Backwards Planning – How to Start the Year with the End in Mind

When I talk about starting with the end in mind, I’m not talking about those days where you begin to fantasized about the last day of school, giving all the little darlings a soft pat on the head as you seek refuge at the nearest source of sand and surf.  What I mean is starting your planning by thinking about where you want to end up.  This backwards planning helps to keep you focused and purposeful, rather than just flitting around from one “cute” activity to the next.

First, you may want to take a look at a developmental checklist, and determine a few developmental goals that you’d like to focus on.  (If you’ve already gone over this measure with parents, you may want to look at the skills they have starred.)  Determine what level your children are at, and what kind of experiences they may benefit from.  Being familiar with the skills you want your children to be developing will make you more likely to find ways to properly prepare you room and offer the necessary experiences in order to foster that development.  You will also be able to recognize those skills as they emerge.

Next, you want to think about what your enduring idea for the year might be.  What do you want them to understand deeply by the time the year is over?  Do you want them to focus on inquiry as a method of learning?  Do you want them to observe change all around them?  Maybe you want to spend the whole year exploring how we are all different and we are all the same.  Think of a broad learning goal that can serve as an umbrella over each theme you explore.  Throughout the year as you address a different themed unit, you should be able to come back to this single concept in multiple ways.  This unifying idea keeps your units cohesive and also gives the children the opportunity to really internalize the enduring idea because they have been exposed to it in so many different ways.

Now that you have an enduring idea, map out your yearly plan, assigning a unit theme to each month or so (how ever long your unit increment may be) and jotting down a few ways that theme can be connected to your enduring idea.

Congratulations!  You’ve just completed your first segment of backwards planning!  Now you need to do essentially the same thing with each unit.  Start your unit planning by writing out your theme, followed by how it connects to the enduring idea.  Next, write out a few objectives for that specific theme.  I usually list vocabulary words that pertain as well. You may want to note some skills from the checklist that you want to really focus on through that unit also.   Here’s an example:

Enduring Idea:  Change is all around.

Unit Theme:  Changes in the Fall

Concepts/Objectives  (In other words, Why do you want to do this unit?  How will the children benefit?):  Observing changes in temperature, dress, and plants.  (Enduring Idea Application)  Observing the effect of wind, Exploring uses and parts of plants harvested in the fall (apples, pumpkins), Observing and exploring the changes in trees, particularly the colored leaves in both a scientific way and also using them creatively.

Vocabulary:  Fall, Autumn, Seasons, Words to describe temperature (brisk, crisp, cool), Words to describe wind (breezy, blustery), etc.

Developmental Goals: Emphasize the scientific process as we explore pumpkins at the sensory table.  Explore ABC patterns with colored leaves.

This is just a quick example.  You may want to spend more time, or write in more or less complete sentences.  You could probably come up with many more developmental goals to observe as you flesh out your activities as well.  This may be something you want to type and save, or just scribble on a notepad.  Either way, it’s really the thought process that counts.  Once you become really conscious of why you are doing a unit, you are better able to plan pertinent activities and also take advantage of incidental learning moments as well.  So start with the end in mind as you plan so that you can have the best possible start to your year!

For more back to school ideas, click here.

Photos provided by Shi Yali and lucyhumek , respectively.



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