Creating a Toddler Lesson Plan That Works
Despite what most teachers and parents believe, young toddlers are capable of learning and sitting still for more than 2 minutes at a time. The key is routine and structure. Without structure and routine your room or home will ultimately fall into chaos.
Following a structured routine will ensure that the toddlers know what to expect and how to behave each day. Breaking up the learning with movement activities will allow toddlers to sit again for learning without feeling the need to get up and move around.
For example, a toddler can sit for fifteen minutes at a time learning and reading stories, especially if that time is followed by fifteen minutes of dancing or running around outside.
Many of my co-workers think it's crazy to make my toddler class sit that long, however they can and most days they like to sit and learn. Some days are harder, so you shorten the time and get up and move a little longer, and try again later in the day. The key to a successful learning session is watching and taking cues from the children.
When I started in my classroom I could not get the children to sit for even 5 minutes, however 2 months later they will sit for fifteen sometimes twenty minutes at a time asking for more. They choose to sit because they enjoy learning and know how the day goes, because I follow a structured routine that is easy for them to follow and remember.
Below is a sample lesson plan complete with pictures of art projects and books we read in my toddler class which is primarily a class of one year olds.
Eric Carle Lesson Plan for Toddlers:
At the daycare facility I work at the themes and materials are given to you for each lesson plan. However, most of it lacks creativity and imagination so I have been bringing in my own ideas to create a lesson plan that follows the given theme, yet allows for the children to create 3D art projects that take more than 2 minutes.
For those of you who may not know who Eric Carle is, he is a children's author. He wrote the books "Brown Bear Brown Bear What Do You See", "1,2,3 To The Zoo", "The Very Hungry Caterpillar", among others. Trying to plan your day around this theme can be difficult, however I have found a foolproof way to stick to the theme and create a lesson plan that toddlers can understand and enjoy.
Toddler Lesson Plan:
Day of the week
I'm A Little Caterpillar
"The Very Hungry Caterpillar"
Coffee Filter Butterflies
Be Weather people
Act Like Butterflies
Follow the Leader
Fine Motor/Self-Help Skills
Play and Name Instruments
Find Bugs in Pom-Poms
Sing Weather Songs
Craw Through Tunnel
Walk Like An Animal
Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes
"Brown Bear Brown Bear, What Do You See"
"1,2,3, to the Zoo"
"From Head to Toe"
Marble Paint Brown Bears
Learn Senses Through Pudding Art
Act like Animals
Build with Legos
Flannel Board Stories
Flannel Board Stories
Table Top Toys
Lesson Plan Explained:
The table shows individual learning categories and the activity that we did for each learning category. The day did not necessarily run in the order shown. This particular lesson plan is harder to follow, but is the one we have to use at my facility.
You can make an easier lesson plan by writing out fifteen minute time slots and filling those out with learning activities to do with your toddlers. These time increment lesson plans work out better, because you have the ability to see how each activity will flow into the next. These types of plans also allow you to identify where transitions will be made. Noting where transitions are is crucial, as most toddlers will have a hard time with transitioning from one thing to the next until they can establish some sort of routine. For your toddlers that are having a harder time, I recommend using songs or rhymes that are easy for them to learn. These songs will help them recognize when it is time to change activities, making the transitions easier for them. You can read about easy songs for transitions and why they work here.
You can start your lesson plan at 8:00 a.m. and go until 6:00 p.m. putting down specifics for each time slot. For example thirty minutes for breakfast, fifteen minutes for art, thirty minutes outside, two hours for nap, and so on until the last child is scheduled to be picked up.
Art Projects for an Eric Carle Lesson Plan:Click thumbnail to view full-size
Early morning circle is a great way to plan learning and teaching of the alphabet, numbers, simple rhymes and songs, colors, and animals. Each morning I separate learning numbers and letters with songs and reading stories. Or looking at animal flashcards with singing simple songs.
The toddlers love it and they get to learn important things too. Allowing fifteen minutes for circle followed by fifteen minutes of dancing is a great way to start the morning in my toddler classroom. They get some learning in and are still able to dance and get the wiggles and giggles out before art projects and more fun learning.
Planning ahead is key to any classroom running smoothly. In this case, I would advise creating a lesson plan like the one above and then making sure to gather materials and other items needed for the upcoming week. For example on Friday the week before, we made sure we had egg cartons in the classroom so we wouldn't have to go searching for them the day of.
Staying organized and planned will help not only the day, but the lesson run smoothly. You have more time to spend with the children and you will spend less time running around looking for things you need to complete an art project, or trying to find that book for your daily reading.
Personal Classroom Accomplishments:
After only two months of teaching this toddler class, my children can now name and identify animals such as hippo, zebra, orangutan, and seal. When I started most of the toddlers didn't talk and would use hitting or biting as a way to get what they wanted. If you are having trouble with biters in your classroom this hub has some great insight in how you can help prevent future incidents. Today my toddlers use their words and can carry on a short and simple conversation with me and the other teacher. Many of these same children can use simple sign language such as more and please.
Toddlers can be taught, through patience and persistent teachers it is possible. All the children need is a little structure and someone who believes in them.
Questions & Answers
How can I have more control in my classroom?
Without specifically knowing what issues you are dealing with I'm not going to be able to give direct advice. I can, however, give you some guidelines, and you can compare to how you are running your classroom and make adjustments from there. These are guidelines that I use all the time when I am teaching toddler classes.
First and foremost it's important to have a positive, fair, and consistent classroom. This can be achieved in many ways, and below I will explain some of the ideas that I follow and enforce in my rooms. Children need to know the rules and what is expected of them. With young children, it's important to constantly continue to remind them of the classroom rules and what the consequences will be if they do not follow them. Along with rules the classroom design should be constructed in a way that promotes learning rather than playing. Keep clear boundaries between play areas and arrange the room in a way that prevents running by not creating large open spaces or straight long "aisle" like pathways.
When the room and rules are set it's important to look at things such as the order and daily routine of your day. Do the children know what to expect and is the material age appropriate? Making fun and engaging lesson plans is a must for children of such a young age. Children will listen and behave better when they know what is expected of them every day. It's important to keep the routine the same. However, it's also important to be flexible. Keep the order of how the day flows (for example: music/movement, calendar, art, free play, ect.), but remember that the time limits alloted to the activities can change and should to meet the needs of the children. If they are being unusually unruley shorten calendar time and lengthen the time you play out side for example. Your scheduled day should have plenty of room for moving different activities around to meet the needs of the children for that day.
If you are having trouble with group times it's important to remember that some children need to work up their ability to sit quietly. If you are finding that chaos ensues only during "quiet" activities or group times start out with short sitting times and gradually build up the time that you spend together on the floor.
Redirection is also your best friend when dealing with outburts of unwanted behavior. Something as simple as whispering during calendar time is enough to redirect the children back to the task at hand. The key is to be creative and get the children involved.
Finally, do not raise your voice and remain calm and rational. It's important to use positive reinforcement and redirection rather than punishments or timeouts when dealing with such young children. Remember that children of any age feed off your energy, so if you are stressed, angry, anxious, or uncertain (whether you think you are portraying these emotions or not), the children can sense this and it will cause them to feel anxious and stressed as well. Anxious children are more likely to act out and cause chaos.Helpful 36
What can I do to get a very shy and quiet child to participate in our tutoring class?
If the child is talkative, but unwilling to share in front of others, I find that putting them in small groups with outgoing students can really help with their communication. Sometimes it takes becoming friends and being comfortable with the people around for shy or quiet children to be able to participate in large group discussions. Having even just one outgoing friend can greatly boost the confidence of the shy child. Watch who the child communicates with, or what they are comfortable doing during different activities. Use this information to help make the child feel more involved and safe in the classroom during large group discussions.
If the shy child is not talkative, give them space. Let them become comfortable in their environment and take things slow. It can take shy or quiet children longer to become comfortable enough to share in front of the class, and I would not do anything that would cause them to feel embarrassed (for example calling on them if they don't have their hand raised). When you see outgoing behavior, reward it and encourage them to express their thoughts more often. Saying something as simple as "that is a great thought 'Tommy'" or "I really like how you raised a quiet hand 'Susan' what would you like to add?" will show the child you noticed they had something of value to contribute to the group and encourage them to continue participating.
Shy children, in my experience, usually take much longer to open up in the classroom setting, but once they feel safe, comfortable, and have a sense of belonging, their behavior changes in leaps and bounds. It will take time. Allow the child to participate and open up on their terms. Reward outgoing behavior, and you will soon see them becoming more talkative and wanting to be apart of the conversations and large group activities.Helpful 24
In about two weeks, after training I’ll be working as a lead teacher. What are some tips for someone who is just stepping up to the role as a lead teacher?
The most important thing to remember is to be consistent and have a daily routine. This means explain consequences (daily if working with young children), and act fairly. Children notice if some are being favored over others. Define roles and show that you are in charge. If the children don't know who's leading the classroom they will take over and chaos will be an everyday occurrence. It's also important to be flexible and listen to the children. For example, if you are noticing they are becoming unusually rowdy it's time to move on to the next scheduled activity. Keep calm, children can feel and read our emotions and will feed off any anxiety, frustration, anger, etc. Finally bond with them, and give them a safe and fun learning environment.Helpful 13
© 2012 Cholee Clay