This week I have a guest blog post from Kirsty Cooper who is the Headteacher of Grayrigg CE Primary School and also teaches in Key-Stage 2 …I will let her explain…
A Key-Stage 2 teacher in the Early Years.
First of all, I should tell you all a little about my school. We’re a small (but growing) school on the outskirts of Kendal, not far from the Lake District, in a very beautiful location. I’m the Head Teacher but have a 0.7 teaching commitment, which basically means I teach every morning and two afternoons.
I actually teach the KS2 class which we know as the Oaks – so why am I writing a guest blog for the lovely Alistair? The answer is quite simple really – because I think people who teach Early Years are amazing. I actually started teaching down the lower end of school and never imagined myself in KS2 but as a class teacher I was moved. At first I hated it, then I realised children are still children and I didn’t need to change how I taught completely, just adapt a few things. In 2013 I officially became the head teacher – this was never the plan and whilst there are boring bits to the headship, I still get to teach and I love leading the curriculum, vision and ethos of our school.
Fortunately for the school, we have a fantastic Early Years team, unfortunately for me this means I’m not needed down there as much as I’d like to be. Recently, when Miss Littlewood (EYFS teacher) asked if I could cover her class whilst she spent the day in the forest classroom with my class, I jumped at the chance – I had the best day and ended the day feeling inspired and refreshed.
As we are in the second term of the school year, routines are established and the environment is set up and adapted based on the needs and skill level of the children, with effective and well thought through enhancements. The day starts with linked provision, including funky fingers and dough gym. My job was to lead dough gym – thank goodness the children are amazing – I was useless but they kept me right – it’s harder than it looks.
After that the children spent the morning in continuous provision so I went outside. I managed to have enough self-control to stand back, although I was desperate to join in. The children started to build a bridge between two platforms but came across a few problems
Problem 1: The planks of wood available were not long enough. After a bit of discussion they decided they needed a middle platform which they referred to as a “middle bit.” They got a wooden block and placed it between the two platforms.
Problem 2: Now the planks of wood were too long so they moved the “middle bit” out until it worked.
Problem 3: The plank sloped down. When you stood on one end, the other end came up so they began to build up the middle platform with wooden blocks.
Problem 4: Two wooden blocks in the middle bit didn’t work -it was still too low but three blocks were too high, so they got some short planks to wedge underneath.
Problem 5: The planks kept sliding off the middle bit so they swapped the small planks for four sanding blocks to stop them slipping – Friction doesn’t come into the curriculum until KS2!
Eventually they had finished it and tested it – it worked. Finally, the children turned to me and said, “we think it is safe but we need to know if it will take lots of weight so will you walk over it.”
If I hadn’t been so impressed with their engineering, I might have been insulted. I stepped up and one of them kindly took my hand “in case it breaks” and off I went – there was a cheer and as I looked down at the little people below I was blown away to think they were aged between 3 and 5.
As I later wrote this up on our online learning journal, I clicked the link to Early Years outcomes and Characteristics of Effective Learning. However, I’m a KS2 teacher and the KS2 curriculum is always at the forefront of my mind – I couldn’t help but feel that with a little more discussion the same process would result in successful understanding of some of the KS2 expectations.
DT years 3 and 4 (from our skills progression documents)
- Refine work and techniques as work progresses, continually evaluating the product design.
- Identify strengths and weaknesses of their design ideas.
- Talk about how closely their finished product meets their design criteria and meets the need of the user.
- Investigate how to make structures more stable
DT Year 5 and 6
- Justify their decisions about materials and methods of construction.
- Make suggestions on how their design/product could be improved.
Science Year 5 (directly from the National Curriculum)
Identify the effects of friction, that act between moving surfaces.
There are also quite a few areas of KS1 scientific understanding and DT that could also be linked to this learning. All of this happened not because a teacher told them what to do but because they explored it themselves. It doesn’t matter how many times I visit our Early Years class, I’m always inspired by the amount of learning that happens when the teacher stands back. I’m certainly not suggesting that all Early Years teachers have to do is stand back – NO, they invest time and energy into creating an environment that enables this to happen- Early Years teachers are the most amazing practitioners when it comes to creating enabling environments.
Of course this isn’t the result of a one off visit. I’ve known for a long time that the most amazing teaching goes on in Early Years. I urge all teachers to visit their Early Years. Every time I attend an Early Year’s course (especially Alistair’s) or visit an Early Years setting; the learning I gain enables me to improve learning across the school.
For example: Across the whole school, we let the children be involved in leading the learning and adapt our curriculum to the children’s interests.
In KS1: The foundation subjects are taught through challenge based provision with children involved in choosing some areas of learning e.g. in History they choose which famous event or which famous person they cover – relating to their own interests.
In KS2: The way we timetable the foundation subjects allows more time for the children to take the learning in a direction they choose and to present it how they want.
I could waffle on for ages about the influence of Early Years pedagogy across the entire school but I won’t bore you with everything we do, but definitely suggest that you all invite your Key-stage 2 teachers and Senior Leadership Teams to spend a day observing in the Early Years alongside you and share the power of child led learning also known as JUST PLAYING.
Thank you Kirsty – I couldn’t agree more! There is so much of the Foundation Stage approach that is applicable to the National Curriculum. You can never fail to be engaged through ‘play’ and high level engagement has a direct link to progress and attainment – enough said!