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Why Is It Important to Write Lesson Plans?

Amber Tankersley, PhD

September 24, 2019

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Why is it important to write lesson plans?

Answer

Why plan? When I started out of college in a preschool classroom, I was told I had to write lesson plans. I panicked because I was used to a very long lesson plan format, which didn't really seem to fit the needs of my preschool classroom. Little did I know, we didn't have a format for our lesson plans and they were not very uniform. The teachers in this program got together and developed our own lesson plan format that worked. I've tweaked it over the years, but I truly understand the purposes of why we plan.

Planning is key for any high-quality early childhood program. Planning and sharing our plans with other people such as parents, observers, administrators, and licensing and accreditation entities shows that we are professionals. It shows that we are intentional with the types of activities and information we want children to learn from. Planning helps us outline how objectives will be met. Planning will allow you to tie particular standards to an activity and document that.

Planning helps us organize our thoughts. We may have some ideas of carrying out an activity with children, but if we can actually write it out in a lesson plan, it helps us not forget key elements, it helps us make sure that everything's developmentally appropriate, and that we have the right types of materials to carry out the activity. Lesson plans can also help us see how a particular activity is connected to other curricular areas or how it's connected to other themes or ideas that we're using in a particular classroom or setting. This pulls in the whole idea of integration and that everything goes together.

Lesson plans can almost function as a shopping list or a road map for gathering materials and helping make sure that you are well planned and rehearsed before you actually carry out the lesson plan. My undergraduate students use lesson plans as a roadmap that they carry close to them sometimes when they are teaching a lesson because it's security. Once you've written a lesson plan, you know what your plans are. It will help you carry out those plans to make it the best possible experience for young children. Lesson plans also help you see the big picture of how you're addressing the needs of every child. Lesson planning helps you differentiate and plan for the many different ability levels and needs of students in your classrooms. Lesson plans also help serve as documentation that we're doing the best things with our young children.

In our preschool lab, our lead teacher keeps track of lesson plans that she has written. Our student teachers also filter in their lesson plans for when they are the lead teacher. Even for our students that are just teaching three lessons in a semester, we document what they are doing because some of the activities are so fabulous because they're new and they're fresh and they're excited, that it helps show our licensing that we have a wide variety of activities that the children engage in. It helps us with our accreditation process and documenting that we do target a variety of learning activities and we do target a variety of standards or domains with young children.

I'm going to share one of my favorite stories about lesson planning. When I was in my preschool classroom right out of college, we hung our lesson plans outside our classroom door along with a little schedule that let whoever walked by the door know what was going on for that particular week. I had a parent ask me one time flipping through my pages, "What are these?" I said, "Well, those are my lesson plans." The parent replied, "What do you mean your lesson plans?" I said, "My lesson plans for the activities that we're doing this week." The parent responded, "I thought the kids just played? I replied, "Well, we do play. We learn through play, and here are all the fabulous things that your child is learning through play." That parent stood there and went through all these lesson plans and was so excited that their child was getting so much more than what they thought they were getting. Even though it was the same activity that I would have done whether I had the lesson plan or not, it really helped let other people know what I was doing and that what I was doing was intentional and it was important for that intended audience. I was always a little nervous that families or someone would look at my lesson plan and be judgmental about what I had planned, but it really served as a tool to show people that I am a professional, I know what I'm doing and that this is what's best for young children.

That leads me to the last aspect of why we plan. We plan to help us reflect on our teaching practices and how well children have obtained certain skills or concepts. Sometimes planning helps me decide if I'm going to do an activity again. I never throw away a lesson plan, even if it was a terrible lesson. I've had many terrible lessons, but I never throw them away because part of my reflection piece to a lesson plan may say don't ever do this lesson again unless you think of this, or only do this if you have these children or these characteristics of children in your classroom. Some things just don't work with a particular group. That helped me reflect on my own practices and what I needed to do in the future.

 

This Ask the Expert is an edited excerpt from the course, Writing Effective Lesson Plans for Early Childhood Classrooms, by Amber Tankersley, PhD.


amber tankersley

Amber Tankersley, PhD

Amber Tankersley is an associate professor in child development within the department of Family and Consumer Sciences at Pittsburg State University in Pittsburg, Kansas. She holds a bachelor's degree in elementary/early childhood education, a master's degree in elementary education, and a PhD in curriculum and instruction. She has worked in the field of early childhood for over 20 years as a preschool teacher, university child care center director, university instructor/professor and director of an NAEYC accredited preschool lab. She often presents at workshops/conferences on the topic of early childhood curriculum and the importance of play. She teaches courses such as: early childhood curriculum, interacting with children, parent/professional relationships, and she supervises practicum students and preschool student teachers. 


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