October 2017 – Changes to our planning and routine.
We are delighted that our first term has proved so successful and that the changes to how we plan and our routine have had such an impact. All children are settled and really involved; now we have had some time to see how it works in practice, we are more able to explain in detail the changes we have implemented.
Our planning is now done ‘in the moment’ and this works in the following way:
each week a differing key group is the focus group for the week. During this week the key person and one other member of staff track the focus group, observing their play carefully and extending learning immediately (as far as possible). Extending learning may be done by changing the environment or offering differing resources; for instance, a group of children were playing a pirate game and expressed they needed a sail. Their learning was enhanced by the observing adult who identified that this was a ‘teachable moment.’ The adult spoke to the children and they discussed how they could make the sail, the materials they would need, how they would attach it to their boat and so forth. They immediately found the things they needed and worked together to make the sail. So, the children were able to utilise small tools, design and experiment, consider the resources they would need and tweak their ideas as needed. In such a way the children experienced a wealth of learning that was meaningful to them. The adult also noticed that one of the children was finding fine motor skills difficult and so as the week progressed, differing tools were added to their continuing pirate game in order to enhance these: tweezers to find treasure, elastic bands round nails on wood to make catapults. In such a way children’s learning comes very much from their interests and is incorporated into their play.
The remaining members of staff continue to play with the children who are not in the focus group and will record ‘wow’ moments. These ‘wow’ moments are actions or things children do that the staff know are very significant to that particular child.
As a staff team we are thrilled with this new approach, we feel we know not only our own key group, but also the rest of the cohort really well. We are confident that we are aware of each child’s levels and needs; this approach to planning requires very careful observations and detailed understanding of individual children, alongside the ability and creativity to extend children’s learning immediately.
To enable the children to develop their ideas and learning through meaningful play, we offer the children free-flow play in all weathers for most of the morning. We come together for a register time during the first part of the session to say hello to our friends, and then the children are able to explore the carefully prepared environment. Our environment is frequently tweaked and changed in order to extend learning through children’s interests. We are working very hard to ensure that all areas of the Early Years Framework are available both inside and outside. Children are able to access resources of their own choosing and we aim to offer as many open-ended natural resources as possible so children are able to utilise these objects in any way they choose within their play. You will notice our environment has changed often as we respond to children’s needs.
The snack bar is open for most of the morning in order for children to have enough time to naturally finish their games before choosing to come for a snack. We also no longer have a set singing time, children and adults sing songs frequently at all activities. It was decided between us, that stopping for a structured singing time was not enhancing children’s learning and often disrupted it as they were obliged to finish games and playing in order to join in. This also had an effect on behaviour and children are presently much calmer and very involved.
At the end of each session, children are given warning by a drum that they have 5 more minutes to play. This gives them the opportunity to bring their play to a natural conclusion. After tidying up, each group spends time with their key person, this forges strong attachments and enables the children to feel a sense of belonging. During this time the key person may read a story or sing songs, or both! This is an opportunity for key persons to tailor activities to children’s needs and for the children to spend time with their friends and special person.
If you have any questions, please do speak to your child’s key person.
The Stepping Stones Team.
You can donate online to us (www.thebiggive.org.uk) just scroll down and search for Stepping Stones Pre-School, Canterbury