Objective Led Planning

abc doesBoys Learning, Child Initiated Learning, Continuous Provision, Environment, Mark Making, Planning and Assessment35 Comments

With objective led planning you would still group the children by ability based on assessment. Rather than having 'red group', 'blue group' etc for CLLD, PSRN etc. It allows you to group your children  by their specific need in each area of learning. So, children who need more support in talk development and less in fine motor can get just that, rather than being in one ability group for both.

Once you have decided on your teaching focus you group your children in relation to their performance within that area

For each group of children you would make a statement of their current performance in that area 'where they are now'.

Then you plan a 'next step' for each group.

It is the next step that you then take into the children's play. I would not call groups of children to me. The success of objective led planning is based on the fact that you go to them.

When you go and play alongside children you get high levels of engagement.

If you come across a group of children of mixed ability  - which you will, because children don't tend to play in ability groups! You just differentiate your questioning to suit the next steps objectives for the ability group of the child you are working with.

If I know that I have got a group of children who have a particular interest in something like Ben 10 then I might create a 'starter activity' that I know is going to grab their interest.

Once they have visited my activity and I have fulfilled my teaching objective then I wouldn't start calling other children over. The activity has fulfilled it's purpose in attracting the children that I was targeting. I would now take my objectives into other children's play.

How it can work…

The teacher

In this Reception setting there is a teacher and a teaching assistant.

The teacher has a writing focus for her objective led planning.

She is going to get the children to write using their knowledge of phonics.

She has grouped all of the children by their phonic knowledge and given each group a 'next steps' statement.

She has not planned an activity.

This is what her planning could look like.




The T.A

The T.A had got a PSRN  focus for her objective led planning

She is working on recognition of 1 digit and 2 digit numbers

She wants the children to recognise, name and order numbers

She has planned a 'starter' activity.

Once interest has dwindled in her activity she will leave it and take the objectives into the environment to target groups and individual children.


What we are looking at in this photo is the TA who has whipped out a Tesco bingo set. She has not said that specific children have to come and work with her. She has used the lure of Tesco bingo to get their interest and it worked. There were too many children  interested to start with! The adult could have created differentiated bingo cards that would correspond to the next steps objectives that had been planned or would differentiate her questioning depending on the individual children she was working with.

Notice behind the bingo session there are 2 boys engaging in a bit of deconstructed role play. They have chosen to be pirates and have a small pirate chest full of gold coins which they are hiding in the cave that they have created.


The teacher (in lovely lemon cardi) observes the boys in play and does not 'steam roller' in  - clip board in hand, but instead rolls out HUGE sheet of paper onto the floor. This in itself gets the interest of other children within close proximity.

She then asks the role playing boys what is happening in their play. They are keen to tell her and she begins to draw parts of it out, creating a visual 'map' of their play. 

She then models labelling her drawings. All of the time she is explaining to the children who have gathered what she is doing a then encouraging them to join in.

Lots do and begin to move between the role play and the paper, playing and then mapping their play. The teacher is supporting their learning on lots of levels but also fulfilling her writing objective differentiated to the ability level of the child she is working with.


The play takes another interesting shift when the 'map' of the role play actually becomes the source of play with the introduction of small world characters.

The play is now taking place in two places at once. A bit like a live game of Dungeons and Dragons!


The teacher ended up staying with this activity for a long time as there was lots of opportunity to meet her objectives with a variety of children as well as support them in other areas of their learning and complete a couple of observations!

The T.A on the other hand has worked with the first lot of 'bingo' children and then had enough interest to work with a second batch. Now she has moved into the environment with her objectives leaving the bingo on the table…


Where it is being used by children as part of their continuous provision.

One of the many advantages of this system of planning and teaching is that if I had a child in my bingo group that wasn't able to recognise and name numbers, then I could find them later in the house and count spoons, then in the garage and count cars, then in the workshop and count pom-poms.

Because I am doing it through their play I get high level engagement and they don't even know that I am doing it!

Honestly, you need to try it!


Thanks to Susan at St Augustine's Catholic Primary for the planning photos and Claire at St Thomas More Catholic Primary for the practice photos.

35 Comments on “Objective Led Planning”

  1. Love the sound of the objective led planning. Where can I learn more? I am in a nursery (in a school) with very high EAL, very high deprivation, low parental engagement and very low C&L as the children come in so C&L and PSED are my main areas of focus!

    1. Love the sound of the objective led planning. Where can I learn more? I am in a nursery (in a school) with very high EAL, very high deprivation, low parental engagement and very low C&L as the children come in so C&L and PSED are my main areas of focus!

  2. Hi Alistair,
    My name is Grace, I am a filipino nursery teacher working in Thailand in a british school. I loved your site because I am learning a lot and I can easily understand the thoughts you want to convery to the teachers. I will always check your site for more learning on how to be an effective teacher and how to adapt it to my classroom setting and teaching. Thank you and God bless.

  3. Hi Alistair, we are currently transforming our reception planning and working towards objective led. When you advise 3 objectives per wk, do you mean 3 objectives per child or 3 overall? How do we prioritize which objectives we choose and ensure we are covering all the areas of learning equally?

  4. Hi Alistair,
    I have just finished reading your book and am really eager to set up objective led planning in my setting. Is there a template for this anywhere?
    Thank you,

    1. Hi Izzy, There are a couple of suggested formats in the book, but really it is just 3 columns – Who (with statement of current attainment) Next Step and Evidence. Let me know how you get on!

  5. Hi, I work in a small setting of children ages ranging from 2 to 5. My question is, can this be an effective way to plan with children so young. Or is it more suited for the primary school setting.

  6. I’ve just started at a failing school who want to put objective led planning in place in reception. I’m confused as to how this might work. I get that you pick 3 objectives per week but what happens if you have children that don’t chose a CP activity that enables you to observe that objective? How is this managed do every objective is achieved with every child overtime? My last query is how is the day run? Is it mini phonics input then a phonic objective in CP then literacy mini input with a CLL objective? Then maths mini input with a maths objective in CP? What about the afternoon and other subject areas? Any advice would be very welcomed!

  7. Hi, we are planning on introducing objective led planning into our setting. Currently, I plan a whole class input, then send children off into groups to do activities. If we did objective led planning, would this mean no longer having small groups they would go straight to child initiated learning? So ultimately they would have longer learning through play. Just trying to clarify. Thank you so much!

  8. Hi everyone, I was wondering whether anyone has tried this style of planning with 2 year old provision in schools?

    Thank you.

  9. Hi Alistair
    I’m struggling to find the Objective Led Planning Templates. have looked in resources 3 times! Am I looking in the wrong place or are they not there anymore?

  10. I am wondering if anyone has tried this style of planning with a mixed R/Y1/Y2 class? In September I will have more reception children than those in Y1/Y2 so looking to change how things work. I would love to know how staff manage this grouping, if it can be done.
    I currently have a TA mornings only and not sure what she will do in Sept.
    Thanks you in anticipation.

    1. Hello- I have R, 1, 2 and thinking to some extent to use this planning format lthough our head would not accept objective led planning in the truest form for 1 and 2. Could I still do this for the R children though?

  11. Pingback: Objective Led Planning in Practice | Rock My Classroom

  12. Hi Rob. If you are using OLP’s then you won’t be withdrawing groups to work on an ‘activity’ during CP sessions. I could be that you are trying to do both and that is where your difficulty is coming from. You would do any direct teaching at the beginning or end of a CP session and then during the CP all of the adults need to be in the play with the children observing, challenging, engaging and delivering (OLP’s). I use Dough Gym and Funky Fingers sessions to get children moving if they have been sitting for any period of time, so often after a whole class carpet session. If you can get your hands on a copy of Continuous Provision in the Early Years there is a timetable in there that lots of settings I work with have used/adapted.
    Let me know how you get on.

    1. Hi Alistair,
      I have read with interest all your articles on object led learning and am really keen to give this a go. I work in Reception class with a TA. Love this last thread and the example of the types of activities. Eg T with a writing focus and the TA with a Maths focus. Can see how this works. My question though is what is happening outdoors? We have outdoors open and so either T or TA outdoors. When trying to work on objective led learning, we are interrupted as also need to manage some of the children at the moment as low level behaviour issues. Feel like I am spinning too many plates and not enough staff to try and do it all. That is also before all the other non negotiables like listening to readers etc…. Any advice for us?? TIA Karen

      1. Hi Karen

        You can run OLP with one adult in and one adult out. You will inevitably get some interruptions, in the same way as you would if you were using activity led learning as opposed to OLP. Because you and your TA are moving through your spaces with your OLP’s this should help you to keep engagement and challenge high and therefore disruption low. Things like readers should ideally be done outside of CP as if you do them during provision you are pulling an essential adult and children away from learning. Lots of schools use Linked Provision to allow then to hear children read on a daily basis.

        Hope this helps a bit?


  13. Hi Alistair , I have been planning obj led plans for three foci a week and also for a daily FA related to our topic focus . This has resulted in me finding I have limited time to actually take my ok led into CP and is meaning that I am relying on my 2 TAs to do this. I also plan a busy fingers/ dough gym session according to need and differentiated phonics sessions- what am I doing wrong? Could you suggest a workable timetable for a 15 hour per week nursery as I am spending a long, long time planning and feel I am not using it effectively at the moment .

  14. Hi Charlotte – not sure why it will not open. I will try uploading a new version to the resources section of the blog now. If it still won’t work, drop me an email.

  15. Hi Alistair. I really want to get started with objective led planning but seem unable to open your blank planning format ( I really want to see what it will look like). I am able to save it but am faced with a format I can’t use?

  16. Hi Jennie There is a blank one on the resources section of the blog, which should let you see the format. There are also lots of examples of filled in ones in ‘Continuous Provision’ if you can lay your hands on a copy of that.
    Good luck

  17. Hi, I wonder if you have any copies of planning examples for objective led planning… as above with ‘who?’ ‘what?’ etc. I just can’t seem to see a full one to use as inspiration. Thanks

  18. Hi
    I have recently been looking at planning for reception as I will be moving back into reception in September. I really like the idea of objective led planning and would like to start putting this in place in our fs unit in September.
    I have seen previous comments about the number of objectives to plan over a week but am still a bit confused about how much to plan. The reception class currently do 20 min whole class phonics, literacy and maths input each day then have 5 adult focused tasks that run through the week.
    Would we still have these short focused teaching sessions during the day then adults move into activities that are objective led?
    Hope that makes some sense!

  19. Hi Nicola
    Thanks for you comment. I would keep a focus on PSRN (or mathematics!) and ensure that physical is being met throughout the environment both in CP and outdoor play. I would also still have times of focussed teaching throughout the day and then have 3 objectives that adults take into CP. These objectives would be assessment/need driven as opposed to subject driven.

  20. Hi Alistair,
    I wondered if you might be posting something at a later date about the new EYFS? I too was wondering about how many objectives to cover in one week (thanks for bravely asking Hettie). With the new framework would you change the daily PSRN obj you mentioned to a Physical Dev one? So would that be 4 other obj from the other areas of learning over the week?

  21. I work in this way and I am a great advocate of this approach. I have read this blog avidly from the beginning and have let Alistair guide me.
    Since Easter I have introduced Individual Learning Passports to my FS2 class. The passport ‘jobs’ are linked to next steps (for groups) from previous week’s obs/formative assessment- or profile gaps. I write down 3 jobs, usually 1 literacy based, 1 numeracy based and 1 other (depending on what we’re doing/whichever PLOD we’re following). All the jobs are to be done in CP independently. Once they’ve done it they show the result to an adult…if the objective is achieved fully we stamp it with target achieved, or otherwise we stamp it with a star/great effort. Once all 3 jobs have been attempted they trade in their passport for a medal (the cheap ones you get as party bag fillers).
    They get to wear the medal home that night (Happy Mum and Dad) proud child, pleased teacher as lots of purposeful learning done in CP. All the completed passport obs can go in profile as evidence of learning.
    Examples of jobs might be:
    Read the sentences and match them to the best illustration to fit. e/t R6, LSL8/9
    Use the 10p coins and make piles of the right amount to buy the toys in the shop (outside).e/t Calc 8/9
    Use a hammer and nail in 5 nails into the butternut squash.
    Skip 20 times with a big hoop. PD5
    Write a sentence with a capital letter, finger spaces and a full stop. W2-8, e/t LSL 9
    Make up a Bollywood dance. Perform it to the class.
    CD 6, KUW6, SD7, SD8, ED6
    Paint a picture, mix your own colours. e/t CD7/8
    Do a long jump. Hop, skip and jump (land on 2 feet). e/t PD9
    All the stuff needed will be in place in CP to do these tasks. They are intentionally quite open ended, and allow for differentiation. The toys in the shop were labelled from 20p to 80p, for example. Some of the sentences were much shorter and simpler than others.
    This has proved so popular I have had to produce more passport tasks. I started with 1 sheet of 3 per week, have moved to two and still pupils clamour for more.
    I have refused though as I want to ensure they continue to play creatively and invent their own challenges and games in CP. I hope I offer them pupil led learning, playful provocations and open ended creativity.

  22. Thank you for the tips! Was thinking again about the grouping thing and it really is one thing that’s been particularly effective with the Y1 half of my class who do more ‘table’ work – if I have a focus group then they all sit together with me at a table. The others often sit ‘where they like’ which is lovely to see – I kept hold of our old-fashioned individual whiteboards when they were being thrown out and hoards of children go to get one to lean on and then lie on the carpet to work or they take themselves off to their own space which most people wouldn’t consider a work space. It looks utterly chaotic when you walk in with bodies lying all over the place but it’s peaceful, calm and focused all because they’ve been given a bit of choice.

  23. We have all done that! You are right, there is a real skill in knowing when to leave alone, when to observe and when to jump in – but when you get it right it is magic!

  24. Hi Hettie
    You should have come and said ‘hello’ in Derby! I would do a focused teaching session in phonics, psrn and clld every day (in other areas of the environment, taught through other areas of learning – NOT on the carpet in front of the white board) and then I would have no more than 3 objectives that would run for a week through CP.

  25. Another thought (and this is a ‘thick moment’) how many focus objectives would you aim for in a week. Another of my next steps is to stop trying to do everything all at once! I suspect I have a tendency to give my planning objective overload!

  26. I love the idea of this and really want to try it – I have been grouping the children this way for ages and it works. My own next step I think is to ‘break out’ from the practice of calling children to me. I need to figure out a way to get over my fear of ‘missing one’! I also seriously need to do something (anything!) with my PoE assessments this year. Alistair – I’ve been looking around your blog for ideas – any idea where I can get big bubble wrap from?! The next challenge will be making sure I actually let the children use it rather than hogging it all myself! PS Was good to see you in Derby last weekend – I’ve been watching what my boys are doing with their hands very closely ever since!

  27. Thank you that sounds like a wonderful way of challenging the children but playing and modeling and assessing at the same time without dragging them off to a table to ‘work’ with them. However I can clear an area when i go into play so i need to look at how i approach a group of children!!!!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.