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Discussion in 'Early Years' started by BrainJim, Oct 27, 2010.
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Thumbie, thank you again for your clear explanations. Focus activities now make more sense to me.
Am I right in saying that when you are doing assessing for the profile you would have to make sure that information from observations taken during focus activities could only form 20% of your observation used to help you reach your profile scoring decisions? Or could you say that with some of the focus activities that there are aspects of them that are child-led and count them in to the 80% of child initiated activities when working out profile scores?
Someone suggested earlier that I was assuming that sandplay would be an inferior learning activity in some way than sitting down doing some more formal numberwork. I was not. And I fully understand that play in the early years is an essential part of learning. It all depends on what takes part during the sandplay, how much of the year your child spends in the sand, reasons why they are choosing the sand over other activities, what the other activities are etc.
Returning back to the focus activities, I can see why you reach the conclusion that child initiated activities are better where for some reason you are kind of having to coerce the child to take part in them and really they want to back with their friends playing an imaginary game in the sandpit.
I'm going to play devil's advocate here though. Unless the focus activity looks fascinating, or the child prefers the company and attention of the teacher to playing with friends during the child-initiated activities, it's going to be jolly hard to get a child to concentrate fully during a focus activity while apparently more desirable things are going on elsewhere in the setting.
The same would be true of much older children or adults. Let's say an older student who enjoys studying also enjoys being down the pub chatting with their mates. They take their study materials to the pub. They end up chatting with their friends instead of studying. One could conclude that it would be better if someone could devise a programme of study which could be conducted successfully while down the pub chatting with their mates.
OK, this is the early years so my analogy is facetious. But it is just to illustrate the point that CI is not always better than focus activities all of the time, and that early years are put in a difficult situation trying to conduct focus activities. Taking a small group or individual off somewhere else to conduct the activity would clearly help, but space, facilities, or adult:child ratios may not permit this.
Thanks for being helpful inky but amazedbygrace had already said that and I was clarifying that safari needs html code=
Yes, that's correct, you could only use adult-initiated focus activities as 20 % of your assessment observations. But you could use more than 20% focus obs in certain areas (eg PSRN) if balanced by less than 20% in others. In addition, in my understanding, if children, having completed an activity with teacher direction, then go and do it on their own, from their own choice, that would be CI and could be used for part of the 80%. I don't know how strict people are about the 80% thing, I just use it as a guide. I'm not going to go through all my obs to check I've got it exact, I just have it at the back of my mind!
I agree, but as a general rule, if the child is engaged and showing a high level of concentration, that child is learning and there wouldn't be any reason to drag them away from the sand. EYFS settings should have a wide range of activities inside and out covering all the areas of learning, so hopefully noone would stick with the sand because there is nothing else to do. Of course the usual classroom management issues arise as with older age groups and teachers will reflect on why any child is exclusive in what they are choosing and whether this is a negative that needs responding to.
Again it is an issue for teachers to plan for and respond to. Part of the reason for observing and interacting with children in their CI play is to build on the interests they are showing. So to take your example of the student at the pub, you would invite a group of friends to take part in a focus activity based on drinking (or cars, or witches and wizards maybe).
I agree, there are some things (eg phonics) that are best taught as a focus activity. One way is for everyone to do it at once (as with phonics), another is for the staff to build a culture and routine that children do focus activities on a regular basis, and show expectations that they will do it, with all the usual rewards and praise for taking part. As in any year group, foundation teachers use a range of strategies to keep children engaged and learning. In an ideal world the strategies would all work 100% of the time with 100% of the children. But we know better and don't deal in absolutes. But we do do our level best.
Just to add, there is no reason why a focus activity cannot happen at the sand tray. I often take the focus learning to the children rather than expect the children to come to the focus learning.
Brilliantly helpful Thumbie. I just hope that is what is going on in the majority of reception classes; it makes great sense to me the way you explain it, and sounds like a highly desirable and appropriate learning environment for a young child.
Mystery, I shall choke if I don't say that I found that post - from someone who doesn't know much about EYs - patronising in the extreme.
But feel free to come back as a mother and explain that you just want the best for your daughter. I can understand that.
No sorry if it sounded patronising. It wasn't intended to. It's just that I've been trying to understand it all better, and the way that the 80% / 20% CI : TI "rules" work, and how reception staff strike a good balance between the child initiated activities and the focus activities and all of that, and what these different types of activities mean.
As a parent looking in, it's really all quite mystifying. And yes, wanting the best for one's children is part of it, but I think I'd be interested in it anyway. I just thought that Thumbie made a lot of the things I hadn't understood really clear, and it sounds like a great way to learn in the early years the way he / she described it all.
Sorry again if you found that patronising.
Sorry myself for being abrupt.
Thanks. This forum's scary! I appreciate that I'm not an early year's specialist and that these fora are really for professionals in that specialism. So I appreciate the help that people give to an "intruder" with parent hat on. But also, I don't think that teaching at the different stages entirely comes in boxes. A lot of the things that you talk about in the early years could in some way be applied in secondary even. So I think that some of your thinking could well turn out to be useful to me with my professional hat on too.
So do you push your sand tray round the classroom shouting 'come and get your focused learning'.
Mmm ... hadn't thought of that. Thanks for the tip.
You're insulting your own intelligence with that remark.
I will say, though, that I THINK THINGS SHOULD BE DIFFERENT IN RECEPTION FROM WHAT THEY ARE IN NURSERY.
The problem is that children are so young when they go into reception now, and still so far from the age of compulsory education, that you can't suddenly force them into tables and ability groups and expect great things. They're simply not ALL PLAYED OUT. Many of them don't even know how to play, let alone apply themselves to a task for a few minutes. I remember doing capacity with a very immature Yr 3 class, many years ago. All they wanted to do was play, since they'd never played with sand before. Ditto water. The lessons were very messy and not very successful.
OOh....poor grammar from me. I can't stand it when apostrophies are put incorrectly in plurals and I've gone and done it!
To add my bit to the thread, now I've read it a bit more.....but not all of it, as some posts are very lengthy (and I thought my posts were long).....so sorry if I am repeating what others have said.
I don't have a column for 'more able', 'less able' on my planning.
Through regular observations, I am aware of the children who struggle with certain aspects of learning and those who find things easy.
If I have planned a focus activity, then it will have differentiation based on the DMs and ELGs, so if a child comes to the activity and has achieved the DMs, I will work on the ELG part.....extending it for the child...... and vice-versa.
With phonics I group the children, but I don't need to label them as 'more able' and 'less able'. I will have a whole class phonic session then the TA will spend some time helping a small group. Sometimes it is the children who are struggling with blending/segmenting, sometimes it is those who are struggling with phoneme/grapheme correspondence and sometimes it is with the children who are reading quite well and will work on the stage beyond that which I am teaching during the whole class session.
The same happens for guided reading and writing. I will not provide the same books for the children, each reading group will have a different book which corresponds with their knowledge of phonemes/blending. I will also provide a different writing activity for those children who struggle to write their own name as for those who are writing letters accurately and segmenting well (in fact for the former, it might not be a writing activity, just a finger/arm strengthening activity).
And I'm going to stop now as my post will become too long.
And now I have lost the ability to spell......apostrophes.
I agree, some of the posts were long-winded (especially mine!) However, it was an interesting discussion, and probably useful for those who are just starting out in FS. The thing I find very refreshing is that it showed EY teachers as really concerned thinkers about what was the best approach. It seems sometimes that we only have time and energy enough to follow government policy and priorities, coping with each new initiative with a sigh and getting on with it with a heavy heart. Thank goodness for forums like this where we can air our concerns and thoughts. I don't think it should just be about sharing planning and practice, but also for sharing ideas and beliefs.