Writing Standard-Driven Lesson Plans

When I first started teaching, I would find a cute activity and build my lesson around it. And a "unit" consisted of a bunch of activities strung together. Yes, I was hitting my benchmarks and standards, but I'd find an activity and think, "Oh, that's cute. What standard does that fulfill?" 

It wasn't until a few years later that I was sitting in a professional development workshop and discovered that I was doing it all backwards. 
Rather than making cute activities fit your standards, this blog post teaches how to start with your standards, write lesson goals/objectives, and then build the lesson from there.

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How Do I Plan?

Instead of making the objectives fit the activity, I learned that I need to start first with the standards, develop student-centered goals/learning targets, and then build the lesson around that goal. It was during this training that I learned about the GANAG structure when writing lesson plans. GANAG is a lesson plan format created by Jane Pollock. Here's GANAG in a nutshell:

G=Goal: set the goal (objective) of the lesson. Students should interact with the goal.

A=Accessing Prior Knowledge (APK): A way to fire up the brain and spark excitement about the goal.

N=New Information: Acquire new knowledge, whether declarative or procedural.

A=Application: Students apply the knowledge in a new way.

G=Generate Goal: Generalize what has been taught, tying back to the first G.

At first sight, it kind of seems like college all over again (was I the only one who had to write 20+ part lesson plans??). I remember when we were first trained in this structure, and we were like, "WHAT?!?! I'm a professional. You don't have to tell me how to write lesson plans." But I was pleasantly surprised by how GANAG actually made me a better teacher.

Instead of my lessons and units being a bunch of activities strung together, now when I write lessons, I start with the lesson objective and build my lesson around it. There's more to it, such as how to make the Gs meaningful and varied, declarative vs. procedural knowledge, using thinking strategies, giving purposeful feedback, assessment, etc.

If you're interested in learning more, we used the books Improving Student Learning One Teacher at a Time and Improving Student Learning One Principal at a Time. The Principal book is actually really good for teachers because is gives suggestions of how to do it, where as the Teacher at a Time book is more like, "this is what you should do." Interesting fact you might not know: Jane Pollock co-wrote the infamous first edition of Classroom Instruction that Works, so the nine thinking strategies discussed in this book pair nicely with GANAG.

What Does My Plan Book Look Like? 

Unfortunately, I've never been able to use a teacher planner or lesson plan books. The boxes are just too small for everything I want to write. So instead, I make my own lesson plan template. I've experimented with different styles, and this year I'm trying the morning on the front side of the page and the afternoon on the back. Here's an example of one of my days:

What Does My Planning Time Look Like? 

When I plan, I only write one week at a time. I usually know where I'm headed for about 3-4 weeks in advance, but I don't like to write that far in advance in case something changes. I keep the current week stapled together and on a clipboard, which has a small storage compartment underneath where I keep all my important documents I access on a regular basis. I plan one subject at a time, rather than day-by-day.

I usually start with science or social studies because my team and I have already written GANAGed unit plans for each unit we teach. I just write the lesson number and goal on my lesson plan template (for my own reference) and attach the unit plans to the back. Easy peasy. Then I plan math. We use the EveryDay Math program in my district, and it is very compatible to GANAG, so that doesn't take me long either. Now reading and writing are a different story. We don't have a set program to follow for these two subjects, just standards I have to teach every month, so that requires more work for me. I also reference previous years' plans and my SMARTBoard lessons I created, which I with either use or tweak as necessary. When the week is done, I put it in a binder and get ready for the next week.

In Conclusion...

So it turns out GANAG isn't as bad as I first thought it was. Does it take me longer to GANAG lesson plans (yes, we've turned GANAG into a verb at my school :)? Yes. Not going to lie. But actually, I feel like I'm a more focused, explicit, and standard-driven teacher because of it, and my students have come to expect that format.

How do you lesson plan? Leave me a comment below :)


  1. Hi!! I am your newest follower!! I found your through the Planning Linky! I look forward to reading more of your posts.


  2. Hello there!
    My district GANAG's as well (yes, verb). I haven't really gotten into it yet, but am trying since I basically have no choice! :) I'm hoping I can find a way it will work for me. Thanks for sharing a sample lesson plan. That's really what I'm looking for right now. I'm your newest follower and would love if you'd follow me, too!
    One Berry Blog

  3. Hello there!!! I am also a GANAG'er (if that's even a word). I like the format of your plans but I have trouble writing my own because I think I have to write down every single word that I will do or say. Scripted you could say. Could you please send me a copy(pic) of what a lesson looks like when you write everything down. I have not been formally trained in GANAG. We were just expected to "do" it. It was laid in our laps last year and I have struggled with it ever since. I have read Pollock's book One Teacher but not the others. I just need an example of what a lesson looks like on paper. I won't use your plans (since I have a totally different class and curriculum). I just need to see an actual plan in writing. You can email me at whitakerl@k12tn.net or tnsnowdogs@gmail.com

    Thanks in advance,



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