Lesson Planning: No Way! Lesson Planning: Hooray!

Melissa Smith Teaching in Early Childhood Leave a Comment

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I have presented at conferences and provided professional development on the topic of lesson planning. To my dismay, there are always some mumbling and grumbling from educator attendees. While I know lesson planning might not be the most exciting topic, it is an essential part of teaching children at any age level. Teaching, as you already know, is a demanding, exhausting, and laborious job. I saw a Facebook post with the following statement: “Educators are the only people who lose sleep over other people’s children.” This is so very true! And even when our school day ends, we come home to pray for the children and families that fill our Lutheran schools.  We may stay up at night thinking about how we needed more patience with Johnny or contemplating the right way to reach out to a family of non-believers in the classroom. Therefore, we find ourselves teaching the same old lessons year after year, slipping into the mundane.

The problem, though, is that it is our responsibility as teachers to reflect on the lessons we are teaching and think about whether or not we are incorporating all of the vital components. Many teachers working with preschool-age children in our Lutheran schools are not required to have an early childhood education degree or license. Others of us haven’t been in college for years, decades, or more. Regardless of your educational background or years of teaching experience, we all have room for improvement. Most important, Proverbs 16:3 instructs that you “commit your work to the LORD, and your plans will be established.” No pun intended on the word “plans,” but this post is a quick refresher course on lesson plans!

The following are key components of a lesson plan with brief descriptions:

Objectives

Remember the good-old Bloom’s Taxonomy of Verbs? Print out a chart to keep with your lesson plans. Do not use the verbs “learn” and “understand” as objectives for students because they cannot be measured. What is the goal for your students to accomplish upon completion of the lesson? Creating objectives can be the hardest part of a lesson and are considered the most important. If your lesson does not align with the objectives, then students will not successfully meet the learning goal.

Academic Language

Identify any vocabulary words or terms in your lesson. Tier 1, 2, and 3 are useful levels in order to categorize words. Think about the words in your lesson in which the children will be using. There are the common, basic words (Tier 1). High-frequency words and vocabulary are used cross-curricular (Tier 2). Low-frequency words are domain specific (Tier 3).

Standards

You may not be required to connect daily activities and lessons with standards, but you should be aware of the state standards. Make sure you are looking at the standards for the specific age level. If you are displaying student work, print out the standard that supports what you are teaching. This is a great way for parents to see how student work is aligned to age-appropriate standards.

Instructional Procedures

When you know your administrator is coming in to observe, I would venture to guess you are very prepared and might even write down specific notes related to your instruction. Exceptional teachers use a variety of instructional strategies, are organized, know when to listen, model, ask open- and closed-ended questions, and deliver lessons with enthusiasm.

Assessment

Good assessment measures your lesson objectives and can be formal or informal. During a lesson, four types of assessment may occur: diagnostic (finding out what your students know before the lesson is taught), formative (assessment that takes place during the lesson), reflective (asking the students to reflect on their own learning), and summative (evaluation of student learning at the end of the lessons).

Differentiation

One size does not fit all! Every teacher should prepare lessons and activities with differentiation in mind. Differentiation is based on interest, readiness, and student profiles. These are the reasons to differentiate, and once you establish why, you need to determine the how. The content, process, or product can be changed in order to meet the needs of each student.

I am completely in touch with the fact that you are not going to have time to write lesson plans with each component for every content area taught during one school day. Many of you teaching at the primary age level utilize curriculum that has many of these components already integrated.  However, this is not the case for many of our teachers working with kindergartners, preschoolers, and younger. Therefore, it is crucial to be cognizant about your lessons so that they reflect developmentally appropriate practices.

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About the Author
Melissa Smith

Melissa Smith

Melissa Smith is the Assistant Professor and Coordinator for the Early Childhood Undergraduate Program at Concordia University Chicago. Melissa is a former Lutheran school teacher, early childhood director, and assistant principal. She earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education and a Lutheran Teachers Diploma from Concordia Chicago, a Master’s Degree in Early Childhood Education from Northern Illinois University, and will soon be starting her dissertation in order to obtain a Doctorate in Early Childhood Education. Melissa resides in Chicago with her fabulous husband and has a passion for weight lifting, playing tennis, and singing in the band at church.

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