5 tips on how to build an effective weekly learning plan for kids
Three years ago, when I started tutoring my daughter, I didn’t have a daily nor a weekly learning plan. I just had a toolbox of different activities to choose from depending on my kid’s mood.
After a few months, I naturally transitioned to adopting daily and weekly routines instead. Basically, a primitive version of a weekly learning plan.
I transitioned because my 3 years old daughter liked it better to always know what we were about to do. I think having a daily learning plan also helps her feel secure, in control and more engaged. Additionally, she knows in advance how much effort is required and can mentally prepare accordingly.
Another reason why I started building a weekly learning plan is because it is a practical way to consolidate all the learnings from countless hours of teaching. Things like how many activities, what type of activities, in which order, what difficulty level, where to practice and how long to practice are all embedded in my weekly learning plan.
I constantly re-model and optimize the learning plan as kids develop to keep them engaged, always learning new things effectively.
Find here 5 practical tips to build an effective weekly learning plan and an example of my 5 years old daughter current plan:
Get tips to help your kids learn effectively and playfully
1. Start with a simple learning plan
In my experience it is always good to start with a lightweight plan and then increase the number of activities as kids become trained to learn more each day.
A lightweight plan is a plan with just one or two activities per day and/or per week, maybe a completely new activity that requires more effort and an activity more familiar to the kid where he needs more practice to improve.
After a few weeks or less kids will get used to their learning plan and practice more efficiently. So, we can start adding more activities or increase the length and difficulty of the existing ones.
Each time I add a completely new activity, I pause the other activities of the day to reduce the mental load and leave a positive impression.
For example, my first learning plan had the same two activities each day, learning to read and riding a balance bike. Some days, I skipped reading and introduced some football exercises instead. A few weeks later we were doing the three activities daily. Later I also introduced algebra and climbing in a similar fashion. The more Elisa was practicing, the less time she needed to complete all the activities, leaving her more time to play with everything she wanted after.
2. Always have a plan B and plenty of extra time
Kids are unpredictable and, as much as we can plan, we need to remain flexible. I always have plan B activities in case my kids categorically refuse to do some of the activities that were planned or in case they do everything we planned super-fast and are still eager to do more.
In general, my plan B activities are of two types: one, things they are already pretty skilful at, but they haven’t practiced for a while; two, completely new things I still don’t know how to teach, and I need to observe them interacting freely to create a teaching strategy.
Sometimes, when my plans B also don’t work, I leave my kids playing freely for a while, then we move to another environment, and I try again to propose some learning activities. Having extra time is paramount so we don’t feel stressed or under pressure and have the freedom to take as many short breaks as we feel like.
For example, currently, my plan B activities are geometry basics with Lego blocks and Geomag, singing exercises, reading books in mother tongue (as we are currently focusing on foreign languages as part of our plan) and revising multiplication tables. In the past, as part of plan B, I also had: playing rhythms on pavements with drumsticks, running backward, martial arts style kicking a half-empty bottle of water hanged from a tree. What I am looking to add is sketching simple drawings.
3. Practice activities in the right order
When your kid practices multiple activities per day, pay attention to which order he/she prefers. Although each child is different, I think there are some general guidelines when it comes to finding the most effective order to plan activities for the weekly learning plan.
Ideally, I prefer to start with a fun physical activity, but keeping it to a level that is not too demanding. The idea is to boost their alertness and put them in a positive mood. Then I switch to the most physically demanding activity of the day followed by the most mentally demanding activity of the day. After, we do a break and we finish with a couple of less demanding learning activities.
Sometimes, because of external constraints, we can’t do the activities in the most favourable order, so we reduce the number of activities to compensate and take more breaks if possible. We might also practice one relaxing activity after dinner, usually reading or singing for us.
Although some activities are intrinsically more demanding than others, we can always adjust their level of difficulty. This way, some days we practice the new and most difficult aspects and other days the easier more familiar aspects.
For example, I usually pick up my kids from school with their skateboard or bike so they can enjoy the commute to their first activity while increasing their level of alertness to avoid obstacles. We continue with 45-90 minutes of the most physically demanding activity of the day, for us usually football, swimming or climbing. Then we do 30 minutes of the most mentally demanding activity of the day, for us usually reading in a foreign language or playing a musical instrument. We finish the day with a couple of less demanding activities, for us drawing, singing, algebra, geometry, or martial arts.
4. Plan activities efficiently using different formats
Logistics is a waste of time and energy, and it carries uncertainty and generate stress. Nonetheless some logistics is unavoidable, so it is up to us to minimize it trying to setup activities efficiently, so that you don’t need to be on time, commuting, nor to carry material, clothes, food, water, etc… very often.
I categorize kids’ activities in 5 formats, from the most logistically challenging to the least: Group activities, activities needing facilities and a private teacher, activities needing facilities but I can teach my-self, activities we can do at home but need a private teacher, activities I can teach my-self anywhere.
The key to plan activities efficiently is to avoid engaging in logistically intense formats as much as possible unless the benefits far outweigh the drawdowns. When planning, I limit the number of logistically intense activities, I place them first and then I fill the gaps with less logistically intensive activities.
Group activity format: I don’t plan more than a handful of group activities and never more than 2 on the same day. Logistically speaking these are the most stressful activities because kids must be on time, at a specific location, carry the right equipment and mentally and physically ready. Usually, I reserve this format for team sports and group activities with highly talented teachers. For my daughter currently these are: football, gymnastics, ballet, and parkour.
Private teacher at facility: This format leaves a bit more flexibility than group activities as we can always reschedule a particular session or adapt its content depending on the specific mood of the kids that day. But, both teacher and facility need to be available. Usually, the logistics of this format can be simplified by acquiring the material needed at home, by self-teaching or by doing both. In fact, for my daughter, I decided to teach my-self climbing, swimming and piano where we need to access facilities far from home.
Self-teaching at facility: Depending on facilities opening hours and distance from home this format convenience can vary. Commuting with kids is challenging and a total waste of time so I always look for facilities close by or to acquire the equipment myself. This format is limited by parents’ expertise, their ability to teach kids and the type of parent / children relationship. Even Roger Federer’s mother, a tennis coach her-self, couldn’t coach his young son and was forced to abandon the idea.
Private teacher at home: Overall this is one of the most efficient formats. There are some minor drawdowns we must pay attention to, not related to logistics: 1. home is a counterproductive environment for most kids because too familiar and full of many distractions; 2. Practicing in groups always motivates kids, on the contrary practicing alone is less motivating and kids can’t easily benchmark themselves with their peers; 3. Private teachers might be pricy and might not dispose of methods for kids.
Self-teaching anywhere: logistically speaking this is the most efficient format. I mostly use it to fill time between activities or at the end of the day. I don’t mind skipping these activities or shuffling them depending on my kids’ particular mood. Currently I am teaching my kids many different activities but just because they are still young and they are total beginners, activities like: math, reading, music, skateboarding, cycling, martial arts and football.
5. Keep fine-tuning the weekly learning plan
Kids learn fast so their learning plan needs constant tuning to keep up with their rapid changes. It is not just about adding new activities but also about reducing or removing some others and maybe bring them back again later. It is also about experimenting to find the best time, order, format, environment, and exercises to maximize enjoyment.
Afterall, change itself, if not abused, helps keeping kids enthusiastic, curious, and engaged!
For example, learning to read and football have been my daughter main activities from 3 to 4 but now she practices quickly almost daily and with little effort. Same when she first started reading in a foreign language, a big mental load at first but after a few weeks she could practice effortlessly so she reads at night before going to bed.
Example of 5 years old weekly learning plan
Here is the current weekly learning plan of my 5 years old daughter, Elisa. It looks like a busy schedule but days flow smoothly. It evolved massively from when she was 2 and it only had two activities: learning the alphabet and riding her balance bike.
Get tips to help your kids learn effectively and playfully
Every day, after I pick up my kids from school, I try to teach them all sorts of skills and subjects. Over the years I became fascinated by the way kids learn, very different from adults, and frustrated struggling to find teaching methods specific for young kids (2-10 years). So, I have decided to build a practical framework to teach kids anything effectively and playfully.