Lesson Planning: 6 Steps for Aligning Student Tasks With Learning Targets

By Amy Dujon, author of The Essential Flipbook for Achieving Rigor

The goal of a standards-based classroom is to provide each student with an opportunity to produce evidence of the grade-level standards. This is no small feat for the teacher. First, teachers must understand the level of thinking and evidence required by the standards, then create tasks aligned to cognitive complexity, and lastly, ensure students’ evidence of thinking is reaching the standard.

For teachers, this means the bulk of the work occurs in planning

In my visits to classrooms across the country, I have witnessed really good work in unpacking standards and providing students with learning targets or daily objectives. However, where I tend to see the largest disconnect is the correlation of the student task to the learning target. How do you create tasks aligned to the standards? You purposefully plan, using research-based strategies.

Let’s walk through the planning process together (you can also use this process to evaluate current or previously taught lessons/lesson chunks):


1) Identify the learning target

Unpack the grade level content standard into smaller chunks

2) Determine the cognitive complexity of the unpacked targets

Use a research-based taxonomy (Blooms, Webbs, Marzano)

3) Determine what evidence you will need students to produce

What does this target look like and sound like when a student is successful?

What types of tasks would get me the evidence I need?

4) Design a task that requires students to produce evidence at the complexity level of the standard

Look at research-based strategies (The Essentials Flipbook is a great resource)

Identify a strategy that will get kids thinking and producing at the target level. (Ex: The target requires students to compare multiple text on the same topic. You decide to use look at the strategy Examining Similarities and Differences and have them create a comparison matrix task.

Define mastery of the task based on your work in #3.

5) Plan the structure of the task.

Will students complete the task independently, in pairs, or groups?

What conditions or routines do you need to put in place, so you set them up for success?

Which texts/resources will they need to access?

6) Determine teacher actions

How will I prepare them to be ready for the task?

How will I collect formative data points during instruction?

What scaffolded supports do I need to have ready if they get stuck?


Use these six steps to plan each chunk of the lesson. Let’s say your typical lesson starts with a review/preview of the standard(s), then moves into two to three scaffolded chunks of learning, one building on the next, you would repeat the six planning steps for each chunk. Remember, the heaviest lift for teachers in a rigorous, standards-based classroom is always in the planning.

The heaviest lift for teachers in a rigorous, standards-based classroom is always in the planning. —@AmyDujon Click To Tweet

Transferring Ownership

When teacher planning becomes this rich, the classroom is like the playing field on game day.

Like all good coaches, the teacher has carefully designed a game-plan. Now the players—the students— must execute. During the game, the coach calls the play, players execute, and the coach evaluates to make adjustments based on performance. Similarly, the teacher provides the learning prompt, observes and monitors student work, and makes adaptations based on performance. Just as the coach is collecting data on each play, the teacher is collecting data during the lesson. Because the plan is so strong, the teacher is now free to focus on student evidence. He or she can give more time to students who need personalized support based on leading, in-the-moment data.


The Essential Flipbook for Achieving Rigor by Amy M. Dujon


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Amy Dujon

Amy Dujon led one of the nation’s first Schools for Rigor initiatives as an elementary school principal and director of leadership development in partnership with Learning Sciences International, bringing in a powerful new vision for strengthening core instruction. This work ignited her passion for student-centered, standards-based instruction, and she remains relentless in her focus to grow professionally and personally. Amy is currently a practice leader for LSI, working with districts and leaders across the country to support their transformation and implementation and author of The Gritty Truth of School Transformation: Eight Phases of Growth to Instructional Rigor.