Lesson planning is an essential tool for early childhood educators. It not only allows you to prepare and approach each day with confidence, but it also helps you maximize your time, set challenging yet achievable goals, and allot time throughout your week for important observations and assessments.
With strategic planning, educators can ensure that lessons are as effective, efficient, and impactful as possible for all children. This guide will cover everything you need to know about effective lesson planning and provide helpful examples you can start using in your classroom every week.
What is a lesson plan?
A lesson plan is a guide that helps you facilitate your daily instructions and activities in the classroom. It outlines what your children need to learn, how you plan to teach it, and how they will be assessed.
Consider your lesson plan like a Broadway performance. The audience doesn’t see the time the composer spends creating the score. They don’t witness the singers, dancers, and musicians practicing for hours and hours. The audience only experiences the final product, where they’re presented with an entire performance.
Your lesson plan isn’t tangible to your children. It’s not a worksheet. It’s not an introductory video. Rather, your lesson plan is the behind-the-scenes work that guides your performance in the classroom. Ultimately, lesson plans help you plan and execute your lesson; however, that isn’t where the importance and benefits of lesson planning end.
The benefits of creating a lesson plan
Creating a lesson plan can be time-consuming. Many teachers spend much of their working time on lesson planning to create successful learning outcomes for their children. Fortunately, the benefits are worth it, and lesson planning can give you and your children extra perks.The benefits of lesson planning include:
- Effective classroom management
- Consistent learning
- Lesson quality improvement
- Easy direction for substitute teachers
- Classroom confidence and preparedness
A tool like brightwheel's lesson plan feature can help you save valuable time and achieve these benefits by creating custom childcare lesson plans and curriculums that are aligned with your state’s learning standards. This helps educators stay organized, increasing opportunities for children to thrive and succeed.
If you are ready to start creating more effective lesson plans, these six steps can help you get started.
How to create a lesson plan
As an educator, how many lesson plans will you write? The limit doesn’t exist. Luckily, once you can identify a method, the process will get easier every time. To create a lesson plan for your children, you’ll need to:
- Identify learning objectives
- Add an introduction
- Plan specific learning activities
- Assess for understanding
- Create a realistic timeline
- Include a conclusion
Identify learning objectives
Learning objectives are statements that describe what your children will be able to do at the end of the lesson. Because they describe the final goal, the objectives will shape how you approach the instruction, activities, and assessments needed to get there. Your learning objectives will also make it possible to evaluate the success and efficacy of your lesson plan at the end of each unit.
Add an introduction
Like any good book, it's important that the introduction of your lesson plan captivates your children and gets them excited for the upcoming lesson. You could tell an interesting story to grab their attention or use memorable props or music to draw them in.
In this part of your lesson plan, decide how you’ll introduce the topic to your class. To start, assess their level of knowledge on the subject. Remember that your children are likely coming from different households, backgrounds, and classrooms. Knowing where they stand on the subject will guide you through the lesson.
Once you create your introduction, you’re ready to plan the specific activities that will guide your children to the learning objectives.
Plan specific learning activities
The learning objectives help you cover what your children will learn and what they’ll be able to do at the end of each lesson. The introduction and learning activities encompass how they’ll accomplish this.
When planning your specific learning activities, consider different types of learning styles. Your learning activities should cover all the various ways children learn. To incorporate multiple learning styles into your activities, you might use:
Assess for understanding
The most important part of school is learning. As an educator, it’s your responsibility to make sure that your children understand the material and can apply the information correctly.
There are different methods you can use for assessment. You may choose to assess children informally by observing them or with more direct assessments that evaluate their understanding of new concepts. Depending on your preference, you can use either formative or summative assessments to gauge understanding.
While summative assessments occur at the end of a learning period, formative assessments occur during the learning process and provide real-time feedback indicating which concepts children are struggling to grasp. This can include having one-to-one conversations with children or reviewing samples of their work.
Keeping in line with the specific learning types in your class, be mindful to incorporate preschoolers’ learning styles into your evaluations. Pay attention to the timing of your assessments as well. For example, you can aim to assess the children’s progress at various stages throughout the learning process or wait until the end of a lesson.
Create a realistic timeline
If you don’t already know, it’s very easy for time to slip away when dealing with a classroom of children. With that in mind, the next step in lesson planning is creating a realistic timeline.
It all starts with managing expectations at the lesson objective stage. Having more than five objectives can force you into a tight timeline. Instead, focus on no more than three objectives for each lesson.
Once you start building your timeline, remember: everything is an estimate. Estimate how much time you’ll need for each activity or teaching point. This includes setting up, executing it, cleaning up, and leaving time for questions. After coming up with this estimate, add extra time. Your children must have enough time to grasp the information.
And if you find that your class has extra time, plan an additional back-up activity to make the best use of your time.
Include a conclusion
The last step of your lesson plan is deciding how you’re going to conclude it. Consider this like the conclusion of an essay. Aim to summarize the takeaways from the lesson and reinforce key ideas. Additionally, you can use your conclusion to introduce upcoming topics.
Your conclusion is also a great time to get feedback on your lesson. Ask the children if they enjoyed the topic and have them share their favorite part. This is a great way to learn where your lesson plan was successful and if you need to make any adjustments in the future.
Present your lesson plan
As you step into the classroom armed with a well-crafted lesson plan, it's essential to go beyond mere instruction and ensure genuine engagement from your children and their families. To kick things off, consider starting with something that immediately engages your class. Utilize props, real-world scenarios, or thought-provoking questions to immediately capture the attention of your class.
Diversifying your teaching approach is key to maintaining engagement throughout the lesson. Incorporate visuals, hands-on activities, group discussions, and some technology to cater to the diverse learning styles present in your classroom. The goal is to keep the material dynamic and accessible, ensuring all children can connect with and comprehend the content.
Encouraging active participation further solidifies the learning experience. This sustains their interest and deepens their understanding of the material.
To bridge the gap between the classroom and home, effective communication with parents is crucial. Share pertinent details of your lesson plans in monthly newsletters, providing insights into upcoming content, objectives, and ways families can support their child's learning journey outside the school environment. Additionally, consider sending home a preview worksheet to give families a glimpse into the upcoming lesson and encourage active involvement in their child's education. Through these strategies, you can transform your lessons into informative sessions and engaging experiences that resonate with children and their families.
Evaluate your lesson plan
Evaluating your lesson plan provides valuable insights for ongoing improvement. Consider aspects such as time management during activities and the overall achievement of learning objectives by the majority of children. Reflective practice is a useful addition to this process. After each lesson, take time to reflect on the overall flow and effectiveness of your teaching methods. Maintaining a reflective journal can help document observations and identify patterns over time.
When assessing what worked and what didn't, it's important to recognize that perfection isn’t the goal of any lesson plan. Acknowledge areas that may need adjustment and view them as opportunities for professional growth. Seeking feedback from your children or colleagues and exploring alternative strategies can provide valuable perspectives.
As you refine your approach, keep in mind the inherent flexibility of lesson plans. Embrace adaptability and stay open to innovative ideas. Consistent engagement in reflective practice and a willingness to incorporate actionable feedback contribute to the ongoing growth and improvement of your teaching practice.
Lesson plans for teachers
As you gain experience as a teacher, your lesson plans naturally become more personalized. However, having a structured guide is invaluable in providing a foundation and ensuring a well-organized approach. This is where the importance and benefits of using a lesson plan template come into play.
Whether you're a seasoned teacher or just starting out, a well-designed template serves as a reliable tool to streamline your planning process, maintain consistency, and ultimately enhance the overall effectiveness of your teaching. Here are a few examples you can use to get you started.
Weekly preschool planner
This lesson plan template is organized by skill area with space to list activities and learning goals for each day of the week.
Themed lesson plan
This lesson plan example incorporates a weather theme to teach various skills and includes a section for required materials.
Daily lesson plan
This free daily lesson plan template includes space for learning objectives and an area to record the developmental domains and pre-academic skills each lesson supports.
Bring curriculum visibility to families
Encouraging meaningful engagement with families involves enhancing transparency regarding the daily learning experiences of their children. A practical strategy is sharing detailed information with families, including the weekly lesson plan and daily activities.
This approach establishes a collaborative partnership and reinforces the essential connection between home and school. By providing families access to the weekly lesson plan, like through a newsletter or email, teachers equip them with valuable insights into their children's educational journey, enabling a more informed and supportive role in their development at home.
Engaging with families in this manner holds significance for several reasons. First, it cultivates a sense of inclusivity and participation in the child's education, fostering a supportive learning environment within and beyond the classroom. Additionally, when families know the daily activities and learning objectives, they can align their efforts with the educational goals, creating a cohesive and reinforcing learning experience for their child. This collaborative approach not only enhances a child's academic progress but also contributes to the overall strength of the educational community, creating a united front for the holistic development of each student.
Lesson planning requires a lot of work. Fortunately, that work is often balanced by active, engaged, and learning children. If you’re new to creating lesson plans, it helps to know that there’s a method you can follow. Start with what you want your children to learn and follow the six steps above to create successful lesson plans in no time.
Brightwheel is the complete solution for early education providers, enabling you to streamline your center’s operations and build a stand-out reputation. Brightwheel connects the most critical aspects of running your center—including sign in and out, parent communications, tuition billing, and licensing and compliance—in one easy-to-use tool, along with providing best-in-class customer support and coaching. Brightwheel is trusted by thousands of early education centers and millions of parents. Learn more at mybrightwheel.com.