Lesson Planning Guidelines

Lesson planning provides a clear goal and helps guide both the tutor (or teacher) and learner.  It minimizes surprises thereby creating a comfortable environment for the learner. Lesson planning allows for easy assessment and tracking of progress to guide future lessons and identify areas for improvement and the learner’s strengths.  Finally, it legitimizes your role as tutor (or teacher) if you come prepared for a lesson.  All this can be applied to social justice-oriented lesson planning.  Please see the guidelines below for how to think about each of these elements from a social justice standpoint.

Lesson Planning Components

To ensure that you are learner-centered and using a participatory approach try using the following to guide your lesson planning components:

Needs Assessment

The needs assessment will be one of the first things you do with your learner.

  • Develop a relationship and find out what motivates your learner by asking about their background and interests
    • What are some of your learner’s favorite books or hobbies?
    • What do your learner like to do in their free time?
  • Identify their immediate learner needs
    • What dothey want to learn?
  • Assess their proficiency level
    • What do they already know?

Goals and Objectives

  • Identify their long-term goals
    • How will you use these skills or this new information?
  • Identify a learning outcome or objective for each lesson
    • What particular skill will you focus on this lesson?
  • Identify how social justice will connect to this objective
    • In what way will social justice be incorporated?
    • How will it enhance the learning objective?

Time Frame, Materials, Resources

  • Determine how long the lesson will take.
  • Identify the materials and resources you will need
    • Are the materials you’ve selected accurately representing any cultures depicted?
    • Do the materials and resources represent a diversity in voices and authorship or are they presenting one specific narrative/perspective?

(see Selecting Materials for more information)

  • Are the materials you’ve selected relevant to your learner’s interest, background, and learning goals?
  • Did you allow the learner to have a say in the selection of the materials and if not how could you ensure they are sharing in decision-making for this particular lesson?
    • Do you need assistance to carry out the lesson plan?
    • Do you need the learner to do anything or review any material ahead of time?
    • Do you need the learner to bring something?


  • Get your learners interested in the topic.
    • How will you grab their attention?
    • How does the topic connect to the learner’s interests and goals?
  • Set the stage
    • Activate prior knowledge before diving into new activities and instruction.
    • Provide context for the upcoming lesson by making connections to the learner’s experience and previous lessons.

Learning Activities

  • Determine what activities you will use for your lesson.
    • Do the learning activities connect to the lesson objective?
    • What particular skill is being addressed?
    • Do the activities explicitly focus on social justice issues and if not how (if applicable) can you incorporate those themes into a reflection or discussion after the activity?
    • Do the learning activities reflect the learner’s interests and preferences?
    • Have you considered the learning style of your student and whether the activity is best for this particular student?

Checking for Understanding

  • Assess whether or not the student has met the learning objective*
    • What questions can you ask to check for understanding?
    • What activity can you have the learner complete to check for understanding?
      *Be sure to refer back to your learning objective or goal for the lesson and overall learning goals.


    • Ask for student feedback
    • Reflect on student responses/reactions
    • Use student feedback as a guide:
      • What went well? Why?
      • What did your learners struggle with?
      • What would you do differently next time? Why?
    • Get feedback from others (colleagues, supervisors)
    • Was social justice explicitly or indirectly incorporated successfully in the lesson?
    • Was there time to reflect with the learner on particular activities relating to social justice topics/issues?
    • Did you follow previous guidelines for ensuring a learner-centered/participatory education lesson design?
    • If not, how can you ensure that you accomplish this for future lessons?

First Interaction with learner(s):

  • Needs Assessment
    • Activity or questions to assess learner’s background and interests
    • Activity or questions to assess learner’s immediate needs
    • Activity or questions to assess learner’s proficiency level
  • Long term Goals
    • With your learner, determine what the overall learning goal based on learner’s needs, interests and proficiency level

Before Each Lesson:

  • Objectives
    • Learning objective for this particular lesson
    • Goal for incorporating social justice either implicitly or explicitly in the lesson
  • Time Frame
    • Time needed for each activity or section of the lesson
  • Materials & Resources
    • Identification of materials and resources are needed
    • Evaluation of materials using ‘Selecting Diverse Materials’ guidelines and checklist
    • Preparation of materials and resources
  • Hook and Introduction
    • ‘Hook’ or activity to grab learner’s attention
    • Activity or questions to activate prior knowledge, provide context and make connections
  • Learning Activities
    • Identification of specific learning activities
    • Connection to lesson objective
    • Evaluation of activities based on ‘Lesson Planning Guidelines’
  • Check for Understanding
    • Activity or questions to assess whether or not learning goal was met

After Each Lesson:

  • Reflection
    • Ask for student feedback
    • Evaluate student feedback using ‘Lesson Planning Guidelines’
    • Get feedback from others (supervisors, colleagues)
    • Evaluate whether or not social justice goal was met


6 Videos To Use in Your Social Justice Lessons

10 Social Justice Activities to Try in the Classroom

Turning Current Events Instruction into Social Justice Teaching


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