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A spark......


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I tended to use a book and go from there.. using what the children could already know first and extending it..

 

so for space would be something like Whatever Next? discussing it.. and getting suggestions from the children on what they would want to do etc... usually got all interested and involved..

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humm i'm not sure it would be my preferred method! I have lots of children with communication difficulties unless it was visual they just wouldn't get where i'm coming from which would mean that all themes and ideas would be coming from a small group of children.....bit of a turn off for the others i think!

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I wouldn't want to ask any questions that I couldn't answer! :blink: How does the moon stay in the sky? :blink: No idea - sure I could find out but would children in this age group understand or relate to the answer........

We have a copy of 'On the Moon' Anna Milbourne and Benji Davis published by Usborne - it's full of simple but interesting facts :1b

Gathering together a bag of 'items' that you reveal slowly can be fun and interesting and lead to all sorts of conversations and ideas, often ideas you hadn't even considered yourself :1b

Right I'm off now to find out how the moon stays in the sky ;):D

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Thank you for your replies. Finleysmaid now all my questions can be answered.

 

I rather liked the simple answers ...appeals to my brain capacity!

 

Can I ask what sort of themes you all do?

Whatever the children are in to! ....can't tell you from one day to the next, some things are momentary whereas pirates have gone on since September!

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We have stopped doing weekly 'themes' since February half term. Although, they were following children's interests they just weren't working for us.

We now have a blank sheet up on the planning board each week with each child's name on and we use this to note any key interests throughout the week, sometimes we follow them immediately e.g. making something others we follow the next day etc.

We then use this sheet to plan for the following week based on the interests. So this week, for example, we have got a role play car wash, for the boys into cars, baby care area for the little one with a new baby sister, digging for dinosaur bones for the few interested in dinosaurs and an enchanted garden small world play for our girls obsessed with princesses!

We are finding it so much easier to plan this way! :1b

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in order to help sunnyday with her mission to avoid her sef ,,,,i found this (googling is so much more fun than doing my sef!)

 

http://www.moonzoo.org/FAQ_MoonFacts

Oh cool! I knew it would be some sort of gravitational force - but who would want to explain that to 3 and 4 yr olds :blink:

I like the idea that I would weigh 6 x less on the moon - yay!

SEF avoidance - easy today have had my dear old mum up for dinner - just taken her home - far too late now to start thinking about my SEF :ph34r: :rolleyes: xD and tomorrow my excuse will be.......

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Thank you for your replies. Finleysmaid now all my questions can be answered.

 

I rather liked the simple answers ...appeals to my brain capacity!

 

 

Can I ask what sort of themes you all do?

Whatever the children are in to! ....can't tell you from one day to the next, some things are momentary whereas pirates have gone on since September!

 

Do you feel you have exhausted pirates? Have you used their pirate fascination to broaden their skills and knowledge in their individual next steps? This is what I love about this way of planning, it may start off as a role play pirates and dressing up etc, but you can keep their fascination with the subject going with interventions of their next steps.

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Thank you for your replies. Finleysmaid now all my questions can be answered.

Can I ask what sort of themes you all do?

skippy - we don't really plan any themes we just sort of roll with whatever the children are into........that said - a 'theme' can develop and run for ages - aided and abetted by us extending their interests - so we have been looking at 'Spring and New life' for weeks + at the end of term I shared a 'Nature' book with my oldest children - we looked at the things we had already covered and then worked through the book and looked at 'things' we might like to do next - they showed such enthusiasm for 'bug' stuff that I have bought a few new resources and have some ideas up my sleeve for the start of term - lets hope they are still interested! :1b

I plan to do some bean 'planting' - glass jar + kitchen roll job - they have all brought a jar into pre-school ready for this! :1b

I really am not a fan of 'themes' that take over all areas.......

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Do you feel you have exhausted pirates? Have you used their pirate fascination to broaden their skills and knowledge in their individual next steps? This is what I love about this way of planning, it may start off as a role play pirates and dressing up etc, but you can keep their fascination with the subject going with interventions of their next steps.

We had such fun with 'pirates' a couple of years ago - including our pre-school 'dog' (toy) being kidnapped by pirates - they left us a note and a map - the primary school helped me with this - the map led us to the school office where we found the dog :D

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Do you feel you have exhausted pirates? Have you used their pirate fascination to broaden their skills and knowledge in their individual next steps? This is what I love about this way of planning, it may start off as a role play pirates and dressing up etc, but you can keep their fascination with the subject going with interventions of their next steps.

NO not yet because the point is that the children are still learning! not necessarily about pirates (that's not on the curriculum!) but they still have things to learn and always will do...they just like doing it through pirates! ;)

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NO not yet because the point is that the children are still learning! not necessarily about pirates (that's not on the curriculum!) but they still have things to learn and always will do...they just like doing it through pirates! ;)

Sorry Finlaysmaid, I thought I was replying to Skippy's post about pirates, somehow yours has merged into hers on my screen!.

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Just to be controversial...

We were advised during my Elklan training that 'themes' are important in terms of vocabulary development - children need to hear the words in different contexts, visiting them over a period of time and given opportunities for them to use the new vocabulary for it to be embedded.

Mindstretchers ('floorbook' people) also advocate the use of themes as they argue that children need to get feedback on their learning over a period of time in order for embedded learning to happen.

Of course, this does not mean that we have to do one theme but somehow should ensure that children do get chance to revisit resources, learning and vocabulary whether this is as a whole group, small groups or individuals.

In terms of Mindstretchers - they suggest that you could start with a single item or a collection of items around your suggested theme then take comments and questions from the children. Then may be take one strand of this and develop that further - so maybe with a question like above - one we all don't know the answer to so that it is real learning together! Another 'speech and language' bit of advice that I have been given is to avoid, as much as possible, asking questions that you already know the answer to!'

Have fun whatever way you choose for your children!

Green Hippo x

Edited by green hippo
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Just to be controversial...

We were advised during my Elklan training that 'themes' are important in terms of vocabulary development - children need to hear the words in different contexts, visiting them over a period of time and given opportunities for them to use the new vocabulary for it to be embedded.

Mindstretchers ('floorbook' people) also advocate the use of themes as they argue that children need to get feedback on their learning over a period of time in order for embedded learning to happen.

Of course, this does not mean that we have to do one theme but somehow should ensure that children do get chance to revisit resources, learning and vocabulary whether this is as a whole group, small groups or individuals.

In terms of Mindstretchers - they suggest that you could start with a single item or a collection of items around your suggested theme then take comments and questions from the children. Then may be take one strand of this and develop that further - so maybe with a question like above - one we all don't know the answer to so that it is real learning together! Another 'speech and language' bit of advice that I have been given is to avoid, as much as possible, asking questions that you already know the answer to!'

Have fun whatever way you choose for your children!

Green Hippo x

This harks back to continuous provision though (and i dont mean in a complex abc way! ;) ) so not moving on too quickly from a 'Theme' extending and using vocabulary that is associated with it etc so for pirates we have learnt all sorts of words (cutlass/swashbuckling/eye patch etc) and for the paper aircraft theme that has been running for the last week (aircraft hanger/refueling/launch etc) you can do the language enrichment as part of your everyday practice,

Not all children will be at the same stage at the same time so expecting them to be learning the same vocab as the rest of the group is unrealistic ...my 2.5's will not be doing what my 5 year olds are doing.

Having followed mindstretchers and now having done Elklan training (thanks to you!!) i understand the concept of where they are going and can build this in to everyday working but their main message is engagement and to get true engagement we must be lead by the children.

I agree that if you want to do themes and this is right for you cohort then do them...as long as the emphasis is on their learning and development and they are all engaged then fine . What i cringe about is the lack of thought that sometimes goes along with themes . The theme becomes the over-riding factor it has to be used in every part of the classroom, does not build on the children's learning and takes over the curriculum. The curriculum is in the statutory framework.....it does not say anything about 'people who help us' or 'minibeasts' or celebrations (my three least favourite theme titles!) . I planned to themes for years, we had learning going on but the theme only worked if it caught the imagination of the children...and i could never find any darned minibeasts when i was going to teach about them!! :D Now we teach about minibeasts all the time because the children find them in the garden (and occasionally in the classroom!) so the vocab is repeated often and the learning is right for them (so my chap who signs is using the sign for worm and his buddy is learning thorax and abdomen!)...they can revisit this as many times as they like which embeds the language.

Sorry this has got a bit ranty! and certainly not based at you Green Hippo :rolleyes: I've just been working with another school and because the curriculum is led by a subject teacher she just couldn't get her head round the EYFS! :ph34r:

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I wonder whether we all get ourselves tied up in knots over words and different perceptions after all aren't projects, themes, topics, sparks, provocations and "following children's interests" all vehicles for introducing new learning for children - perhaps it is in the execution of the introduction.

Sometimes children will demonstrate a real interest that is a brilliant vehicle for introducing new learning such as space and space travel (if you think "How does the moon stay up in the sky?" was a taxing question I was totally flumoxed by "Does space move?")

Sometimes it is also worth acknowledging that "You don't know what you don't know" and as an educator (as well as a carer) take responsibility for lighting the touchpaper.

Personally I like to have a "provocation" to spark children's interests sometimes. I don't think you have to choose between whether you follow children's interests OR "Do a topic"; rather these these approaches are equally valid. I find that this is particularly so in my term time setting when some of the children's interests are so transient that after a half term/end of term break their interests have dissipated and/or changed direction.

After our Easter break our "provocation" is loosely based around planting to hopefully spark children's interest in lots of areas including those that perhaps would not necessarily naturally occur if following children's interests alone. This is especially true for those children who have no (and are unlikely to be given the opportunity to acquire any) first hand knowledge of planting, growing, etc.

Perhaps it is about knowing your children and knowing when to follow and when to lead and not be too prescriptive (oops how contentious given the latest Ofsted comments xD ).

This is quite a useful pdf about using projects to spark interests

http://www.practicalpreschoolbooks.com/content/site120/basics/1303projapproac_00000000412.pdf

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Totally agree with you Finleysmaid about theme overriding the learning and with SueJ about using sometimes 'provoking' interests and sometimes going with the children's lead. The important thing is ALWAYS TO FOCUS ON THE LEARNING. The whole 'no topics allowed' thing came from people planning activities e.g. Space - how many activities can we think of around space...now how does this fit into the curriculum? It should always be the other way around and if the learning doesn't fit the topic then DON'T MAKE IT FIT!!! I was recently explaining this to a student. It's good to jot down a few ideas to get us started but if it doesn't meet the children's needs then it really is a waste of time. I know a teacher (in my previous school) who year after has a long list of 'creative' activities which come out for each topic. They are often not creative at all but 'fluffy duck syndrome' type activities and they spend nearly all week getting through the children to produce these creative pieces - but what are they learning...

We introduce wide 'themes' each half-term and produce a mind-map with the children so that we go down the route that captures their interests. As well as this theme there are also many child-initiated themes going on in different areas - so my whole classroom does not change to suite the teacher theme. E.g. "you can't possibly choose a book about space, that shouldn't be out! We're doing animals at the moment" - you will do space in Reception! (I've never said this BTW!).

I only have 1 year group so a bit different from having 2-5 year olds and I'm definitely not suggesting that a theme has to be for the whole group. Like I said above - it can be individual, small group or larger group interests but the key is to develop it and allow children time to explore, extend and review their learning over a period of time which would be done differently depending on the age of the child. I remember when a colleague was completing her EYP she had to spend some time in the 1-2's room at a local Nursery. She was told that they were covering the theme of Diwali (I think I asked for suggestions here!) I had little experience of this age group at the time apart from my own children, nieces and nephews - 1 of my sons and my nephew were in this age bracket at the time and I said if I said to them "let's do Diwali" today, we're going to do xyz they wouldn't have had a clue what I was talking about! Of course if I'd given them colour rice, had some pictures or a film I'm sure the would have joined in but I'm not sure what learning would have taken place around this. Again, I'm not saying don't do celebrations etc but children of different ages need different things - the problem here was that the Nursery had not actually mentioned what learning they wanted to happen out of any activities she would have planned!

As I always say - most things in life need a bit of this and a bit of that - one single approach rarely works!

Green Hippo xxx

Edited by green hippo
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Generally we do not have themes, but our role play area does sometimes take on a theme and this sometimes develops in other areas around the nursery. But this is mostly due to the children's interest. The hairdresser's for example, the children took it outside and included finding somewhere to park and someone to wash the car while they were in the salon!

I do understand how themes/topics can expand children's vocabulary especially those who are delayed, but you can put that into an IEP for the individual child. Experience shows when I have done this other children become interested and the activity overflows into other areas. Again an easy example is trying to get one of my children to use the word "Open" I used a selection of toys and objects that could be opened. Some of my very smart sticks went around the nursery collecting other resources that needed to be "Opened."

I feel we are really lucky at present to be able to present children's teaching in such diverse ways and when I read the post here it shows how much we understand about how children learn and how in touch we are with their interests.

I don't really want to go back a topic/theme approach. I know that was not what was meant by the start of the post, so sorry for hijacking it slightly, but am a little worried about the Ofsted report published last week.

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I wouldn't want to ask any questions that I couldn't answer! :blink: How does the moon stay in the sky? :blink: No idea - sure I could find out but would children in this age group understand or relate to the answer........

This reminds me of my son aged four having a discussion about space with his pre-school leader. She was telling him there was no gravity in space, but he maintained there was, just that there was so little of it. She didn't believe him and went home and related the story to her husband, who told her that strictly speaking, he was right.

She said it taught her a valuable lesson - that children often have knowledge that adults don't because they are interested (some might say obsessed) and latch onto the smallest details that adults might overlook. She came back in the next day and told him she was sorry that she hadn't believed him.

I'm sure if you were faced with a question you didn't know the answer to, you could embark on a joint voyage of discovery, Sunnyday. Then you could write all about it in your SEF! ;)

Oh and the son soon forgot all about space and moved onto other things (he became an expert in funerals and death for a while, too). :huh:

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I'm sure if you were faced with a question you didn't know the answer to, you could embark on a joint voyage of discovery, Sunnyday. Then you could write all about it in your SEF! ;)

 

I am often faced with questions that I don't know the answer to - and we have a great time 'finding out' - my 'argument' was......why pose a question that a. you don't know the answer to and more importantly b. once you have the answer it wouldn't make sense to a 2,3 or 4 year old! ;)xD

Ref my SEF - would you please try and keep up - it's done - all beautifully updated and submitted - I won't be thinking about again for quite some time! :rolleyes: xDxDxD

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