A Conversation: Lesson Planning & Curricula


Vera:    Terry today’s training was amazing, but before we explore lesson planning a little bit more, what are some things teachers should be thinking about or considering when planning lessons? 

Teri:    Well, first I’m going to let everyone know. I think in my opinion that lesson planning is the ultimate trick to teaching. This is the secret that no one really talks about. So how can you be the very best [00:00:30] preschool teacher, the one that’s inside of you waiting to shine, and it all comes back to planning. There’s going to be teachable moments that come up in the classroom and magic can happen in those moments when you’re looking for those opportunities. But I have seen time and time again, the very best teaching that you’re going to have will come from very thoughtful, purposeful, and just intentional lesson planning. So spending that time, it’s confusing. It’s sometimes scary. It’s overwhelming, it’s hard. Sure. [00:01:00] But we have plenty of tips that we’re going to give today to share with everyone how we can do this effectively, how we can save ourselves time and not get as stressed out and overwhelmed by it, but just taking the time to plan it out and be intentional and specific, we will truly set yourself up for the best success. 

Teri:    So before we get really in deep into things, I think it’s important to mention that different schools are going to have different policies on when lesson plans are due, how frequently some, you might need to turn them in monthly, [00:01:30] some will be weekly. So also you’re going to have different resources available. Um, I want to recognize that in some schools you’ll have a beautiful curriculum handed to you and everything’s planned out for you. You’ll have a scope and sequence. You’ll have a curricula map. Here’s what you need to teach these days. And in other schools, you won’t, maybe you have some old curricula pulled out of a closet and you need to piece some things together to come up with. Here’s what we’re going to use for our math. Here’s what we’ll use for science. Maybe it’s outdated. Maybe you have a curriculum. That’s great in terms [00:02:00] of the plans, but you don’t necessarily like the content. 

Teri:    You don’t think it meets your expectations or it’s really labor-intensive to actually combine it all and get it ready to deliver in the instructions. So recognizing that everyone’s coming at this from very different angles, depending on the school that they’re in. I want us to keep that in mind when we’re talking. So another thing to keep in mind is where, when, and you’re going to do this. So let’s think about removing ourselves from distractions first. I think [00:02:30] it’s great if you can plan with a group. So plan with the other teachers, if you have a larger school where there are 2, 3, 4 classrooms of a different age, or of the same age group plan together, if at all possible. Some schools don’t have lesson planning accounted for in the daily staff schedule. So a lot of lesson planning will happen at nap time, as we know. 

Teri:    But if you’re able to have lesson planning in your daily schedule, a little block of even 30 minutes or an hour, whatever you’re given, use that [00:03:00] and run with it. It’s going to make it hard to do the group planning though, if you don’t have that in your schedule, you’ll be doing this on your own time. And so we want to, of course, recognize your time is valuable. So if you’re going to do this group planning, find someone that’s teaching your same age group and also find a mentor. If you’re a new teacher, it’s overwhelming, it’s daunting. Look for someone in your school that you can approach. And you can ask who is that star teacher? You know, there are teachers that [00:03:30] shine in schools, there are people that you may look up to and it can be a little intimidating and you might feel kind of silly, but it’s worth asking for their help. 

Teri:    Get out of your comfort zone and just ask, I would love to sit with you when you plan your lessons. Can I take you out for coffee? Can we go out for lunch? I’m a big fan of making it almost a date. If you go have fun, go find a fun place to get out of the school, and get out of that environment, that’s when the rich conversations are going to happen. You’re going to be building your relationship with that coworker. And you can have [00:04:00] conversations about yes, what you’re planning, but also, “Hey, this happened, how did you deal with it? And when I tried to do this, you know, how did you deal with this behavior? Which transitions are working better for you because this isn’t working for me.” You’re really sharing those tips. So try to do the group planning with other teachers if you can. 

Vera:    So Terry, you mentioned group planning and that reminds me of something that I’ve heard of called vertical planning. And it’s something that I have seen [00:04:30] a lot of teachers have success in. Um, can you elaborate a little bit on that for the educators? 

Teri:    Sure. Vertical planning is something that we’ve had a lot of success with. So if you’re not familiar with that, it’s taking a whole school approach and also a community approach to lesson planning. So what this will look like is getting all of your one year old teachers together to meet with your infant teachers and your toddler teachers. So organizationally, usually this is done at a staff meeting where you can break off into groups and then rotate [00:05:00] around. The idea behind vertical planning is teachers from each age program are meeting with the ones that they’re feeding up into. And then also with the teachers that are feeding children into them. So our three year old teachers will meet together with the two year old teachers. And they’re going to say, “Hey, this is what we see when they come up to us and this is what we wish they were coming up doing.” 

Teri:    So could you work on rhyming with them a little more? That’s something we often hear in that age group. We’d love it if the kids already knew more rhymes, when they come to [00:05:30] us, can you get the larger crayons and work more on their writing, they don’t know this when they get to us. And then they’re able, the other teachers are able to respond and say, really, we are actually doing that and this is how we’re doing it. And then they can say, oh, okay, well could you try this instead? And it’s just a lot of rich dialogue that comes from that and a lot of really great ideas and behavioral stuff. So we see that they’re not able to do, you know, X, Y, Z, how are you teaching that? So [00:06:00] it’s just getting together with different age groups. 

Teri:    And then when you get to that four-year-old level, when they’re approaching kindergarten, it’s great to reach out to the feeder schools that you’re feeding into the kindergarten programs. And the principals are usually really receptive to this. So they’ll invite the area preschools. It doesn’t need to be just your school. There could be other schools involved as well to come and meet with the kindergarten teaching team. And then [00:06:30] you hear what are the expectations and how do our kids look when they get to you? Are you pleased? Are, you know, are they able to meet your expectations? You know, how are they regulating themselves? Do they have all of that? The base learning standards in place that you’re wanting, have we done a good job with the firm foundation? And if we haven’t, what are you seeing and what would you like us to do differently? How, what are some ideas of things that we can incorporate that we’re not doing right now? And it’s always just [00:07:00] so many great ideas, great relationships are built. So it’s a really good process for lesson planning. 

Vera:    So Terry, the training today was thorough and we covered so many really important things that teachers need to know. But just in case anyone has a question, what would you say to a new teacher who has now been tasked with lesson planning? 

Teri:    Sure. Well, again, find a buddy. <laugh> The first tip is to find someone to help and [00:07:30] to guide you to model. The best approach I think is first knowing that it’s not one size fits all. As we talked about, different processes are going to work for different people. And so for me, I think that I like to start with the big picture and work your way to more specific stuff.  So start with your year at a glance. Start with the end goal. Get a big binder to contain it all. 

Teri:    Add your to-do list and copies. You’re going to need to make your overview of what your days and your daily schedule really are, and then move into more specific things for your school. But start [00:08:30] with your yearly calendar. So schools typically are 10 months. You know, if your school follows a public school calendar, it’s going to be 10 months, some go the full year into 12 months. So start with that year’s calendar and just begin with dates. So you want to start, of course, when does the school year begin? When are your orientations? You have all your meet and greets that are going to come with that. Do you have lesson planning days where the school’s closed before the fall semester begins? Or do [00:09:00] you not? All of those things need to be entered into the calendar. 

Teri:    So your holidays: when are your class parties going to be? Look through and decide which holidays are you going to celebrate? Is it going to be one full day focused on that holiday theme or is it going to be the full week where everything you do is centered on that holiday? Do you have in-house field trips? Do you go on field trips? And how many are you allowed to have? What’s your budget for that? Can you have two, can you have four? You know, what does that reasonably look like? And what times of the [00:09:30] year are you going to have these happening? Are you going to have guests coming in? Do you want parents to come in? Do you want to have surprise readers come in where the kids don’t know who’s coming in to read, but it’s a parent, you know, and they get mystery clues on who this will be. Plan out all of those dates and first enter that into your yearly calendar. 

Teri:    So, you know, date wise, what you’re starting with, you need to have your scope and sequence ready. We touched very, very briefly on scope and sequence in the training. I want to talk a little more about that now, [00:10:00] because people might not know or be familiar with it. Maybe you’re handed several scope and sequences and you don’t know which to choose from so we can get into that in a minute. ButI do want to have scope and sequence there. And so once you’ve got your dates for each month written, and then you want to take your scope and sequence and start entering in your topics. So, you know, this is where we’re going to go with the topics we’re teaching. 

Vera:    When you mention topics, do you suggest weekly topics or monthly topics? How are monthly themes, what is right? What have you seen work [00:10:30] best in your experience?

Teri:    So when you’re planning with, and you’re creating this calendar, I think it’s really important at that stage that you have your scope and sequence there with you while you’re planning.  Not all curricula will come with the scope and sequence but not all does. And so if you’re in a situation where you don’t have that it’s important that, you know, talk with your director, talk with your administration and know what benchmarks you are held accountable for. So what are the early learning standards for your age group, for your [00:11:00] state that you’re in, they should have something that they can give you and say, here’s what, here’s these topics. Here’s what your kids need to be, you know, comfortable with mm-hmm <affirmative> and right. They need to know by the end of the time with you in the classroom if that’s not available for you and there is no guidance, then you need to take that initiative and go look online. 

Teri:    So look for the state, look at your agency. There’s some early learning coalition, I believe that’s monitoring your state’s performance. [00:11:30] And so you want to look at what are the early learning standards, what are the benchmarks that I’m accountable for? And then you can go online and do a search and look, there’s millions of resources out there for this. And so you can look at free downloadable printables. There’s some that you can pay for. You can purchase a whole year’s scope and sequence. And that way you will have that to guide as you’re starting to fill in what this, what your lesson plan for each month will look like. 

Vera:    That’s great. So Teri, that’s great information, but if we could just go back for [00:12:00] a second and, and define what a scope and sequence is for someone who’s never heard that terminology beforeI might describe it as a, like a, a learning plan, right? So it essentially helps you to guide how you’re going to create lesson plans for your children so that you are introducing the appropriate skills slowly and gradually over time so that they’re making long lasting connections, right? To the concepts and skills that you’re teaching. Um, it might also look [00:12:30] like a curriculum map, right? So that’s another term we can think about. You would never go on vacation without a map, which plans out where you’re going, your destination, your activities, and all the things that you’re going to do while you’re on vacation. So you would think about your scope and sequence as essentially the same thing in a classroom. 

Teri:    So yeah, so the scope and sequence is essentially the topics that you’re going to teach and when, and it’s, it incorporates all of that developmental learning. So all of the topics that you’re going to be teaching build on each other as the year [00:13:00] goes on. So you’re, it’s laying out for you when you’re teaching the foundational skills and then each thing that you’re adding on top. So once you’ve got that, you can, you know, you have your yearly calendar, you’re going to take that scope and sequence and look at it by month. What do you need to be teaching at the beginning of the year? What are you going to start off with? Where are you going to put, you know, September, October, and start writing those topics into each month of the calendar and then look at your learning blocks. And so how much time are you going to have for the main topic? 

Teri:    So we know you’re [00:13:30] going to have early literacy, early math, early science skills, you’re going to have art music. What are those key components again, in your curricula? Many schools will have that already provided for you, but if it’s not, you’ve gotta be able to come up with that on your own and put it in your plans. Um, and then decide, are you going to have a theme? So some teachers don’t go with the theme approach and some do some prefer to do weekly themes and some do monthly themes. Um, I think weekly themes are a lot. And so that’s a lot of work for you. That’s coming [00:14:00] up with new books, new materials, you know, everything you’re going to need for that brand new theme for the week. So what I suggest is a monthly theme. One pick when you’re deciding where that’s going to be, you want to pick one that’s applicable to all kids. 

Teri:    That’s a hard thing to do when you haven’t met your children yet, because we always want to, you know, follow the child, right? We want to have their interests guide us. So it’s really good. If you can come up with general themes that tend to work for most kids in that age group and then make it, [00:14:30] , more specific by week. And so let’s say, let me think of one. Let’s say ocean and you’re doing ocean is the theme for maybe it’s a month in the summer. Um, well then you’d, you could vary your ocean theme as you get a little more specific by weeks and maybe you’re talking some about different Marine life one week and you take it another direction each week and break it down. So that way you can modify the theme a little, but sticking with monthly themes, I think is much more safe for your sanity. 

Vera:    And going back to your idea of group planning, [00:15:00] that seems to be the best of both worlds. I mean, if your infant room, toddler room, multi-age room and preschoolers are all on the same theme, it makes sense to kind of borrow some of the ideas that you’re seeing in the other classrooms. So you’re not having to create a month’s worth of lesson plans by yourself. Absolutely take something that you know is working wonderfully in another classroom and modify it. So that it’s age appropriate for the age group that you’re working with. 

Teri:    Right? So you have your, now we’ve got our calendar, we [00:15:30] have our important dates, we’ve got the topics, we know what we’re going to teach. And when we have what our blocks are going to be decided, if you’re going to have a theme, what that there’s going to be for each month. Now it comes to the really fun part now is when you’re brainstorming and you’re really getting into what are these going? What are these activities going to look like each day? What’s that going to be? And so how, what are some approaches you take to that? Cause I know first we want to always keep in mind, play-based purposeful learning. Yes. We want to make sure that we are designing lessons and creating [00:16:00] and finding lessons that support that approach. 

Vera:    Well, I like how you use the word fun to describe lesson planning, because it really is. It’s your chance to be creative and follow the interests of the children in your classroom and create things that you know are going to be engaging and interesting. Right? Um, it’s not always fun for a first time teacher or someone who hasn’t had a lot of experience, it’s overwhelming, right? Because you spend so much time trying to create the perfect activity. And [00:16:30] I think sometimes we spend so much we put so much effort towards creating the perfect activity that we forget. Lesson planning includes so many other important elements of learning and things like language, building things like concept development and relationship building, right? Mm-hmm <affirmative> we want to include so many more elements than just the activity and a lesson plan. So if I were [00:17:00] a parent or a director and I happened to step into your classroom or just walk by and observe what was happening, I might want to see your whole child approach. 

Vera:    Okay. So I might be looking for things like as a teacher, are you building a relationship with the child? Are you emotionally supportive? Right. So as a teacher, when you’re creating your daily lesson plan or your daily schedule, [00:17:30] you might want to ask yourself a number of questions. As a teacher, am I loving and respectful of the children? Um, are they loving and respectful of each other? Right. So we want to look at that, that climate, that’s what I’m building in the classroom. Can we never think about that again? We’re thinking so we’re spending so much time focused on the activities that we’re going to do every day, but what we tend to not think about are all of the other things that we can also build while children are learning mm-hmm <affirmative> , I might also ask [00:18:00] myself questions like am I, am I a learning partner? 

Vera:    Am I right there with the children while they’re learning? You know, am I next to them? Am I talking with them? Are we learning and playing together? Am I flexible? Do I allow the children to kind of explore and play freely in their centers or in circle time? Or am I managing every step of the activity? You know, how many times have you, or I walked by and overheard like, oh no, that’s not how you play [00:18:30] with that. Or that’s not how you do that. Oh, you’re supposed to do it this way. Well, you know, every child has a different perspective and sometimes it’s interesting to really see that it’s eye opening, that they have their own idea of how something might work and that’s fine. Like, are we, are we open to that? Right. I think that’s really important. Um, are, am I as a teacher constantly assessing what’s going on in the classroom? 

Vera:    Do I know that a child is becoming frustrated because an activity is challenging or [00:19:00] because they’re not quite sure what to do during a certain activity. And am I quick to modify that, that game or that activity or, or anything so that it’s so that they too can feel success, right? Or am I ready to move on to the next activity? If I know it’s going, this is going south really quickly. Can I easily wrap it up and move on to the next thing? Right. So doing all of those things helps to build that sense of trust. [00:19:30] And if children don’t trust you and feel comfortable around you, they’re, you know, they’re not willing to take risks, right? They’re not willing to learn and play and explore. So I think that that is a huge piece that we often leave out when we’re planning for our day. 

Teri:    I completely agree. I think that’s so great that we keep those questions in mind whenever you’re creating your lesson plans. And you’re really just honing in on that social, emotional piece and making sure that the [00:20:00] things that you’re designing and including are really building that teacher, child interaction. Uh, talk to me about how, how can we be sure that we’re including engaging activities that are meeting that goal for the play based learning. 

Vera:    Okay, great question. Um, and again, as a kind of a check checklist, a frame of reference, something for you to think about as you’re planning your activities, things like did I provide clear instructions, right? Do the children know what they’re supposed to be doing right while they’re [00:20:30] in centers or while they’re at, you know, at circle time on the carpet. Um, 

Teri:    And I, I always like to say the word explicit, like just be 

Vera:    So 

Teri:    Explicit, explicit, explicit instructions.

Vera:    Right. I think it’s a great strategy that’s always worked really well for me. When I’m creating my activities is to, you know, create my clear, specific step by step instructions on how the activity will run and then give it to somebody else. [00:21:00] Who’s never done the activity who has no idea what I’m about to teach and have that person read it. If it makes absolutely no sense to that person. I know I need to revisit my explicit instructions. Right. I know that I obviously need to clean those up a little. Yeah. Um, but yes. Do the children know what to do? Have I provided enough materials, interesting materials that are hands on fun and engaging. Everyone has materials, right? Is anyone sitting around waiting for their turn? And 

Teri:    That, that [00:21:30] I think we have to bring up centers when we talk about enough materials. Yes. And so, it’s just so important that you are not leaving your centers as is for the majority of the time. So yes. You have your cord. This is my literacy center. This is my math center. Sometimes math and science are combined. I prefer for them to be separate if you have the space, but if you have to combine that’s okay. Um, this is my construction zone, you know, but, and then it’s just, that’s it, that’s what the kids have. And we can’t do that. You need to have rotational items because they’ll get [00:22:00] bored. They will imagine you have, if we’re saying I’m going to aim for what 45maybe even an hour, 45 minutes to an hour of these learning blocks that kids are going to go off to, you’re going to pull some for some small group instruction group. 

Teri:    Well, if they’re going to be over for 45 minutes rotating into these centers, and it’s the same toys, their shelves aren’t only so big in the preschool world. You know, they’re small, only so many things can be on these shelves. Um, they’re going to get forward. You need to rotate these materials out [00:22:30] and then plan, uh, a really engaging again, back to fun, fun activities for them. So in your literacy center, add new things each, and this could be something like a sand tray. Maybe you just have a tray with some magnetic sand and they’re tracing letters. And with their finger, that’s multisensory, they’re touching it, they’re learning, they’re doing it. It’s not just a worksheet gel bag. Right. And so I have a big Ziploc bag with some gel in it. And they’re doing letters that way. [00:23:00] Um, it’s just a couple quick examples, but that’s how we can really quickly inexpensively incorporate some fun things into centers that are engaging. That’s not the same old stuff. Novels, new experiences for them. 

Vera:    And like you said, I mean, what we’re kind of working towards here is if they’re bored, that’s only going to lead to unwanted behavior. Right. And then you have to have a plan for that too. Right. So, you know, it’s, it’s, it’s smart to over plan and prepare ahead of time and just keep it [00:23:30] interesting. Right. Um, and I think too, there are so many teachable moments throughout the day, are you taking advantage of every teachable moment and that’s really going to keep those children engaged and learning. 

Teri:    Right. Okay. So let’s talk about how so when you’re, you’re writing that specific activity for the topic in your, in your sequence. So let’s say it’s an early literacy block since we were using that earlier and you know, you need to teach the specific skill. How can we bring in the [00:24:00] centers because I like to see, yes, we have our lesson plan for the day. We have our specific activity that we’re going to use to teach that topic. Um, but how can we reinforce that in what’s going on in the centers as well so that the kids are playfully exploring and building on concepts. 

Vera:    So that brings me to the third. Um, and one of the most important things that we would be looking for as a director when we are creating our lesson plans or our daily schedule, based on our scope and sequence, are we not [00:24:30] just providing playful activities throughout the classroom, but purposeful activities that are helping children to develop a, a deeper connection to the skills and concepts that 

Teri:    Bringing in their background knowledge too, 

Vera:    Bringing in their background knowledge, you know, have they had enough exposure to this particular concept and, and skill, right? Um, are you building that exposure to that concept and skill slowly and gradually over time re you know, you don’t want to just what, for [00:25:00] a lack of a better word spray and pray, because that’s something I hear often thinking that if you just cover it one time or once if they play with it once, or you, you do an activity on a carpet one time that they’re going to get their phonological awareness concept of the day. No, it takes time. It takes lots of practice. Um, you may have heard me talk about the difference between exposure and mastery, right? We are exposing them every day, every day, that practice, that review, that repetition. That’s what leads to mastery. So [00:25:30] we have to have lots of opportunities for them to play with early literacy skills, as you mentioned, right? Um, throughout the classroom. Um, I think too, you have to gauge their deeper understanding of concepts and skills by asking open ended questions. You know, tell me a little bit more about this or what made you think that or what would happen if so having children utilize their, their language skills that they’ve already developed, [00:26:00] their critical thinking skills and help to kind of bridge scaffold, if you will, that’s another term, right. Scaffold that connection to the skill that you’re trying to teach. 

Teri:    So scaffolding is when we’re just in case anyone’s not familiar with that term when you’re teaching just above the level that they’re at, we 

Vera:    Always want to helping them get 

Teri:    Higher, try to keep a little higher so that they go higher and then you can yeah. Keep building exactly. Well, everything you’re describing here really makes me think of differentiated instruction and it all lends so nicely to that topic. And I think that’s something that can be overwhelming [00:26:30] for preschool teachers, especially if you haven’t had any training on differentiated instruction and you can think, you know, oh, I have 1825 kids in my class. How am I going to teach each one individually? Right. Um, so how are some ways that we can go about that and make that successful in the preschool room? 

Vera:    And I think depending on the child, the one-on-one scenario or small group, really depends on each individual’s needs, but what’s worked best for me. And what I’ve seen work really well for [00:27:00] other educators is pulling your small group, even if it’s once a day for five or 10 minutes. Um, it’s a great way for you to quickly take the children that you noticed. Maybe weren’t grasping the skill that you’ve been introducing or the concept that you’re introducing that week, pulling them once a week and just reviewing the lesson with them. Mm-hmm, <affirmative> reviewing the activity, but modifying it to meet their needs. Right. And, if that means making the activity a little bit [00:27:30] easier for them to understand and feel successful, then that’s what you do. Or it might mean pulling that group that is a little more advanced than the others and adapting the lesson of the week or the lesson of the day to meet their needs. Uh, it’s just a great way to quickly recap what it is that you want the children to know, but also get that extra time with each individual child to continue building that relationship, which is ultimately [00:28:00] the center and the most important thing that you’re doing. But 

Teri:    What does that look like when you say pulling, pulling the children and what if I don’t have an assistant, how am I going to pull children?

Vera:    You want to find a time where everyone else is occupied and engaged and in a routine so that you can quickly say, “hey, come work with me for just five minutes or let’s, I’d like to play a game with you. I’d like to, you know, reread a story or come sit with me and let’s count or sort shapes [00:28:30] anything that’s interesting.” It’s five or 10 minutes. You get that one on one time again with the child and then you can quickly send him, her or them, the small group, if that’s what you decide to do back into center rotation. Right? So they really haven’t missed out on the fun play based stuff. 

Teri:    True. Or they could be in centers. Let’s say this is the beginning of the year, or maybe this new group of children you have is [00:29:00] just a little more rambunctious and you don’t have them fully in that mode that you want in terms of being self-functioning in the centers. You could have some small group activities that they’re able to do on their own. So send kids in groups, be mindful of who you’re placing together to go to different tables. You have, you know, four at a table, five at a table. Maybe they’re going to the floor. If you have some Montessori rugs, it’s even better, you can have them go do some floor work. So they’re off that makes sure there’s some sort of activity, [00:29:30] hopefully multisensory. 

Teri:    So they’re using their hands, not just sitting, doing worksheets, because that’s going to lend. If there’s not someone walking around helping, you could have some sword fighting or <laugh>, you know, they could become off task pretty quickly. Absolutely. Um, but it could look like that as well. So if your class isn’t ready yet to be in centers completely alone, if you don’t have other hands in the classroom to help you, you could, you know, just plan it out really well. So that they’re active at a table focused and working and then you can be at a table [00:30:00] with or on the floor, you know, that’s it’s we, I love the floor work too. So, or you could be on the floor focused with a small group. 

Vera:    So now we’ve given a really nice overview of what a typical daily schedule or lesson plan for a day could look like. Um, and we mentioned flexibility. Absolutely. Even the best planned day. Doesn’t always go as well as we’d hope. How do we avoid disasters [00:30:30] and how do we keep our schedule on track? 

Teri:    Well, that all comes down to over planning. And in, in my opinion, that’s the way I’ve had the best success. Um, I always train my teachers please over plan. And it sounds like a lot of work and you might be hearing that thinking, great, that’s more work for me to do, but it really is. That’s your, the key to survival, the lesson planning survival right there. So what I mean by over planning is first you want to think through each of these things you’re putting in your lesson plan, binders. [00:31:00] So you’re working on transition circle time, your learning blocks. So plan through strategically how much time each is realistically going to take. So you want to have that mental running clock. Um, and then you want to move on to these separate components. You can break it down into your circle, time planning. 

Teri:    So we don’t want to just have a lesson plan turned in that just says, circle time, right? We need to, what is to help yourself out, be your, [00:31:30] be your own advocate here and plan that out. So, in our lesson planning, we have a whole circle time page. And so you want to create a routine and a structure for your circle time. So it’s almost lesson planning within lesson planning, right? So you’ve got your daily schedule circle time, and then let’s really come up with a solid routine for what that is. So what’s the transition? That’s going to get them over to your morning meeting. Like how are you going to bring them to you from drop off or from if they’re in free play and centers, [00:32:00] are you going to do a song? Is it a movement? How do you get them there? And you’re probably going to have a hello song or a welcome song or something. 

Teri:    Um, what’s the next step? Do you go through yournames? Are you working on name recognition? Are you doing your letter of the day? Are you doing the weather? It, you know, it’ll vary for each teacher and what you want that can, you can make this whatever you want, but start with your time chunk. So again, at the beginning of the year, it’s probably going to be a shorter circle time than later in the year. Let’s use an example of 15 [00:32:30] minutes assuming this is an older age group that we’re talking about. Um, and you have that 15 minute chunk and break down that time. So how long is that transition going to be approximately, you know, it’s kids. So there’s always going to be some variation there, but how long do you expect the transition to be, to get however many are in your class to the spot? How long is that welcome song going to be? 

Teri:    What’s that first little chunk of time going to be? Are you going to be doing a story? We always want a story. We always want movement. [00:33:00] Um, we always want you to have, you know, think two, possibly, maybe you could work in three. It just depends on your group activities and key concepts that you’re teaching in that block of time. So how, what is that going to look like? And if you’re aiming for two to three activities, I suggest planning five and no you’re not going to use five. You, you won’t, you’re going to cut it off, even if it’s a perfect circle time and it’s going great, cut it off at your two or your three, read your audience, see how the kids are doing. And then [00:33:30] bp that, that now rolls over those two leftover plans are going to roll over further your next day. That’s the backup you have for the next day. 

Teri:    And if you don’t use it, then even better rolls over for the next month. But the reason for that is you have that in your back pocket for if it starts to fall apart, if something you’ve planned or you’ve decided you’re going to focus on is not working. Now, you can move right into that. Cuz the moment you start to get into calling each child and managing those individual behaviors, as things start to fall apart, you’ve lost it. You need to [00:34:00] just stop the circle time altogether <laugh> and maybe you’re having some problems in your class. Maybe there are some turn taking issues. Um, maybe there’s some, a lot of extra whining, you know, there’s some problem that you’re seeing globally in your classroom and thinking, okay, this is starting to, you know, seeing a pattern and more kids are starting to do it. Maybe you need to forego your plans for the day of your activity you were going to do. 

Teri:    And you use that as your problem solving time. And you’re talking about pushing those lesson plans off [00:34:30] for the next day. So it’s just over planning, it’s really the key to success. So that’s an example of how we can do that with our circle time again in your binder, make sure you’ve got your routine listed out what each component of circle time will be for you. There’s great resources online that you can pull if you’re not sure if you don’t know what a typical, you know, ideal circle time will look like, then search online. You know, look, look at some YouTube videos type in preschool teacher, circle time, you know, there’s [00:35:00] certain keywords you can look at and just pull and see some examples of what other teachers are doing. Ask your colleagues, you know, ask the coworkers that you have in your building, watch others do it. 

Teri:    Um, put those into your lesson plans and then you want to over plan your transitions. And so have a page in your binder for your go yeah. For your transitions. So we want to haveI would have on ours, it’s transition time list out each time that you’re going to have, cause you don’t have too many of these throughout the day, but what are your key times [00:35:30] you’re going to need to be moving these children about and how are you going to do it? Is it going to be a gross motor? Is it going to be some call that you do? Is it going to be a song? Do you have them lining up whatever that looks like? And then you can look by month. How can you modify that transition based on your theme? How can you keep it developmentally appropriate? If it’s a more learning type transition, maybe they’re waiting in line and you’re doing some sort of reinforcement. Maybe it’s the early math concept that you did and they’re big or they’re [00:36:00] little based on the numbers. You know, that’s just an example that comes to mind. That’s going to need to alter, as you teach them new concepts, that’s going to become old. It’s not going to be as fun anymore. So bring in a new math concept that you’re teaching, right that into your lesson plans, but it’s just setting yourself up for success. So you’ve got this artillery <laugh> of, you know, in your back pocket of things that you can go to. So you have plenty more than you will ever need all waiting for you. 

Vera:    And one last thing and probably the most important, [00:36:30] , a bit of advice I’ll give is overplanning for our special friends. 

Teri:    Oh yes. 

Vera:    Is really important. And by special friends, I mean the ones that aren’t always willing to participate in our group activity and maybe they have sensory issues, maybe they’re withdrawn. Maybe they’ve just had a really bad day. Right. I need to be able to redirect them and give them something to do so that the behavior doesn’t escalate. Right. And so I find that keeping a list in my binder of each child, right. And [00:37:00] his, or her favorite activities makes finding something for him or her to do extremely easy. Whether that’s something they play with alone or something that they can play with a buddy or a friend. Right. Um, it just deescalates the behavior and stops it from becoming something that really throws my day off. Of course, 

Teri:    Absolutely. And I’ve seen one teacher, she actually had a list in her lesson planning binder. Um, I don’t remember if it was by name [00:37:30] or not, but she had a list of activities. So it was just almost individualized activities. And these were then, you know, all planned out and what materials were needed, what would this look like? Um, but then she had these giant Ziploc bags, you know, that everything was in there and they were stored in her closet and it was like, she called it her behavior kit <laugh> I was going to it’s all. And they’re waiting because sometimes it’s, you know, we always say send them to the cozy corner of the peace place so they can relax. Sometimes that’s not what they need. They [00:38:00] just need a different way of being engaged. And so it’s really reading that child, but you’ll have yourself, you know, a go-to list. Teri:    It’s already planned out. Everything’s there. You’re not running around. What can I find for them to do? Um, and also planning helper jobs. And so yes, we have our classroom helpers and we give out those roles, but you need to have a plan and also in the closet. So you can just quickly pull out. If there’s a child who’s really struggling, having a difficult time. You need them to come right with you so you can keep eyes on, but not fully [00:38:30] divert your attention from all the rest of the room. You can say, Hey, I need you to help me with this special job. Well, boom. Have your bin in the closet, go pull out. Here’s some magazine clippings. Like I need you to sort these for me. Please put all the people here, please put all the food here. That would be great. It’s nothing you really need done. It’s just something that you’ve got ready to pull. Boom, you’ve got that kid engaged and there’s so many different things you can think of sorting, cutting just things that they can do to feel special that now they’re your special helper working on these, [00:39:00] but plan it out. As long as it’s all planned out, write yourself multiple lists, have it ready to go. And you’ll be set when those moments happen.

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