Design Thinking Educational Philosophy Lesson Planning Teaching

Feeling a Little Lost When Lesson Planning? Try Using a Pedagogy Pathway.

What are we doing?

What are we doing today, tomorrow, this week, this month, this year? These questions haunt us as teachers because in responsive classes… they shift. They shift because of school events, they shift because of our students, they shift because of societal events. What do you do with this:

typical teaching lesson planner
Image courtesy of Kendra Rosales

when you find out on Friday March 13th that you aren’t coming back to class next week because you are going on a COVID-19 quarantine? What do you do when your students’ textbook is stuck in their PE locker, how do you structure your learning?

Me, I gave up textbooks long ago. Why? Well…

  • English textbooks are heavy and huge, they barely fit in our lockers- they crush 9th graders under the weight of their backpacks, and our students have the smallest lockers in the district so…
  • Students would often forget to bring them to class and two students sharing a book rarely works that well.
  • I don’t do study guides or answer the questions as the end of the reading teaching. I’ve never needed a “teachers’ edition” of a textbook.
  • The textbooks weren’t current- they weren’t responsive to our “now.”
  • The Internet: I can grab poems, text, podcasts, videos… why limit myself to a text book?

But I gotta be honest, I still needed something to lean against, a structure- so I usually taught with novels and non-fiction books. I love novels. Even if all I’m doing is having us read, and talk, and write about how the book intertwines with our lives.

But my students only took home one book and March became April became May and I needed something else to lean on. I needed a path to get us through this uncharted territory. So I leaned on my thematic modules, my pedagogy paths, except they started looking different, how different? Let me show you.

Pedagogy Pathway #1: Built on my high school’s B4L Student Learning Outcome Model

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If you don’t know how to crop images into shapes, check out this quick tutorial from Coffee Nancy.  I just used Google Slides to create this. Don’t forget that double-clicking any shape lets you turn it into a text box, like those four circles above.

Pedagogy Pathway #2: Picture Pathway: themes built around around a single image from my life to make sure my personal presence was seen in our online learning space. The more students know about you the more they feel connected to the class and the content. Creating a pedagogy pathway around a single metaphor or image is a fun way to let them know about you. Additionally, it shows students that our name, face, story, has a place in what we are about to learn. A picture pathway has some other benefits as well.

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Why else is it important to create these visual metaphors? Well, first of all it helps me conceptualize what we are doing for the week and how it all flows together. It’s one of the tricks I use for writing. Gather and organize the visuals and the text will flow and find structure. But there are other ways metaphor assists learning:

  1. Metaphors can function heuristically as a tool for discovery (spiral staircase or ladder).
  2. Metaphors can some times qualify the teaching actions of the teacher (pottery, gardening, artistry, policeman, entertainer, sermonizer, scholar, a guide, a coach, a researcher, a sculptor, conductor, gardener, mid-wife, etc.).
  3. Metaphors can determine the way the learner or learning process is seen (sponge, filter, funnel, and strainer).
  4. Metaphors can function as tools for communication. 
  5. Metaphors mediate the understanding of the nature of the school as educational institution (family, factory, etc.).

Everything in these slides were clickable and clicking on them took you to a particular part of the learning module in our Canvas LMS class. Here’s what the module looked like without the image.

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Pedagogy Pathway #3: Game-board Pedagogy Pathway created by Amanda Sandoval. All you need is a Google Slide, insert a table over a background image, and some pro design skills, and BOOM- your learning is going quantum. I love learning from Amanda.

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Pedagogy Pathway #4: How about a more simple Teaching Trinity: Learn, Practice, Assess. An effective structure for the week, that won’t take a ton of time to create. Created by the smart and thoughtful Mrs. Byars at Eleanor Roosevelt High School.

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Pedagogy Pathway #5: The Basic Burger: This is my teaching version of an In-N-Out Double Double. Some tasty learning sandwiched between an inviting intro and an educationally sound student reflection.

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But then I started riffing on this idea. What if I took some other structures and created a week-long Pedagogy Pathway out of them? So I came up with the following, they aren’t perfected yet but I’m excited about trying these out next year.

Pedagogy Pathway #6: 5e Model- magnify your learning by using this NGSS Science inspired pedagogy pathway based on the 5e Model created by BSCS and Rodger Bybee

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Pedagogy Pathway #7: RRRRRamp up that learning with the 5r model used by Sean Ziebarth my teaching partner and pedagogy peer-tutor, I learn so much from Sean.

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Pedagogy Pathway #8: Design Thinking- What if we created a pedagogy pathway using the design thinking steps? Hmm maybe we should test this out and then reflect, and revise.

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Pedagogy Pathway #9: Well, well, well, if it isn’t the 4Cs model broken down into 5 days. That’s some 21st century learning right there.

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Do I have more models and ideas? Of course. We could create a pedagogy pathway using the Habits of Mind or there’s a special pedagogy pathway that I can’t wait to dive into, but that will have to wait for another week or two.

I know that this topic isn’t new for some of you, but when I shared it with some teachers from other districts it seemed new to them, so I decided to create this post. If you know of a website, or blog post, or another resource that covers this topic in greater detail, or gives other types of pedagogy pathways please leave a comment and link below.


Here is the entire slide deck with all 9 Pedagogy Pathways

Please feel free to use anything above in PD for your school, or district, or in a presentation, or blog post, but please don’t claim this for your own and sell it on Teachers Pay Teachers because everything in this blog post was created by David Theriault for educational use and is under Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0) 6/23/20 unless I noted another creator’s name next to their creation in which case they hold the rights to their creation.


  1. Oh, no! I like them all for various reasons. I teach 5th grade, so all subject areas. Hmmm… perhaps some pedagogies are better suited for certain subjects.

  2. So I subscribed to the readiness is all blog because Mr.T was my favorite teacher of all time…I love reading every entry! David Theriault or Mr.T as we called him because we always butchered his last name was a novel teacher… Literally novel in such an amazing way…still to this day my favorite teacher, one that has left an imprint on my entire learning journey which is life. I believe I was in his first AP English class at fountain Valley high school just revealing Mr. Ts experience and the astounding fact that he continues to excite me with his life lessons and how he empowers his students, teachers and broadens the once so stiff and rigid framework of learning. I just told my 8 year old daughter I pray you have Mr.T as your teacher in high school he will change your life…even if it was only over zoom, who knows what the future holds, but Mr.T will roll with it and transform the experience to continue to reach his students. Really I just want to thank David Theriault for his passion, persistence and nonconventional teaching. For the fact he has always looked at each student and took into consideration their individual situation and the conquered hurdles and tragedies, the celebrations and defeats, what life presents us with and nurtures a growth from within us we never knew was a possibility. Thank you Mr.T for your relentless support! Forgive the run-ons and fragments but my message is being sent with the purpose of showing Mr.T some gratitude! I have done formal teaching at the hospital I work at the last 12 years and I teach everyday as a critical care nurse…I aspire to impact others as you do, the passion to empower others and assist them on their way through life and always showing empathy for another’s journey! Thank You!

    1. Wow. Thank you. Seriously. I feel blessed every year to have such amazing students and I’m so glad your work and family has someone like you watching over them. Take care and if you are ever in the area I would be honored to buy you a coffee or lunch.

  3. Hard to follow that with a mundane question, but did you use a certain app or website to create your clickable picture pathways? I’d love to try that, but do not know where to start.

  4. I teach middle school ELA, in the past 8th grade…but this year I’m moving to 7th. I love your blog–just need to get that out of the way. Now on to the goods…

    I am rapid cycling over how to attack this upcoming school year. My school is starting 100% remotely. I tend to just teach…model/structure be damned hahaha it changes with the moon in my room. I have a structure but I’m not married to it so to speak. Maybe because I’m ADD? Maybe because I like keeping the kids on their toes? Maybe because I’m a rebel and I hate when the district tells me I have to do anything, especially when they say we must use the “I do, we do, you do” model and to make sure to keep restating the learning target throughout class? It’s a mystery. This year I am debating on incorporating a “readers/writers workshop” model and give full choice, within reason, on novels (oh gosh –am I going to have to stick to one way? I’m toast!) but I’m also thinking that a multi genre project could be just the ticket to success via virtual learning and want to blend that in. Have you ever used the workshop model and/or done an MGP? and if so, what are you thoughts?


    ps. forgive my verbosity.

  5. Interesting: basically a highly visual and hyperlinked version of a Syllabus? And keeps short attention spans engaged. Thank you for sharing this with us. I no longer teach, but many of my adult students might also have benefited from Pedagogy Pathway links.

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