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Small Group Time Versus Free Play


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What is your opinion on small group time/key person group time in a pre-school setting (2 and 3 year olds)?

I am aware that there are a lot of settings that ensure that their adult initiated focus activities are organised in such a way that the key person delivers/plays/supports the activity with their group of children, calling them over to take part.

In contrast to this, the setting where I work usually includes the focus activity as part of free play. This has always worked well, where the children choose to take part in an activity in whatever social groupings they feel comfortable in. Quite often aspects of the activity can be taken to the individual and then adapted accordingly. Free play continues throughout the session, apart from a small group snack time (5 children at a time, first come, first served and we feel this provides the benefits of a small social group) and a whole group tidy up/story/songs etc at the end of the session.

 

Now, I would value your opinions on the benefits or otherwise of small group time for this age range (2 and 3). I can see the benefits to the practitioner (observing all the children in the activity), but I am unconvinced of the benefits to the child (apart from building upon the key person relationship) and how this fits into the EYFS philosophy. Please let me know what you think, so that I can take a more objective view :o .

 

Thanks

Jenimouse

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In contrast to this, the setting where I work usually includes the focus activity as part of free play. This has always worked well, where the children choose to take part in an activity in whatever social groupings they feel comfortable in. Quite often aspects of the activity can be taken to the individual and then adapted accordingly. Free play continues throughout the session, apart from a small group snack time (5 children at a time, first come, first served and we feel this provides the benefits of a small social group) and a whole group tidy up/story/songs etc at the end of the session.

 

Well this sounds great! I wouldn't call a child over to an activity, if I wanted a specific or specific children to contribute and take part I would try to provide an activity that follows their own interests with additions to try to encourage my own learning outcome. My last setting was a prep school and very regimented, but prior to that we had group/circle time and a rolling snack. The group time was regular and always the same children (ironed out over the first few weeks) this allowed the children to experience a group/social setting and allowed us to input key vocabulary and observe interactions closely. It also help key workers bond with their key children.

 

I feel I am rambling!! I have been out of settings since April when I 'escaped' the prep school and am awaiting the opening of my new nursery. I may be out of touch and may have managed to 'talk' without answering your question!!

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Hiya

We do simialar to you in the mornings there is focus activity going on and children may or may not come to it! The only small group time we do with our little ones (2-3 yrs) takes part in a room adjacent to the main playroom withe the doors wide open and they choose wether to take part. This tends to happen in the last hour. This may be dancing, drama, music or circle time.

We are lucky however as at the mo we only have our 3 to 4 yr olds staying all day and so we are able to do more group work then.

in my expereince free play works much better for our little ones as the tears tended to come in the settling in times when they were asked to come sit in a group. They have rolling snack 4 or 5 at a time and then all tidy at the end and sit for book time and then singing or story any tears are soon resolved becuase it is nearly home time anyhow.

Andrea :o

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Jenmouse we seem to do much the same as you.

We couldn't really do key-group activities anyway (not that I think I'd want to with 2-3 yr olds) as all out children do different sessions and key-persons do not all work full time.

We are quite relaxed and most of our children are encouraged to participate in focused activities at their own level. We are often surprised at the concentration levels of some of our 2 year olds. I feel if they were 'age separated' they could miss out on valuable learning experience that they can freely chose.

 

I suppose it depends in the type of setting you are too. We're a preschool one hall, age 2-5, hours 9-3 - but non of our younger ones stay all day (yet!!).

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Hi,

 

We do group time at about 9.30 for roughly 20 minutes. We break into our 3 groups with each key person and work in three different rooms or areas including the garden. We rotate this over 3 days so there is a chance for everyone to take part in 3 focus activities a week. We don't force them to do the activity but do encourage them to stay in that 'zone' for the 20 minutes.

We have found huge benefits to this rather than running a focus activity during free play

 

All children are busy in their groups so are not distracted by someone else on the train track etc. Previously we struggled to get certain boys to a focus activity as they always wanted to be playing their superhero game etc. We found they were getting a really narrow pre-school experience and not visiting all of the six areas. We have also found children who never choose to go outside and their parents express concern about it.

Also found as key workers you sometimes didn't see your key children for days if they chose to work in different areas of the pre-school to where you were based.

 

Our new system solves all these problems. We get quality time observing and building relationships with our new children. Everybody gets a 'taster' of different zones and activities and then often choose to stick with them or revisit them later . We are free to 'play' with the children in any activities of their choosing in any 'zone' for the remaining 2 hours.

 

We are all really enjoying this new way of working.

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Hi Edlee, I really like the way you seem to me working, what sort of setting are you?

 

We break into our 3 groups with each key person and work in three different rooms or areas including the garden.

how are these groups formed? keyworker, age, ability?

 

 

We are all really enjoying this new way of working.

That to me says it's gotta be right for you! :o

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Hi Jenimouse - this is my first but one post, so apologies if its a bit of a waffle.

 

The way you work sounds very similar to the way we do, each of our key persons brings in or organises an idea or activity based on an interest one or more of their key children have shown. That doesn't mean the child in question always joins in, but that's the way of children!

We don't necessarily have an 'adult-led' focus every day and we always have the opportunity to carry popular activities on through the week if we want to. We are in a cricket pavilion with one playroom and a separate kitchen area so have to organise ourselves to ensure we don't all set up activities on the same day.

 

I am really interested in how you manage a rolling snack. At the moment we stop everyone and then divide into two groups. One group has snack while the other have a short circle time. How do you make sure everyone eats something?

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Hello and thanks for your replies. We are based in a large church hall (mornings only, 3 hour session, pack-away setting), so all activities are carried out in the same big room.

 

I am really interested in how you manage a rolling snack. At the moment we stop everyone and then divide into two groups. One group has snack while the other have a short circle time. How do you make sure everyone eats something?

 

We clear away one table or space and set this up as the snack table. One member of staff sits down at the table with a trolley next to them with all the goodies on. 5 children at a time can sit and have their snack. Whilst this is going on, free play continues in the room for the other children and staff. Children are given the choice to either sit and wait for their turn for snack or to continue playing. Sometimes we have a number of hungry ones sitting and waiting (usually a staff member will support this) or sometimes they are just too busy playing. Staff make sure that everyone has a chance for their snack (it is rare that a child doesn't want any). This flexible approach means that the quick snackers can clear their plate/cup/knife away and get back to their play as soon as they are finished. Our free play starts from the moment the child enters the room up to the last 20 minutes when we do a big tidy up and then sit for stories/songs.

 

Jenimouse

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Hi

We work in a very similar way, we have our rolling snack as you do and with 36 children it seems to take all morning!

We are just trialling key person groups as I felt we didn't know our key children well enough.

We are giving each group a soft toy to look after and take home too, to try and encourage talking about home.

Our free play is on going and we have ben trying to do focused activities at the same time but things do go off at tangents all of the time. :o

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we dont do group activities but each key person works individually with their child and works with thier interests. If it happens to be superhero then we would plan with it rather than not (they do grow out of it) All 6 learning areas come into any area or theme including superhero so why make them go 'round ' the 6 areas of learning? or am i misssing some thing?

 

we have rolling snack bar and it works really well, run it for about 45 mins and if the children dont want to come then they dont, children help prepare snacks in morning and get the table ready with plates, knives, cups etc

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