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Supporting children’s learning environments Essay

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I confirm that for this assignment I have only used material drawn from the setting identified on my employer Permission Agreement Form. In this assignment I have adhered to the E100 ethical guidance by:

•changing all names within the assignment (the setting, children, parents and colleagues) so that the individuals cannot be identified •sending out a letter informing parents about my studies and providing them with the opportunity to ask any questions about what I was doing •explaining to parents why I wanted to observe their child for particular activities and gaining their informed consent •explaining to children what I was doing and why, and asking them if they were happy for me to observe them to gain their assent.

PART 1 – Audit

I work in one of four reception classes of 30 children with free flow access to the outdoor classroom. The space is appropriate for the age and development of all the children and they have suitable access to it and can interact within it.

Resources (as per attached appendix) are made available each day – learning areas are set up as to which the children can independently choose resources accordingly.

I recognize the importance of providing multi-cultural resources for play and teach about other lifestyles and cultures by talking about them, sharing experiences and developing understanding as outlined in Study Topic 6, pg.166. The audit attached is obviously not exhaustive and is added to regularly as the staff continue to plan and assess the children’s environment .

The outdoor and indoor environments contain resources and materials that the children can explore and investigate using all their senses, some materials and resources are familiar to the children and their home and community environments and some are new. The environment provides challenges through which the children can learn about risk taking and keeping themselves safe.

The Nordic tradition of “forest schools” has been emulated in my setting by way of regular visits to our woodland area where the children can run and climb safely, crawl into spaces as well as places where they can make a noise, concentrate alone or participate with others, which promotes development across all domains, including social and emotional aspects as well as having more opportunities for exploratory play (KU1).

Continuous provision describes everyday resources that are always available to children in my setting, Continuous Provision allows children to be active, confident and independent learners to create their own experiences. This may have implications for the accessibility of resources and making sure that children are aware of what is available, where to find it, how possibly to use it and to know where to put it back when they have finished with it.

Planning in my setting is informed by observation and assessment, also monitoring materials to ensure they offer the children relevant experiences and reflect diversity KS1. I regard myself as an organiser, facilitator and an initiator as I am aware of how the teaching and learning develops in my setting depends on the way I facilitate the resources for the children. (Goldscmeid and Jackson (2004) cited in Study Topc 10, pg.97).

The three key requisites for developing and fostering “successful play” , space, time and materials (Abbot and Nutbrown (2001) cited in Study Topic 10 pg.99) highlights the importance of children making an easy transition between outdoor and indoor learning. We know that possibility thinking in early years settings is nurtured by practitioners by successfully transforming “what is” to “what might be” and actively standing back giving the children both time and space to explore (Cremin et al., 2006 cited in Study Topic 10, pg.101).

The development of gross and fine motor skills through indoor and outdoor play enables children to develop the skills needed for communicating through mark-making, drawing, writing, painting and model making – resources in my setting support this development. Giving daily opportunities to share books, rhymes, music, songs, poetry and stories from all cultures will help children achieve early learning goals. (KU6)

In my setting the children are very much involved with the adults in creating their environment where questions and explorations are valued which often
leads to their discussion in “possibility thinking” from “What is this”? to “What can I use this to do?”, thus using the resources for different purposes as perhaps intended.(PS1). The children will often extend their own learning environment by adding to a particular resource from their own ideas and interests, whilst having opportunities to reflect the needs of different abilities, though as MacNaughton points out, grouping children of mixed ability may enhance all children’s learning.

(Reader 2 pg.222). (KU6) Resources in my setting (as attached appendix) are checked regularly by the children, making sure they are safe to use and they know what to do if they are not. Resources in trays/drawers are labelled by the children who work together as a team to make sure the resources are well looked after. The children have a choice about where to play and learn by discussing the most suitable location for the resources available at that time. In Study Topic 10 we learn a creative environment encourages children to take risks in what they try out encouraging collaboration with others – This is emulated in my setting. We know that examples of children’s early writing can include their own versions of letters, notices, stories, shopping lists, party invitations and home-made books.

Through the resources available at my setting the children have created examples which provide valuable evidence of literacy development. The resources that adults provide within my setting also allow experiences that enable the children to use their existing schema, as Athey’s research (1990) leads us to believe that schema manifested themselves in children’s play. I can identify the following examples of schema: connecting(interest in joining objects together) ; especially in the small world/construction area; enveloping(covering and putting objects in containers); within the arts and crafts, and writing areas; and Trajectory (up and down and along and back) – small world/investigation areas.(KU1) As discussed in reader 2, pg 223, The environment is, of course, ultimately the totality of children’s experience in a setting. Settings and the ways in which we organise them have an effect on all of those children within them.

917 words

PART 2 – Technology, Physical Development and understanding the world As we learn in Study Topic 12, pg.58, technology is now an integral part of
children’s lives and it forms part of my everyday provision in my setting. One of the EYFS Early Learning Goals is Children recognise that a range of technology is used in places such as homes and schools. They select and use technology for particular purpose.

The EYFS Development Matters suggests what adults can do to provide an enabling environment in offering a range of materials and objects to play with that work in different ways for different purposes, eg, torch, construction kits and tape recorders (PS3). All of these and more opportunities to encourage children to speculate on the reasons why things happen or how things work are offered in my setting through our ICT resources, we have tills, calculators, microwaves, old mobile phones (sim cards and batteries removed) in the role play area and we know from Study Topic 12 pg.153, possibility thinking is rooted in children’s experiences.

Even when acting out a scene that mirrors life (e/g, playing house, or being in a supermarket and pretending to scan barcodes of food items), possibility thinking continues to exert a powerful influence on their actions and ideas outside the setting as well as inside. While the children move around the environment with opportunities to press buttons, pull or push parts and use touch-sensitive equipment this demonstrates how the children work together and collaborate rather than using technology alone.

Recently two children were using the interactive smartboard, working as a team to create a symmetrical butterfly using a simple software package called 100 square splat – designed to help pupils with number recognition, they were using a process of trial and error until they had covered the numbers on both sides symmetrically – I agree with Plowman & Stephen, (2003) in reader 1 pg.188, that it was debateable to what extent the children were reinforcing their number recognition but showed good negotiation and a high level of initial excitement which also led to a circle time discussing the creation.

Any use of technology that extends and enhances the opportunities for learners is known as innovative ICT- this could be using a digital camera to create animated films, Walker (1993) cited in Reader 2, pg 67 describes the camera as the “silent voice’ as cameras provide the opportunity for children to express “voices” without the need for the spoken word, something which is very evident in my experience in the classroom when observing. The children in my setting are given a short instruction on how to use our camera (we have two identical, one for adult use and child use).

The children are asked to choose someone they deem responsible for daily use of the camera, this is repeated each day – we then discussed taking photographs of things that were important to them about the indoor and outdoor classroom, (As children develop their personal expertise in using a digital camera, Feasey and Gallear (2001), citied in Reader 2 pg 129 suggest that children are able to take photographs in their own environment when it is appropriate to them), we would then come together for a circle time at the end of the day and transfer the photographs onto the smart board by way of instructions from the children as to the procedure for this and then discuss, observe,(The digital camera offers children an immediate record of what they are observing) listen, and ask questions about the pictures taken.

This way of working is an attempt to move children’s evaluation beyond a “like and dislike” a tool within the Mosaic approach for listening to young children.(Reader 2, pg 69 )(KU6) In my opinion when computers are located in the classroom, children’s developmental gains from using appropriate software are signify cantly greater than when they are in a computer suite. Computers, when placed in suits, limit children’s access. There is a tendency to use drill and practice software in suites while more tool-oriented software is used in the classroom. In suite settings, away from the integral part of classroom activities, there is less collaboration and peer tutoring.

The children in my setting have daily access to five desktop computers and interactive smartboard as well as other ICT resources as set out in my appendix. Once a week I teach ICT using 15 laptops, my role is to model effective questions then gradually share the responsibility with the children, this encourages children to ask questions using correct vocabulary. Though the challenge is not in teaching the children to use ICT but to develop an environment where they can access such equipment on their own terms, something I feel my setting does.(PS3) It is evident that the children are using technology at home by listening to the ICT vocabulary they have developed, eg, independently referring to “program” or ‘mouse’ or ‘cursor’.

It was interesting to read that ICT uses specific language and successful communication requires children to become familiar with and use it –as Feasey in De Boo (200:28) suggests in Reader 2, pg.121, “As adults we take for granted the language we use on a daily basis”.

Besides computers, there are numerous other technologies in my setting that can be used effectively to support learning. For example: tape recorders support early literacy experience. They allow children to listen to recorded stories and to follow along in a book as they hear it being read on tape. When the teacher records children’s dictated words or from the tape recorder, children see how the spoken word can turn into the written works. These activities integrate all aspects of literacy, speaking, listening, reading and writing.

Cameras, video records of children’s activities. Technology is a tool that can provide an added option for young children to learn. Learning is a process where children actively build an understanding of the world based on their experiences and interactions. Computers need to be viewed not as new ways to transmit information, but new ways for children to create, experiment, and explore. When used appropriately, technology can support and extend learning in valuable ways to increase educational opportunities for children. (KU5)

Early years are critical in a child’s physical, socio-emotional, language, and cognitive development. What, how, and how much children learn in school depends largely on the cognitive, social and emotional competence they develop during their early years. New interactive technologies make it easier to create environments in which students can learn by doing, and technologies can help visualise difficult to understand concepts.(KS5) Technology cannot replace human interaction or relationships or take the place of reading together and sharing conversations.

Properly used, computer and software can serve as a catalyst for social interaction and conversations related to children’s work. Everyday playful experiences in print-rich environments expose children to reading and writing. Language and literacy development are major strengths of technology use with young children. Young children interacting at computers engage in high levels of spoken communication and cooperation such as turn taking and collaboration.

A computer allows composition and revision without being distracted by the fine motor aspects of letter formation. It is important for young children
to have access to new technology and given that recommended guidelines are adhered to within the setting I do not think it hinders their development in other ways but equally feel that computers should not replace active outdoor play.

Whilst there are enormous benefits for children using the internet, there are potential dangers for children using the internet unsupervised. My setting aims to offer a supervised and protected web environment. We use filtering software to control access to internet sites additionally, ‘walled gardens’ or educational portals are used to control the level of open access to the internet within the school. Teaching of internet safety is conducted via whole class teaching by using acceptable policies, discussion, activities, posters, displays and worksheets.

To make sure new technology is used effectively, we must ensure that practitioners are fully trained and supported, and that the programs and Internet sites used are developmentally appropriate, nonsexist, nonracist, non-biased against children with disabilities, and respect religious differences as we serve an even larger diversity of children. Further, the technology must be fully integrated with the program’s educational goals and objectives. (KS5) 1,383 words

Reflection – Part 3
On reflection, in studying the course materials and applying my own research I have learnt that technology will be part of the learning landscape of the future. I continue to read and learn about the powerful ideas of physcologists such as Piaget, Vygotsky and Brumer and how they have informed successive educational initiatives and curricula.(CS3) 60 words

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