Monday, October 29, 2007

Lesson Planning

I promised to share with you, those readers who might be interested, my non-scientific, laid-back, low-key lesson planning for Levi's Kindergarten year.

We began doing 'Kindergarten' work in February of this year, as Levi had turned five in January. I would have held off until this fall if I hadn't felt that he was more than ready. Sitting still in a chair for hours a day or being quiet for long periods of time (particularly where there would be a group of children and/or interesting information being presented) would not have been an ideal situation for him, but he was definitely up to working on new skills and taking in new information.

My lesson planning methods early in the year were certainly low-key. I simply used a calendar with a large amount of white space and lines for writing for each day of the month. When we covered educational material, watched an educational show, went on a field trip, worked on a skill (writing, math, or phonics), or completed a project together it was written on the calendar. I was able to see at a glance what we had covered and what had been missed. So many of the things that I wrote on the calendar were a part of our everyday lives, but I needed to see in black and white that I was doing my job.

While much of our learning environment comes naturally, I truly delight in sharing 'aha!' moments with Levi, and I adore having the shared imaginative landscape that comes from reading together--I absolutely take this responsibility seriously. Educating our children is a tremendous job. It is a priority that cannot, must not, get shoved down the list by the mundane chores of life, by tempting frivolous activities, or by lack of self-discipline. For myself, some planning, list-making, and accountability is necessary to make sure the job gets done well. But I also have to realize that there is a point in time where one must put down all the lists and plans, roll up one's sleeves, and get to work.

We 'schooled' lightly but consistently through the summer months and then more deliberately beginning in September. Our main curriculum (math, phonics, and grammar) are fairly straight forward when it comes to planning and implementing. Mostly they require 'doing the next thing.' When I sat down to plan our school lessons, September through December, I started by counting the number of weeks. There were 10 regular weeks, 2 'Thanksgiving' weeks, and 4 'Christmas' weeks. I then figured out where I wanted to be by the end of the year and planned backwards. How many lessons would we have to cover each week in each subject to reach that point? It was also important to give ourselves some breathing room. I didn't want to over-schedule and then constantly feel the need to play catch-up.

For other subjects I had a general idea of the material I wanted to cover. For example, I wanted to read The Story of the Orchestra for our music studies, adding in additional material for each composer introduced in the book. It was fairly easy to go through the book and realize that we would probably need to read about and listen to one composer weekly. I pulled out the books and other resources I would need for each subject and made similar rough plans for each.

The next step was to type up a simple weekly lesson plan form. I listed each subject (some with basic notations regarding the number of lessons to complete weekly) and left blank spaces in which to write. Each week (usually on Saturday or Sunday) I print one off, penciling in any specific lessons, passages for reading, or projects I hope to do. If any extra materials are needed for projects or experiments, I add them to Monday's shopping list.

I thrive on specific schedules, but I've had to content myself with a loose routine at this stage in our lives. Most of our lessons happen early in the afternoon while Leif is napping and Luke is having quiet time. Often Luke joins us for reading or projects after Levi's desk work has been finished. We usually begin with copywork for handwriting. Levi copies sentences (which I have prepared in advance) on his writing paper while I quickly read over the math lesson and gather anything we might need. After math, we migrate to the couch to work on phonics and grammar lessons. Then we read, do projects, or whatever else might be in our plans. I keep our stack of current 'school' books on the desk behind the couch so they are easily accessible.

Our chapter book reading usually happens in the evenings. We go through our 'circle time' notebook (which includes memory work, poetry, Bible verses, Around the World cards, some art study, and a little bit of geography) all together during our breakfast time. I'm sure that Leif is memorizing the poems along with us. Grin. Some mornings we make it through a single poem. Some mornings we review from beginning to end. Some mornings I barely manage to get breakfast on the table without a nervous breakdown.

I plan on doing lessons about four days each week, but rarely plan our 'off' day in advance. With three little guys, I never know which day will go down hill due to illness, failed nap attempts, or any other number of things. Some weeks I find we spread out the lessons over six days, without any concentrated effort.

When we complete a lesson, again, I simply fill in the blank spaces on our lesson plan form. Sometimes we accomplish everything I had planned, sometimes we do not and the plans get rolled over onto the next week. At the end of each week, I have a tangible record of what we have accomplished, and it gets filed in a 3-ring binder. Nothing fancy. Nothing stress-inducing. Nothing that would particularly matter to anyone other than myself and my desire fulfill my responsibilities.

And in the end, it isn't the paper that really matters. It is the light in Levi's eyes when we are learning, discovering, imagining, and just plain living that is the true reward for a job well done. I love engaging him in conversations. I love watching him make connections.

I don't know if anything in this post has been helpful, but I will follow it up with specifics for each subject if anyone is interested.


carole said...

Thank you, yes, this is helpful for me. We are really still in the developing a routine part of all this. Ugh. I've got to get motivated here! Thanks for the insights.

heather said...

I have found this post to be very helpful. At this point, "school" with the younger ones is very laid back. I like how you write what you do on a calendar to refer back to. That would be good for me to do.

Anonymous said...


I started my oldest daughter with "kindergarten stuff" before she was even five. I have learned so much from then, and this time, we are taking it slow, and yes, laid back.

I am looking forward to reading all those great children's books again, but I am not very excited with the phonics part!

Thanks for sharing:)