Knowing how to develop a curriculum for preschool aged children that covers all the developmental needs of your children can be challenging. Preschool years are essential to a child’s social, emotional and cognitive development, and a high-quality preschool curriculum can be of extreme benefit to long-term academic success. In addition to basic mathematical, reading and science skills, preschoolers need lessons in social skills and fine and gross motor skills. Often, teachers wonder how to develop a curriculum to cover all these various needs. Follow these steps in accordance with your state and center standards to create a curriculum which brings success to your classroom year after year.
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Step 1: Understanding Preschool Development
Read updated research on the abilities of the preschool student. A three or four year old child can handle a pair of scissors, manipulate a pencil or crayon using a pincer grasp and pull the top off a marker. The child is also able to run without falling, jump with both feet off the floor, skip, twirl and walk a balance beam. The child is beginning to understand letter organization and may recognize small three letter words. The child can trace images and connect the dots. The child is able to use imaginary play and is beginning to understand the difference between reality and imagination.
Step 2: Curriculum Standards
Become familiar with preschool standards to understand what the children need to know. Each state issues their own preschool standards, however, there is little difference between them. These standards can be found online, search for your state’s Department of Education. Some achievement goals, such as mathematics, are easier to teach in smaller units throughout the year. For example, instead of saying by the end of the year children should be able to recite numbers up to twenty, aim to have children recite numbers up to ten by December, by April up to twenty with help and then without help by the end of the year.
If you look at these standards, you will see that they are divided into different learning areas. Again, even though standards may differ from state to state, strive to include the following areas into your curriculum: Language, Mathematics, Science, Social Studies, Personal, Social & Emotional Development, Physical Development, Creative Development, and Technology. Some parts of these learning areas you will want to address in specific lessons; others will be part of the daily routine, free play and cross-curricular activities. See “Preschool Schedules for 4-Year Olds” for some tips on how to arrange your day so that all learning areas can be included.
Step 3: Structuring Your Curriculum
The easiest, and by far most popular way to structure your curriculum is by dividing it into thematic units. Themes are a good way to unite the different areas of learning: if your theme is “Animals”, children can practice their language skills by talking about what animal would make a good pet, count plastic animals to practice their Math skills or express themselves creatively by making animals out of modeling clay.
The length of each unit will depend on your theme. Some teachers prefer longer units that can be divided into sub-themes, such as a 3-week unit on “Transportation” divided into land, sea and air transportation. Calculate how many weeks you have, decide on themes and how long each one will take. If you notice that one theme goes particularly well (or doesn’t), you can still make changes later on in the year, but it is a good idea to have a general overview over what is going to be covered.
Chosen themes will depend on the children’s age and interests. Some classic preschool themes include:
- All About Me
- Community Helpers
- Solar System
Anything is possible when it is age-appropriate. Check out a preschool lesson plan for more ideas on thematic units.
Step 4: Activities
Once you have created a yearly plan with the preschool standards appropriate for your children’s age group and have an overview of the themes you would like to cover, you are ready to plan your activities. Activities should cover all learning areas, even activities designed to give the children a break from mainstream learning. Plan a variety of hands-on activities as well as tabletop activities and have fun creating your preschool curriculum!
Step 5: Adjustments for Learning Spectrums
Adjust activities and lesson plans for accelerated or developmentally lacking students. If a student seems to be bored with an activity because she understands and has practiced the concept to perfection, offer her an activity which carries the current concept a step further. For example, if the classroom is learning to cut on a straight line and the student has mastered this concept, give her a circle to cut. On the other end of the intelligence spectrum, allow children who are developmentally behind their peers extra time to complete a task. Work with the child during free time, using toys and play to reinforce the concept. Each child is individual, so embrace their individuality and discover the best way for each child to learn.
Creativity Is Key
Developing a preschool curriculum is more fun when the teacher adds creativity to the project. The children will be eager to come to class every day when the activities remain fresh and fun. The creativity and flexibility of the teacher is important to keep the classroom flowing smoothly between lesson plans and weekly lessons. By knowing how to develop of preschool curriculum, you can highlight what the children need to learn, and then discover new ways to teach and produce the same results.
Information in this article is based on the author’s experience.