This essay is going to look at the various ways in which you can identify and promote learning opportunities for children of all ages. It will describe how the early education frameworks assist in supporting the learning of early year’s children. This essay will also explain how to plan activities in order to meet all the children’s needs. Finally it will describe how to monitor and assess the children’s learning through a variety of assessment techniques. Within early learning provisions it is important for them to support the children’s learning by following the guidelines set out for them by the early education framework in this country. There are two parts to the curriculum framework in England; Early Years Foundation Stages (EYFS) and the National Curriculum. The EYFS sets the statutory standards that all early years providers must meet. This includes all maintained schools, non-maintained schools, independent schools and all providers on the Early Years Register. (EarlyYears) The EYFS is set out for the age group three to five and it aims are to provide consistency between early years settings, through the use of shared resources and information thus promoting the same key concepts, skills and knowledge.
The EYFS also aims to provide settings with a secure foundation which will allow all the children to progress through school. Moreover the EYFS hopes to provide partnerships between different practitioners and parents or carers. They also hope to promote equality of opportunity for all children through the EYFS. The national curriculum contains the programmes of study and attainment targets for all subjects, at all key stages, except key stage 4. ‘The national curriculum provides pupils with an introduction to the essential knowledge that they need to be educated citizens.’ ‘The national curriculum is just one element in the education of every child… The national curriculum provides an outline of core knowledge around which teachers can develop exciting and stimulating lessons to promote the development of pupils’ knowledge, understanding and skills as part of the wider school curriculum.’ (Curriculum) The national curriculum is set out for children aged five and over, it leads all the way through until the age of sixteen. It is a set curriculum which ensures that standards are consistent and maintained across the country, the National Curriculum should be implemented in all schools after children have reached their fifth birthday.
Learning aims and objectives are put in place to ensure that activities planned meet the required needs in the chosen area of development. An aim is what you intend to introduce to the children, it should set the scene and limit the activity to a certain type of activity although it does still need to be flexible enough to incorporate change of direction if necessary. The objective is shows how this is going to be achieved. The objective should break the activity down into smaller units so it is measureable. For example by the end of the day the children will be able to understand that heat causes ice to melt. An example of this was during placement at 5-8 age group I completed my observations, my aim was to promote their fine motor development and objectives were to observe during structured play. Early years settings also provide learning opportunities for their children by using an integrated approach. This approach provides the children with a greater learning experience.
‘The adult should integrate their planning into a theme. The lesson or session can be mapped and planned around the theme along with the curriculum. For example if the theme is transport then the children can count the wheels on different vehicles in maths, read a story about transport in literacy and in art the children can draw different vehicles.’ (IntegratedApproach) Within the school I’m on placement on at the minute, 5-8, we have a house and homes theme, we have incorporated this into most of the activities and currently they are designing, writing about and constructing the houses. When on my previous placement with 0-3 years they had a Christmas theme whereby their activities were designed around this. They produced Christmas cards, completed displays, sung songs about Christmas and read books all based on this theme. At my placement working with 0-3 they had a theme for one week on growing, the children that were able to have to draw pictures of themselves, they also had to bring pictures in from home of when they were little or of them over a period of time so we could look at how they’d grown.
When designing and teaching these activities it is important for the teachers to take into account inclusion. There must not be any barriers stopping any child from learning, it is essential to remove these so all children can take part; this does not just include special needs or specific needs children but everyone. Activities may need to be adapted or differentiated in order for all the children to take part. Moreover it is essential for the school to promote an anti-discriminative practice, this is a fundamental part of early years care and education and it must be taken seriously.
Discrimination comes from many sources and not everyone will know what they are saying, this is why it is vital to tackle any remarks or actions immediately, in a sensitive manner, so everyone knows how important this issue is. At my placement which is age range 5-8 there are children with speech difficulties, the teachers must ensure that they treat all the children as individuals and treat them fairly. They always include them in class discussions and give them the chance to answer just as like any other children. In my experience of working with 0-3 they ensure anti-discriminatory practise is maintained by providing ramps for push chairs and they also welcomed children from different cultures.
Within an early years setting it is important to plan effectively so all areas of learning are covered and a wide range of activities are presented. Planning can be long, medium or short term and it will need to consider the curriculum as well as the individual needs of the children. The length of long term planning varies from setting to setting, most settings will see a long term plan as anything over six weeks, commonly in schools long term plans are for a whole academic year. Long term plans tend to include ‘an outline of how the curriculum is to be delivered, a consideration of the themes that are used over the period.’ CCLD Long term plans mean that you plan activities and observations in advance, you follow the curriculum when planning these and you have to be able to change and adapt your activities to suit different situations.
The length of a medium term plan or curriculum plan depends mainly up on the length of the long term plan. In the majority of schools the medium term plan shows coverage for a half term. The main features of a medium term plan include details of the types of activities of which are to offer, how the activities link to the EYFS or NC and the order the activities will be carried out. Medium term plans will include learning outcomes and will include themes and topics.
Short term plans show what is to happen each week or session; these plans may be referred to as ‘session planners’ or ‘weekly planners’. This sort of plan includes details such as staffing and resources, it also shows the order the activities will be carried out. Moreover it will display details of how activities will be adapted to provide opportunities for particular children. It will also set out the learning outcomes and show which activities will be assessed. Finally the short term plan will demonstrate how the adult can support specific children through the activities and outside of these. At my placement 5-8 they have a whole week of working with money and understanding the different denominations; at the end of the week the children have the golden box whereby the children who received the most gems for their work through-out the week are rewarded with prizes.
Early years settings must cater for all children and their individual needs. When planning activities for young children it is important to take into account their specific needs. All activities must accommodate children at whatever level or with whatever need they have. It is important for the teacher to differentiate activities in order for all the children to take part. Within my placement 5-8 my teacher ensures there are different sized pencils out on the tables for all the children to use, she also makes sure there are right and left handed scissors out on the tables for those children who need them. In my experience working with 3-5 I have also had to cater for a child who could not use sugar paper therefore whenever we were doing creative activities I had to make sure she was using normal writing paper or card.
Whenever planning activities it is important to make all the children feel equal, a child with an individual need should not be left out or be made to stand out from the rest. When planning activities and classes it is also essential to take into account children with IEP’s (individual educational plan), this is so you know where they are at with their learning and you can help them to the full extent through-out activities. In addition it is important to take into account different ways of teaching, some children may find it easier to learn if they are hands on doing practical work whereas others may find it easier if they are writing all the information down, so ensure that you cater for all these children in your plans. In order for activities to be suitable for all children you will need to differentiate them, make sure there’s levels within your activity. Within the classroom there should also be equipment for all children to use scissors which are left and right handed, paper which is suitable for all, big pencils and small ones. Changes should take place to make all the children feel ‘the same’ none of them should stand out for being different.
Through-out early year’s settings observations must be used this is to ensure you find out what stage of development the children are at. Once you know and understand which level each child is at you can match your activities to their ability and organise the activities to meet their needs. Within my placement 5-8 my teacher plans activities to coordinate with her observations that she has made throughout the year. The activities are differentiated according to ability. For literacy the children had to match up homes of different animals to the animal that lives there, for the less abled children they had to cut out the pictures and stick them together for the more abled children they had to write the sentences out below the pictures. Once observations have been completed on the children the teacher can use her data to effectively plan her lessons to cover the curriculum and meet the children’s needs.
Within early years settings it is important that children take part in a variety of play. As all types of play provide learning opportunities for children it is essential that the day is varied to incorporate as many play activities as possible. Children should take part in activities which promote all areas of development. Within my placement 3-5 we had a role play area whereby the children could use their minds to create imaginative play. The soft play castle also gave the children a chance to use their imagination and develop their own play ideas. The various play activities can be categorized as imaginative play; role play and home corners can come under this category. Art activities and DT activities can be categorized as creative play. Within my placement 5-8 we did mendi patterns outside in the playground using chalk, as well as this developing their creative play it also promoted their physical motor development.
Physical activities such as PE and play time can promote their gross physical development. Walking through fields and exploring the various animals and plants that you can find can develop physical motor skills as well as the children’s exploratory skills. In my experience 0-3 a child discovers and promotes their development through sensory play, when outside the children played with sand, water, foam and jelly. The children were sat playing in it with hard toys, they could discover how the different materials felt. It is important for children to also use ICT as this can support their learning. There are a wide variety of programmes that children can use to promote all areas of their learning. Within my placement we use a program which the children can control themselves, on this site there are activities for numeracy, literacy and art as well as most of the national curriculum. This site is accessible for key stage 1 and 2.
Parent involvement tends to be encouraged within schools and early year’s settings as often parents and children can provide the skills and knowledge to introduce new ideas. For example a parent from another culture may be able to go in and show the children what their diet is like. Within my placement 5-8 a parent helper will come in every Tuesday afternoon to help with the activities that are on that day. The parent may help with reading and creative activities. There is also a parent who comes into placement and teaches athletics, she is a marathon runner herself so she often helps at sporting events and at athletics club.
Within early years settings there are also occasions when professionals and agencies may get involved in providing learning opportunities for the children. Within my placement 5-8 a speech therapist will come in once a week to visit two children who have speech impairments, she will take them to one side for an hour to support them through their speech programme. Another professional who also comes into school is the sports teacher from the local leisure centre who teaches one PE lesson a week to each class.
As part of the adult role within an early years setting you must ensure that all the correct resources are available for the children to use and that there are enough materials for any situation. The resources need to be sorted out in advance of an activity or situation either by the teacher or the school, depending on who provides them. The resources must be age appropriate, fit for purpose and all the children who are participating should be able to learn from the experience. Early years settings also need to consider whether the use of ICT would assist with the children’s learning. Within my placement 3-5 the staff would organise their activities at least a week in advance and would pass on a list of anything they needed to the managers who would be able to buy the materials and resources. They could then discuss in advance how much of anything they needed and if for any reason something wasn’t available they had time to change their activity.
It is important for the adults within the setting to monitor the children’s learning. During activities the children should be monitored to make sure they are learning from these experiences. If the activity has been planned with aims and objectives, you should be able to determine whether the outcomes have been met; this can be observed by discussion or observation. Participation levels should also be monitored to see how long children stay at the activities which have been set out and which ones are the most popular.
Activities should grasp the children’s imagination and should stimulate their learning. The more captivating an activity is the longer a child will want to be at it. At all my placements over the three age ranges I have evaluated the activities that I have carried out. Within my evaluations I have written about how long the children stayed there and whether they enjoyed it, I can use the information I found here to plan my activities for the future.
Formative assessments are ongoing assessments that monitor the children’s strengths and weaknesses. This information can then be used to form informal parts of activities. Assistance can be provided to give children the opportunity to gain confidence in developing new skills and plenty of opportunities are provided to enable the child to practise and master them.
Summative assessments draw together all the information gathered about the children and it is often used to compile a written report. It is seen as a ‘summing up’ of a child’s progress to date. It is very difficult for practitioners to be completely objective when carrying out observations as they are used to working so close with the children; this known as observer bias. The danger of observer bias is that the observer may bring in behaviours or skills of the child that confirm their current view. One way of determining that this does not happen is to set clear aims for observations. It is important for adults to try and incorporate observations on skills into planned play activities, many children will not ‘perform’ well if they know they are being watched.
While at placement 5-7 the teacher will set out activities that enable her to observe the child carrying out the skills whilst in a ‘normal’ play environment. If she would like to see their social development she may set up games that requires teamwork, or if she feels some of the children need to work on their fine motor development she may set up an area which get the children to put pegs in boards or use scissors to cut out pictures. When observing babies and young children it is important to remember that there play and interests change within a few days. As they discover more things within their world they will move from one interest to another.
Once a child has been observed or assessed this information can be used to inform the future planning of activities which will help promote development for the individual child. Planning will only be effective if the information that is gained from observation is used to structure activities, and fulfil the child’s developmental needs. For example if a child cannot use scissors do not provide them with an activity whereby they have to cut round a picture; this may lower their self-confidence and self-esteem.
Most evaluation criteria’s involve checking whether children have reached the intended learning outcomes, however this can be difficult to measure unless an assessment takes place during or after the activity. A child may have appeared to understand something or enjoyed playing with materials but they may not have necessarily learnt anything new. By building in assessments to activities practitioners can see what the child has understood and learnt. It is important that assessments are not seen in any way as a test. Within my placement 3-5 a member of staff would often be in charge of observing activities and evaluating what they believe the children have gained from it. The staff member would also be able to ask questions and work alongside the children at the activity to see how much they have learnt and understood.
Snaith, M. , Tassoni, P. , Squire, G. , (2007). , Children’s Care Learning and Development. , 2nd Ed. , Oxford. , Heinemann. IntegratedApproach. , Available at www.sagepub.com/upm-data/9679_010979.pdf. , Accessed on 29/04/14 Curriculum. , Available at http://www.schoolzone.co.uk/schools/NCres/docs/MASTER_final_national_curriculum_11_9_13_2.pdf . , Accessed on 29/04/14 EarlyYears. , Available at https://www.gov.uk/government/policies/improving-the-quality-and-range-of-education-and-childcare-from-birth-to-5-years/supporting-pages/early-years-foundation-stage. , Accessed on 29/04/14