Thursday, June 4, 2009

Preschool Planning

(Written in late May.)

Well, the school year is almost over. Our last day is next Wednesday. We are having a graduation/end of year celebration. We always do a play as part of it, and this year, Flower wrote an original play. She wrote it when she was studying about Greek Mythology. It is really quite good. I'm more excited than usual to see the play this year.

On the blog What DID we do all day, she posted recently about planning in response to someone who asked how she planned. I've talked a little bit about how I plan, especially for Flower, but I haven't talked much about how I plan for the preschool.

I have been teaching preschool out of my home for 6 years now. I started teaching when Flower was 3. I couldn't afford to send her to preschool, and she really wanted to do learning activities, so I started researching early childhood education. I learned about all sorts of types of educational philosophies, but the one that I kept coming back to was Montessori. I'd heard about Montessori before, but I didn't know anything about the specifics of it. This was in the pre-blog days and so I depended on a few websites to learn about it, and then ordered a few books, and then just dove in. The first year, I only had three students, and I only taught twice a week. I did a lot of planning because I was overwhelmed with the newness of it/learning about it, not because I necessarily NEEDED to do that much planning.

Now, I teach five days a week, and I have 6 students. I still try and do daily/monthly/yearly planning, but it has changed. Now my planning reflects more about following the children, although I do have have a written schedule (see the Montessori Periods Schedule in the Documents section) of when I generally do presentations based on the age of the child and how long they've been attending, but it is a very, very general idea of when I will make presentations. Also, at the beginning of the year, I do more group presentations, particularly with the new/3 year old students, than I do later in the year. Later in the year, I do almost all individual presentations based on the child's progress in the different areas (practical life, sensorial, language, science, geography, and math.)

What is VERY key for me is to keep detailed records of the students' work. Otherwise, I don't always remember day to day, week to week where each child is at, and what I should introduce next. I usually have a clipboard in the room, so I can jot down notes, and then I record them at the end of the week. I also use the pictures to help me remember. I've taken at least twice as many pictures than I did the year before, and TONS more than I did at the beginning. (I think I took pictures at the Christmas party that first year. Maybe.)

I also do monthly themes (see Preschool Themes in the Document section.) The downside to doing this is that if say, my son, is really into cars, but we are studying apples, then I'm not really following his interests. However, I feel that we have plenty of time outside of school-time to do activities related to his interests. And by having themes already set, it allows me to pickup books/activities, create activities and print outs, etc. ahead of time. It also allows me to carry some things over from year to year, so I'm not always preparing everything from scatch. I always add things, so it isn't like the returning students will be doing the same things for two years, but I have a base. And the themes are just an enhancement to our school time, used primarily for some of the circle time reading and supplementary language, math, and art activities.

My planning time is Wednesday evening, and I create the weekly plan for the following week. First, I take a look at the student weekly progress reports. I look at the Montessori Periods Schedule and pull out any new material or put away any material that isn't being used by any of the students. Then I look at the Preschool Themes and look at any existing materials, and pull out some, and work on any additional materials. I look at the art materials and do any necessary re-stocking.The Wednesday before the beginning of the next month, I make sure that I have all of the next month's Monthly Activities (new month on the calendar, new nursery rhyme on the pocket chart, sandpaper shape for the month, sandpaper number for the month, etc.

Sometimes, things are so busy, that I don't take time to do my Wednesday planning. I'm always sorry.

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