Planning Formats

abc doesPlanning and Assessment7 Comments


I will keep adding these as I go. This is a child initiated medium term planner.

Key points to remember:

  • MOVE AWAY from the yearly topic planner
  • BE LED by children's interests
  • FIND OUT what they know
  • ADD your own pinch (or large blob) of expertise
  • Create a 'something' that pulls it all together
  • Assess, Assess, Assess

If you need a bit of extra 'padding' this was a post I made on the Foundation Stage Forum – If you are not a member join! It is a fantastic resource and full of some inspirational practitioners – and a few nutters!!

Basically – Your document is your long term planning and you need to be sure that you have a system in place to show what you have covered across the year. You will have enough to do so DON'T be tempted by re-writing what is already there for you!

If you are planning your curriculum around the interests of your children in true 'child led' learning you would not have any topic titles at all. Not even general ones.

This is how I suggest that you do it. It is massively empowering for you and the children and better than that… it works!


When you first get your children you should be getting to know them, assessing them and modelling the appropriate use of your environment. When you think you have a good idea of where they are up to in their learning you will know exactly what the next steps need to be in your teaching.

Point of entry assessment is essential for you. If you have information sent up with the children then your assessment will validate that (ALWAYS bear in mind that the majority of children regress to some extent over the summer, especially if starting a new setting) so don't dismiss other peoples assessments out of hand – let them help you to form a picture of the child now and their possible potential

If you have no assessment you need to make an initial judgement about PSE and attainment. This is for your use in planning and is subject to change as the children settle and develop, It is NOT a label and it is NOT set in stone!!

So, the children are now in. They have stopped clinging to their carers legs and wailing every mroning. Their carers have stopped wailing every morning and you have finally stopped having to sponge the snot off your trouser legs at the end of the day!

You have spent a couple of weeks (or more) getting to know your little cherubs and assessing where they are up to. You know what you need to start teaching and to whome.

It will not be the same next year. BEWARE anyone who just gets last years planning out – no 2 cohorts are ever the same!


Now assessment has told you what you need to teach you need to decide how you will teach it. Step 2 is 'ask the children'. Find out what they like and this will be the basis of your teaching content. If you ask the children to sit in a circle and tell you what they like – some will go blank, some won't speak and some will dominate. The best way to do it is in small groups while you are assessing/playing with them.You can also make floor books or maps where you work with a group and draw out what they like (like an old fashioned topic web that we used to use in the good old days!) You cannot have 30 themes running so take the most prevelant 3 or 4. Always record these sessions and keep for evidence of child led learning.


You now know: what you need to teach, what interests your children and this is where you and your staff come in with your PLODS.( Possible Lines Of Development). As a team you talk about all the things/activities/visits etc that you can think of that address step one and step two.

Remember a four year old will only ever lead learning from the experiences that they have had. It is our job to extend those experiences with our knowledge. So you brainstorm and you plan – NOT in huge detail. POSSIBLE is the key word in PLODS as many of the things you think of won't happen because as the learning progresses they are not relevant any longer.


This is my favourite bit – MASH UP! Take what your assessment has told you combined with what your children like add what you know and create a 'challenge' for the children. Experience has shown me that this works best when there is an end result that the children are working towards.

So you might have 3 week project that encompasses all of the above that ends with: a class book, a podcast, an performance a party…the list is endless

Your daily planning is shaped by all of the above and how the children respond to it. MOST important is your ongoing assessment and observation and that is a whole other post!

Once you have done your assessments, make sure your environment set up and planning respond to the need you have identified. If your children lack vocabulary or have speech difficulties then more of your space and planning need to be given to addressing those issues. Your writing area should look very different this September than it will next July more space, different resorces, room for gross motor floor work etc…

Although your room should be interesting when the children arrive your room arrangement and the content of your planning file should be dictated by their needs and preferences not by what you did last year or what you think you fancy doing this year. Your medium/short term planning should not be detailed at this point as until they are in you don't know what it is they need therefore you cannot know what it is you need to teach.

Download Child Initiated Planner

7 Comments on “Planning Formats”

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  2. Hi,
    I’ve only recently come across your blog and it’s been really helpful and useful…thanks!
    I teach in a reception class in a 2 form entry school and we are currently looking at our planning formats as we don’t feel they are working very well at the moment.
    I would be interested to hear how you plan using all your different formats and how manageable this is. As far as I understand it you plan a new theme every few weeks following the children’s ideas and you then make plans as follows: child initiated planner, outdoor planner, CLLD, PSRN, discrete letters and sounds planner and then daily plans too. Sorry if I’ve misunderstood and please tell me if I have, but this seems like a lot of planning and paperwork. If you could offer any more detail I would be really grateful…thank you!

  3. I can download it, Tam???? Is it your version of MSWord?
    Alistair…where are the other planning documents….Dexter is on at 10pm – I don’t want to miss it!!!!!

  4. Hi Tam
    Am new to this blogging malarky and just followed the upload instructions… Just tried to log in and download it and I just get a blank page – need to investigate! In the meantime email me at and I will send it directly to you.

  5. I look forward to following your blog. I’ve read several of your posts on the Foundation Stage Forum and am keen to have a go at using floor books but mainly to plan better from the children’s interests and needs. I tried to open the child initiated planner but it wouldn’t work – any ideas? Thanks for sharing what you are doing.

  6. Sandy
    Thanks for looking and I will answer all of your questions! I am generating a top 10 list of things that I think are ‘must do’s’ complete with formats in Word so that you can mess about with them. Will defo be done by Friday. Also completing and article for Early Years Educator and school set up is proving to be much bigger than I anticipated – But in the words of my lovely wife ‘shut up and get on with it!’

  7. I shall follow your blog with interest, as we both seem to be doing the same thing in Nursery! What kind of observation formats are you using? What assessment records will you be keeping? How will you use your planning for children who are accessing their 15hrs entitlement at different times to each other, (iykwim)?

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