The overriding message from Jennie Lindon is that we should be planning flexibly for children's learning rather than following plans that have been created some considerable time in advance with little reference to the specific children we are planning for.
The author advocates a reflective approach and invites us to ask ourselves the questions, "Why plan?" and "What next?" Long term planning is examined: "Long term planning can never be about the details of what individual children will do in the future. So concern about children's communication skills should not simply trigger a list of extra activities or purchases of resources, without thorough discussion about what has really been missing from the children's experiences to date."
Various approaches to medium and short term planning are presented, with lots of examples from settings that the author has worked with. It is clear that there is no single effective planning system, and that settings must make opportunities to discuss the best methods for their children and staff.
Of huge importance is the statement "Planning is not all about activities; it is just as much about time and timings, resources accessible within the learning environment and best use of adults".
Chapter 2 develops the idea of planning through the learning environment and looks at creating an emotionally safe environment for children, the daily routines, continuous play provision, and enhancing provision. Planning pretend play is criticised: "It is not good early years practice for the adults to change a role play area exclusively on the basis of their own plans. Children should not come in on Monday morning to find that practitioners have demolished the pretend garage and replace it with a vet's surgery, because the adults want to start a topic on 'people who help us'." Food for thought for many of us!
The third and final chapter considers the processes involved in leading a thoughtful approach to planning. We are invitied to consider a suitable balance between adult-led, adult-initiated and child-initiated play experiences and the dangers attached to a lesson plan approach; one which determines the learning that we expect children to achieve during a particular activity: "No matter how well you know young children, you cannot predict exactly what they will learn even from the most well-informed plan for an adult-initiated activity". The dangers involved in this approach are concerned with practitioner anxiety when the children are "manifestly keen to learn in directions other than what was written on the activity planning sheet"!
An excellent analysis of topic-based planning, lesson planning, observation-led planning and the distinction between "planning for learning" and "planning of learning" ensure that the reader will reflect on his/her current practice and try to build with their team an understanding of the purpose of planning within their setting and the best methods of carrying it out.
A book packed with examples from various types of setting. Frequent sections entitled "Point for reflection" and "Links with your practice" really encourage you to evaluate your own observation and planning system and will motivate you to make some changes that will improve your provision.