Please use this proforma to report on the activity you have undertaken. In the right-hand column, you should record the principal standards that you think that you have evidenced by this activity: use the reference numbers S1-S39. Throughout your account ensure that you explain the rationale for your decisions.
2.1: Nature of the activity
This is the same nursery as in task 1 whose standards have been lowered due to a number of factors. Unlike the baby room, the practitioners in the 24 – 36 month room are more knowledgeable about children’s development but the staff moral is very low and due to this, and the lack of resources available, the environment is very poor. So the aim is to raise standards in the nursery by working with practitioners to improve the environment, with a view to lifting the moral of the practitioners and, in turn, aim to impact on the children’s learning.
2.2: Age range, in months, of the children directly or indirectly affected by this activity
My target is the room for children who are between 24 – 36 month of age. At the moment there are four children below 24 months (22 and 23 months) who are visiting the room on a daily basis to start a transition process ready to move from the under twos room.
The aim is for all the children to be directly affected by the activity as, in supporting practitioners in thinking about how to create a more stimulating environment, this will benefit children directly. Practitioners should feel more positive and enthusiastic about their work if their environment is more stimulating and that should also impact on children and be beneficial to their learning.
2.3: What you planned to do and why
I plan to work with practitioners to improve their motivation for improving the children’s learning environment. I intend to do this by helping them to acknowledge some of the reasons they are finding the children difficult.
The room is separated from the rest of the nursery by a low wall (above children’s eye level) and by two gates, one to the pre-school room and the other to a general hallway. On entering the area it could be seen clearly that children were wandering aimlessly from place to place looking for stimulation. There is poor behaviour from the children such as destructive and antisocial behaviour, which the practitioners are finding difficult to manage. Children are hurting each other and the resources available are being destroyed.
I felt that the children’s behaviour was poor due to the lack of stimulation in the environment and this was being exacerbated by the lack of enthusiasm from the practitioners. On first impressions it was difficult to be sure how much of the situation was due to a lack of knowledge and understanding on behalf of the practitioners and how much was due to low motivation. After speaking with and observing the daily activities of the staff it soon became clear that most practitioners were knowledgeable but didn’t really want to be there.
After assessing the situation, I planned to discuss with the practitioners what they would change if they could and why they would change it. I wanted each person to feel ownership for any changes that were to be made.
2.4: What happened when you carried out the work
I arranged for my first action visit to be at a convenient time for the management so that I would be able to talk with the staff in the room. I arranged to speak with the room leader first. I asked her to tell me a brief description and assessment of her room and how she felt about it. Is she happy with it? How would she change things and why? She agreed for me to ask the same questions of the other staff members and so I did. The common factor which came from the discussion was that everyone felt the children were out of control and they didn’t know how to make them behave better and ‘play nicely’.
We discussed why we thought the children were behaving so antisocially and it was suggested that they were ‘fed up’. We talked about things we could do to enhance the room so that the children would want to use the areas in a more positive way. The practitioners agreed that the children didn’t respect anything. One member of staff suggested that one child in particular loved the books but that they were always in a mess because children threw them about which meant that that child didn’t use them unless a member of staff shared them with her. I suggested that if children are to respect things they have to be worth respecting so they had to be valued as a resource worth having, it had to be somewhere the children enjoyed being and where they enjoyed playing.
I got permission from other good practice nurseries to show photographs of their nursery environments. When I shared the photographs it inspired the staff to think of ways they could make their own children’s environment more exciting. Firstly it was decided that they would improve the book area. At this point of the discussion it was simply an alcove which had been divided into two. One had a sign on the wall which said book corner. The sign was the only reason anyone would have known that that is what it was it was meant to be. The other half of the alcove was signed ‘role play’ and had in it a box with a few dressing up outfits.
I asked the practitioners to think about what they thought they would like to have in the book corner to make it interesting and inviting for the children to want to be there. Finally, they drew up a list of ideas and set about creating the area. The area was soon transformed from a bare wall with a few books kept on a high shelf, to a cosy corner with a wall full of nursery rhymes and story titles including lots of pictures to highlight the text. They added a rug and some cushions and a hamper of books. They put in the area a basket of puppets and some soft teddies for comfort. The children loved it and as a consequence, they frequented it daily. The practitioners soon discovered that they needed to teach the children how to use the area. After they set a few ground rules, most children began to show how well they could care for the book corner and commented on how much they liked it. This inspired the staff to work on other areas of interest for the children, so they made a mark making area available and brightened up the role play in the same way they had the book area.
Once the room started to look and feel better and the children were showing lots of interest, the practitioners said, although it was much improved, they still had issues with antisocial behaviour. We discussed what the staff thought about the way the children’s behaviour had improved and why. They agreed it had improved a lot because they had more exciting things to do now and they could see the reason for regular maintenance of the areas. I suggested that the children had needed guidance in playing in the areas and how to look after them and that they needed constant reminding of this and in the same way they needed some guidance about how to behave socially and needed reminding. The children had been allowed to get into the habit of fighting over toys and activities and now needed to be shown some ground rules about what was acceptable in social play and interaction with their peers. I suggested that they needed some strategies that they all agreed to adhere to when dealing with poor behaviour.
The practitioners told me the type of things they were using and we discussed why we thought they weren’t always successful. The lead practitioner said they used the smiley face strategy. I asked how they used it and she said they showed the smiley or sad face to children as a whole group when they were trying to show the children how pleased or displeased they were. After a conversation they decided that they were trying to deal with too many children at one time and also that the children didn’t always apply it to themselves as they hadn’t all done anything wrong. Practitioners decided to use a moveable smiley or sad face with individual children as was necessary.
I suggested that they tried more positive reinforcement via a praise system. One staff member told the others that her primary school aged child had been awarded a leaf for a tree in the main hall of her school where by the child’s name is hung there for all to see. Another practitioner suggested they had a system like that such as a ‘tree of achievement’. The staff discussed how they could make it age appropriate and they came up with hanging photographs on the tree, which they decided should be in the book corner as that was the most cosy of areas and they were all proud of it. The children were explained to that they would have a picture of themselves hung on the tree every time they did something really nice for someone else or played nicely etc. that this would start fresh every week.
2.5: Your assessment of the effectiveness of the activity
My main focus had been to support the practitioners in looking at the way they were providing for the children and to think about how they could improve on that. Although the amount of work the practitioners could do was very limited in that the resources were still very few due to lack of funding, the success of the environment changes was largely due to the way the staff were now viewing the children’s needs.
The aim to improve the area for the children was successful in that they became better at playing together and started to acquire more positive behaviour generally. The practitioners were able to see the difference in the children’s responses to what they did and were more enthused to maintain the areas they created. The final result was that the changes impacted on children directly in that they had a better play environment and also indirectly in that the practitioners adopted a more positive and enthused approach to the way they managed the activities they provided for them.
2.6: Your personal learning
My own learning curve was to learn how to tell the difference in poor knowledge and understanding and low motivation in people. I also felt that, although the practitioners thought they had done practically everything on their own without my support, that had originally been the intention as they had taken ownership of the changes made. Due to this, the activity was all the more successful and satisfying. The practitioners have managed to maintain the areas keeping the standards higher and the environment more interesting for the children. I believe this is mostly due to the work being done by themselves and that they can attribute the change in the children to the efforts they made. This clarified in my mind that for something to work well the ideas have to come from the people directly involved and they need to feel a sense of achievement for it to continue to be successful. This is worth much more than anything someone else can do for them.