The purpose of instructional planning is associated with the recognition and assistance in the continuous improvement of the existing educational programs. The identification of learning directions and cooperation with colleagues can be noted as the elements of instructional planning. In a school system, planning is especially important for teachers. For example, they should align the common core standards, available resources, and student needs. The shortage of time and a lack of awareness lead to such challenges as the failure to align the mentioned components and support students during their learning.
Common Core State Standards Initiative (CCSI) was introduced in 2010 as the initiative that identifies the expected learning outcomes at the end of each school grade in the K-12 curriculum. English language art standards examine five key areas, such as writing, reading, language, speaking and listening, as well as media and technology. The mathematical standards focus on the principles that should guide the practice and content of this learning area. Beginning with counting and cardinality, they also prioritize numbers and operations.
A curriculum is a detailed plan that is created by a teacher for a certain period of time (a month, semester, or year) to teach students. Lessons, assessments, instructions, and activities compose the content of the curriculum. The decisions that are taken for curriculums include programs, textbooks, and equipment to use, which are made by local districts, while standards are accepted at the state level.
To begin developing lesson plans, teachers are required to set clear goals and objectives based on the needs and current skills and knowledge of students. The next step is to pay attention to the resources, time constraints, and materials that can be used during lessons. With these issues in mind, teachers refer to relevant standards to guide their planning. At the same time, it is recommended to engage students in the process of topic selection to make sure that they will be interested in learning (Ferguson, Green, & Marchel, 2013). Such an approach makes the content of education meaningful and increases the opportunity to provide high-quality lessons. For example, according to the counting and cardinality standard, the ability of kindergarten children to sort items by color reflects basic mathematical skills. To match the needs of students, a teacher can use plastic snakes to engage students in this activity.
The main purpose of common core standards is to set educational goals for children of different ages, from kindergarten to grade 8. These standards do not aim to dictate any particular teaching methods or the order of themes to be taught. Often, teachers and parents misunderstand the meaning and role of standards in educational standards (“Why should assessments”, 2020). Therefore, it is important to clarify the way they guide curriculum development. It is expected that teachers should be aware of various standards to properly select the topics and involve children in the process of learning. The use of standards can help in designing the curriculum to ensure that all the necessary points will be covered. In case the standards and curriculum are misaligned, the motivation of teachers and students can reduce since it can lead to frustration (McAfee, Leong, & Bodrova, 2016). For example, if a set of topics was learned during a month, and the assessment requires answering the questions that were not studied, it causes failure.
Student performance measurement is another area that requires the integration of standards into lesson planning. For instance, a method of checklists can be used by teachers to continuously measure student progress. As stated by Ferguson et al. (2013), “using measures such as checklists more than once over time lets you document gains in the critical elements of learning” (p. 30). Consequently, proper data documentation allows teachers to introduce necessary adjustments to plans and instructional decisions. The efficiency and simplicity of assessments and lesson plans are the key principles that guide teachers on their path.
In the curriculum process, a teacher is a person who creates a platform for students to help them in acquiring knowledge and mastering skills. In addition, the establishment of positive attitudes towards learning, relationship-building, and student choice stimulation is to be taken into account by teachers. The contextualization of the curriculum can be identified as the most important responsibility of teachers who are expected to apply it to a certain group of students.
Active learning is proposed as the approach that increases student focus and engagement in the existing learning environment. In this connection, teachers can design various activities, experiments, and simulations to deliver the curriculum. The properly designed curriculum should be appropriate for children, their parents, and educators, providing sufficient knowledge and assistance. The developmental goals should be set according to the age and experience of children, and their parents should also be involved in the process of learning.
Individualization is considered to be critical to ensure that every child receives exactly what she or he needs. As experts, teachers are expected to formulate and deliver equity-minded instruction to understand the specific needs of students. The educators can, for example, group students according to their interests to motivate them by means of offering pertinent, adjusted tasks. Piasta (2014) presents the example of differentiated instruction to teach the alphabet, pondering over such questions as the range of alphabet knowledge in the class, students’ challenges, and possible adaptations. The majority of standards involve alphabet learning, which can be used for guidance by teachers. Depending on children’s needs, they can individualize letter-name structure, visual similarity, multiple sounds, and so on (Piasta, 2014). Thus, children should be supported in the classroom, using intentional differentiated instruction to recognize student needs and overcome any barriers to effective learning.
Pre-assessment is a procedure that tests students’ knowledge before new units to identify their current academic level and understand the need for more instructions. Such evaluation allows for saving time while teaching new topics in a classroom since a teacher already knows about the necessary instructional strategies (McLachlan, Fleer, & Edwards, 2018). Pre-assessment also promotes a greater understanding of children’s interests and preferences, which can be implemented in the learning process. In other words, it contributes to applying a wide range of practices, including but not limited to sitting on the floor, playing games, and listening to music during lessons.
Post-assessment is a procedure for evaluating students’ knowledge after the completion of the unit. It can also inform a teacher’s future instructions since it shows what exactly students learned and what they failed to accomplish. Accordingly, post-assessment is useful to understand and reconsider not only students’ knowledge but also communication and learning strategies that were applied. The students who showed lower results can be reviewed with greater attention, and they may need more instructions before taking other courses. Post-assessment can be customized to the needs of the class and individual students by means of reporting cards, tests, checklists, parent-teacher conferences, and so on.
Ferguson, C. J., Green, S. K., & Marchel, C. A. (2013). Teacher-made assessments show children’s growth. Young Children, 28-37.
Piasta, S. B. (2014). Assessment-guided differentiated instruction to support alphabet knowledge. The Reading Teacher, 68(3), 202-211.
McAfee, O. D., Leong, D. J., & Bodrova, E. (2016). Assessing and guiding young children’s development and learning (6th ed.). New York, NY: Pearson.
McLachlan, C., Fleer, M., & Edwards, S. (2018). Early childhood curriculum: Planning, assessment and implementation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.