Planning – Part One

abc doesBoys Learning, Child Initiated Learning, Environment, Planning and Assessment, Talk8 Comments

There is SO much to write about an effective planning process in EYFS. I will do my best to strip it down to what I think are the bare bones. This is not going to be an in depth study, but hopefully will give you a few ideas.

There are lots of other factors that might effect the way that you plan, like the space and staff you have available but the basic principle should always be the same.

CleggySudley Infant School

Learning is far more effective when you take it into children's play as opposed to  pulling children away from their play to come and sit at your table to 'learn'.

So – for me, the key points are:

  • Everything is driven by assessment
  • Environment is crucial
  • Outdoor is as important as indoor
  • Continuous Provision MUST impact on attainment
  • Plan 'next steps' objectives and outcomes NOT activities
  • Plan to children's interests NOT topics
  • Do NOT explicitly group children


Assessment and observations are the key. Having said that they have to be accurate assessments and observations done with, not to children. You want to find out what children can do when they are doing their best, not when they are bored or dying to get away from you and back to what they were doing.

Time your assessments well and create an environment that supports your assessment process as opposed to dragging children out into a freezing corridor with a clip board full of initial sounds!

Surely this is a better way to assess number letter or number recognition?


Having said that, the children would probably learn much quicker if they weren't having to recognise cursive script. Why when a child is just beginning to learn to recognise and write letter shapes would you confuse them with this? In this case it was not the fault of the teacher it was a classic 'whole school initiative' !

Assessment should inform your Environment

You should always structure your environment to reflect the needs of your current cohort. This means that your environment could look different at the beginning of every year because the needs of every cohort will probably be different.

Whenever you do any summative assessment you should make sure that your environment has been tweaked and enhanced to meet the needs that the assessment has highlighted.

If I asked you…

Could you match your environment to your last assessment indoors and out?

Have you created numerous opportunities for children to engage in activities that develop the skills that they need most as opposed to just creating six generic areas?

Have you enhanced your Continuous Provision to reflect that skill development?

How are you recording this process?

How are you showing impact?

It is really important, not only for the clarity of your own thinking, but also as evidence of your impact, to record the changes that you make in your environment in response to children's needs. There are lots of ways to do this but you can have a look at an example of a blank and completed 'Environment Map' here.


This deconstructed role play area trebled the size of the exiting 'themed' role play and was created as a direct response to a point of entry assessment that indicated that children had low Personal Social skills and limited Language skills. It was enhanced with lots of first hand objects for the purpose of naming and recognition.

The setting also created a designated 'talk' area complete with a 'talk sofa'. The area was enhanced with interesting and unusual objects to promote discussion.

 As the year goes on, children's skill level should develop in response to the provision that you have put in place. This development will mean further changes in your environment to accurately reflect where the children are at. 

Recording the assessment that has taken place, the changes that you have made as a result and the impact of those changes on attainment are a crucial part of your evaluation process.

Showing Assessment, Engagement, Understanding and Progression in Display

When I’m in a setting and I’m considering the impact of their display, I have a couple of general rules of thumb. Without looking at any planning, talking to any staff or children, just by looking at the walls can I get a real sense of the children who inhabit this space? Can I see the diversity of their curriculum, their interests? Is there clear evidence that the children’s voices are being recorded and that they are shaping the content of the curriculum? Is there space around the display that really highlights the key features and is it personalised for THIS cohort of children?

Are practitioners also recording their thoughts about what they have seen on display? This can be description of the process or a statement of attainment. There are lots of ways of doing this, here are just three.

IMG_0293East Herrington Primary School 

IMG_0163Crofton Hammond Infant School


TimSt Thomas Moores Primary

REMEMBER – We display what the children produce. We DO NOT give children activities to produce a display.

The days of display boards covered in 3o versions of the same thing are long gone! Diversity is the key.

Teach a skill NOT an end result

The skill should be the SAME the end result could be very DIFFERENT

So, if you are introducing the children to the use of pastels you would not get each of them to do a pastel picture of a daffodil for your 'Spring' display. Your display would become what the children chose to do when they were experimenting with pastels. You might get a daffodil if you are lucky but you will also probably get plenty of Ben 10!

I am not interested in daffodils, I am interested in Ben 10.

Your learning objective/outcome was to introduce me to the skill/process of using pastels NOT observational drawings of a daffodil.

I will learn best when I am most engaged

Therefore I should be able to draw what motivates me most.

Of course, once you have introduced a child to a new skill like folding, sticking, textured paint, pastels, the materials they used should be available for them to select or request from then on. Ideally what you want to see is a child choosing to use a skill that you have taught them, independently in their own work. Then you really know that they have got it.

I will have a look at Outdoor and Continuous Provision next post – plus I still want to share the outcomes of the Hampshire project so far. So much to share…so little time!


8 Comments on “Planning – Part One”

  1. Alistair I love your blog and find myself nodding and saying ‘yes’ all the time! if only all teachers had the freedom to be in control of their own planning!

  2. Thank you Sophie – you might well be right which is why when I look at the blog on my computer it has no problem reading the key points. I have converted them all to Arial which should rectify the problem. If anyone else can’t see them drop me an email on
    What a palaver, all for the sake of a fancy font!

  3. I just copied and pasted the key points into word and changed the font, that worked. I guess Alistair has some funky font on his PC that we don’t, I make that mistake all the time when printing stuff off at school – make it all pretty at home only to find that all the fonts and formatting are all messed up when I put it on the school computer. GRRR!
    Love the post Alistair, will share this with out FSco tomorrow.

  4. Anne, you are the third person who has contacted me about this and I have absolutely no idea! When I log in and look at it, everything is fine! Someone said they had key points in Greek! Hope it has resolved itself. If not email me.

  5. I’ve been blog-hopping a bit (lot!) today. I happened across a lot of blogs from America, which, yes, have some useful resources, but the more I read, the more stressed out I became. Some of those teachers make resources on a daily basis to fit in with a class theme (think truffula trees Dr. Suess style), including worksheets that link in (blech). The more I read, the more I thought, “oh, I don’t do that. My displays don’t look like that. My plans aren’t that thorough and “thematic.”” But then I come here, and am relieved to find that I’m not, in fact, doing everything wrong. If my kids don’t paint daffodils despite reading about them, planting them, finding them outside, so be it. Mine are more interested in Star Wars and cats, and if those things are what it’s going to take to get them engaged, well, may the force be with us. 🙂

  6. Nothing to say except ‘Thank you’ So clear and helpful! Looking forward to the next installment.

  7. As an NQT battling against displays of 30 identical daffodils and spiders, I just wanted to say thank-you for posts such as these. I am printing them all out as evidence to support my thinking regarding creativity. xxx

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