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Topics. V. Spontaneous Planning


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Hi all,

 

Some great ideas in the "Colours" Topic post but also some important questions regarding the best planning formats. How can spontaneous learning be planned for in a "Topic" based curriculum?

 

This, I think is worth discussion, and I am sure has been discussed before.

 

I have this quote ( which I am sure I got from this site) from Lesley Abbott and Ann Langston - 2005 Birth to three matters - open university press.

(which I have glued to the front of my planning book)

 

 

" We would argue that planning for young children should be flexible - should flow with the child and may often be written retrospectively to describe and reflect on how what was planned followed a particular 'avenue of exploration' since the purpose of planning for babies and young children is not the demonstration of a particular practitioner's skill at crystal ball gazing. Rather, it is an endeavour to project into how any child might be expected to engage with materials, activities and experiences through the involvement of a skilful and sensitive adult"

 

I agree with this quote and was pleased to see my vision for planning endorsed by these respected authors. I have underlined parts that are particularly of interest to me;

 

written retrospectively - most of the learning the children do in my setting comes from non-planned, self directed play and is recorded as such on my planning sheets.

 

might be expected - this I think is really important to remember for planned activities because it takes the onus off the child to learn what we have planned ( which can cause pressure on the child and teacher). And therefore enable us the time and vision to recognise, record and value the spontaneous learning that happens all around us.

 

skilful and sensitive adult- It is this skill that we all have which is frustrated if we are concentrating on an adult imposed learning goal. I think we flourish better as educators if we have flexible opportunities to use our true skill of sensitive and skilful interaction with all the children who learn different skills and knowledge, at different times, in different ways, at different levels.

 

By using "labels" (topic headings) are we not stereotyping the learning and therefore ignoring this diversity?

 

Peggy

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Round of applause (clap hands in a circle)...Seal of approval (clap back of hands together and make seal 'barking' noises)

 

Couldn't agree more!!

 

I have been out on a Quality Assurance visit this morning and we were discussing Care and Education of the children and the way learning was 'presented' to them. The manager said that she had a mix of age and experience in her staff and most had fully embraced the 'children learn by playing and doing' philosophy. They had been in the garden and had chosen to take paints and paper into the outdoor area and pin the paper on the fence and paint their representations of the minibeasts they had seen. Admittedly, the worm was the only one that had any resemblance, but the staff were able to observe, take photographs and record what learning the children had been involved in and could easily identify next steps for certain children.

 

On the other hand, a different member of staff from the 'old school' of thought had cut out 16 beautifully shaped spiders and the children had stuck on black tissue paper, fastened elastic through the head, stuck on two white eyes with black dots in the middle and sang 'Incy Wincy Spider'

 

Which parents do you think were happier? (My guess is those that received spiders at the end of the day)

Which children gained the most out of the activity? (My money is on those painting in the garden)

What would you rather do and what would inspire you to learn more? (exceptions made for mini-beast-phobes!)

 

I know how I learn best...

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I have to say i agree... but it is really hard not to plan under headings especially in school- we have to hand planning in to the head.

 

Yes I do adapt and change my planning to represent the interests of the children in the class and we do not stick to our planning ridgidly- but it is had with pressures of what paperwork should be in place.... I wonder how we get around that one.

 

L

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Well, Lorna et al,

 

My gut feeling is we carry on with what we know is right and argue the case. Yes, I know we often work under constraints - I'm in a DN, pressure from directors to 'succeed' and from parents to boost their child's natural abilities :(:o - but we're also the ones who have been trained to work with these children. We also need and have a duty to preserve their childhood, which in our world is so fast being eroded, and how better than their own play.

 

That said, we plan to topics/themes in the Nursery, still! :(

 

I am still battling on this one. I'll let you know when I get my P45 xD

 

Sue :(

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I agree with this quote and was pleased to see my vision for planning endorsed by these respected authors. 

Peggy

35891[/snapback]

They've probably been lurking here and picking your brains Peggy!

 

Can you tell us how you set about planning for a half term, perhaps taking us through the process?

 

I know everyone plans differently, even if we do plan around similar topics. I'd be really interested in the mechanics of how you plan when you don't have a central topic to work around.

 

Thanks!

Maz

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We don't plan with topics at all, although the children's interests may lead to a mini type of topic. We plan on a daily basis and evaluate each session individually and as a team. This took me a while to get used to and some parents want to know why we don't sit down and teach writing and phonics etc, but hey it's only a small minority and I reply that we do if and when the children are ready for it.

 

We also plan for individual children from thei PIP where we look at their strengths and interests to plan their next steps in learning.

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Guest LucyQ

I quite agree. As I said in the previous "colours" post, I don't plan around topics but rather on a day to day basis. I know that sounds vague and I'm waiting for Ofsted to moan at me but I'm going to stick my ground on this one.

 

How many times have you been on a planning meeting, looking for ideas on say the topic "Transport". Getting bogged down by the drudgery of getting some activity or other to cover the ELG's - what a waste of time. Its taken me a while to get there and its come from observing the children at play.

 

I also went on a Schemas conference in June which was inspirational and made so much sense to me. A couple of speakers from Pen Green were there and they also fully backed this idea of retrospective planning ie documenting what "pieces of magic" you have seen and plan resources around it for individual children. It was like a breath of fresh air!!

 

 

So now instead of planning around a theme/topic I plan to cover maybe one or two activities a week around the seasons/local events/festivals and then use my valuable time to observe and think about resources that will give the children new child-initiated experiences. Also, time to think about the room layout, routines etc (I think these things need changing for new groups of children and the group needs). And very importantly, talk to my team about the children and all of the above.

 

I do believe we have listened too much to ofsted. Its time we said "well actually, I think my way is better". I don't care if I get a grilling over planning or maths or literacy, my children and their parents are happy. They don't even read the Ofsted report!!!

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Maz - in response to your query about planning, the way that it is utilised in my local authority nurseries is through a process of continuous provision or learning zones. Each zone is based around a common area such as mark making, construction, maths, creative etc and planning for outcomes is displayed on the wall so that all practitioners and parents can easily identify the learning that is intended in that area. (Wasn't there a post with some planning on continuous provision??)

 

This provision can then be 'enhanced' by practitioners if they wish to focus on a specific outcome or if children display an interest in something i.e. dinosaurs, they can be introduced into the sand, small world in the construction, books in the book corner, posters in the creative or mark making area, small world in the maths area for counting and sorting etc.

 

That way an enhancement can last one day or four weeks and as long as the children are still using the objects and learning new things - why change?

 

You will be able to build up resource boxes that contain like-minded objects and then add to them when on shopping trips or when blagging from local sources (!) and the children will love to find new things in their environment.

 

So, to sum up, you plan for each area rather than a topic and have additional resources on hand when the children show an interest (it can't be achieved overnight, but you will notice the difference - promise!)

 

Is this how other people do it? :o

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Guest LucyQ

That sounds very familiar to me runningbunny. Its the areas/resourses that are important and the freedom to use them when they want to.

 

Good observations and I don't necessarily mean formal written ones that can enhance these activities. We should always be observing the children, trying to work out what/why they are doing - that way we can plan for different resources. I don't know much about schemas but you do need to observe the children alot to understand what schema/schemas they are into.

 

I also think that we need to provide resources almost like a treasure box that 0-3 year olds might get ie very open ended bits and bobs and encourage the children to experiment. I think its a great idea to have a box of "treasure" which you can put out somedays.

 

I suppose the idea of not having a topic makes it more homely, less planned and more relaxed for everyone.

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Good observations and I don't necessarily mean formal written ones that can enhance these activities. We should always be observing the children, trying to work out what/why they are doing - that way we can plan for different resources. I don't know much about schemas but you do need to observe the children alot to understand what schema/schemas they are into.

 

Thank you!!

 

I have been advocating the 'not necessarily formal written' aspect of obs, to a complete brick wall. Obviously, I'm not going to throw that type over the wall, but 'on the job' are just as valid - they point the way forward!!

 

Sue

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We have "Zones" or areas of learning as I think most settings do. We provide everything possible within these "areas" to enable a wide selection for the childrens "independent" choice.

 

ie: Creative art area has Table, easel, floor covering = children can choose at which level to enjoy their "work".

Equipment is self-selected from a set of (picture) labelled draws and art trolley. These house glue ( PVA & Scola cell), paints, brushes, material ( box of lge pieces, draw of smaller cut up pieces), scissors, paper, printers, mixing plates, rollers, sponges, straws, bits of card, buttons, string, cellotape, pens, crayons, chalk, feathers, mosaic pieces, cotton wool, etc ( all in individual tubs (clear tops), aprons, etc etc etc.

 

Music Area ( also links with ICT)- Tape recorder, CD player, draws with assorted tapes (colour coded/draws and tapes) red=story tapes ( some with books), blue=nursery rhymes, green=dance. blank tapes (for children to record themselves)CD's, sound tapes with photo's.

A trolley nearby houses musical instruments, I have attached a shoe pocket hanger ( clear) in which there is a photo of the instrument that fits in the pocket). Inside the trolley are larger instruments such as drums.

 

These are provided daily ( so they actually take time to explore and use instruments and not just bang them aimlessly because the box only comes out once a month)

 

We used to plan by topic and found as others have said that they become quite uninspiring and repetetive.

 

We produced a long term plan last year which indicated which of the six area's of the curriculum and which aspects we will focus on in any given week/fortnight, this helps to ensure all areas and aspects of the FSC are covered over a period of a year. We then plan activities for each play area with this particular focus in mind- This shows that, for example Maths can be experienced in all areas of the setting. This also enables children to explore a concept in different contexts within the setting, thus meeting different learning styles and interests. Continuous provision is provided simultaneously.

However, With this method we found that the "aspects" we were focusing on sometimes became the "Topic" ie: Maths- Aspect 3- became a topic on Shape, space and measure.

 

So, as Lorna has said, it is difficult if "Heads", "Ofsted Inspectors" want to see planning. Our demise is the "writing" of a Curriculum (the FSC) this has put expectations on us all (and the children) to meet what is "written".

When we actually look at it, it is what we were trained to do, and did before the FSC was even published, as Sue R quite rightly says...." but we're also the ones who have been trained to work with these children. We also need and have a duty to preserve their childhood, which in our world is so fast being eroded, and how better than their own play."

 

Go on, hands up all of you who remember the PPA - Learning through Play series of cards which we placed in areas of the playgroup to show what learning was taking place. Well we continue to re-invent the wheel and in the process lose confidence in what we do because we have to "prove" it by meeting the "written word" of the FSC.

 

I do believe that we should be accountable (to the children) but the methods required of us are not conducive to how children learn. By writing the FSC we have been sent backwards because it has focused our attentions ( and by "our" I mean the people who judge us - including ourselves) on compartmentalised-adult led ( how else can we ensure the children cover all the stepping stones) teaching.

 

When I do my end of year Records of Achievement, on reflection, it is very clear that all the children have a particular style of learning and a particular area of the setting which they choose to learn in the most.

Johnny loves the Art and messy play, Ana spends all her time in role play, Joanna chooses the writing area most days, Ben is very active and never sits still, he loves climbing, running and riding bikes...............These are not choices for just a few days they are consistent ways the children enjoy their play and therefore learning. Just like adults, some of us are sporty/active people and some quiet, reflective thinkers.

 

So, through observation, ( for childrens learning styles and interests) we should take the learning to the children, within the context of thier interests and present them in a way to meet the childrens individual learning style, we are experienced practitioners and can bring any aspect of the curriculum to any type of chosen play. If we record this then we can show that all the children are learning all aspects of the curriculum.

 

I agree with running bunny about planning- The important thing though is to know inside out all the learning potential of

resources/games/activities/routines etc and to know inside out the individual childrens CURRENT learning style/need/interest/next step.

 

If more time was spent on developing these skills and less time on planning that no one is inclined to follow or feels frustrated because the time spent on planning is then felt to be wasted because the children don't respond and take their learning elsewhere.

 

Just as an example- How much learning potential from Playdough? From making it, the different varieties, the senses, the areas in the setting it can travel to, etc, etc......

 

To help my less experienced staff I decided to make A5 cards to have on the playdough table which stated an aim, a learning objective and an extension - my EYAT thought this was a good idea - until I told her that the extent of the task was too big, there are 1001 + ways to use and learn from dough. I did end up doing 10 basic ones which are now laminated and filed in an A5 folder to put out - but this makes it too adult led and doesn't enable the children to do what they want with the dough- still it is there for the staff and parents to look at. It will also be useful to show a head teacher ( if I had one) and the Ofsted Inspectors.

 

All I can advise is have confidence in your knowledge and tell people to trust that you know what the learning potential is of any activity, even when not planned, because children will decide in the end....Discuss each childs learning style and interests with other staff, and then record all the learning RETROSPECTIVELY.

 

Peggy

 

p.s. We are thinking about using books and stories next term to "inspire" childrens interests, but I don't want to turn these into topics.

 

ps I also agree about the comments on observations - they are only worth doing if they are objective, useable, and easily show what you need to know- and then used to inform practice. Methods should match the observers style and the knowledge required.

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Guest LucyQ

Well done Peggy!! Some people are so good at getting a point across in writing - very consise - thanks.

 

I do agree on all points but its interesting to read that you feel we have lost confidence. I think you are right on this one too.

 

For me, there is simply too much information out there - mags, books, websites, courses, forums. It goes on and on........... It can make you feel a failure "why didn't I think of that" syndrome!!!

 

No sooner have I got an idea in my head than another one comes along and another one and another one and my head is in a spin.

 

I'm seriously thinking about not going on anymore courses, websites and forums next term and instead concentrate on my pre-school and my/staff's ideas. And maybe once in a while pick up the FSC quide.

 

Love the musical instrument idea - ours are in a box in the shed and doesn't come out often enough - why didn't I think of that!!

 

Peggy - do you work from your own building or do you have to set up every day? We have to set everything up every day and it can make it harder to ensure that you have enough resources out. I remember when I started there really wasn't enough out to keep the children occupied - they wondered why some children were poorly behaved!!!

 

It does mean you have to work harder - by the time you've set everything up (again) you're already exhausted!!

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Hi Smiley,

I have used the analogy of feeling too giddy and wanting to get of the forever spinning roundabout :(

 

but please, not visiting the forum for a whole term :( I can't manage a whole day :wacko:

 

I rent a scout hall, have very limited storage space and have to put everything away every day ( apart from thurs :D ).

 

When I opened 4 yrs ago I purchased a lot of storage draws, trolleys, tables etc all on wheels :D:D:D

 

It takes 3 staff 30 min per day to get everything out and 45 min at the end of the day to put it all back. We soon devised a system of storage that has speeded the process, but it still costs me £150 per week in man hours just to set up and clear away. :o

 

We were thinking recently about not putting so much stuff out but it is actually easier, because to leave stuff in the cupboard means moving it off units and then moving it out the way again at put away time ( if you see what I mean xD ).

 

Looking on the positive side it helps to stop items getting hid away in cupboards and forgotten, the children have a wide range of resources which promotes independent choice and the actual skill of making a choice/decision. We also have some attic space for seasonal resources.

 

Our children are aged 2-5yrs. We have an outside area (which we have to fence each time we use it with a roll out plastic fencing). This we set up with any or all items from inside provision, sometimes on a larger scale and always much messier :D:( .

 

Peggy

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Oh, boy... for what I understand then other people might use the hall after your closing hours. Right? Uff... not easy the beginning and the end of the school day. My hats down to you!

 

Only one of my furnitures has wheels. I asked for all of them to have, but it seems to be expensive. They are all hand made at our school since it is a lot more expensive to buy them.

 

I am having an eye on the resources that the children are really using and disposing of those that have no purpose in our class. Slowly I am trying to get more child-friendly resources. I don't have all the resources available to the children because we don't have much space, so I keep the most frecuently used and I rotate some that are for special occasions. It becomes like a surprise and they get very excited and happy about it :D . I love to see their faces!

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Yes, shared hall except on Thursdays. I got most of my furniture second hand from a school that closed. The idea of rotating resources is used in most settings, I think, and some of our games and jigsaws are rotated, often linked to season ( ie: snowman jigsaw in December).

 

It is this type of planning - good resourcing - and rotation, and adult interaction that to me is more important than attaining certain adult composed learning goals.

 

Children don't learn 1-5 and then 5-10 or A through to Z for that matter. They learn numbers or letters which are significant to them. Just by giving them access to numbers we can observe which ones are significant, it could be the number nine (because on Monday Mum painted the front door and the child has just noticed it) but we teach 1-5 because our planning say's so, thus missing the learning opportunity the child has shown interest in. This example also shows the importance of good daily relationships with parents who can be more inclined to notice their childs current interests.

 

 

Peggy

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We also rotate the resources based on the events, topics or seasonal times. They love the variation :D ! Well, most cases. I remember having a child who was only focused on the "Thunderbirds". It is okay that it was his favourite subject, like we all have, but it was like a fixation he had and this limited his opening to the world, to other children as well because he only wanted to talk about that or pretend playing with the resources only about that and this made it difficult in his relationship with other children.

 

That is why I believe that, although it is nice to let the children play/work in their favourite areas, they also need to open themselves to learn to discover the enjoyment they can find also in other areas. I have a leader each week in my class and I let her/him choose first where s/he wants to play, but then I ask them to rotate around the other areas as well so everyone gets to have a chance to play/work in that area too. It helps them to understand the need of sharing, of not thinking only of themselves.

 

About the numbers and letters. Sure! One has to take advantage of where the children are coming from, the knowledge they had and the one they are adquiring outside school. It would be illogical to not help them reinforce those learning experiences. At the same time, it is important for them to learn to e.g. count reliably and in order, and that we can do through the learning experiences initiated by themselves or stimulated by what we might provide as a 'springboard' or 'trampoline'. If I explain myself well :o .

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yep, it is that proverbial balance between child centrered and adult led.

 

I just always try to look at things from a childs point of view. :o I think I am still a child at heart and just don't want to grow up or conform xD

 

 

Peggy

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I have to say i agree... but it is really hard not to plan under headings especially in school- we have to hand planning in to the head.

 

Yes I do adapt and change my planning to represent the interests of the children in the class and we do not stick to our planning ridgidly- but it is had with pressures of what paperwork should be in place.... I wonder how we get around that one.

 

L

35904[/snapback]

 

I totally agree with Lorna. I'm in a Foundation stage unit and would love to plan on a daily basis, but it is not possible with the school wanting to see some planning. The management team are fairly flexible in most things we do, however, they do like us to have planning to show what we are doing and where the KS1 teachers can build from.

I have continuous objectives/outcomes written on shaped pictures for each area. These provide a good visual aid for TA's, visitors, parents etc to use as a stimulus for ideas, resources that the children could use and also sample questions that they could ask to stimulate ideas. For example, the reading area objectives are on a book shape and the outdoor area is on a tree etc. We always plan what to have in the sand and water with the children. They choose if they would like to change what we have out. On the creative tables we often plan to put out a certain activity, however, if the children would like to do something different they can, because we have two creative tables.

I feel that we have a fairly good balance of adult-led, adult planned- child independent work and child initiated activities in our FSU both indoor and out.

Although, it can become a bit of a pain writing out the MTP sheets, I feel that it gives me a good basis to work from and for the children to develop ideas further or at their own chosen angle.

 

Boogie :o

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Dear Peggy,

As always Peggy I love reading your posts and I agree with everything that has been said. I too think that whilst I do plan I don't necessarily take too much notice of it and it really is only for others to ensure that we know what we are doing. I think the QCA Guidance has been very beneficial - I often look through it and think "have I covered this particular area" and serves as a reminder to me to think about all the ways in which children learn.

 

I would be interested to hear about your storage solution. We have a set of cupboards which run along all one side of the hall - these house 36 transparent boxes which we lift in and out and rotate. We also have a large cupboard off the main hall which houses our climbing frame, our playhouse, paints etc with another load of shelving and more plastic boxes. We were looking at replacing the shelving with those wheeled units with storage units in as well that we can just wheel in and leave out for the children's free access. What type of storage do you use, who did you get it from. I've been scouring the suppliers and they all look good but very expensive and I don't want to make a mistake and order something which may not be quite right. Any pointers and help would be gratefully received. What works and what doesn't would be really useful.

Nikki

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Thanks nikki,

 

When I get a moment, in a few days, I will post some pictures of my setting. The furniture I have are normally expensive but I was very, very fortunate to buy a job lot from a school who was refurbishing and getting rid of a lot of furniture very cheap. A matter of being in the right place at the right time :D

 

I am currently up to my eye balls in homework for my Fostering assessment. It's like doing a whole NVQ unit, very interesting and thought provoking, working on case studies, but then I have to link my comments to different competencies as evidence of my understanding. :o

 

I am also trying to prepare the house, sorting cupboards etc...yesterday was spent deciding which of my back issues of Nursery World to throw out, going back to 1997 xD . I couldn't just throw them all out and was compelled to look through each one for ideas, posters etc, then I decided to tear the front cover off every single issue ( a child is portrayed on each one) because I want to cut out the faces of all the children and make a collage for display in the preschool.

 

As you can see, I am very good at hoarding things "that may become useful" in the future. :( , are well, back to it....

 

 

Peggy

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