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Planning From Children's Interests


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This is something I don't feel I've done very well this year and would really like to work on it next year but I'm a bit apprehensive about how it works (I'm the kind of person who plans everything :o ) So, I've been trying to come up some thoughts which will help me manage it.

 

One of my main concerns is that I have a mixed YR/1 class and I'm worried that if I'm following children's interests the whole time I might never get around to teaching the Y1s the things they 'need' to cover. Based on my experience of the ones I'm keeping this year their chief interests are digging and cutting paper up into very small pieces to be sprinkled all over the carpet!

 

I'm wondering, for example, about making the starting point a question/title about a Y1 type topic I think I'd be unlikely to get them to lead on to e.g. a historical famous person and then ensuring that there are some specific NC history objectives which will get covered - I can find it easier to come up with the creative activities which may link into this.

 

Can I come up with a starting question/theme and have some ideas for a few weeks just in case the children don't come up with anything themselves?

 

How long does a topic/theme last for? Or is that a 'How long is a piece of string?' question?!

 

I've just spent some time reading a thread on learning walls that was on here - really, really interesting and useful - is this part of what planning from children's interests means? I.e. they comment that tigers are a kind of cat so you plan various tiger related activities. (sorry can't remember whose example that was - Cait?)

 

Any reassurance/thoughts/comments very welcome indeed - I feel somewhat at sea on this one.

 

Sorry if this is really garbled - have been doing a lot of school related stuff today and my brain is getting frazzled!

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Yes, it was mine - the cat to tiger to shark etc wall

 

When we go back I'm going to do a week or so of "All about me" just so I can try to find some interests, or flag up some next steps to get me going. Oh - and get some things on the wall to start us off, paintings of 'things that are special to me' so could be parents, car, buzz lightyear or whatever.

 

I think when you are trying to factor in the NC it's going to be trickier than just doing the EYFS. I'm sure there are several people on here who do just that, and are far more qualified than I am to answer your question - I'm sure they'll be along soon with words of advice

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Hi, when I had Year One we always started with the children designing the role play. They chose theme, designed it, how to build it etc. Lots of speaking and listening, group work, votes and debates over best ideas, from there came the displays - all tied in and child initiated. Maths very practical sharing out resources, measuring and shape. They took photos of their progress and wrote captions to explain to other children what they were doing and why. At one stage I had two as ideas were split (a tardis and a ballet school, lots of boys in tutus!) It was a great starting point for seeing interests as well as assessing current skills and abilities.

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Hi,

 

I am sticking my head above the parapet here but ... it is not always automatically best to always follow the children's interests. If you did that, children would never receive a wide range of experiences in their schooling.

 

Take it to its logical conclusion and, as a parent, I should follow the interests my own children express. That would mean that, instead of taking them to London this weekend to go on the London Eye, to the Aquarium, to the museums, etc. I would allow them to spend the weekend playing on the computer and watching Phineas and Ferb.

 

As the adult, you have the right, indeed I would say the duty, to introduce your class to a wide range of experiences. You can do that in a way that follows their interests (i.e. incorporate the digging interest into the history, by hiding some archaeological artefacts for them to 'discover'), but that doesn't meant you can't introduce topics they wouldn't otherwise 'find'.

 

In a mixed age class this is particularly important to ensure that your oldest students receive full coverage of the curriculum. My son is in a mixed age YR/Y1/Y2 class and his teacher uses good old fashioned topics and has not somehow 'damaged' the youngest children in so doing. They get time on the 'planning boards' (basically free choice of activity) but she has to cater for the oldest and most able as well.

 

Hope that helps.

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Just to add, in our preschool we use 'mini themes' to help us bring in a range of the children's interests and also things we'd like them to learn, e.g. a theme on 'hospitals', a 'number week', a theme on 'minibeasts' and so on. These themes don't necessarily extend to every curriculum area but allow us to widen the range of experiences we offer.

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I don't think it's common sense to totally go with children's interests, but I do believe we can use these as a basis to expand them and include things they wouldn't otherwise have encountered. My children became interested in painting last term and would just have stood day after day at the easel making the same swirls all day if I'd let them go. Instead after a couple of days I talked to them about possible ideas for using paint in different ways to make pictures and I introduced them to wax resist, water colours, mixing, density/thickness, teabag splatting and pendulum painting and we went on to do tie dye. None of these ideas would have come from their own self-directed play, and as you say, if we don't encourage a type of 'mini theme' then children don't 'move on' as we'd like. Children don't know that these things are 'out there' so if we don't introduce them along the lines of their interests then they won't be able to move on. We have to widen their experiences - that's what we're there for, surely?

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I agree. There is a balance to be struck and this is where we as professionals use our judgement, bring in our interests and ideas and add into the planning, possible lines of development. Lets face it children are often fickle and chances are, if the adults are enthusiastic about the adult led stuff the children will follow. It is important to acknowledge they don't know what they don't know and that it's our role to broaden their horizons. (and life in general isn't about having our own way, so, back to striking a good balance)

 

There are also some children (and staff) who dislike autonomy and freedom and work very well under directed conditions - this is one of many reasons i suppose that our job is so very much underestimated - it's a complicated role!

 

...BUT I also feel that the children have much to offer us, their peers and themselves not only in terms of taking their learning and ideas forward but being allowed time to understand who they are as a a person in their new environment and we could find out so much about them if we allow them just a few weeks of self discovery. I think it's fascinating to watch a young child lead their own play based on a genuine passion or interest -all those brain connections that allow them to do weird and wonderful things we would never even dream of - priceless :)

 

I suppose we could reflect through our own experiences to try and understand a little bit more...thinking about those training courses we have been on that we may not really have been truly interested in. Did it inspire us, do we remember them, do we use the information??? Probably not. However, if its based on one of our interests - completely different story! On the other side of the argument EYAT's have sent us on seminars etc that we would never have put ourselves forward for and Bingo...a new passion has been triggered. (though you could argue that the EYAT put us forward because they knew our interests and capabilities and were 'adding value'.

 

I think it's back to the basic principle of knowing your children and being confident with the way you work.

 

Hope I haven't offended anyone,

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I was talking about this yesterday with the manager of a setting where I was supporting her in writing her SEF. We were talking about equality and diversity and celebrating a variety of festivals in a predominantly white area. We were discussing the need to broaden children's horizons and that exposing them to information about a variety of cultures and traditions will hopefully help to reduce prejudice and discrimination.

 

Was interested to read this thread and am happy to report that I agree with the points that have been made! :o However it is sometimes difficult to encourage staff to have confidence in their own abilities and do what they do best!

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there's a book out by Sally Featherstone called 'Making it work in Yr 1' which looks at managing Yr 1 like Early years and I believe it also looks at mixed year groups although can't be sure as I haven't used it. My daughter who is just going to start her NQT year with year 1 has been recommended it. When it arrives from that online book store I will let you know what it's like!

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This makes really interesting reading... I have been working with a school in Blackpool over the last 18 months who decided to knock the wall down between their Year One and Reception classrooms so that they could run continuous provision for all children all year and teach by stage of development rather than age.

 

It has been an interesting journey and has produced some big challenges but excellent results. We now have the value added for the second cohort to go through the 'experience' and it is the best the school has had.

 

With regard to child led learning - When you are three, four, five... you can only select from the experiences that you have had in your short life, and for some children they are very limited. But, you know what you like and what you don't!

 

If you just asked the children what they wanted to do then they would only ever select activities from their field of experience. Our job as educators is to widen that field by giving them experiences they don't even know exist so that they add them to their reportoire

 

You are far more likely to have impact on their learning if you go in from an angle of their interest rather than yours or what you have always done. That is why the 'set topic' approach can be an enhancement but shouldn't lead the learning.

 

Most effective practice I have seen/used is: Assess - now you know what they know and don't know, Ask - what are they interested in now (pick 3 or four main themes), Adult - This is the bit where you extend their experiences by adding your ideas - your PLODS, Activity - Plan your theme (2 - 3 weeks ish) based on all of that and link it to their interests.

 

I have created some great floor books that track the process of creating each theme with the children. They are great for demonstrating, to anyone who wants to look, how well you plan. The children love the engagement in the process, they are a really visual way of helping parents to understand how it all works - Oh, and they tick a BIG Ofsted box so your head/manager will love them (and you).

 

Remember to mark off your curriculum coverage as you go. Filling in any gaps is easy as one of the many joys of Foundation Stage is that you can apply most objectives to an element of any theme!

 

Once you have finished your 'mini theme' you put your curriculum coverage map in the back of each floor book so that is another box ticked!

 

Let your creative juices flow

 

Alistair

ABCDoes.com

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Hi Alistair

 

 

Have you posted any examples of your "great floor books that track the process of creating each theme with the children"? I would love to have a lookand see if I could use somehting similar with our children who are all new to English.

Thanks

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Hi Alistair

 

 

Have you posted any examples of your "great floor books that track the process of creating each theme with the children"? I would love to have a lookand see if I could use somehting similar with our children who are all new to English.

Thanks

 

Alistair - what is a floor book - sorry if I am being thick.

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What an interesting thread! I teach Nursery in a school where although the head is very accepting of the early years principles and way of working, he (and the FS team) were concerned about completely going with children's interests for exactly the reasons that others have outlined through this thread. As a team we decided to have a balance between following children's interests and introducing more adult-led learning. Although the balance of child-initiated and adult-initiated is relating to the time children should be given for these different elements, I also see it as a balance of child-initiated and adult-initiated learning e.g. that half of the time we should follow the children's interests and half of the time we should follow new or extended learning and experiences introduced from the teacher.

Also, as a parent, whose first child is about to start school Nursery, I would be disappointed to find that he had only learnt about cars, trains and Toy Story! I would expect him to be introduced to other interests and experiences outside those he would choose by himself - as I do as a parent - we take him places, talk about things, read books etc about things that he has never mentioned or seen.

Green Hippo x

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I just wanted to say thank you for everyone's responses to this. As others have said it's made for really interesting reading. It's also been reassuring - when I first read about 'planning from children's interests' my initial thoughts were that if we always did that then we could have a somewhat limited range of things to learn.

 

Having Y1s has meant that I've simply had to lead on many things during the last year and I hadn't felt that it did the reception children any harm - in fact I could honestly say that for some of the 'subjects' my reception children were the most interested and engaged.

 

I do think though that we can get an enormous amount from the children - sometimes I've underestimated what they're going to be interested in.

 

I think I will do a starting 'mini-theme' on ourselves and making friends - I have quite a mixed group joining me next year and feel that we'll need a bit of time to gel as a class. After that I'm not quite sure but I'm reassured that if I pick a theme and do a bit of deciding what we're going to learn then it'll be ok!

 

I did ask next year's children what they'd like to learn about and the most popular request was rockets/space so I'm probably going to go with that - good opportunity to use some of my favourite books! One boy is also very keen to do King Arthur!

 

Thank you again for sharing your thoughts on this - something that really stands out about this forum is the way everyone manages to give an opinion in a polite and friendly way!

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Doesn't ring any bells for me but sounds intriguing - I'm going to research!

 

My class seem to have a great ability to go off in their own direction regardless of what I do - last term the garden centre role play area had a glorious afternoon as a hospital and before that the beach/ice-cream shop became a hairdressers for a day. Completely unprompted and the innovation they showed in creating their own props put me to shame!

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- last term the garden centre role play area had a glorious afternoon as a hospital and before that the beach/ice-cream shop became a hairdressers for a day. Completely unprompted and the innovation they showed in creating their own props put me to shame!

 

Exactly! those are the moments where we all 'do' child led play but probably don't take the time to reflect and realise that is what is meant by following children's interests. What would have been sacrilege would have been to say 'no,no,no its a garden centre...take those back etc etc' and I bet some of the 'identified learning' could have been taught in this scenario as much as the original set up.

 

I think also its important to remember that it's the prolonged interests we truly follow otherwise we'd be in such a knot with all of our resources out ...all of the time!!

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Most effective practice I have seen/used is: Assess - now you know what they know and don't know, Ask - what are they interested in now (pick 3 or four main themes), Adult - This is the bit where you extend their experiences by adding your ideas - your PLODS, Activity - Plan your theme (2 - 3 weeks ish) based on all of that and link it to their interests.

Alistair

ABCDoes.com

This is similiar to how i plan and seems to be the most sucessful with my small group of sld children. They are N, YR, YR1 and 2. We follow an EYFS curriculum as developmentally they are all much lower. If I planned solely from their interests their experiences would be limited hugely and also their imagination tends to be limited. However as much as I want them to engage actively with learning I also want them to initiate some of their learning so I have to get the right balance of adult led and CI play. I need to teach them how to play, learn specific skills etc and we need structured activities. Some children would just wander aimlessly without structure.

 

Long term I plot the year covering all the festivals, seasons etc. I then plan mini themes which are usually 2+ weeks and incooperate childrens interests, skills they may need to learn, IEPs etc. However I am very flexible and only plan these on the short term. This is where my difficulty is, as I find it is quite time consuming. My other difficulty is that the children potentially could be with me for 4 years so I need plenty of variety.

 

Can I ask do others find it is time consuming?......... and if not how do you manage it?

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What would have been sacrilege would have been to say 'no,no,no its a garden centre...take those back etc etc' and I bet some of the 'identified learning' could have been taught in this scenario as much as the original set up.

 

And just in case anyone's wondering - I didn't stop anyone doing anything. :o In the hospital scenario I just stopped to enquire what was happening as one of my smallest boys was somewhat precariously balanced on the seats of two chairs - one of which had an empty compost bag over the back. He was covered with a painting apron and another child was stood with a clipboard and pencil at the foot of the 'bed'. As soon as I knew he was 'poorly' I was reassured and just left them to it.

 

With the hairdressers I went and had my hair 'done' (and photos were taken!) the only worrying thing about it was that all of them knew far more about going to the hairdressers than I did!

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Another point about the issue of following children's interests and how it relates to limiting / expanding their horizons is that often it is the case that other children's interests are actually new to the child and thus are able to expand horizons and broaden experiences as has been talked about but with the added bonus of children being extra interested in a topic that has been started by another child in a genuine, oganic and uncontrived way.

 

There is so much that is new and wonderful to children of this age that many children's interests will actualy be brand new to other children. This also allows some children to take on the role of expert and boost their confidence and allow them to develop skills as they pass their knowledge on to others. Two specific recent examples in my class were one child who abslutely loved space and knew ever such a lot about it, while most children didn't, and another little boy who loved his Grandad's bird boxes and brought some old ones in to show us as well as an empty nest. This was a brand new experience for the rest of the class -and I must admit it was new to me to see thedifference between the different nests that different birds made. The little boy who did know lots about birds and birds' nests was abe to use this conext to be more creative than he usualy chose to be as he used a variety of materials, techniques and processes to make his own nests. Both these child initiated topics brought lots of new experiences to the class.

 

Also, as well as there being so much at this age that is new to children, I think that on the other side of the coin, we sometimes underestimate just how many interests children have and often at quite a high level. It's not just the exception for children to know lots about space or birds, children might know about ballet, or dinosaurs, or card games (I had another little boy who taught us all loads of grown up card games he'd learnt with his Grandad!), or Juia Donaldson books... Children's interests are endless and it shows children that we genuiney value them when we take their interests seriously. And it's not just the case that if we follow children's interests they'll just be 'doing' cars / Finding Nemo / space / trains all year - each of these topics has lots to learn about and through it (after all, aduts are marine biologists / engineers / mechanics / choreographers etc etc), and as other children become involved, topics organically develop and mutate into others.

 

Personally, I find planning from children's interests really exciting and inspiring as it never fails to broaden my own horizons as I try to keep up with what the children know and facilitate them in learning more.

 

Sorry, one last thought... not so much in Y1 as there is more knowledge based curriculum than there is in foundation stage, but generally, topics are a context in which to learn skills. The topic itself is not as important from a teaching and learning point of view as are the skills that are developed through it.

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Alistair - what is a floor book - sorry if I am being thick.

No you are not being thick!

 

My definition of a floor book is basically a book that you make with the children - they lead the contents...and you make it on the floor because it is BIG!

 

Usually sugar paper creation - each page at least A1.

 

For a mini theme, you might take an element of the children's interests and put it in the middle of a page and then get the children to expand it with words/drawings/photographs etc

 

I take photographs of them doing it and stick them around the edge of each page.

 

At the back of the floor books I stick an record of the curriculum that has been covered during this theme and then keep them for parents etc to look at.

 

You can use them for anything and everything, they are a great record of your teaching and learning process, especially for evidencing your child intiated learning.

 

Hope this helps

 

Alistair

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I find it hard to get A1 so we use A3 drawing books

 

edit to say, well, not hard to get sugar paper, but we find it's not robust enough, even with reinforcement rings. Paper/card that's more robust tends to be a bit expensive. Children seem to be able to manipulate the large drawing books better

Edited by Cait
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There is so much that is new and wonderful to children of this age that many children's interests will actualy be brand new to other children..

 

 

Sorry, one last thought... not so much in Y1 as there is more knowledge based curriculum than there is in foundation stage, but generally, topics are a context in which to learn skills. The topic itself is not as important from a teaching and learning point of view as are the skills that are developed through it.

 

 

great points emmajess- if children have the motivation and skills to learn and seek information then the learning will follow

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