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Ditching Topics


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Hi all!

 

Have been teaching 'topics' since sept (under pressure) and have found it hard to bend the topic to fit my children's needs.

 

Last week the children were horrendous with each other and managed to break a construction box whilst fighting over it. It was then that I decided to forget the topics (to hell with the National Curriculumists) and concentrate on PSED relationships, behaviour, self control, self esteem etc. I wouldn't be able to do this through my topic (animals) as it doesnt' lend itself to these areas.

 

The result is that the children are much more settled and happy as we're spending quality time on what they need, instead of rushing through it to do some topic work on types of animals.

 

I will still do 'mini' topics as suggested and inspired by the children. Am having a PSED week when I go back, with the focus on health, fitness and looking after ourselves. Got visitors coming in (oral hygienists, police, veggie gang, yoga instructor etc (it is similar to People who help us) Is this ok?

 

Am worried now. I know I am covering the EYFS ELGs and addressing the Every Child outcomes. But not sure! What do others think. Have others done the same? Would be grateful for your opinions! Hope you are enjoying the half term!!!!!!!!!

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Hi all!

 

Have been teaching 'topics' since sept (under pressure) and have found it hard to bend the topic to fit my children's needs.

 

Last week the children were horrendous with each other and managed to break a construction box whilst fighting over it. It was then that I decided to forget the topics (to hell with the National Curriculumists) and concentrate on PSED relationships, behaviour, self control, self esteem etc. I wouldn't be able to do this through my topic (animals) as it doesnt' lend itself to these areas.

 

The result is that the children are much more settled and happy as we're spending quality time on what they need, instead of rushing through it to do some topic work on types of animals.

 

I will still do 'mini' topics as suggested and inspired by the children. Am having a PSED week when I go back, with the focus on health, fitness and looking after ourselves. Got visitors coming in (oral hygienists, police, veggie gang, yoga instructor etc (it is similar to People who help us) Is this ok?

 

Am worried now. I know I am covering the EYFS ELGs and addressing the Every Child outcomes. But not sure! What do others think. Have others done the same? Would be grateful for your opinions! Hope you are enjoying the half term!!!!!!!!!

Hi Moo

I think you have done absolutely the right thing. After all, you are covering what you need and following the children. The result is evidence that you are right as their behaviour demonstrates.

 

Lesley

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Hi Moo

just to let you know as a foundation leader(made it this year) I have made our school ditch topics. We have an overall theme to kick start and then just take it from the children's interests etc. Much more fun we have found although sometimes we have to buy our own resources(bill the school later when budgets are given!) Head has difficulty coming to terms with it but will get used to it!

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What a great read. I too am considering ditching the 'topic focus' in my planning. I can already hear my supervisors sharp intake of breath. But I am planning co-ordinator, so if it all goes horribly wrong, it will all land on my head!!! Looking forward to June when I introduce new style planning for EYFS.

 

PS If you hear a blood curdling scream in the Essex area around June it will be my staff!!!

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Well done moo! The new EYFS makes it really clear that we need to plan like this if anyone needs ammunition!

 

fancy full it is good to know that schools are prepared to do this also!

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Moo - I think it's the way to go - fitting the curriculum to the child not the child to the curriculum.

 

I think setting's might still need to have mini topics slotted in to the year to cover things like Christmas, Easter, Diwali, pancake day etc.

 

Good luck.

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Completely agree topics take ages to plan and then the children would much rather do something else!!!!!!!!!

 

We do plan around seasons/festivals but mostly based on individuals interests far more fun for everyone. It also allows you to seize the moment for example we had the community police officer in the other day (due to vandalism) and we could then talk to the children about how they help us etc.

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Guest Wolfie

Well, I'm still undecided about the way forward - I ditched rigid topics in our 2-5s room last September - I said to the staff that it wasn't set in stone, I just wanted to see what happened and where the planning took us when we weren't tied to topics. I still feel as though the staff are floundering - they know and understand all the theory behind using the observations of children's development, progress and interests but have really struggles to put that theory into any kind of practice that has a structure that they all crave and seem to need in order to motivate them. I feel as though I've taken away one of their pleasures!

 

One of the biggest obstacles has been lack of opportunities to get the team of staff together to discuss and decide uopn planning on a daily/weekly basiss - it just doesn't happen effectively! I can have discussions with individual members of staff, either whilst they're on theri break or a snatched 5 minutes in the room, but getting more that one of them together is very difficult.

 

I'm now wondering whether to back track lightly and introduce very loose themes - not ones where you have to make all those tenuous links that others have talked about, but ones that we KNOW will interest and appeal to the children - and then encourage and support the staff to watch the children's interests in relation to that and follow that.

 

I almost feel a failure in not being able to implement the motivational planning that so many of you HAVE been able to do but the more I ponder on it and talk to other people, the more I think you really have to balance the needs, skills and experience of the staff with those of the children to some extent, or you end up with a demotivated team and an organisational mess!! And having the staff in that state is obviosuly detrimental to the children because it affects the environment that the staff create and their interaction with the children.

 

Hope that all makes sense - it's been very therapeutic to write it all down you know! :o

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Totally understand where you are coming from Wolfie! When I said it was the way to go, that doesn't mean we have achieved it - far from it. Staff seem to want structure. We are also trying loose topics

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taken me a year to get staff to understand and come round to the no topic/mini topics. Our EYFS training helped as they gave us an observation sheet which just has the headings of Date and childs name, what were they doing, and further resources or plans.

 

Each day some observations are added to the page , and it is surprising how a pattern can emerge which staff develop into plans very easily. we dont target specific children but what they are doing, unless we feel the need to target a child.

As an example

In our case we noticed a child doing hairdressing , so the plans said add more resources for this area, and staff took note and went with the mini topic until it was 'out of favour' and by this time animals and pets had emerged in several of the notes so they went with the flow and planned for this very quickly adding resources as they felt they were needed. This can change weekly, but usually lasts 2 before the children have moved on. We add teh planned festivals and any areas we feel need devloping to give a rounded curriculum to the plans as needed.

 

Meantime there were also areas where other mini plans were going on , several children used a blanket as a parachute, so we gave them it and watched..

And Biccys learning wall idea now hold all the info for parents to see along with pictures and notes on what we have done.. Thank you biccy helped it all become much clearer for them. we ahve ours on a movable notice board as we put away every day!! But we did consider buying one of those card noticeboards/dividers if need be.

 

ok we are still developing this but the staff have at last seen teh light and willing to go with the flow more planning a week or two in advance depending on what we have noted.

 

 

Inge

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In my setting, two nursery classes in a primary school, we use a topic as a background to our termly planning. To be honest in my own class we do not stick to this plan and plan daily reflecting the children's interests and any festivals there are.

An example of this was when a child's cat had kittens which found homes with families within the class. We talked about caring for pets, had a vets and pet shop, made books about pets, had a photo board to show how the cats were growing etc.

We also made a train from crates, broom sticks and magic wands with a small group of children 'mad' on Harry Potter.

Our topic was transport and the other class planned activities around a type of transport for each week, which they kept to.

It is difficult when we all plan together each week as in our class we know we will not stick to most of the planning. I'm not sure what the answer is. At the moment both classes agree to be different but it did bug me when I knew all the children in the other class had been made to make a box model car each.

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I'm now wondering whether to back track lightly and introduce very loose themes - not ones where you have to make all those tenuous links that others have talked about, but ones that we KNOW will interest and appeal to the children - and then encourage and support the staff to watch the children's interests in relation to that and follow that.

 

I almost feel a failure in not being able to implement the motivational planning that so many of you HAVE been able to do but the more I ponder on it and talk to other people, the more I think you really have to balance the needs, skills and experience of the staff with those of the children to some extent, or you end up with a demotivated team and an organisational mess!! And having the staff in that state is obviosuly detrimental to the children because it affects the environment that the staff create and their interaction with the children.

 

Hope that all makes sense - it's been very therapeutic to write it all down you know! xD

 

Hi Wolfie!

Well, as one of the instigators here, you may be interested to hear how things are with us at the moment. We have also backtracked a bit and re-introduced very loose themes as the children we have now are in no way ready for the kind of practice we were using. And that's the crux of it, isn't it? Adapting to suit the needs of your children. So, don't feel down, be proud that you are able to 'read' your children well!

 

Your next cohort may be entirely different, as ours have been :o

 

Sue

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I almost feel a failure in not being able to implement the motivational planning that so many of you HAVE been able to do but the more I ponder on it and talk to other people, the more I think you really have to balance the needs, skills and experience of the staff with those of the children to some extent, or you end up with a demotivated team and an organisational mess!!

 

Hope that all makes sense - it's been very therapeutic to write it all down you know! :o

 

Wolfie, please don't feel a failure on this one, one of they keys to managing a team successfully in whatever way you do, is to work with what you've got and at a level your staff are at. If your staff are not ready for this approach yet, then you do nothing for their self esteem by ploughing on regardless. Sometimes you have to work on a 'small steps principle' frustrating as it can be sometimes, but knowing that you are heading in a particular direction long term, but that for some people (just like for some children) it may take longer or be more difficult to get there. This in fact is not a failure, but a success, that of knowing where your staff are and what is realistic for them to achieve.

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Can I also ask. As someone who has got rid of rigid topics I also feel unhappy with my planning. I have my continuous provision planning and on my planning sheet I say what direction we aim to take with each of the areas in order to accommodate the childrens interests. I do not do medium term planning any more just long term and weekly. I have tried the planning sheet from the EYFS sheet but find in our small pre-school that is very difficult to find different activities for each activity for each day of the week.

 

I will be going through the childrens development records to see what the next steps should be and then making plans for each of the adult initiated activities which we provide (1 a day)which is where I can really hit the areas of learning. However this seems to loose. How does everybody else do it?

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Guest Wolfie

Thanks for the vote of confidence Sue and Mundia - I have to say though, my decisions regarding the planning system at the moment Sue are based on the needs of the staff as much as the children! :o

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Ah, Wolfie, but you are showing how you are planning next steps for the provision as well!! :o

 

Shelley, I really wouldn't wory about things being 'too loose' - as long as you and your team are aware of and including children's next steps, then things don't need to be too structured - EYFS is all about play and child initiated stuff, so enjoy and go with the flow.

 

Sue

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I've been following this with much interest.

 

In the rest of my school they are returning to 'topic' style planning, focusing on key skills, so as to get away from QCA units. My planning was used as an example of how this could be done.

 

Along side this is the need to personalise the curriculumn. This , I think is where I am at the moment. Using mini-topics as the back bone and then adapting and developing as we go to include and extend the children's needs and interests.

 

I think the most important thing to remember is the need to be flexible, to be able to 'read' your children and staff is vital, as already said.

 

Now, I'm off to save this thread in my favourites, as Steve explained how to do in another thread. Hope it works!!

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Thanks for your input there, Annie. I think that's very likely the best way forwards for most folk, especially if changing from a rigidly topic led practice.

 

Sue

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Wolfie,

 

Could you perhaps allocate an area to each member of staff to concentrate on for a week and carry out lots of observations of the children at play there? Really get them to think about how the children are playing and what they are interested in. Then individually they could then see if they could come up with something for that area for the following week that will build upon and extend on the children's interests.

 

Are they all on the internet? I found that we worked well as a team by emailing each other constantly with concerns, ideas etc. It is something I really miss now that I am no longer working at the playgroup. :o

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In the rest of my school they are returning to 'topic' style planning, focusing on key skills, so as to get away from QCA units. My planning was used as an example of how this could be done.

 

 

I'm in a similar kind of situation and its a bit odd - as senior leadership supporting the kS1 staff to return more to 'topic' style planning in a bid to be more cross curricular with more joined up thinking rather than secondary-school-like discrete geography, DT, science etc etc - but as Foundation Stage coordinator looking to follow more directly from the children's interests. We've been having topic themes as a kind of family group across the infants, with FS and KS1 having the same topic theme, which has been nice and has created a community kind of atmosphere across the infants and is supporting FS / KS1 links. (And supporting kS1 to take some elements of good practice from foundation stage in a not completely terrifying way!) xD

 

So I've essentially been doing loose topics, taking the theme and trying to find the thread or threads of it that will most grab the children, start with that and then depart from it as their interests dictate. But its a bit of a strange balancing act between the two things I want to do in my different roles. :o

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Guest Wolfie

Thanks for that suggestion Carol - I have tried that to some extent but they are still floundering to some extent and not coming up with anything much...ALTHOUGH they did change the role play area to a baby clinic because lots of the children seemed to be having new siblings and they thought it would help them adjust...I wqas really encouraged by that!

 

As for communication, I hadnt thought about the possibilities of email and will certainly look into that idea. Communication - regular and effective - really seems to be one of the biggest issues I'm facing in moving the practice forward and it's something that I really want to develop....

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From what I see and hear in various places I'd say the key to getting your staff onboard is to make sure they really understand why they are doing it and not to feel stressed if they dont have something down on paper at the end of the day.

A lot of people still really need the paper as proof they've discovered something or that the children have done something worthwhile.

 

Remember the Kevin Costner film, Field of dreams? To misquote that...If you build it they will come! xD

 

Have faith Wolfie :o

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Could you perhaps allocate an area to each member of staff to concentrate on for a week and carry out lots of observations of the children at play there?

I have talked ad nauseum on here about our Superstar planning system - but every so often we have planned 'Observation Weeks' when we have activities that children can manage largely on their own, or with little adult support so that children can spend much more time 'on the ground' with the children making really good observations of the children as they play.

 

This generates information not only about where children are at in terms of their development, but also about how they are accessing the resources/experiences on offer. We find this puts all the other 'ad hoc' observations into perspective, and gives us a good baseline from which to start planning again in conjunction with the Superstar surveys that parents fill out.

 

Maz

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