I love the term ‘provocations for learning’, as I think that it encapsulates what our Continuous Provision and indeed our wider environment both indoors and out should be about.
How are we actually prompting children to want to learn? Have we created a space that is interesting? Do we have resources that are intriguing and worth taking a detour from your route to the outside area to have a look at, to investigate?
Although we want our children to feel happy and secure within the provision that we create for them we don’t want it to become so familiar that they stop noticing it.
We want them to be independent and able to access resources for their learning and play, but we want those resources to be interesting enough for them to want to pick up and use time and time again.
My fear is that in some settings that the resourcing for Continuous Provision has become too uniform, too bland and almost a clinical. When I first started teaching a Reception classroom had tables, chairs and draws in it – Oh, and the occasional book case on the carpet. That was it. Then with the introduction of the Foundation Stage came the concept of open shelving, at child height, where children could self select from the bounteous resources that had hitherto been locked in the stock cupboard!
With this welcome revolution came the wide bottomed moulded plastic pot in three sizes and three colours with a matching spade, bucket and sand wheel. All of which you could display upon your lovely new blond wood shelves. These were giddy times indeed! The problem is, although the organisation and uniformity is appealing - everything begins to look the same.
Settings gained an awful lot in using furniture that promoted all of the elements of independence and self selection, often resulting in children independently self selecting everything on the shelves and making a nice pile with it in the middle of the carpet!
What I think we have lost is some of the thrill and interest that children get from looking, touching, feeling interesting and often unfamiliar objects.
We need resources that make children think. To give them a unique twist on a familiar experience.
Take this water area for example...
This has been created as a permanent feature. In these photographs it has been leveled around ‘pouring’ based on the skills of the children who are going to be using it.
All of these items are second hand, mostly car boot or online purchases. All will drip, drop and pour to some degree – so nothing new there, but what they do is to challenge children’s thinking and provoke their learning.
The metal reflects the light and gives a different feel to plastic when filled with warm or cold water. The kettles vary in size, weight and capacity to challenge children’s knowledge and problem solving skills.
Some of the spouts are fat and wide, some are long and thin. There are two glass teapots that enable the children to see the movement of the water and also anticipate the moment when it will finally flow out of the spout.
There are metal scoops with long handles that make gathering water more challenging as well as kettles with side handles that use a whole different set of muscles to enable pouring.
There are taps that need to be manipulated and an urn and a samovar that need to be filled.
The skill that is being taught has been considered. The different levels of attainment have been accommodated, but the icing on the cake is the level of provocation – just through the resourcing.
In this sand area some of the very familiar plastic resources have been replaced with interesting alternatives that offer a whole new dimension to the experience.
In this Creative space I have used lots of interesting resources that children will want to look at and touch.
Everything from peacock feathers, sabre toothed tigers skulls to a small wooden man peeping through a stone.
I have put my little man under a plastic cloche from the garden centre. I tend to find that if you put anything under a cloche it makes it immediately ultimately more interesting. If you think that little fingers might not be able to resist having a quick poke about under the cloche, then you can always double sided tape it to your surface – or run mild electric current through it – whichever!
(The little man and the book behind him are all by author and artist Tracy Gallup. She has a series of really lovely little picture books all based on her sculptures posed around natural objects. They are well worth a look.)
A provocation can be something as simple as this little weather house barometer, tucked away on a shelf. Wherever I have used it the children have been fascinated by who is coming out of the house today and why.
Away from your shelving, you can also create individual provocations based around children’s interests or themes that you want to introduce.
I created these in wooden crates for texture, linking this one to the story of the Gruffalo, enhancing it with story stones and various open ended small world items.
This one is full of all things bear and brown. The camera encourages the children to look at all of the items in their box in a different way.
There is no end to the sort of thing that you can create. Just ask yourself the question ‘Does my environment provoke interest and therefore learning?’ If the answer is 'no', then get yourself to a jumble sale or car boot…fast! Organisation and order are brilliant for helping Early Years children to develop a sense of independence - and also to keep your environment running smoothly. But, as organised as your shelves are, if you aren't interested on what is on them then your children definitely won't be.
Obviously, everything you provide for children’s use should be safe and risk assessed before they use it!
Provocations for learning don’t have to be just restricted to areas of learning, you can also create smaller ‘Provocation Stations’ throughout your setting, both indoors and out. If you have fun with it, so will they!
Now for the winners of this weeks Giveaway.
The four LUCKY winners of a free place at an ABC Does Conference are...
Well done to you 'lucky' four! Could you please email the lovely Fee at firstname.lastname@example.org and let her know which conference you would like to attend and she will sort you out.
Hope to see some of the rest of you at an ABC Does conference in the near future!
Have a lovely weekend