without knowing who was on your roster? What if those features had the potential to help each of your students? Accessibility is a key component of an equitable lesson plan. It allows students, with or without a disability, to control how they access and digest the information presented.

accessibility to create equitable lessons

Types of accessibility features that provide learner flexibility:

  1. Closed captioning on videos
  2. Provide instruction and information in digestible chunks
  3. Text-to-speech screen reader 
  4. Digital notes and text 

3. Student Experiential Relevance

What is student experiential relevance? It is the opportunity for students to make personal connections to the content based on their own experiences. Do your lesson plans prompt students to say “I see me,” “I have felt that,” or “I have been through that?” According to John Hattie, there are three main ways to trigger relevance to a student: personal association, personal usefulness, and personal identification. As a former chemistry teacher, I do want to be realistic here; I know that not every lesson lends itself to allow for you to consider student experience. This takes the focus off of cultural, racial, and socio-economic labels while redirecting to the individual’s experiences.

student experience to create equitable lessons

Ways to consider student experiential relevance:

  1. Use current events to parallel historical events.
  2. Develop a science experiment/experience using common household items to encourage understanding of how students interact with science every day.
  3. Diversify readings to allow for both classic and more modern representation.
  4. Create a math experience that allows students to solve real-life problems or that connects to interests like music, sports, careers, etc.
  5. Use real-world virtual or in-person simulations to promote learning and content connection.

Output: Evidence of Student Comprehension

4. Mastery Over Compliance

Before you get nervous about this strategy, don’t stress. This does not remove responsibility from the student to complete work but provides multiple opportunities for students to be successful within the same time frame. Notice I said “over” not “instead of” compliance. Otherwise, we would be lowering expectations, which we already know wouldn’t benefit the student. The goal of educators and students should be student mastery of content more than making sure the assignment is turned in by 11:59 pm on Tuesday and the test isn’t until the following week. 

mastery over compliance to create equitable lessons

How to build in opportunities for mastery:

  1. Provide multiple attempts on formative assignments, and take the average or higher grade for the students to demonstrate growth.
  2. Provide meaningful feedback and allow students to make corrections or redo the assignments.
  3. Provide rubrics to guide the students on how to effectively complete a project or assignment.
  4. Allow for peer collaboration for shared responsibility of learning

5. Student Perspective in Learning

This will require you, as an educator, to examine your own bias. Not just your personal bias, but also your content area bias. Allowing students to demonstrate their learning from their own perspective provides them the opportunity to share from their unique lens, so you must be open to receiving different viewpoints on the same topic. Not only do students get to have ownership of who they are but they can learn more about each other. As a teacher, you also have the unique experience of getting a glimpse of the emotions, outlooks, and interpretations of your students.

student perspectives to create equitable lessons

Ways to incorporate student perspective:

  1. Students write an essay as if they were a character in the text based on their experiences.
  2. Provide multiple avenues of expression to demonstrate learning: drawing, songs, movement, writing, etc.
  3. The student applies topics to their potential career field.
  4. Create structured group or paired discussions to allow for personal perspectives.

I hope you’re feeling inspired to apply these strategies to your lesson planning practices. To make it easier to apply these, I want to share this equity check for lesson planning template. It will guide you through each strategy as you’re planning, so you can create an equitable lesson plan without even knowing who is on your class roster.

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Jami Kay Owens November 8, 2022 - 10:41 am

Thank you so much for this powerful message!

Ashley Harden November 12, 2022 - 10:40 am

I’m glad you found it useful.


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