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Showing most liked content on 31/10/17 in all areas

  1. 1 point
    like sunnyday we also don't pay rates as we are a registered charity and get relief but I have filled in the survey ...hope it helps in some way!
  2. 1 point
    Our setting does this when children change groups (because when a child first starts we spend ages settling them and their parents and then, a year later the child is settled and knows everything and is ready to transfer to the next room but the parents don't know the routines in the next room and can be a bit 'adrift'.). We have 'Parents' breakfast' we serve fruit juice and Danish pastries and invite the parents to stay at drop off time and their child shows them round the new room, shows them where they keep their things, shows them the routines and their new friends and teachers. Parents then stay and play as if it were a settling session - the parents leave when they feel ready to. We have also have parents play evenings in the past when we have picked out one EYFS area and set up different play activities across the nursery that reflects that area and had staff in the different rooms explaining what their children are learning at each point and how they can support their children at home similarly. So, we might have a maths activity set up e.g. using the balances to do 'bigger and smaller' but also have water play set up and remember to talk about 'does the smallest thing float or sink?' and 'is that always the case?'. We found this demonstrates to parents how they can bring learning in at home without having to do 'lessons' or feel like they are doing 'maths'. We found that encouraging parents to test things out and ask challenging, open-ended questions, was very helpful.
  3. 1 point
    When children are playing and selecting what to do themselves, they become deeply engaged. While this is happening, the adults should be observing and waiting for a moment in which they feel they can make a difference. They should then interact to ‘teach’ the ‘next step’ as appropriate for that unique child at that precise moment. Each time they interact with a child, they are observing, assessing, planning for, and responding to, that individual child. Such interactions are the most important and powerful teaching moments. The traditional cycle of observation, assessment and planning is recommended in numerous documents including Development Matters and The National Strategies document “Learning, Playing and Interacting”. In this document I wish to highlight the section that states:- “Babies and young children …. are experiencing and learning in the here and now, not storing up their questions until tomorrow or next week. It is in that moment of curiosity, puzzlement, effort or interest – the ‘teachable moment’ – that the skilful adult makes a difference. By using this cycle on a moment-by-moment basis, the adult will be always alert to individual children (observation), always thinking about what it tells us about the child’s thinking (assessment), and always ready to respond by using appropriate strategies at the right moment to support children’s well-being and learning (planning for the next moment).” (Page 22 – 23) This paragraph matches the planning system that I have been asked to write about in this article. A skilful practitioner knows that they need to observe before interacting with a child and they know that the best interactions are not planned in advance. Rather, as the quote above suggests, the best interactions happen when we respond to a child’s interests and efforts immediately. We can then record some of theses interactions afterwards. I would stress at this point that we should only record a fraction of the interactions that we have. We recognise that if a practitioner is writing, they are not interacting. Therefore we need to keep the recording to a minimum. This is nothing new. This is just good early years practice. It is what an attentive parent does with their child and it is what practitioners have always done. However, I believe, as a profession, we have become governed by fear and a misplaced belief that we have to document everything and that we have to have physical evidence for all our judgements about a child. This fear and pressure has led practitioners to start devising “activities” that will meet a specific learning objective. We need to get back to basics – secure in the knowledge that children are “hard-wired” to learn and that we just need to facilitate and support this at each and every moment. However, this does not need ‘activities’ or written plans. So what then does this look like in practice? I will give some general points as to the way the environment is organised, what the adults do and what the paperwork looks like. The ideas have been adapted in various settings to suit their needs. However, in all cases, the aim is to organise the setting - including the time, the resources and the adults - to ensure that the majority of the children display deep level engagement for the majority of the time. If that happens, then we can be confident that they are making good progress. Nearly 40 years of observing children has taught me that the best levels of engagement are seen when children have autonomy, when they truly have choice as to what they will do. Therefore, I would advocate that children are able to initiate their own play for as much time as is possible. An enabling environment is critical. I use the term “workshop” to best describe what is on offer. When children arrive, nothing is set out but everything is available and accessible. The doors to the outside should be open immediately as some children can only become deeply engaged outdoors. From day one, the children should be supported to explore the environment to see what is available, to select the resources they would like, to use them appropriately and to tidy the area when they have finished. Ground rules are essential when so much freedom is given – all the children need to feel safe. Clear and consistent expectations are key. For example, indoors the children will walk and use quieter voices – running and shouting can be done outside. To give a flavour of the environment, I have included a few photos. The main message is that the resources need to be accessible and flexible. In order to meet numerous different interests, it is easier to have one resource that can be used in infinite different ways, rather than dozens of different ‘closed’ resources. For example, large wooden blocks can become a car, a boat, a stage, a staircase. “Less is more” is a phrase I often use. Fewer, high-quality, open-ended resources are preferable to dozens of ‘single use’ items. Children are not then ‘pushed’ into following the adults’ agenda – rather their own ideas can be realised and supported. We don’t need to keep changing the environment – if it is engaging the children, then there is no need to change it. Sessions should be organised to maximise the amount of “free-flow” time available. Thus, in a nursery for example, the children arrive, self-register and go off to play where they choose. All staff should support the children in their chosen activity – there are no focus activities. The adults go to the children – they don’t call the children to them. Just making this one change in the behaviour of staff can bring about a complete shift in emphasis and focus. The children become the focus instead of a particular activity that the adult has planned. About 20 minutes before the end of the session, the children should tidy up and come together for about 15 minutes before lunch or home time. The weekly organisation is as follows:- On Friday, the staff select 10% of the group who will be the “focus children” for the following week. For child-minders, and in baby rooms, practitioners would select a larger group to be the focus. If some children only attend for a few hours a week, then they may remain as a focus child for a few weeks until their learning journey sheet is complete. These children are given a form to take home for their parents to complete – asking about current interests of the child, any special events in the family and any questions the parents may have. We also send home cameras with the focus children. The families take photos over the weekend and return the camera and form on the Monday. Settings that have an online system ask the parents to upload some photos from the weekend. On Monday a “Learning Journey” sheet is put up for each of the focus children. These sheets are blank at the start of the week (except for a couple of words to indicate areas that the staff or parents would like to try and capture). During the week any adult who has a productive interaction with a focus child records the event on the learning journey. It is important that the whole cycle is recorded – i.e. the initial observation (& possibly the assessment), the teaching of the appropriate next step, and the outcome. Examples (for children of various ages) might read:- “Seray is on the verge of crawling. ‘T’ challenges her to crawl by leaving her favourite toy just out of reach. Seray is content to be on her tummy, and after a short while pushes herself up onto hands and knees. As she rocks forward, she is able to reach her toy.” “Ethan wants to turn on the tap but can’t reach. ‘T’ shows him the step and suggests he could use that. Ethan pulls the step over, climbs up and turns on the tap.” “Ross is struggling to use the tape dispenser. ‘T’ explains about the blade and models how to cut the tape. Ross listens and perseveres until he cuts the tape.” “Jenna wants a turn on the rope. ‘T’ models the language and encourages Jenna to repeat the phrase ‘Can I have a turn please?’ Jenna does this and the pair then took turns independently” “Omar is drawing a dinosaur but doesn’t know what the feet looked like. ‘T’ explores ideas with him and provides a tablet for Omar to use. Omar finds an image of the dinosaur and uses this to complete his drawing accurately.” “Sienna has completed her story but has no punctuation. ‘T’ reminds her to read through her writing and explains how to use full stops. Sienna reads her story and adds full stops correctly.” In all the examples above, the “plan” was formulated and delivered “in the moment”. In each case, the practitioner immediately identified a ‘next step’ and ‘planned’ how to achieve this in that moment. Thus, Seray learnt to crawl, Ethan learnt how to use a step, Ross learnt to use a tape dispenser, etc. In each case the interaction was uniquely suited to the child. There was no stress because the adult went to the child and observed them where they had chosen to be. They did not “hi-jack” the play with a learning objective that they had in mind. In each case, the adult went with the child on their journey. The words that are shown in blue indicate the ‘teaching’ that happened. The Ofsted definition of teaching is very useful to support staff in recognising the teaching that they are doing through their interactions and through the enabling environment. “Teaching …. includes … communicating and modelling language, showing, explaining, demonstrating, exploring ideas, encouraging, questioning, recalling, providing a narrative for what they are doing, facilitating and setting challenges.” Ofsted September 2015 Entries on the learning journeys are often accompanied by a photo. The sheets are gradually filled up over the course of the week and become a wonderful individual record. Staff meet with the parents of the focus children in the week following their focus week. The discussion revolves around the completed learning journey – a truly individual picture of the child’s experience. Just to clarify – the adults are interacting with all the children, but just recording interactions with the focus children. In this way, paperwork is manageable and ‘teaching’ time is maximised. Any “Wow!” moments are recorded for individual children and added to individual records – whether focus children or not. In many settings, such wow moments are still recorded on paper, but if an on-line system is in use, then this can be used for wow moments. In addition, for children aged over 3, staff complete another sheet which is really a group learning journey to record any significant events that occur in the class and that involve a group of children. Again this sheet has been re-designed by many settings – essentially it contains the same observation cycle – observation, teaching, outcome. An example might read:- “Group notice slugs. ‘T’ suggests children use magnifying glasses. ‘T’ demonstrates and explains how to use these. Children look closely at the patterns on the slugs.” “In the moment” planning is a very simple idea – observing and interacting with children as they pursue their own interests and also assessing and moving the learning on in that moment. The written account of some of these interactions becomes a learning journey. This approach leads to deep level learning and wonderful surprises occur daily. When OFSTED arrive they usually ask “So what will we see in here today?” When planning in this way, the answer is “I have no idea!” and then the discussions can begin!
  4. 1 point
    Development Matters: A landscape of possibilities, not a roadmap A fundamental principle of the EYFS is that each child is A Unique Child. But do we really practice what we preach? How often in practice are children viewed as if they are all the same, expected or even pushed into following the same progression at roughly the same ages? As one of the authors of Development Matters, I am concerned that the tool intended to support practitioners to understand and foster children’s development is too often misused. When used as a tick list of descriptors of what children must achieve, it can sadly limit both children’s development and the professional awareness and skills of practitioners. There is, I believe, strong validity in Development Matters as an overview of typical progression across all the areas of learning and development. It has a pedigree of input from people with a wide range of professional expertise, and was road-tested by practitioners in all types of settings. But a key word here is ‘typical’ – the descriptors are not ‘expected’ and certainly not ‘required’. In fact, the reference group involved in writing Development Matters was so concerned about possible misuse that they insisted on the statement that you will find on the bottom of every page of the document: Children develop at their own rates, and in their own ways. The development statements and their order should not be taken as necessary steps for individual children. They should not be used as checklists. The age/stage bands overlap because these are not fixed age boundaries but suggest a typical range of development. What’s wrong with a tick list? The statements in Development Matters are common examples of how children might develop and give a general picture of progression, but they are by no means the whole story. Children show millions of aspects of development, so in order to even approach listing the range of development observed in children at each age Development Matters would need to fill many volumes instead of being a brief guide. If we confine ourselves to looking just for the list of descriptors when we reflect on our observations of children, we are missing most of what children are showing us. And so we miss knowing how best to support them in what they are really doing and learning. Just imagine a group of children who are crossing a meadow from one side to the other. They will have completely individual experiences of the journey. One will dash ahead for a bit and then stop to investigate a dip in the ground, observing on hands and knees the mini-beasts creeping about. Another will spread her arms and fly about in concentric circles. Someone will want to gather all the red flowers on the way. One will be reminded of previous experiences and want to talk about it, while others will be spreading out across the field, pretending to be something or somebody. Maybe a child will be nervous and want to move forward only while holding hands with someone they trust. Gradually they all make their way to the other side of the meadow. Now picture a set of stepping stones laid out across the meadow, in a straight line from one edge to the other, which is where the adult walks and keeps her focus. She is quick to take note whenever a child happens to step on or near one of the stepping stones. Often she calls the children away from their activities, asking them to come and step on one of the stones so she can note it down. She encourages them to keep on the path, asking them to step on the very next step – even though some would rather run round or jump over a stone or two. What is the result? The adult’s narrow focus means she is unaware of what the children are really doing or thinking about. Children who are busy fully experiencing the meadow as they forge their individual paths miss out on sharing and interacting with the adult in ways which could have supported and enriched their learning. If children are continually called by the adult to particular stones, their experience is narrowed and they have an impoverished experience of the meadow. Their motivation will also take a dive, since they are discouraged from doing what they have internal drives to do. Learning is not predictable Researchers are clear that learning is messy, like these children working their own ways across the meadow. It doesn’t proceed in an orderly fashion in a straightforward and predictable sequence. Instead, learning happens in fits and starts with rapid periods of development followed by plateaus, or even backward steps as the learner concentrates on another area. Not all areas proceed at the same rate. And although the general progress of development applies broadly across most children – they are gradually working their way from one side of the meadow to the other – the paths they take and the rates of progress are individual. Development Matters descriptors can be seen examples of the general flow of learning and development. But there is no reason children should be expected to match the sequence exactly. They may well miss out some statements, and still reach more advanced descriptors by another pathway. There is also no justification for automatically identifying as a ‘next step’ the next descriptor in the list. Observing, assessing, planning Along with being good partners to children within warm, responsive relationships and providing rich and enabling environments, the cycle of observation-assessment -planning is fundamental to effective early years practice. Useful observation means noticing the detail of what children are actually doing – what they did, what they said or communicated in other ways, the context. Then we assess, and often here is where the trouble begins. If we equate assessment with simply trying to find a descriptor to match what we noticed so we can tick it off and move on, then we have missed the point. Assessment, as Development Matters points out, means ‘analysing observations and deciding what they tell us about children’. This requires thoughtful awareness and goes far beyond assigning a descriptor from the list in an age/stage band. Assessment should be based on a fascination with the uniqueness of each individual child, as we ask ourselves: Who is this child? How do they feel? What are they interested in? What are they thinking about? What question in their mind are they trying to answer? How are they going about their learning? A skilled professional whose assessment answers some of these questions will be able then to move onto the next step of planning how to be of greatest use in supporting the child’s learning and development. They will be able to support the child where they really are on their journey, and not by trying to hoist them onto a predetermined track. Deciding, or making our best guess, about what we understand from observations is something that happens hundreds of times a day if we are really interested in children. And most of the time our planning follows immediately. Is there a role for me here to support this child in this moment? Should I say something, and if so what? Should I offer a suggestion, a comment, or just an interested look and a smile? Is it time to raise a challenge, or point out a problem? Should I invite the child to tell me about what they are doing? Could I offer vocabulary, describing what I see them doing? Would a bit of support or encouragement help the child to stick with a challenge they are facing? So planning is all about the next steps, whether for right now or tomorrow or beyond. But whose next step is it – the child’s, or the adult’s? Next steps Practitioners often feel under pressure to identify next steps for each child, whether the expectation comes from managers, from Ofsted, or even from a computer programme that automatically offers the next Development Matters descriptor whenever a judgement has been made. It is important that we know each child so well that we can describe their current achievements, know what they are working on now, and put that in the context of our knowledge of the overall direction of development ahead. So we know they are working their way across the meadow, but where they take their next step will be individual to them, and not necessarily on the path of stepping stones through the centre. In addition, they will not necessarily be ready to move on at all, but may linger to consolidate rather than push on to the next. Identifying a next step from a predetermined list can result in very superficial and misguided planning. We may have misinterpreted what was really central for the child. Consider, for example, a child who is throwing a ball repeatedly against a wall. It would be easy to cite this as evidence of ‘Shows increasing control over an object in pushing, patting, throwing, catching or kicking it’, and the adult might think the appropriate next step would be to use the ball for targeting activities or kicking games. But what if thinking more carefully about the situation leads the practitioner to realise that the child was joining in with two others, and perhaps the important learning to the child was about how to develop and maintain the play together. In this case rather than thinking of ball games, it would be more useful for the adult to think of ways to give opportunity and support for the child to work and play with others. We need to be thinking for ourselves as we decide what is important in a situation, and in deciding what comes next. It requires both judgement and creativity, and is not as simple as following a set of instructions. While keeping in mind a child’s overall progress in all areas, the adult could be aware that most often a next step is about the adult role, not the child. As Development Matters points out, learning and development is the result of what the child brings as the able learner, together with the relationships and environments which it is the adult’s role to provide. So we need to ask ourselves: As a next step in response to the assessment I have made, how do I need to interact with this child, and what opportunities or experiences could I provide? Too often people concentrate just on the descriptors of children’s learning, without giving attention to the suggestions in Development Matters columns of what adults could do and could provide to support across all areas and ages/stages. These, too, are a few examples and not a formula for success; they are prompts for thinking to support professional reflection and planning. Demonstrating progress As well as assessing and planning in an ongoing, formative way, it is important to be able to show children’s progress over time – in other words, how far have they got in finding their own way across the meadow. This is where it is useful to occasionally step back from the individual, detailed awareness of each child’s learning and make a summative judgement. Data gathered from summative judgements perhaps two or three times per year can provide useful information. Summative judgements tell you how a child is progressing in relation to typical learning and development, and can help you to consider whether your practice could benefit from greater emphasis in particular areas for individuals, groups of children, or the setting as a whole. The summative judgement, however, must be as true as we can make it, and basing it on whether or not a child has matched every statement in an age/stage band is not a valid approach. There may well be statements missing, and statements demonstrated across two or three bands. The best-fit approach answers the problem by acknowledging that although not every child will have moved along in the same way, there is a typical movement. Identifying the band which most closely describes the child, based on what you know and have observed whether or not it has been recorded, will enable you to describe the child’s development in terms of whether or not it is typical for their age in the various areas of the EYFS.