Translating your state’s early learning standards and your center’s curriculum into fun, educational activities is best accomplished with a thorough lesson plan. A great child care lesson plan is both structured and flexible, remembers the needs of every student, and has measurable goals. Read on to learn more about child care lesson planning and our expert tips for making lesson planning work for you.
What is Child Care Lesson Planning?
A lesson plan is your guide to teaching a class session. Whether you make one yourself or start with a premade template, your lesson plan sets the content and structure of what you will teach and how.
Lesson plans cover three key elements of a learning activity:
- Learning objectives (why the lesson is taking place and what kids should know by the end)
- Methodology (what specific activities and materials will be used)
- Assessment (how you will check the students’ understanding and the lesson’s efficacy)
Why is Lesson Planning Important?
Planning lessons in advance is indispensable for teachers. A well-planned lesson ensures you are covering all the necessary ground, making effective use of time and meeting the needs of every learning style.
Your child care lesson planning will let you provide a structured learning experience for your students, and make sure that they receive adequate opportunities across all learning domains. And an expertly-planned lesson lets you handle the unexpected with grace, including seizing on spontaneous learning opportunities.
How to Plan a Lesson: 6 Key Components
Many centers use state early learning requirements to guide their child care lesson planning. Others use the Montessori method, which has a distinctive approach to early child learning and a unique lesson format. Whatever standards you are using, working from the early learning objectives will help you to ensure your lesson plans are meeting the needs of each child and covering all learning domains.
1. Learning Objectives
A teacher creating a lesson plan must begin with the end in mind. Clearly defining your desired learning outcomes lets you effectively plan and prioritize your activities, as well as measure your success.
Not only do you need to know what your students will learn, but also, you need to know why it’s important for them to learn it, and how they will demonstrate that they have learned it. That way, your activities will be tied in to the relevant learning domains and you can easily assess progress.
To plan learning objectives, think about:
- The topic of the lesson
- What your students likely already know about the topic
- What you want students to know at the end of the activity
- The most important takeaways, and what is of secondary importance
- What will be gained in each learning domain as a result
2. Related Requirements
Once you know your learning objectives, tie them in to your state’s early learning standards, your Montessori curriculum, or any other requirements that may be relevant. That way, you can document your compliance over time.
3. Lesson Materials
In conjunction with developing your lesson procedure, detail what you’ll need to complete the lesson: handouts, visual aids, arts and crafts supplies, learning toys, etc. Then you can ensure everything is on hand well before the lesson begins.
4. Lesson Procedure
The lesson procedure describes what you’ll actually do during the lesson. This should be the longest and most detailed part of your lesson plan. Your lesson procedure will address each learning objective so you can plan activities that will effectively help your students reach those objectives.
A good lesson procedure includes:
- Introduction or motivation, to get students interested in and thinking about the topic
- Learning activities to help students explore the topic from multiple perspectives and meet different learning needs
- An opportunity for students to practice or apply what they learned
- Reflection activities where students summarize what they learned and why it matters
- Progress assessment according to your objectives
- A conclusion and preview, where you summarize, answer lingering questions, and link the lesson to past and future activities
Thoroughly prioritized lesson objectives will guide you in time management. Make a note of what parts of the lesson are crucial and cannot be skipped, what can be omitted if there is not enough time, and what can be added in if there is more time than expected.
5. Evaluation & Assessment
Depending on your objectives and the needs of your students, different evaluation methods may work for your lesson. Quizzes and homework are common methods of evaluation for older kids, but for younger kids, less formal assessment methods are often appropriate. This usually means making notes on the students’ classroom behavior and how well they completed the activities.
Your assessments should be objective, recording facts, not opinions. Report on the expected milestones in each learning domain according to your state standards. You can also involve parents in your assessments by sharing learning outcomes via a parent engagement application.
Although it’s part of a lesson plan, a lesson reflection takes place after the lesson. By reflecting on your lesson and its success, your lesson plans can become records of your teaching, too. Take a few minutes after every lesson to ask how well you met your learning objectives and time goals. What went right? What could be improved for next time?
Five Lesson Planning Tips for Your Center
1. Plan Alternative Activities (Just in Case)
Outdoor time rained out? Ran out of glue sticks? Power outage in the classroom? Taking the time to identify how your child care lesson plan can be modified, as well as having a few activities on hand for times when your lesson is unexpectedly impossible, will let you be sure your students have a positive learning experience no matter what.
2. Assess the Needs of Your Learners
Each student progresses through developmental milestones at their own rate and has their own learning style. Carefully tracking students’ progress lets you understand their individual learning needs, which means you can plan lessons that help every student reach their full potential.
3. Make Lessons Fun and Challenging
Fun and challenging are equally important aspects of learning, and when learning is at its best, they go hand in hand. Kids love activities that push them to grow and let them exercise their creative abilities at the same time. And sometimes, a challenge can be fun for its own sake, giving children the opportunity to prove to themselves and others that they have mastered a new skill.
4. Organize Themed Lessons into Units
Educational units are a bridge between the broad curriculum and the day-to-day lesson plan. A theme gives kids a sense of continuity, helping them make connections to what they have learned in the past and know what to expect in the future. Units join lessons into a learning arc with defined outcomes, and help you set milestones throughout the year.
5. Value Engagement over Direct Instruction
Most child development experts agree that children learn through active engagement with the world, not just passive absorption of information. Play-based learning is key for kids to develop their own understanding of concepts and gain confidence in their abilities. Plus, it keeps learning fun, so kids will maintain a love of learning throughout their lifetimes.
Create and Share Lesson Plans with Procare Solutions
With preloaded state and Montessori learning standards, Procare Solutions makes it easier than ever to create child care lesson plans that help support the highest possible learning outcomes for your students. You can customize assessments, track student progress, save and manage your lessons, and even share lesson plans for at-home learning.
If you’re eager to get the most out of your lesson plans, it’s easy to find out more. Request a demo to see what Procare can do for you.