MCCESC Teaching & Learning

November: Planning Instruction for the Whole Child


Per the OTES 2.0 Rubric, the following describes how an accomplished teacher plans instruction for the whole child:

The teacher’s instructional plan reflects consistent connections to student experiences, culture and developmental characteristics. These may include prior learning, abilities, strengths, needs, individual talents, backgrounds, skills, language proficiency and interests. The instructional plan draws upon input from school professionals and outside resources.

This component of the rubric also relates back to Ohio's Strategic Plan of "Each Child, Our Future: In Ohio, each child is challenged to discover and learn, prepared to pursue a fulfilling post-high school path and empowered to become a resilient, lifelong learner who contributes to society."

The Whole Child Framework

Where to Begin? Get to Know Your Students

How well do you know your students? Not just their academic abilities, but their experiences outside of the classroom. Do you know their family dynamics? Do you know their cultural expectations and religious beliefs?

We are not suggesting you spend hours researching, but do spend time asking or interviewing your students so that you can better understand with which assets they are coming into your classroom.

Consider conducting individual student interviews or eliciting information through a questionnaire. Incorporating these questions into content activities will allow you to learn about students while teaching - use these ideas from Edutopia for inspiration. Student interest surveys could be conducted through Google or Microsoft Forms, which would allow you to sort the results into a usable inventory when planning instruction.

Continue gathering information from families:

"About My Child" survey

Inclusive Schools Family Survey

Family Welcome Questionnaire

Family Engagement Preferences

The information about your students does not just stop with the student and families, previous years' teachers and school professionals (speech/language pathologists, school counselors, occupational/physical therapists, and specialist teachers) can be valuable resources when it comes to planning instruction. Consider the following questions (which are hyperlinked back to the original sources):

  1. How much did they grow from Fall to Winter and Winter to Spring last year in Reading on benchmark assessments?
  2. What special instruction, interventions, programs did they get and what materials were used?
  3. What was the most effective instructional technique, intervention, material, resource for the student last year and how do you know it was effective?
  4. Is there an IEP (or behavior/transition plan)?
  5. Who has worked successfully with the student in the past?
  6. What are the student's fears and frustrations?
  7. Who are the student's friends?

Now what? Planning next steps

Edutopia suggests that in order to prepare to teach the "whole-child," teachers should "listen to students' interest and concerns, know students on a personal level and attempt to understand their home experiences, model kindness, patience and respect, and tend to students' overall well-being and their emotional and social selves (2018)."

ASCD defines this as ensuring that each child is "healthy, safe, engaged, supported and challenged."

Edmentum has an excellent article that provides strategies for whole-child instruction:

  1. Utilize projects and hands-on opportunities.
  2. Consider the use of cross-curricular units.
  3. Utilize group work for social skills practice.
  4. Encourage problem-solving and critical thinking.
  5. Promote understanding, not rote memorization.
  6. Allow for choice and hold students accountable.
  7. Rewrite class expectations around effort, not outcomes.
  8. Utilize a variety of learning resources, not just textbooks.
  9. Bring the community connection to the classroom.

This extensive lesson plan template offers thought-provoking questions that may assist in your planning of a whole-child centered lesson.

Look Fors

The attached article is an excellent overview of whole-child instruction. Within the article are 10 instructional practices that can be used to support and encourage whole-child instruction. We have taken each practice and provided some "Look Fors." These are behaviors that an administrator looking for this evidence for this component might observe.

Student-Centered Discipline

  • Co-developed norms, expectations, rules
  • Developmentally-appropriate discipline
  • Use of PBIS
  • Students are self-regulating their behavior

Teacher Language

  • Encouraging words from teacher
  • Focus on effort, not intelligence/outcome
  • Encourages self-monitoring of student behavior

Responsibility and Choice

  • Students allowed choice in classroom work
  • Students have input on class norms/procedures
  • Students held accountable for decisions made
  • Peer-tutoring

Warmth and Support

  • Teachers and students ask caring questions of one another
  • Teachers encourage risk-taking, and students feel comfortable doing so
  • Students appreciate and include others
  • Community Circles

Cooperative Learning (not just group work)

  • Group work where everyone depends on one another's contributions
  • Group work where everyone is accountable
  • Group work where everyone promotes each other's successes
  • Group work with positive social skill development/focus
  • Group work where students monitor the group's progress towards the goal

Classroom Discussions

  • Teacher asks open-ended questions
  • Peer-to-peer discussion
  • Student-driven conversation
  • Students actively listening

Self-Reflection and Self-Assessment

  • Students thinking about their work and how to improve
  • Students are goal-setting
  • Students are self-monitoring progress on goals

Balanced Instruction (does not mean equal)

  • Teachers balancing active instruction vs. direct instruction
  • Teachers balancing student independent work vs. group work
  • Teachers identify instructional strategies that are most impactful for the content/learning

Academic Press and Expectations

  • Teacher selecting meaningful learning/instructional activities
  • Teacher setting appropriately-challenging lesson goals
  • Teacher shares with students his/her high (but not too high) expectations

Competence Building - Modeling, Practicing, Feedback & Coaching

  • Teacher is modeling behaviors (communication, goal-setting, reflection)
  • Students practice those behaviors (communication, goal-setting, reflection)
  • Teacher provides students feedback on those behaviors
  • Teacher coaches students on behaviors that require additional practice


If you have interest in learning more, please reach out as we can schedule opportunities within districts, online, or in-person at our agency.

Reach out - we are here to help.

Madison-Champaign ESC

We Work to Serve!

Department of Teaching & Learning

Check out our Instagram: @tandlmccesc

Feel free to use our hashtags:

#MCCESCTeachingandLearning #M_C_ESC

ESC Connection

If you have a chance, and have not yet read our quarterly ESC Newsletter, the ESC CONNECTION, please feel free to peruse at your leisure. Lots of great things happening at the Madison-Champaign ESC.
Big picture