I am doing lots of writing at the moment which I love, but is making my brain ache a bit. It turns out that book deals are a bit like buses. You don't get one for ages then all of a sudden two come along at once! More details to follow soon but ABC Does a book should be on the shelves by early 2012!
As a brain break from my writing I have been working on my conference content for Ready, Steady, Go! in Manchester on 1st July. Today I have been mostly thinking about the planning section and thought I might share some of my thoughts. For all those of you who are joining me on the 1st, we will be looking at this is a lot more depth and I will be giving you some formats to take away and try.
For those of you who aren't joining me on the 1st - why on earth not?
If I did one post on planning it would be too wordy to read, so my plan is to do 3 short ones. Long term planning tonight, medium term tomorrow and short term on Wednesday. Now there is something for you to look forward to!
I need to stress that these are MY thoughts on how I would ideally plan for EYFS. I am not saying they are the only or ultimate way of doing it. When I work with individual settings I always use these as a starting points but often make amendments and tweaks to suit the setting.
Putting into place effective planning systems should be seen as a journey of development for the whole team. You need to make sure that everyone is confident and able to do what you ask them to do. If you try to run before you can walk then you will fall over!
Where to start...
To get maximum engagement and therefore maximum potential for learning, planning HAS to be unique to the cohort you are currently teaching. It should meet their specific needs and reflect their unique interests. This is why I am not a great advocate of the two year rolling programme of 'topics' that a lot of settings use. They do not reflect the needs of a particular cohort and are not always relevant to what the children need to learn.
What you are requires to cover is contained in the EYFS documentation. This is the statutory bit. How you cover it is completely up to you. This is one of the great joys of the EYFS curriculum. You can do whatever you like and change what you do year on year as long as you can show that you have good curriculum coverage and the children are making progress.
I guarantee you, the more relavant you make the curriculum to the children's interests the better the progress will be.
Before you even start to plan your curriculum you need to ensure that your environment has been set up to meet the needs of the children you will be getting. Use any assessment info that you have got about your new cohort to identify what their key issues are. If the assessment shows that communication is an issue then make sure that you have PLANNED opportunities to develop communication throughout your environment.
If you have no info on the cohort that you will be getting then use your knowledge of previous cohorts and child development to set out your environment.
Your environment should change as the year progresses. It should look very different in July from how it looked in September. In September you will give over more space to the emergent skills that children are developing. As their skills develop you will change the usage of the environment to develop and enhance these new skills.
If you can show how an why you do this then you are making a clear link to judging attainment in your setting. One method of doing this is to complete an Environment Audit/Plan once a term. You can find a copy of mine on the resources page of the blog.
I think that it is essential to have a Point of Entry Assessment to be done at whatever age the children enter your setting.
There is no 'official' PoEA requirement for settings but in my experience it is very good practice for clarifying your thoughts about key areas of focus early in the year. It also gives you something that you can use to indicate progress.
Now the health warnings!
- It should NOT be a tick list
- It should NOT be every Development Matter in a LONG list
- It should NOT be done on the first day in the setting
- It should NOT involve kidnapping children and taking them to the cloakroom with an A4 sheet and some multilink!
- You should NOT set up activities just to meet the assessment criteria
It should be based on 3 or 4 key areas of Development Matters, plus a smattering of other information that you want to know that is not a DM statement. It should be created by the team so everyone is aware of what is on it. It should not be done to the children but rather completed as a result of what you have seen when you have observed the children in play. Please don't set up dull activities to do with building towers of 5 blocks just so you can tick it off your list!
In the past I have created a PoEA with a setting and we have agreed the content and how and when we are going to complete the assessment. When I worked with Middlefield (see beginning of the blog) We compiled a list of DM statements that we felt were key to the info we needed about the children (plus some extras). We agreed that 2 weeks after the children had finished their induction we would sit down together and go through each child an highlight what we felt they could do and leave blank things we felt they really couldn't. If there were any statements we were not sure about, we took responsibility for a group of children each and kept an eye out for particular things during their play.
This type of PoEA is NOT a definitive assessment. You CANNOT set firm targets for the end of KS2 from it! It is an anecdotal indicator of what children can do. As we all know some children walk into a setting and it is as if they have been there all their lives others take a while to really settle and you don't always see what they are capable of until much later in the term.
All of these things MUST be acknowledged if you are going to put something like this in place.
What it is good for is ensuring that all of the team are in agreement about what they feel they need to know about children on entry to a setting. It is an excellent training opportunity for how to carry out effective observation whilst playing alongside children. It allows the team to get an initial 'feel' for where the strengths and areas for development of this cohort are (and then tailor the planning accordingly) and it allows you to report to the senior team/staff early on in the year and say...
'At this point these are the early indicators of strength and need of this cohort and this is what we are doing about addressing them. Here, have a look at our Environment Audit and see how we have specifically structured our setting to match the identified need of our initial assessments. Of course we appreciate that these are only indicators as the children are still settling but we will be observing and assessing them regularly so will accurately amend our judgements as we go.'
Or words to that effect!
So, long term you have your DM' s and your ELG's. You have completed an Environment Audit and created a PoEA. It is the results of all of these things that are going to inform what you do in your medium term planning, and that is the next post!
If you are coming to Manchester we will be looking at the Environment Audit in depth and I will be giving you some examples of PoEA's from other settings as well as having a go at starting our own (plus loads of other good stuff)!