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Hi Mumm,

My school also like us to have topics - their view being that there are important things that we want young children to experience and we shouldn't have to wait until a child comes up with the idea e.g. mini-beasts, growing etc. So what we did was come up with 'themes' that correspond to the time of year e.g. in Spring 2 we do 'Food and Growing' in Autumn 2 we do 'Night-Night' etc. They are very open-ended themes where we can fit in a few definite things that we want children to experience around their ideas. I have been trying to use the 'Mindstretchers' approach this year - making a 'Mind-map' with the children at the beginning of the theme and using their ideas alongside ours to plan. I do like the 'Mindstretchers' approach - the book explains why topics are good for children in terms of children feeling in-control of their learning and how it is important for children to get feedback on what they have experiences in order for the learning to be embedded. I have also recently completed the Elklan Speech and Language course which also advocate topic work to support the development of vocabulary. I think it can work if you keep flexible and allow children to add their own ideas - they are still as engaged in the learning as it is their ideas. I always call it a 'theme' because I don't want it to take over everything we do - so if other interests come-up then we go with them as well.

I have never tried planning from a book each week but have heard of other settings doing it successfully. I do have 6 core-books each half-term - some theme-based and some are children's favourites (from information from parents). And we do plan weeks around books where appropriate. I think the important thing is to link what is appropriate to the topic not make links when there not really there. E.g. if you want to plan a maths focus but it doesn't naturally fit into the topic then plan something different - always keep focused on the learning and it can work!

Good Luck

Green Hippo x

Edited by green hippo
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I'm with Green Hippo on the use of 'Theme' over 'Topic' - it's much broader.

We officially have a two year rolling program that we set up at the end of last year after noticing that a lot of our themes were very similar to those in KS1 - a big 'NO NO' from an Ofsted point of view :S. So we've been following it for this year so far but we have found it a little restrictive and it has definitely become much more fluid. We also made sure we had plenty of spaces for child-chosen themes - Pirates at the moment! - so we could fit the needs and wants of our cohorts - sometimes these are the same across Nursery and Reception and other times they are different. In an ideal world I would definitely like to have much broader titles to our themes. I think we will review it for next year and see if we can't make it a bit less specific.

As for using books, we often have a book or a song or rhyme as an initial stimulus for a theme but it does depend on what the theme is and what books etc fit in with it. We tend to keep the same book/song/rhyme throughout the theme as a main source of inspiration and supplement it with other stories etc. We tried using a different book each week in the past but found we didn't have time to really get our teeth stuck into them before having to move onto the next one.

Hope you can fight your corner and reach a compromise!


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We like to be quite fluid in any of our planning. So a theme for us might start with "music" for instance, then it could lead to beat, tempo, music styles, instruments, dancing, karaoke, movement, making instruments out of recycled materials, playing them both indoors and out.

Have to say we let the children lead the initial interest and then see where we can take it.

Hope this helps.:)

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Hi mumm,


I also hate planning by topics. I find it very restrictive and also a bit boring. Themes are much broader and have a lot of range to go where the children's interests lie. I have used, growing, spring, summer, autumn and obviously winter as themes and right now we are exploring 'Fairy Tales and imagination' which has proved to be really interesting and is expanding into lots of areas. Oh and Dinosaurs which was a huge hit and could have kept going for at least half the year.


At my other center, the teachers use traditional topics and are now spending at least a month learning about farm animals. I guess whatever floats your boat?



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