Pre-primary- or preschool-aged children can be delightful, yet challenging, to teach. The early years are a time of fast and often pronounced development, with changes happening on a constant basis. Early childhood or pre-primary educators typically must begin a career path with some form of specialized schooling in child development and instructional methods. After completing a training program, early childhood educators must use a variety of tactics based on scientifically researched evidence and accepted educational theory to teach in pre-primary schools.
Map out specific themes for the entire school year. This will help you to direct lesson plans and formulate cohesive activities that work toward developmental goals and learning outcomes.
State goals and objectives for the children. These should include what will be learned, developmental steps and possibly individual points of focus for specific children. Goals and objectives should be focused and measurable. For example, one goal for an art lesson on colors could be that the children will demonstrate recognition of the colors blue and red.
Design or find activities that support your theme, goals and objectives. Vary the activities per day with an array of different content areas covered during the course of one school week. Include science, math, literacy, social studies, physical education and arts activities/projects. You can create your own activities; use a teacher's resource book or find samples online at preschool planning websites such as First-School, Everything Preschool or 123 Child.
Create a daily schedule for your lesson plan. Block out times for a morning meeting/circle time, structured activities, mealtimes, nap-times, outdoor activities and unstructured or free play. Include transition times between activities, as well as time for bathroom breaks and hand washing.
Set up the learning environment. Divide the room into content areas or centers. Devote each center to a specific subject including reading, writing, science, art, blocks, music and more. Decide on the size of each center based on your available room space and materials needed. For example, you will need extra space in an art center for material storage, as well as work space. Add the necessary furniture and materials to each center.
Create a circle time or transition area. Include a soft carpet or carpet squares for the children to sit on, a chair for yourself and possibly a chalk or dry erase board.
Designate eating and sleeping areas. Include tables and chairs for eating areas and cots, or sleeping pads for nap-time spaces.
Decorate the room with posters, pictures or photos on the child's eye level. Add themed posters to each center area. For example, include animal wildlife pictures in the science center and photos of children reading in the literacy area.
Set rules for the children. Discuss the specific rules at the beginning of the school year, and daily thereafter. Make sure the children understand each rule. After you feel the children have learned the rules, ask them to repeat them back to you during a morning discussion.
Hold a morning meeting or daily circle time. Discuss the weather, a letter and/or number of the day, the day's activities and any special events, such as a guest librarian.
Encourage learning at activity centers by asking open-ended questions and verbal scaffolding. Scaffolding allows you as the teacher to help the children learn through cues and clues, without actually doing the work for them. Provide opportunities for learning through all of the developmental domains: emotional, social, physical and cognitive.
Conclude activities or the school day with a group wrap-up session. Ask the children what they have learned, what was fun to do and if anything was too easy/difficult.
Tips & Warnings
- Create smooth transitions by setting up an in-between activity. This may be musical, such as a clean-up song, a pattern of hand claps or verbal cues.
- Support the children's learning with nurturing guidance.
- Create a language rich environment. Label classroom items and read to the children throughout the day.
- If your school is in an area in which specific learning standards exist, follow them through well-thought out activities.
- Maintain a dramatic play area that encourages a world of imaginative fun. Include a play kitchen or dress-up clothes.
- Avoid harsh reprimands or physical punishment. Aside from being illegal, these actions will only serve to harm the children.
- Supervise the children at all times. There should never be a time when a responsible adult is not present.