Plan the month
The beauty of planning for a month is that you don't have to change out all of your toys, games, books and pictures every week, but instead can leave them out over the whole month because the sub-themes have a common broad theme. Also, when you plan for a month, you can plan according to your children's interests. If you find while doing a theme on WATER that your children are more interested in learning about animals that live in water rather than learning about uses for water then you can steer your subsequent lesson plans in that direction. When you do the theme again you will have different children and probably have different interests that may cause your lesson plans to go in a different direction. This allows you the freedom of planning to the children's interests while still having control over the basic theme.
- Print a blank calendar and fill in the month and dates for the month you are planning.
- Write in special days and events such as class birthdays, parties, holidays, days the daycare will be closed, your personal vacation days, etc.
- Choose a theme and write it on the calendar. Go to that theme page on the website and click on any of the tabs to search for activity ideas. I recommend that you plan on doing one activity per day with one day a week reserved for general observations. In a normal 5-day week that would mean four days of planned activities and one day with no planned activity (Friday is a good day for an off-day). This gives you a chance to observe children in their natural play and also gives you time to interact with them. You can also use this day to catch up on paperwork such as developmental forms and lesson plans for the next week.
- Write activity ideas on each day of the calendar that you plan a teacher directed activity. You may also want to write the skill you will be observing. That way anyone looking at your activity calendar will know immediately why you are doing that activity.
Plan the week
The monthly calendar tells the basic small group activity you will be doing as well as the skills you will be working on during that activity. A weekly lesson plan will give details of the activities you are planning and also tell other things about your day such as songs you will sing, books you will read and things you will do outside. Plan on posting you monthly calendar, but keep your weekly lesson plan handy to help you remember your plans for the day.
- Print a blank lesson plan and fill in the theme and week dates.
- Write special days and events on their days, just as you did on the calendar.
- Fill in the activity names and descriptions of the activities as well as the skills you will observe.
- Go to the library and check out children's books that will go along with the activities you have planned for each day. I like to plan a book for every day except Friday. The book we read Friday is the one we vote to be the favorite book of the week.
- Most of the themes on this website have songs listed. I recommend that you choose one song for each week. The songs I have listed also have ideas for changing them a little each day so that the children are learning a basic song for the week and essentially learning a different verse each day. Repetition is best when you are trying to teach young children, and if you plan a different song each day, it tends to become a concert put on by the teacher. When you teach them one basic song the entire week they have a better chance of really learning it.
- Other things you may want to include on your lesson plan are outdoor activities, and additional materials. Plan on 1-2 outdoor activities each week, repeating any that the children particularly enjoyed. Use the additional materials section to plan any new posters, additional reference books to put out, and additional toys and games to add to centers.
Plan the day
While ideally it would be great to have a different lesson plan every day, it is at times impractical. If you choose to do a lesson plan each day I have a daily lesson plan you can print out. Just fill it in like you did the weekly lesson plan. Do a daily plan instead of a weekly plan. Doing both is redundant and time consuming and we can all testify that teachers don't have any "extra time" to waste. There are some things you can do daily however that help you with observation and assessment.
- Print out a monthly observation form and copy one for each child. Put these, along with your weekly lesson plan on a clipboard or in a folder that you can keep with you as you do activities.
- Divide your children into groups of about 4-5 children each. While the rest of the group plays in centers bring one small group at a time to a table or floor area and spend about 10 minutes with each group doing a planned activity. You can set a timer if you need to.
- After each small group spend a minutes writing observations on the monthly observation forms of the children you needed to observe doing that particular activity. At first you may need to observe all of them, but in subsequent months, as you learn which children have mastered which skills you can plan ahead of time which children you need to observe.
Getting ready for next month
As the month comes to a close, take some time to transfer your monthly observations from the forms to the developmental checklist. When you plan the theme for the next month, use the information from the observations to determine what types of activities you need to plan to help you observe the children performing other skills. You don't have to plan all of your activities this way, but ideally as you get to know your children better you can begin planning more and more according to what the children need to learn. For example, if you do an activity where the children are cutting and you learn that most of your children do not know how to cut, you may want to plan a few more activities next month that will help your children work on this skill. Whereas, if you find out that everyone cuts very well, then next month you may want to plan other activities to work on other skills.