Monday, September 9, 2013

Montessori Planning

One of my favorite parts of teaching was lesson planning. I know, I'm a weirdo. But there's just something so nice about having a plan, even if you know it won't all work out the way you expect!

I always used a paper lesson plan book. I never found an online system that worked for me - I liked to be able to carry my lesson plan book with me to meetings, and be able to look at it and update it while finding activities or updating other documents on my computer.

When I stared putting together unit plans for M, I created an Excel spreadsheet so I could put links for activities right onto the document. Just like when I was teaching, it just didn't work for me. I didn't like flipping back and forth between the spreadsheet and the websites I was looking at... it just wasn't quite right. I wanted a paper version.

I was really excited when I found the Comprehensive Unit Planner from Dynamic Homeschool Plus. I love the concept map she has for brainstorming ideas to go with the unit theme! However, it didn't fit my needs exactly, so after trying it out for a week, I figured out what wasn't quite right, and created my own planning sheets that matched exactly what I wanted.


Monthly Planning Page

 Monthly Calendar Pages

 Weekly Planning Pages by Subject

Here's how I use them 

Print the sheets

I didn't want to plan too far into the future (I plan the units based on M's interests, and interests change), so I started with 11 themes that will take us through Christmas. I printed the sheets double-sided so I can see two pages at once. The first spread has the brainstorming sheet from the Comprehensive Unit Planner on the left and "Weekly Set-up and Trays" sheet on the right. The next spread has the "Weekly Calendar" on the left and the "Weekly Schedule" on the right. The first spread is more broad planning, and the second spread is more specific planning. You could type directly onto the sheets and then print, but I prefer to print blank copies and fill them in with pencil so I can easily change them.

Choose the themes

I chose the themes by thinking about M's interests, as well as any major holidays or events during the time period I'm planning for. I chose Bones, Fairy Tales / Princesses, Transportation, Gardening and Farms, Nutrition and Cooking, Halloween, Construction, Birds, Family, Thanksgiving, and Christmas.

Put the themes in an order that makes sense

I printed a monthly calendar and added the themes. I started with anything that corresponded with a holiday - Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas. I added the Fairy Tale/Princess theme the week of M's birthday to get her excited for her princess-themed party, the Transportation Unit the week we were flying up to NJ to visit family, and the Construction Unit the week that the cranes are scheduled at my husband's job site. Finally, I added the rest of the units in an order that seemed to make sense: Gardening and Farms leads to Cooking and Nutrition. A week about Family before Thanksgiving, etc.


I like to come up with some of my own ideas before searching online. For each unit, I used the concept mapping sheet to jot down any ideas I already had, keeping in mind books and materials we have on hand. I created a Pinterest Board for each of the themes so I could easily pin ideas as I saw them.

Choose the best ideas

This is the hardest part!! I have a tendency to go overboard, and Pinterest certainly doesn't help with that! I specifically created my planning sheet with a limited number of spaces for trays to limit the number of ideas I try each week. I choose my favorite theme-specific idea for each Montessori subject (practical life, sensorial, etc.), then pick another generic activity for that subject - either something I already have or something really easy to prepare. I have one "extra" space if I really can't narrow down the ideas and want to try one more!

Make the Set-up list

It may seem funny that I complete the bottom of the page before the top of the page, but I like having my "shopping list" and "to-do list" at the top for easy reference. I go through each of the activities I have chosen and figure out what I need to purchase, print or make for each activity. When my list is completely done, I transfer the shopping list to the Out of Milk app on my phone to take to the store.

Plan the Week

The second spread is pretty quick and easy for me. I fill in the Weekly Calendar with any playdates or events we already have scheduled (a quick look on Meetup and Facebook Events). If we don't have much going on, I'll check Upstate Parent for any upcoming events. I plan our "school" time around the other weekly events, so if I find something cool to do in the morning, we'll plan to do our Montessori activities in the afternoon, or vice versa.

The last sheet helps me make sure I have hit all of the main areas during the week. On Mondays I introduce a Language activity, Sensorial on Tuesday, Practical Life on Wednesday, Math on Thursday, and Art on Friday. Most of the trays are out for the whole week, but I will choose one activity to "feature" that day (although that doesn't necessarily mean that M will actually choose to do that activity). I also try to plan at least a couple of themed snacks.

During the 1st Circle Time we look at the calendar and pull items from the "Mystery Bag." I rotate the items in the bag so there is something new every day, usually related to the "featured" activity for that day to get her excited about that activity.

The 2nd Circle Time is either reading or music. I have started making felt board objects to go along with the stories we are reading (this was one of her favorite activities when she was in daycare), and I get a couple of CDs from the library each week to change up the music we listen to.

I have completely planned two units using these sheets, and have done at least a little brainstorming for each of the other units. So far it seems to be working well for me! I hope this is useful for some other people too!

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