Monday, March 7, 2011

Lesson Planning and Daily Schedule

There are quite a few things to consider when you begin to lesson plan.  You need to consider your philosophy about how children learn and what teaching methods work best.  Your goals for yourself and child also plays a part in how you plan.  You have to consider what you have available with regards to resources, hands-on manipulatives/toys, supplies, time and environment.  I find that I tend to think more like a homeschooling parent vs. a center-based teacher when I'm implementing a home-based preschool program  Why?  Because what I have available with regards to environment is limited.  We do our program in our main living area-kitchen and living room.  Therefore, how I plan my day in my home-based program is a lot different than how I planned my day in a center-based program.

Daily schedules help our days go smoothly.  It allows for you and your child to know "what comes next."  And when you are in a smooth routine, wow!  Lots can be accomplished!  My program runs four hours, Monday through Thursday.  Here is our planned schedule.  This schedule is not set in stone.  Sometimes children need more play time, sometimes it works best to shorten it and start with a group activity.  There are times we extend our work time or extend our outside time.  It all depends on the moods and needs of the children and myself.  But for the most part it goes like the following. 
   8:30AM-9:15AM Free Play
   9:15AM-9:35 AM Group Time (calendar and literacy activities)
   9:35AM-10:35 AM Work/Kitchen Time or also considered Centers
   10:35AM-11:15AM Outdoors
   11:15-AM-11:30AM Word World and Lunch Prep
   11:30AM-12:00PM Lunch Time
   12:00PM-12:30PM Music and movement/project finish up/story and etc
Then NAP!  :-)  Too bad I couldn't take part in that part of the day!  Well, I often use a bit of this time for things "just for me". I recommend the same for you.  Your well-being directly influences your attitude, patience, and teaching style so...take care of yourself!

So, the main part of my lesson planning is our Work Time.  I should say that the children very seldom call it "work time".  That's an adult term.  I hear "kitchen time" from the kids because these activities are set up in the kitchen.  It's not considered "work" in their opinion.  It's FUN!  Here I set up centers and the children rotate.  There are times where we do things together in pairs or as a whole group but because of the set up, availability of sinks for hand washing and so on, often the children choose where they are going to go first and then rotate.  This also allows for me to work 1:1 with each child for certain activities.  Our work time is about an hour.  Wow!  That seems like a long time, doesn't it?  But really, it flies!  The children are not expected to stay at one activity for the hour.  That is not developmentally appropriate and they would not be successful (and neither would I!!!).  So I plan about 10 minutes for an activity.  Sometimes they take longer, sometimes they are really quick with it...but it all seems to even out in the end. 

I see I can't insert a document here or I'd share my lesson plan format.  I'll insert a picture of a lesson plan from near the beginning of the school year.  One of our Nursery Rhyme weeks.  In the past I did a nursery rhyme a week.  There are SO many ideas for nursery rhymes available.  This year I had "nursery rhyme weeks" where I did a rhyme a day.  It'll give you an idea of how I create my lesson plans. I created the lesson plan format myself because I find that general lesson plan books do not fit our program's needs.  It's easy enough to do in Excel. And for me, my penmanship isn't the best so if I want to be able to read it later...I better type it!  Along the top are the days of the week and along the left are my categories. 

Does that cover everything that needs to be covered? No, not really.   If you look at my lesson planning workbook in excel you'll notice that I have a spreadsheet for each theme.  That gives me a lot of space to add in "extra" activities, or make comments about social-emotional activities I really want to remember to incorporate.  I typically have theme related lunch/snack ideas typed underneath the main lesson plan as well as planned large motor/outdoors.  If there is a specific book I want to be sure to read I'll type that in also.  If I need details on how to do an activity I'll type in the details or where I can find the activity idea to refer to it if necessary.  So as you can see, there is aIot of space for me to use...and I do.  But it helps keep everything at my fingertips.  Since I've done this for a few years it's easy enough for me to keep track the skills I'm covering.  If you are just starting out, I would suggest that you be more specific on your lesson plan.  When you create your own lesson's easy to do that!  Perhaps for literacy you want to focus on rhyming one day and word chunking, whole alphabet or specific letter activities and etc on the other days.  Then you just type that in along the top and when you find an activity that fits, then you add it.  Or for math you want to remember to plan a counting, numerical order, number formation, patterning, and sorting activity.  So type that in, then fill in after with a corresponding activity. 

My literacy activities are done during group time in the morning or just before nap/dismissal.  I do not have a separate "center" at work time for literacy, though often it's slipped in here and there.  I have in the past but it's working out just fine with the group I have at the moment.  At one time I had a computer center where we used programs like "Jump Start".  However, our monitor for the kids' computer decided to give up the ghost, so we've been not having a computer time...and really, I'm not sure where we'd slip it in now!  Our mornings are BUSY!  They get a lot of the computer experience in K and up anyway.  It's not something I consider necessary.   But I do pull the lap top in on occasion to let them play a specific game, often for math or literacy.  The children love

I plan by themes.  Whenever a child has or states an interest I try to incorporate that theme.  However, I do have a list of tried and true themes that I fall back on.  I find that it's a lot easier to lesson plan, using themes.  I know of one homeschooling parent who didn't really go by themes and she shared this tip.  For example, for math.  She'd color ends of craft sticks with a color to correspond with a specific skill.  Skills could be more/less, 1:1 correspondence, writing numerals, counting sets, patterning, shapes, measurement, numerical order, graphing, sorting and etc.  On the other end of the stick she wrote an activity that the child could do relatively independently.  Often these were review activities.  She placed them color side up in a decorated can with the word "math" on the outside.  The child knew he must choose one or two colors a day to work with.  By the end of the week, he had done something with each skill.  This allowed for him to have a little control in what he was doing (he was doing the choosing, even if it was only by color). I've gone this route in the summer time with my own children to keep them on the up and up with the skills they had learn throughout the year.  Maybe it's something that will work with you. 

Now, how on earth do you find activities?  :-)  I've heard..."but I'm not creative that way."  Guess what...I'm not either!  Seriously.  Sure I have a lot of ideas that I can rattle off the top of my head for a skill or theme but that's because I've been doing this for years.  I make good use of the Internet and all the other creative people's ideas.  Why recreate the wheel?  There are lots of ideas out there!  I also have a LOT of resource books. 

And these are the books that I haven't taken apart and put into binders!!!  LOL  I have around 30 binders of books. Some books I very seldom use anymore, typically because of age level, but there are others I still love to flip through.  My favorite publication as of late, for the preschool level, are The Mailbox publications.  Check your local library.  I also want to say that once you've been doing this for a bit, you'll find that the ideas you see will turn into jumping boards.  You'll start varying them a bit to fit your theme, skill, the materials you have on hand and so on.  It'll come, I promise!  :-)  In the meantime, use your resources.  I'm available to help you if you get stuck on a theme or skill.  Feel free to comment or send a message and I'll see what I can do to help you.

Happy planning!

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