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Small Group Time


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We have a large preschool room with over 50 children on the register. In spring this number generally rises to about 80. Some children are full day care, some come only mornings, some afternoons, others children attend for sessions of three hours at a time. Some do just one half day a week, some are with us from 7.30am until 6pm every day, others come for various amounts of time between these two extremes.

 

There are six regular staff members (who all work variable shift patterns) and the children are divided into key groups between these staff. The prime responsibility of the key person is to collate information and observations into learning journeys for these children. In the past Key persons have also had two ten minute sessions a day with their key children, plus any other children whose key person is not present at the time (these usually being in groups of 8 as that is the ratio of staff to children). We used these small group times to do full observations of our children and to plan for their next steps and interests. During the day we all do “catch as you can” observations of all the children in the room and pass these observations onto relevant key person.

 

We have a new room leader who feels that this system is too complicated, particularly as with all the comings and goings of staff and children, it is never possible to have a small group of just your own children.

 

We have a room plan each week with a focus activity every day which all the children are encouraged to participate in, but as there are so many children on the register it is impossible for these to genuinely reflect the interests and next steps for all the children in the room. The goals for these activities are very broad and aimed to cover all six learning areas.

 

I cannot see how we can plan for children's next steps and deliver personalised learning for our children without having small group time within each session. I have had very little experience of delivering learning in a children's Centre however and I would be very grateful to learn how other Centres cope with this, given the number of enforced transitions due to children and staff coming and going.

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Hi, Saturnpa,

 

We are in a very similar setting as you I think. We are open 7.45am - 6.00pm with children attending at all times throughout the day. We have a general morning and afternoon session and then other children doing various other times througout the day, as well as a kids club for breakfast and afterschool.

 

We have changed our routine for this year and have introduced a small circle time first thing in the morning and afternoon. The children are welcomed and have some time to settle and then we gather the children to small groups for register and circle/letters and sounds time. We have four members of staff lead the registers in their groups and then follow straight into the circle time or letters and sounds activity as planned. The four groups are key person groups and in some cases are two or three key person groups put together (part time staff) , in this way the children have their key person when they are in or otherwise the same substitute key person (hope that makes sense!!!) We are finding this works well and as we are gathering the children for register it makes sense to do the group activity too. We find by doing the group work at these times (9.15 ish and 12.30 ish) we include every child at some point through the week.

 

For observations and next steps we observe snapshots throughout the day as you do and also have timetabled observation sessions for each key person to observe their own key children for a longer period. The information gathered is then used to plan the next steps and cross referenced to the EYFS for learning diaries, the observations and next steps are then used to inform the planning for the next week.

 

I hope I have explained this ok and its maybe of some help, we find this works well for us though it can take a while for the staff and children to get into the routine.

 

Sue :-)

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Chasrosam,

You say that you spilt into 4 groups does this happen all at the same time?

And do you have mixed ages in these groups?

If so are you all in the same room?

We tried this a few times but being in the same room we found it too noisy and distracting!

 

Sorry for so many questions!

 

 

 

 

Hi Thumperrabbit, yes we split into the groups at the same time so 4 members of staff are needed, we are a pre-school room so all children are 3 or 4 years old. We have two linked rooms for our setting and the groups each have an area in one of the rooms (so two groups are in each room but are seperated as far as is possible.) We did find that some staff members were quite loud at the register time but have managed to arrange a quiet voice and calm activities agreement !!! We only have the children in the groups for a few minutes to complete a register, then often do a quick letters and sounds game or circle time. We have found that doing it this way all the children are settled and the circle time/letters and sounds activity is then completed for this session and means we dont have to try and gather our key groups together later as well as manage the 101 other things we nursery staff do !!!

 

We have up to 40 children a session and this seems to work well for us, I think keeping the time short is the key and we have found that the children really enjoy these sessions and havent been too distracted by other groups - we wouldnt worry too much if a child wanted to join another group or didnt want to join in, these things come in time :-)

 

I hope I have explained this ok - please ask away if I havent answered your questions

 

Sue

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