At a meeting last month with other school-age specialists from around the state, we were discussing curriculum and its use within child care programs—school-age classrooms specifically. Another specialist said something that stopped me in my tracks. He said, “Life can be a lesson plan.” Wow, what a simple notion, yet it has so many possibilities for learning opportunities! Now, don’t take him literally; I don’t expect to walk into your classroom, look on your lesson plan sheet and just see ‘Life’ written on every line. But, life experiences can provide a wealth of activity options, and the best part is that the concepts will be familiar and relevant to the children.
Life can be a lesson plan in many different classrooms. When my colleague made that statement, I was reminded of a time recently when I was in the grocery store and the customer in front of me had a toddler with her. The toddler helped the customer put the groceries on the conveyor belt, handling boxes of crackers, packets of cheese and bags of baby carrots. When all the items were successfully taken from the cart, the child looked at the customer and said, “All done!” My early-education brain immediately thought of all the skills the child was demonstrating, as well as ways that they could be reinforced in a toddler classroom, such as having empty food boxes in the dramatic play area, demonstrating the concepts of all/none with different items or picking things up using one hand or two.
In an infant classroom, you can include aspects of the babies’ lives by placing photographs of the children’s families where they can see the photos, identifying the family members in the pictures for them or creating sensory bottles with new or familiar objects like fake flowers, birdseed, foil, dice, water/oil, (remember to always, always, always glue the top on). In a preschool classroom, you can incorporate everyday life by encouraging the children to picture-read through a book, celebrating their cultural differences or constructing a discovery board with various household devices like latches, knockers, locks, spigots and switches. In a school-age classroom, life practices can be used by sending letters or e-mails to pen pals, utilizing extension activities in connection with field trips or creating a currency to represent the classroom that they can earn or spend.
You can find the expectations for each age group’s knowledge and skills in the new Early Learning and Development Standards for birth through Kindergarten entry, and Ohio’s New Learning Standards for school-agers. They can help give you a basis for activity ideas to do with the children in your care. As always, please feel free to share how you use life as a lesson plan in your own classroom.