The first step in curriculum planning is selecting a theme.

This can be the same overall theme that would be used in curriculum planning for preschool children, but with the opportunity for more in depth investigation. If the general theme interests you, the teacher, and includes things that you would like to learn, it is very likely that it will be easy to capture the school age child’s imagination with it. To engage the younger children at the same time, simply focus in on a surface aspect of the theme. If there is nothing new for the teacher to discover in the research of the theme, it is probably too simple to be of interest for the older learner.

After selecting the theme, the next step in your curriculum planning is to create and work from a chart or grid that indicates each of the learning center options across the top and the days of the week down the side. Plan two activities per day in each learning center; morning and afternoon. In addition to the regular learning centers, include two game sections; one for a “featured” board or table game and the other for a large group, gross motor or active outdoor game that supports the theme.

The next step in curriculum planning is to get some basic information. For that the best place to go is the children’s section of the local library. It is better to save the internet search until later, when there is a better understanding of the topic and what aspects of the theme need to be enhanced. This stage is a lot like brainstorming: no idea is a bad one and everything is possible. Look up everything available on the topic, unnecessary data can be weeded out later. Some things will be too technical and boring but can still provide at least a tidbit or two that can be used, perhaps in a word-search of vocabulary words based on the topic. Another reason to start at the library is that there are many older or outdated books showing crafts and games that no one uses anymore. In the case of the older games, adapting the title or wording will make the game fresh and fit the theme better. Some of my best ideas have come from these resources. Through research, some ideas will pop out that definitely need to be included “as is”. In this case, pencil them in on the graph but be sure to write out the directions or list the name of the book and the page number in the notes for directions on how to do the project or game. A few days later, it will be impossible to remember what was meant by the cute, cryptic title that was used to describe the activity.

Good ideas may also come from lesson plan idea books at a local teacher supply store, but most of these are designed for classroom work, and the majority of the games and activities are designed as seat work for children to work on independently. There is really nothing inherently wrong with that, except that is what the children have been doing all day or all school year, and what they need now is more experiential or hands–on experimentation and manipulation of the ideas being presented.

Based on your library research you should now have a few activities that will become the foundation or back-bone of the lesson plan. These may be art, science, or language activities that are key to understanding the topic. Once these “core activities” have been selected, go to the internet to look up specific types of projects to complete the list of at least ten activities per category. The children may repeat an activity more than once, but, in the event that one idea flops, there are nine more to fall back on in the same area.

Even with adequate curriculum planning and research, at some point there will be an idea that is a total flop. For whatever reason, whether the children just don’t get interested or the weather doesn’t cooperate (like the spring break with four feet of snow or the winter break with 75 degree temperatures) you will have to change plans quickly and need to be prepared for it. If you have a few backup ideas in reserve, you can weather just about anything. Another plan to fall back on is based on the project approach to lesson planning. Find one topic that all (or at least most of) the children are interested in and have them help to create ideas on how to put it into play. Essentially, the children are developing their own lesson plan, with the teacher to guide them, ask questions, and provide research materials for them to create their projects. Begin by asking about something they have always wondered about, or if they could learn how to do anything in the world, what would it be? When the theme is selected, go back to the planning mode – research and brainstorming ideas for games and activities. One word of caution: if this process is used too frequently, some of the children may begin to feel taken advantage of and think that they are now doing your job, especially the older children who are becoming critical of inconsistencies in adult behavior. As much as they push against authority, they still want to be able to count on it to be there consistently.

When you are looking for resources for your curriculum planning, Disney’s Family Fun Magazine has many great ideas for crafts and games that can be adapted to fit most themes.

Once you have finished fleshing out the rest of the activities chart, the final step in your curriculum planning is to create your materials list and gather all of the materials, including any decorations needed to implement your theme.

Go to After School Programs from Curriculum Planning

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