There are so many ways to make effective lesson plans for preschool classes. The most important thing to keep in mind is that there is no right or wrong; you need to implement the type of lesson plan that works best for you, for your school community and for your parents.
Every group of parents will be different, but in my experience most like to see photos of what their children are experiencing in your preschool.
Demographics are important, particularly the socioeconomic status of the families and the school community. For example, while some parents will engage in sophisticated forms of communication, such as through intranets set up by the school, others have difficulty reading or writing – so it’s essential to cater your approach to the appropriate audience.
The type of lesson plan expected will also vary depending on whether your school is private, public or religious.
It is important for the daily schedule to indicate an overview of what is happening in each timeframe. It is extremely flexible and if something takes longer or a new interest materializes then it is easy to vary from the daily routine.
It is absolutely critical to allow time for independent play. This can then be broken down further into experiences; whether inside, outside or both. It’s a great idea to extend inside independent play into the outside area so that children have more options. On that note – it’s not bad weather, it’s bad choice of clothing! Ask parents to bring in rain boots and a waterproof coat that can be kept at preschool, so that the children can experience outside play even when it isn’t sunny.
Transition times between discrete elements of the routine are essential to incorporate into your lesson plan. We’re always aiming for a smooth transition – avoiding the children sitting and waiting or lining up for extended periods of time – it is intended to be a constant learning experience.
Weekly Lesson Plan
A weekly lesson plan usually has a set template and is prepared in advance. It will typically be theme-based, which makes it easier to recycle effective content from year to year. It is not interest-based or necessarily indicative of where your class is at, or their current needs or interests.
A weekly lesson plan is rigid and doesn’t have the kind of flexibility that the current thinking around Early Childhood Education espouses.
However, one key benefit of this type of preschool lesson planning is that it is easier for a casual or relief teacher to step in and smoothly continue the class.
Developmental Areas Lesson Plan
A developmental stages preschool lesson plan is not as rigid as the timeframes that are set out in the weekly lesson plan described above. There is more flexibility built in to cater for the needs of individual children.
A developmental areas preschool lesson plan addresses:
- Fine Motor
- Gross Motor / Outdoors
- Problem Solving
- Group Time: Language and Story
- Social / Emotional Development
- Sensory Development
- Creative Development
- Self Help
This type of lesson planning can be more team-based as it is conducive to open and collaborative lesson planning. It is usually on display for viewing in the preschool.
A developmental area lesson plan is ordinarily undertaken on a weekly basis. Accordingly, it can take the evolution of interests from the preceding day or week into account. There is also the flexibility to continue the experience the following day or week – the unexpected is expected in preschool!
I do find that it can be a bit trickier with smaller children however, as there are more procedures, such as nappy changing or sleep time, that need to happen. It can also depend significantly on your preschool hours.
I see the key attribute of this type of lesson planning as ensuring that you are addressing all development aspects and skills of every child in your care.
Learning Centers Plan
A learning centers lesson plan is reflected in areas set out in your room.
The learning centers that I like to use are:
- Creative Arts
- Math and Science
- Manipulative Learning
- Library, Writing, Drawing
- Computer and Sound
- Children’s Interests
Each center has a choice of 4-5 activities that may change daily, weekly or fortnightly according to the children’s interests.
This type of lesson planning encourages independent choices by the children.
For each learning center I would provide resources for a small group of children to play with. The idea is that once they have finished playing they pack it up and put it back on the shelf. This gives them the responsibility of choosing, playing and packing away. They learn to leave the area clean and show respect for the next child that will be involved in this learning center.
A child may, especially at the beginning of the year, be more confident to stay in one area only for a long period of time. As the child feels secure within that particular learning center you can gradually change it to a social, problem solving or creative area. Once you have a child’s trust and they feel secure, you can then encourage them to explore another learning center.
A learning center’s lesson plan is usually complemented by separate language, music and movement activities and a separate outdoor plan.
Learning Journey Lesson Plan
This is my preferred style of lesson planning.
A learning journey preschool lesson plan still has a template to follow, but it is written without the constraints of themes or developmental areas. It is more interest-and-experimentally-based rather than systematic. It is play based, responsive to children’s interest, prior knowledge, abilities, strengths and skills.
The essence of this style of lesson planning is to demonstrate the learning journey. As educators, we need to demonstrate the initial interest or experience that inspired the activity and how that evolved and the learning outcomes achieved along this journey.
For example, the culmination of one learning journey could be that you involve the local community by inviting a visit from a fire engine to the preschool. This might have evolved from a child playing outside making a siren sound. You then turn a box into a fire engine, read some fire-related books, make a collage, use blocks to build fire engines, or a family member might be a firefighter who could visit. The learning journey needs to be documented to demonstrate how the children are active participants in contributing and leading their own learning. This is one way to involve children, parents, and the local community in the preschool lesson plan.
Further evolution of the learning journey lesson plan style is through the use of mind maps, rather than the more restrictive template.
Today, some preschools have the opportunity to purchase iPads or other tablet devices. There are applications and programs available to assist with your planning. They often have ways for parents to log in and have a look at their child’s day and be involved in their child’s progress.
A slightly lower-tech solution that I have found is using a digital photo frame to display photos from the day so when parents return in the afternoon they can immediately see what happened throughout the day. Children love looking at the photos too!