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Childrens interests (again!)


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Hi all

We are finding it really tricky to plan for the children's interests. Over the past year we have changed our planning methods a lot. We even tried focusing on 5 children's interests per week but that didn't work.

The problem we have got is that their interests have not changed! Girls are babies, princesses and animals and the boys are obsessed with any type of transport, dinosaurs and monsters! Also, our little ones who have just turned 2, have not shown any particular interests, they just enjoy what the others are doing.

I am thinking that because we only have 10 children on roll, that's why we haven't got a wide range of interests?

We are thinking of changing the planning again, so that it includes a 'theme' of our choice in some areas of the room and some areas of the children's interests each week, in the hope that it will spark some new interests.

ANY advice would be most welcome! Thanks

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It seems to be one of those perennial problems, and one we often struggled with earlier on too, until we unravelled it a bit.

Planning for children's interests is a much 'smaller' thing than we were struggling with. So, say you are broadly covering the next steps of exploring colours with the group, you paint dinosaurs or princess dresses etc. Just use something that they have an interest in to help make the learning relevant.

So you don't need to rewrite all your planning, just make notes about how you are approaching something for each child.

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We have an interest sheet up, we record things children have shown some interest in or asked for during the week, ie it might be that a child has shown an interest in the planets book and asked questions, we would then expand on that and add to planning as an interest, we tend to use their main (ongoing) interests in free play to find out what we want to know about them across the DM statements..if that makes sense.

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We have overall planning set by us with generally a book for the week and some things linked to that, eg the role play area. Then we have each child's planning separately taken from observation, so if they spend a lot of time just with the farm for example and we are focusing on say numbers 1-5 that week we will link this to the farm! Or if they really like exploring paint textures etc we will link this to an activity relating to the book! Children's interests aren't necessarily a 'theme' as such, it may be cutting, filling and emptying, books, farms etc so you can incorporate these into your pre set planning! That's my opinion anyway!x

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That's how we see it too.

So if say a child is pirate mad- we may take the pirates on an adventure.... to maybe the painting table and use them for printing, they might like to go into the shaving foam or even have a jelly bath etc.

We look at it as: the child will follow the interest - so therefore the 'interest' has to do some challenging things :1b

Not sure if that actually makes any sense at all. :blink:

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I agree with all that has been said above but also would add that just sitting down with the children and letting them take the lead in their play is following their interest and with most children it is the here and now rather than adding to planning sheet for a future date. When we have "gone off plan" for this reason we add a few words to our plan as a sort of evaluation just to explain why we did not follow the plan, just incase someone asks us "why?"

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I agree with all of the above, particularly about working in the moment to respond to interests, using the next steps as the 'lead'. Following interests, like others have said above, is about 'selling' the learning to the children but sometimes resources or activities don't need to be linked to an interest to interest the children (a particular interest can be added later to encourage certain children to have a try). And then there is always things that do interest the children that they haven't experienced before so don't know that they are interested in it! (Sorry if that sounds old-fashioned!). We still have half-termly themes but work them around the children - for example, when we look at animals we find out what they children want to know, what types of animals they are interested in etc - so one year we focused on pets, another year dinosaurs and big animals, another year farm animals etc. They do not take over the whole setting but offer a different starting point and something to base things on but, again, only if needed. If the children are interested in and using a variety of resources within your setting then you may not need to introduce a particular interest - enhance with interests when needed.

Green Hippo x

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Thanks all.

So (this may sound like a silly question) the activities that you put out on the tables each day, do they always link to a child's interest or do you have some that you choose that may 'spark' a new interest. Like we made some princess threading pictures. Is that the sort of thing? :wacko:

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klc yes we put a mixture of some things the children have enjoyed playing with or have asked for and some things that we think may spark new interests. But all our resources are in boxes and we "train" the children that if they do not want to play with something that they can put it away and get something else out. It takes a little time but does work. We do keep an eye on toys that become habitual by adding any such changes to the evaluation on the plan.

We sort of view the plan of what is put out at the beginning of the session as being just the start. Not all the toys remain for the session as the children lose interest and get something else out.

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Exactly like above, we have some toys that are available all the time and others that come out more on a rota or when asked for, we find this keeps things 'fresh' !!

Mmm ... we have toys out on a rota too - e.g. we might have threading fruit, caterpillars and construct-o-straws on a table (that is 2 tables together, making a square and comfortably sitting 8 children - not that 8 children are ever sitting at any one time!). The 'rota' toys are changed daily, but might remain out longer depending on child's interests. In all honesty there is no particular 'reason' that these toys are out - only that they are on the 'rota', apart from the usual reasons of course, e.g. to develop fine motor skills and mathematics. However, after reading ABC Does I need to look seriously at my continuous provision. Historically, I have always tried to have a range of toys on the 'fine motor' table (what do others call it?!) But perhpas I should have similar toys which are differentiated e.g. threading - larger items such as the wooden fruit pieces alongside buttons and beads ... all threading but diffentiated. What do others do? This is something I have been thinking about for some time now; any thoughts would be appreciated. Sorry if I have wandered off the track! Perhaps this should be a different thread?

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KLC i remember some years ago talking to a teacher who only had 8 in her class for that term....i was quite enthusiastic and said oh how lovely such a small group...she replied that it was a nightmare because there were not enough ideas sparked!! i can understand that it might well be worth having a theme to start things off for you group (a coathanger to hang your ideas on as my old french teacher would say!)

I, like others would suggest not getting too concerned about interests though....i have always been sure that this is much more about teaching in a way that the children would like to learn rather than being dictatorial and saying right this is what we are going to do now (i dont care Johnny if you don't like spiders we are doing spiders...it's on my plan! kind of thing) so children having a say (a voice!) and feeling that they can influence their learning rather than the sort of thing we might have experienced (week one we do this , week two we do this etc) it is of course useful to know that XX likes rainbows or yy likes power rangers in order to assist them to do things they might not usually access (this year a particular emphasis on boys mark making attached to superheroes...lots of tracing . painting etc etc)

I also wouldn't get too hung up on the planning...amazing things happen when you go off plan! We now plan for the individuals next steps this way it doesn't matter what you have out so much as what you do with it (IYSWIM) I would put some planning in place and run with it for a long length of time before you change it...then you will be clear about what works and what doesn't!

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That's it Finleysmaid, in a great nutshell! I think we can tend to get far too hung up on things like this and make it seem far more difficult than it actually is, like next steps planning etc. I think because we feel a need (thank you Ofsted) to have everything formally written down everywhere, it can make it seem more of a mountain than it actually is.

Edited by Cait
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FM and Cait, I really like what you're saying but do IOU find that it relies on all the staff being good at 'going with the moment', knowing next steps etc.? This year I have worked with someone who, I suspect, would rather not have been there at all. She was great if I gave her a highly structured task such as a letter formation practice page but anything else... And supporting play tended to turn out to be a more supervisory role than a developmental one. If I tried to give her anything else the level of explanation needed to ensure adequate differentiation was enormous and put me off doing my planning so I used to end up tying myself in knots so I could support a YR adult-led activity, support their play and support my Y1s all at the same time. If you have any hints I'd love to hear them - I suspect my TA situation is going to be even more challenging next year.

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KLC to get back to your original post I tend to bit of a mixture of everything. Like others have said I try and use particular interests to entice entice reluctant users to a specific thing. Sometimes we'll have a particular theme - often around a book (we had a Percy the Park keeper fortnight earlier this term which was loved by all). Sometimes I'll get out a resource they didn't know we had and that sparks a whole new set of interests. Sometimes I am surprised by their level of interest in something - I did some work on Grace Darling with my Y1s and reception loved it too - it sparked lots of stormy sea paintings, role playing a shipwreck and building lighthouses using anything and everything!

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Thank you all so much! Its lovely when people say what I am actually thinking! I just want everything to be perfect for ofsted because we only got satisfactory last time, in November 2011. We did only have 4 children at the time and only been open 2 months!

Thanks again :1b

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  • 2 weeks later...

Hiya, I struggled too especially when our boys were highly motivated by superheros and play fighting. We really focused on this for a while to see what we was doing and why it felt we wasn't providing what we knew we could interest wise. It turned out we saw an interest etc and took it too far too soon to allow development of the interest to occur naturally for the children and to allow time for them to direct the interest in their own way. What i mean is for instance one day we observed a child talking with others about goldilocks and that they eat porridge in the story! well that was it outside we had porridge oats, water with pans, bowls, spoons, story masks and props aswell as story at group time........ we went too far! what we should have done was say put dried oats outside and maybe read the story at group, then observe and listen, then add say water to the oats the next day/week todapending on the children, then again observe and take it where the children led us! we found this worked really well and that the children ended up in so many learning aspects by us reducing what we wanted to do or felt we should do. sometimes a drip feed is much better and much more valuable.

With the boys we took away one week all the dressing up and provided only sheets and fabric with junk modeling, the boys had to make their own costumes!!! oh my gosh shock horror that morning they saw this ! but what happened was staff supported the boys to make their own costumes and props determining what their character name was, the powers it had and what happens with those powers. Staff helped them extend their vocab, imagination and gave specific rules that was agreed by all staff prior. We also used this as said above by putting it in other areas, a simple spider number game made up using spiderman as the theme. (Girls had to do the same as all the lovely dresses were gone too) To be honest we haven't even brought them back out they have been hidden for months now.

We have planning that is a working document, so at the beginning of the week it has only enhancements stated on it that have been requested through various means, then as the week goes on staff write on the planning any other enhancements needed through observations, childrens voice etc so the next day other staff know what to have out as its wrote on the planning. All obs are screened each week to look for any next steps/interests that can be fed through a planned activity.

We have a mud kitchen one week it was as such then someone made soup so we added leaves, scents, mixing bowls thats it. It then went onto making poo so the next week we added animals on a table outside with some straw and sticks we showed the children who had made poo the Friday before the pictures of them doing such! this reminded them and initiated their interest, one of them was observed using water and washing the tray saying i'm making a waterfall! the following week we had sourced large pieces of guttering and again reminded him what he had done by reading his observation to him, he then went onto make water falls using the equipment provided this engaged pretty much 80% of our children and went on for 2 weeks.

I have tried to cover a few ideas/scenarios that we have come across I hope it helps, as ive said our main thought to help us move forward was drip feed and then watch and listen.

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Just playing devil's advocate! Let's say you have a selection of 3 or 4 boxes alongside an empty table for the children to select what they wish to play with - adult directed or child initiated?

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What's happened?!!!!!!!!!! Is it just my screen gone mad? :blink:

My reply showed complete gobbledygook when I posted it! :P I closed the screen and then returned and it was all back to normal!

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So how do you do proper child led play in a pack away setting?

We have very little storage space and can't store sets of drawers etc. All of our resources are stored in boxes in the cupboard which is not ideal for the children to go in. This is why we plan each week what we will put on the tables.

and is a room filled with empty tables/mats with boxes next to them for children to use look appealing for children/parents coming in to the room?

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So how do you do proper child led play in a pack away setting?

We have very little storage space and can't store sets of drawers etc. All of our resources are stored in boxes in the cupboard which is not ideal for the children to go in. This is why we plan each week what we will put on the tables.

and is a room filled with empty tables/mats with boxes next to them for children to use look appealing for children/parents coming in to the room?

We are the same as you klc - our shed is a health & safety nightmare for adults there is no way we could let children go in there! We plan the same as you do - we have a photo book of all the toys in the shed and the child can ask for any of them, sometimes they get these straight away othertimes they have to wait until the next session.

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Just playing devil's advocate! Let's say you have a selection of 3 or 4 boxes alongside an empty table for the children to select what they wish to play with - adult directed or child initiated?

Let's say 'child initiated' - they have made a choice. Now, let's put the contents of those same 3 or 4 boxes ONTO the table, 'nicely' arranged; same toys/equipment, children still need to make a choice - adult directed or child initiated?

Because the adult has selected 3 or 4 boxes (from the 16-18 available in the store room) does it really change the answer that much? I'm sure there are not many settings that are able to display every single piece of equipment they have for the children to choose from. You could argue even further and say that the children did not choose to BUY the equipment (OK, I know that we do sometimes think about the 'child's voice' - but in all reality probably not very often). I think that sometimes the importance and definition of 'child initiated' play can just go too far.

I love the idea of a photo book to choose from and have been aiming to provide this for some time - I just need the time to set it up! My next job, I think. Thank you for reminding me thumperrabbit!

x

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We too are in the exact same position as a put away setting, one thing I do think put away settings do incredibly well (as its been said to us and i've visited many others) is allow children to initiate, direct and create their own play and play environment. This is no looked upon judgement to other settings as we would love to have a building to call our own and I know it happens in most settings but as a put away setting you get used to and comfortable with children moving things around and taking their play where they wish! its no big deal to move this table, this sideboard etc etc to create a space a child/ren requires as all our furniture and equipment are easily movable and have been purchased with moving around in mind! we are used to moving things ourselves at the start/end of the session so it does not gripe when a child moves the entire dressing up and home corner into another area or even room as so what it gets put in a box at the end. This kind of ability to move everything allows children to really create their own space that allows their play to flourish, yes the children may have to ask for things to be moved but adults will always assist - this is a child led movement creating a child led environment.

Yes we only can cater for so much choice but a child could be at the maths table with the compare bears, box's, and sorting boats, do they choose to use it as such? oh no it turns into people (compare bears) on rockets (boats) running from a monster (the box) allowing children to do this is child led and this I would hope happens throughout settings. Choice is good and is valuable which of course would lend itself to more child led play occurring but offering at least two choices in most areas is also good as this is hard work to even accomplish that in some pack away settings! however balance must be sort as too much choice can overwhelm a child. Child led play will occur anywhere and anyhow they don't need much! take them to the woods! you know there are trees and possible leaves and sticks so hey theres your choices does this mean as you have only offered 3 items that child led play would not occur? of course not.

A book to show children what they can have out is great and offers choice so well done! long gone are the days where you say here is a bunny i made earlier we are all going to make it just like mine......... this is truly wrong but please do not underestimate what you offer in relation to child led play just because we don't have shelving units and draws galore (however much we wish we had) follow your children's interests, next steps, schemas etc and allow the pre school to move around with the childrens needs and I'm sure you will be doing great.

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We select 6 boxes chosen by children the week before out

Children then self select, this is as close to child led as we can be.

 

Putting a box on a table or mat makes it adult initiated but hopefully child led

 

Leaving nothing on the table/mat makes it child led or close enough.

 

I don't necessarily put small world on mat with construction

 

I think it is good to have balance

 

I feel sometimes people say it is child initiated and led when isn't

 

Anyway that's my two penny worth :-)

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