Any teacher or homeschooling parent can attest that you can spend hours and hours and hours writing lesson plans. But, there is not always a need to spend so much time planning when with a few simple steps, taken in the right order, you can easily plan an entire year’s worth of preschool lesson plans in advance of the first day of school.
That’s right. I’m going to show you how to write up yearly lesson plans for preschool in a single afternoon. Be sure to grab all the FREE printable templates, too!
I used to be a hyper lesson planner. When I taught public school, I was that teacher who spent her summers lesson planning, and treated it like an 8-5 job. My first summer I wrote 5th grade science lesson plans, since my school didn’t have a curriculum, the following summer was spent lesson planning for writing instruction. Even when I was participating in a preschool co-op, my lesson plans were detailed, exact, and left not a minute to spare. I crammed as much in as I possibly could in a single day.
But those highly detailed daily lesson plans were not appropriate for preschoolers.
Preschool need time to absorb the information you give them. They need to experiment and discover with you. That you, the teacher, need to be facilitating and guiding instruction, not demanding specific products. They need to play alongside all the knowledge you’re trying to give them.
So, I’ve changed my way of planning.
But, why do I still plan an entire year at once, you ask?
Because I like having it done so that I can focus on the implementation, instead of stressing about what I will teach the following day. I like having all my ideas recorded in one place so that I don’t forget that one brilliant idea before I have a chance to teach it.
By planning in advance, I also already know what I plan to teach and therefore only have to gather materials and manipulatives.
What this means is that I get to spend more time with my family and less time planning for preschool. Keep reading, though, and you will see that having a preschool lesson plans laid out for a year does not mean I am scripting my teaching. There is still plenty of room for tweaking and change as my students’ needs demonstrate.
My system is straight-forward and easy to follow. Just a few steps and a few hours and you can also plan your lessons for an entire year!
Update: This post has received so much attention that I have written a follow-up series that describes each step in more detail. Please see the links at the end of this post.
Four Easy Steps to Preschool Lesson Planning
1.) Create a Calendar
The first step is to create a calendar of your year. Now that I have turned teaching preschool into an business, this is especially important as it helps me keep the parents informed. I use a balnk calendar specifically for preschol and start writing down important dates.
Things to consider including:
- when to begin school
- holiday breaks
- personal breaks or appointments
- holiday parties to celebrate as a preschool
- other possible interruptions (for me…it has been maternity leave)
I also include in this calendar a general scope and sequence for the year. (A scope and sequence is a list of skills to teach and the order you plan to teach them). I number each week that I am teaching and then label those weeks according to what I am teaching in reading and math. At the top of each month, I write down “monthly” focus concepts, like the theme, number of the month, and also the shape and color of the month. I also have that same information printed into a table, laying out each month’s focus concepts.
2.) Decide On How To Teach Reading and Math
I have written my own reading and math lesson plans. This came about out of necessity. I wanted a complete program that was affordable! When I couldn’t find what I was looking for, I started writing. They are now available for purchase.
You, on the other hand, may be looking for something different.
There are basically two schools of thought when it comes to teaching reading in preschool. Letter of the week (phonics) approach or whole language.
Letter of the week is much like as it sounds. A new letter is introduced each week and much of the literacy instruction is centered on that letter names and sound. The whole language approach introduces letters to preschoolers more naturally and often times after a child has developed an interest in that specific letter, such as the letters in their name or the letters in their favorite cereal. There are advantages and disadvantages to both approaches.
Most might think that math lessons in preschool are comprised mainly of counting, sorting, and patterns. This is inaccurate. A complete preschool math curriculum includes teaching in all five disciplines of math.
The five disciplines of math are
- number sense
- data analysis
I spiral through each discipline focusing on one discipline each week but also offering some sort of counting activity every single day. So, that means that week one I focus on number sense skills, week two algebra skills, week three geometry, and so on. Then, we loop through those disciplines again. I teach the same concept for the entire week (both days of preschool), and we typically even do the exact same activities on the second day of preschool as the first.
I have found from experience that preschoolers enjoy the repeating activities on the second day of instruction (or even for a whole five days) as it allows them to experience more mastery. And this saves me a lot of time in my preschool math lesson planning, too.
You can read more about how I spiral the disciplines and write my math lesson plans in this post.
My preschool math lesson plans include several whole and small group activities, as well as two new centers each week.
Before I solidified preschool math lesson plans, I made a list of possible activities that would hit the target discipline, and when possible I kept them thematic. I broke down each discipline into skills, which I systematically teach throughout the year. You can find that in my scope and sequence, which you can grab by clicking the image below.
Once these activities have been introduced, I keep them available to use as math centers to support the direct math instruction.
3.) Decide On Preschool Themes
Now, some teachers and homeschooling parents prefer to plan themes only a month or few weeks in advance because they use the input and interest of their students to guide those thematic choices.
I don’t do this so much.
I select themes based on what is appropriate for the age, what I know will interest my students based on their age and developmental skills, and finally, what I am interested in. I believe this last point is as important as the second. The teacher must have a strong interest in the content as well as the students. I have found that the more enthusiastic I am about a theme the better I teach it. I use my own enthusiasm to get my students super excited about the topics and activities.
It is worth mentioning that not every theme is appropriate for every group of preschoolers, so you have to use your best judgment.
Read more about how I plan preschool themes in this post. And, grab some FREE printable templates, too!
4.) Create A List of Suggested Activities for Preschool Lessons
The final step is to develop a list of suggested activities based on the themes you have selected. I make a table listing the month and theme with a list of activities regarding that theme. Knowing that I typically have eight teaching days in a given month, I make a list of ten to twelve activities. They are simply suggestions I am making to myself, and can be changed or ignored.
Once the month is upon me, I pick and choose what activities I’ll teach based on how my students are responding to the theme. I rely heavily on Pinterest for inspiration, sometimes exactly copying pins and sometimes those pins spark something completely new, which I then share on my blog.
I try to keep the activities simple, yet still valuable to learning. You can see all my ideas here!
As you can see, these activities are relatively simple, nothing overly elaborate that requires extensive materials and planning, but they are still valuable experiences in the education of my preschool class.
You can get my FREE printable templates in this post, as well as lots of ideas for panning preschool themes.
Yearly Preschool Lesson Plans
I fibbed. There are actually five steps because the last step is a bonus! Want to know how to organize everything into a single binder?
5). Organizing your preschool lesson plans
Once you have your lesson plans in place, it’s sometimes hard to know the best way to organize them. You can see how I use just a binder in this post.
Recap on How to Write Preschool Lesson Plans
Step 1: Create a Calendar
Step 2: Decide on How to Teach Reading and Math
Step 3: Decide on Themes
Step 4: Create a List of Suggested Activities
Step 5: Organizing Lesson Plans – BONUS!
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I am Sarah, an educator turned stay-at-home mama of five! I am the owner and creator of Stay At Home Educator, a website about intentional teaching and purposeful learning in the early childhood years. I’ve taught range of levels, including preschool and college, and a little bit of just about everything in between. Right now, my focus is teaching my children and running a preschool from my home. Credentials include: Bachelors in Art, Masters in Curriculum and Instruction