Earlier this week I posted free lesson plan templates. One of the questions that I used to ask the most was “How are you supposed to plan ahead when you are implementing an emergent curriculum?!” I like to think of my lesson plan as a flexible outline.
When I sit down to write my lesson plan, I start with the activities that I know the children want to explore – these are the experiences that support what I’ve been observing in the classroom. They’re related to the conversations I’ve heard and the questions that the children have been asking. They may use materials that the children have shown a particular interest in. The key when planning these is to remember that I don’t know for sure how the children will respond to them – so I can’t necessarily plan specific follow-up activities, but I may leave a placeholder for an activity that would continue the learning.
Once I’ve added these activities, then I round out the lesson plan with additional activities that meet specific standards that the children are working towards. These activities may also be seasonal, or theme-based. Having both types of activities on your lesson plan gives children opportunities to explore many different things, it also gives them opportunities to make connections and develop new questions.
The most important thing that I’ve learned is that we don’t have to complete every single activity on our lesson plan. The children get to take the lead here, if they are extremely engaged in one activity, I let them work longer. We might even repeat the same activity multiple time throughout the week. If there’s anything we don’t get to that feels really valuable, I’ll add it to the plan for the following week or make a note to revisit it down the road.
Flexibility is the key to lesson planning while using an emergent curriculum. It can, and should, be done in order to help keep everyone engaged and learning. It should also give the children the freedom to explore what truly interests them.