Last post we had a brief overview of long term planning. In this one I am going to give you an idea of the sort of planning that I think really impacts on engagement and attainment.
If you are tied into a topic approach then your medium term planning is pretty well sorted and that is a real shame. You are missing a brilliant opportunity to inspire your children on a far more personal level and also challenge yourself and your team to ensure that what you plan is based on the identified needs of your current cohort and that you are not just regurgitating 'lovely activities' just because you have 'always done them'.
The process for good medium term planning is simple:
Assessment Of Need (formal and informal)
This HAS to be the first step. Your assessment and observations of the children will tell you who knows what and which gaps have to be filled. You will use Development Matters and your professional knowledge to identify 'next steps'. It is these 'next steps' that give you WHAT you will be teaching next.
At this point I have to say that all the way through F1 and F2 I would not explicity group children for things like CLL and PSRN. Basically, the reason for this is that CLL is so much broader than 'writing' and PSRN is so much braoder than 'calculation'. Children can be stronger in one strand than another yet they are tied into one group. (There is a more detailed explaination of this here)
In my assessment/planning file I would split CLL into its component parts and then for each of those I would identify children who were at a similar level of attainment. So I would have talk groups and I would also have mark making groups and often I have had speaking/listening groups.
When talk was my focus I would target the chilren in these groups with their next steps. Sometimes together, sometimes individually and sometimes as a mixed group.
If I took talk as an example, I might have 4 talk groups in my setting. I would have identified next steps for each group. If I went into a role play/construction/smallworld scenario that had children from each of the groups playing together, I would know what the next steps were for each of those children and I would differentiate my input and outcomes accordingly. Then I would record who I felt had made progress against their target.
It is actullly much easier in practice than it looks on paper! Once you have grouped your children and set next steps targets you very quickly get your head around who needs what.
This sort of planning and teaching is REALLY specific to identified need and that is why it has maximum impact.
Initiatives like Letters and Sounds I always do at the beginning or the end of the session and again I try and group the children in as many ability specific groups as I can given the adults available.
Next Step – PLODS!
Once you have identified what the needs are in each area, then you need to sit down as a team and generate a list of ideas of things that you could do to fill those gaps. These are often called PLODS (Possible Lines Of Developement). The key word here for me is POSSIBLE. These should not be planned in huge detail as the children's interets might take you in another direction.
When you create your PLODS you need to think PROCESS rather than ACTIVITY. In other words, what do the children need to learn next as a process? Rather than we could all make gingerbread men and an activity. If the children's interests take your planned theme in another direction then you can apply the same process and just change the activity now themed around their interests.
You need loads of PLODS both indoors and outdoors. You should ONLY be planning how you are going to teach the processes that meet the identified needs from your assessment OR are going to extend children's knowledge by providing a unique learning experience. If someone in your team asks if they can do that activity that they do every year at this time, ask them if they can show its rleveance through either assesment or experience.
Theme taken from childrens interests, enhanced by adult planned experiences
You have identified the need – Assessment
You have thought of ways to fill the need – PLODS
Now comes the CRUTIAL bit. Quality learning comes from high level engagement. High level engagement comes when children are interested and motivated by their environment and curriculum. To ensure that you are providing this for them you need to ask them what they are interested in and record what you find.
What they come up with will lead the 'theme'for your planning.
It is Autumn Term, normally I would be doing 'Ourselves'. This week my planning from 2004 tells me that we are identifying parts of the body. I have several children in my group with limited language and speech difficulties, becuase they struggle to speak and be understood they have high levels of frustration and a low bordom threshold – this makes them quite a challenge in the group.
Imagine their (and my) frustration when our carpet session today is all about your elbow and your ankle – and the relevance of that for these children at this stage in their development is..?
Like the time in Nursery where we did 'Houses and Homes' and even though most of my children live in a highrise block of flats we spent 20 minutes trying to describe and then pronounce 'BUNGALOW'. Once again, the relevance of this for these children is..?
So – it is Autumn, I know that I will be planning to explore all of the seasonal features that are happening around the children at this time of year. I will of course be looking at any relevant festivals and celebrations that the children are likely to celebrate and experience. All of those things that I have always done I (as the adult) will be bringing into my planning.
As for the rest of it. I have my assessment results, I have identified my next steps, I have got loads of PLODS (process not activity) and I have this group of boys who are really mad on Ben 10. I know I have to develop their skills in fine motor manipulation so, instead of doing that 'make a pasta bracelet' activity that we always do (and we have to drag the boys in by the scruff of thier neck and tape them to the chair to get them to do it!) I am going to set up an activity that involves the same PROCESS (fine motor manipulation) but we are going to make Omnitrixes!
Assessment identified the need. Adult came up with a process to meet the need. Children's interests themed the activity and raised the potential for high level engagement.
If you want to know what this looks like as a planning format then there is an example in the 'resources' section of the bog of a Child Led Medium Term Planner.
I would recommend that these planners last for 2 or 3 weeks maximum and that while you are running one, you are collection evidence for the next. I think it is really important that you evidence the fact that you have spoken to your children and can show in your teaching how you are reflecting their interests in the planning.
Last but by no means least is showing your curriculum coverage. You need to have a rigoruos system in place that shows how what you are teaching is giving the chidren plenty of curriculum breadth and depth. You need to be able to see where there are gaps that you need to fill with the type of activities you are offering.
This way of planning is very liberating for both practitioners and children. When based on good assessment and practitioner knowledge then dressed in children's interests. It results is and exciting curriculum that captures everyones imagination as opposed to elbows in a bungalow!
We will be working on this style of planning at the Manchester conference on 1st July.I will ask the delegates if I can post the results of thier toil, providing any are worth posting!