When I am not writing or delivering conferences I spend the rest of my time working in a wide variety of EYFS settings. Sometimes it is just a one off visit to do an audit of practice and provision or to help with a specific issue like mark making or outdoor. But there are some very lucky settings who have the 'pleasure' of repeat ABC visits.
One of those is Halton Lodge Primary who I 'bother' on a fairly regular basis. I was originally invited by Darren when he took over as the new Head and identified EYFS as an area for his own professional development.
We have done some joint observations (much to the sheer joy of the EYFS team) and he always has a list of EYFS questions for me when I go. I always suspected that he glazed over after the first 2 minutes of my pedagogical outpourings but to my great surprise, and pride, he gave a very comprehensive explanation of objective led as opposed to activity led planning on my last visit.
That would be like me understanding and being able to explain the offside rule to any of my 3 children who all reckon they know it anyway!
Football aside, here are some of the things that we have been working on at Halton Lodge and what Ruth, Karen and Lyndsey have done since my last visit…
The team were keen to make sure that all of their display is engaging and related to learning. Ruth and Karen both have an iPad for use in the classroom and they have created lots of learning stories using an app called Halftone. The children loved being in their own comic strip, especially as Avengers fever was rife!
As part of their phonic work children were creating their own labels for various areas of the classroom. Because they had created them they were keen to read and share them
The 'have a go if you want to' area is right beside the self service snack area, so if the table is full you have got something to keep you amused and challenge you while you wait.
These are the instructions for a fine motor challenge activity (more of that in a moment).
Most of their display now clearly shows a record of the process of learning rather than 30 versions of the same end result. As well as adult judgements there are lots of examples of children's voices which really helps to make the display engaging for the children and clearly explains the learning process to adults.
Differentiation in Continuous Provision
I usually give the same advice to all settings when we start to look at building differentiation and challenge into continuous provision – start with mark making! Ruth and the team started looking at that a good while ago and have now extended the principles into lots of other areas of their CP. They have gone for a 3 colour system. This is more for the adults than it is for the children. The colours relate to levels of difficulty within the CP. Although any child is welcome to have a go with any if the activities, the adults will use their knowledge of the child and the content of the basket to ensure challenge by encouraging them to have a go.
The fact that the activities are VERY engaging and based on children's interests and not boring topics or themes makes the children more than happy to try.
'use a stick to pop the pictures'
Of course you don't always have to have the same colour as top, middle or bottom you can rotate them – as long as you can remember which is which!
It was also good to see some challenge bags in use, with specific challenges for specific children.
FIne Motor Development
The team have a daily focus on fine motor/grip development for all children, really looking at the small steps in development as opposed to the broad sweep, 'name card and tracing paper' approach to letter formation and writing.
Their activities are differentiated and themed to children's interests. Although not exclusively, there were lots of activities 'dressed' for interest around The Avengers.
The children use the cocktail stick to punch holes in the paper around the outline of the image. This is really good for hand/eye coordination, strengthening wrist pivot and developing a triangulating grip.
Opportunities to Mark Make
I saw loads of opportunities to mark make from focused adult intervention through to continuous provision. One thing that they all had in common was a high level of engagement. Partly that was due to the subject matter and partly to the fact that the mark making was relevant and purposeful.
There is nothing like an iPad to engage children in the writing process!
There was certainly lots of purposeful learning going on. Attainment was very evident and easy to see without having to trawl through reams and reams of paperwork and planning. The environment on its own gave a very good indication of the type of practice and the quality of judgements that were taking place and then the practice just backed that up.
I have not even mentioned the child initiated army den, complete with hand printed camouflage netting and 'Keep Out' labels, or the hovercraft in the KUW area…
It was here where I was 'invited' to taste test a sample of the dips. The request was made by a lovely little girl who, after I had eaten my carefully prepared bread stick, revealed that she had 'already sucked the dip off twice' but she didn't like 'that stinky one'! That would be the garlic dip then! There is nothing I like more than licked garlic dip off a twice sucked bread stick!
Thank you Ruth, Karen and Lyndsey for a great day. I will be sending Darren the bill for the Pepto-Bismol!