Teachers who use the Project Approach value the ways that a project emerges from the children’s engagement and their investigation activities. The fact that investigations may go in unanticipated directions is one of the aspects of project work that appeals to many educators. However, the fact that the course of project work can be unpredictable can also present challenges to a teacher’s planning process, especially when a program’s sponsors require that teachers submit detailed lesson plans in advance. The Illinois Projects in Practice Web site hopes to address that problem with this special section.
Key activities in any project can address Illinois Early Learning Benchmarks as well as broader intellectual and social-emotional goals. Such activities as making a topic web with the children, field sketching, interviewing experts, and taking surveys can all be planned in advance, even as much project work emerges from the children’s interests.
Lesson Planning Aids for the Project Approach are designed to be quick, adaptable references for teachers who wish to use the Project Approach but are required to create lesson plans ahead of time. Each lesson planning aid provides suggested step-by-step procedures for an important Project Approach activity, along with possibilities for expanding upon the initial lesson, comments about documentation for evaluation and assessment of children’s learning, and ideas for including children with special needs and those whose home language is not English. Lesson planning aids do not provide specific goals or objectives; teachers can supply those as needed, in line with what is considered a “goal” or “objective” in their programs. A chart of Illinois Early Learning Benchmarks addressed by the activities is also provided for teachers to incorporate into their lesson plans as appropriate.