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Planning from children's interests vs. topics

Discussion in 'Early Years' started by Browneyedgirl87, Aug 11, 2010.

  1. Hi everyone [​IMG]

    I'm an NQT, due to start my first post as a Nursery teacher next month. At the moment I'm trying to get my long- and medium-term planning done, but I'm struggling. I've been given a curriculum map by the school, i.e. a list of topics to cover during the year (one for each half-term). My long-term planning will consist of the list of topics and the EYFS document itself, and my medium-term planning will be set out as half-termly overviews showing what I hope to cover within each topic. However, I'm finding it difficult to plan activities or even know which DM statements to focus on without knowing the children. I feel tied to the topics as I'm new at the school and I assume that they've planned this way for a long time, but I also don't see the point of having topics if the children are going to have their own interests that they want to follow.

    I've been reading posts on various forums about planning from children's interests and I'm feeling quite inspired! Surely it's common sense to get to know the children's interests and what they can do, make initial assessments, and then use these to inform future planning on a short-term basis. But how can I utilise this approach myself when I'm expected to plan using a specific set of topics? What if the children aren't interested in learning about transport or their bodies?

    Basically, I'd like to know if you think there's a way that I can plan from children's interests while also satisfying the school... [​IMG]
    Another point - how do you strike a balance between child-initiated and adult-focused learning within a child-led topic? I came across this forum topic. Some of the contributors seem confused about child-initiated learning, and seem to think that it involves allowing the children to do whatever they want. I'm sure that's not the case, as children have only limited experiences to draw upon and need us to extend their learning, but how do you create a balance when letting the children learn about what they want to learn? I hope that makes sense!

    Thank you in advance!
  2. I think if you are following skills based medium term planning, then you will be able to teach the skills regardless of the topic that the children show an interest in. Also if your topic headings are broad, then you can incorporate the children's interests into it.
  3. Thongy1

    Thongy1 New commenter

    On the advise of an LEA advisor, I have chucked our topic planning out, and will be working from the children's interest, using PLODs. I will do base-line assessments for the first two weeks, with daily L&S and Numeracy activities, then will use the information from assesments, observations and discussions to plan mini-topics (about 2 weeks each) following on. I have no idea how this will work, but I am just doing what I have been told.
  4. InkyP

    InkyP Star commenter

    If you have a specific list of topics which you have to work on try starting each with a 'mind map'. Introduce the topic initially with a story, film or an object or whatever then ask the children what they know about the subject - put this on a large sheet of paper in a spider web fashion (the way all our planning was done pre NC). Then ask the children what they would like to know - you might need to subtly encourage this, challenge ideas the children may have such as 'the sea is blue', 'dinosaurs used to eat people' and add these in another colour. Now you can use the questions in your planning.

    Every week look at the mind map and talk about what the children have learnt. Add more questions as they arise. You don't have to know the answers (e.g. 'Why is the sea salty?' 'Why do the planets move?' but be prepared to find out with the children.)

    If you can choose your own topics based on children's interests even better. I don't think there is one right way to do it. Use your own imagination and your own interests - if you are interested the children will be too.
  5. At our setting we plan as a Nursery and Reception together for one indoor and one outdoor activitiy per week based on what we have seen the previous week around the setting. The only problem I have with this is that it's difficult to keep track of what we have done - and indeed what we have not done.
    I would love to have a balance of some themed adult led activities that cover a range of skills that I could then keep track of. When you plan based on a topic you can link the objectives and then look at which ones you've not covered in order to plan these into the next topic. Is there a way of doing this that is skills based??
    What are PLODs?
  6. Hi Thongy, can you clarify what PLODs are?

  7. Msz

    Msz Established commenter

    Possible Lines Of Development
    I've used the Di Chilver's model successfully
  8. The thing about CI activities is that children initiating their own play will therefore work at their own levels and follow their own interests. Of course they have only a little experience of the world. In a way, that's the point, because it means that when they initiate their own play you can get a good idea of where they are and what those experiences are. For instance, in role play - how many times do you see children 'subverting' a beautifully set up space ship or similar to make it into a home corner so they can play mummies and daddies! This is because mummies and daddies play reflects their experience. They have the ability to play mummies and daddies, but space travel means very little to them. That's not to say that they will not play space travel when a practitioner intervenes and gives them ideas, modelling play. But.... isn't it better to meet them where they are than give them experiences they cannot 'use' for development. Once we know, from observing CI play what interests and motivates them we have our starting points for engaging them in learning. CI activities are about children doing whatever they want, and that is valuable in itself, for the child will learn through interacting with a richly resourced environment and with other children, but it is made even more valuable through sensitive adult intervention, observation and reflective practice.
  9. This
    is exactly the style of planning I'd love to use myself. However, I
    think I'll have to stick with what the school currently do for a little
    while - I don't want to rock the boat too much as an NQT! If I knew the
    school would be ok with it, I'd go in with this planning style from the
    beginning. I think I'll have to get settled first, and then implement
    changes gradually.
    I think this is what I'll do. It seems to be the
    only way of achieving my aim of planning from the children's interests
    while still using the topics that are in place.

    Another dilemma - if I go with the topic-based approach,
    how far in advance should I plan before the new term begins? I haven't
    actually spoken to the head about what I'm expected to have in place
    when I start, but the previous Nursery teacher told me to do a long-term
    plan for the year, a medium-term plan for the first half-term and a
    short-term plan for the first week. I'll use the list of topics and the
    EYFS itself as my long-term plan, but I'm not sure how wise it is to
    plan in any detail for the first half-term without knowing about the
    children's current stages of development... What should my medium-term
    plan consist of?
    Sorry for all the questions. I really want to make sure I get this right! I really appreciate all the help [​IMG]

  10. InkyP

    InkyP Star commenter

    Another dilemma - if I go with the topic-based approach, how far in advance should I plan before the new term begins? I haven't actually spoken to the head about what I'm expected to have in place when I start, but the previous Nursery teacher told me to do a long-term plan for the year, a medium-term plan for the first half-term and a short-term plan for the first week. I'll use the list of topics and the EYFS itself as my long-term plan, but I'm not sure how wise it is to plan in any detail for the first half-term without knowing about the children's current stages of development... What should my medium-term plan consist of?

    My medium term plan is my topic plan for the half term - use the mind map and put things into areas of learning. It's Ok to keep this simple and add to it and ammend as you go along following your observations of the children's C.I. activity and other comments. Your planning should be a working document for you.

    Having said that, if you are an NQT your school might already have a format for doing this and you are probably better going with the flow until you are confident enough to challenge the status quo and implement your own ideas.
  11. InkyP

    InkyP Star commenter

    That didn't come out right. The first paragraph was meant to be quoted from OP. I haven't tried doing that before.
  12. Go to reply, highlight the bits of the post you want to quote and click quote, it will appear in your message box.
  13. Thanks InkyP. Does your mind map include a bank of potential activities and/or the Development Matters points which you intend to cover? I'll happily come up with some activity ideas which will save time on planning later, but I'm not sure how I can pinpoint which DM statements I'm going to address during the first half-term without knowing which ones the children are already secure with...
  14. InkyP

    InkyP Star commenter

    The mind map I make with the children is a blank piece of paper. My planning formats for both medium term and weekly planning are divided into the six areas of learning but which statements the activities are aimed at depends on the children and what individuals gain from the activities might be different anyway. Rightly or wrongly, I work in a somewhat more open ended way than you seem to be suggesting.
    As far as new starters in September are concerned I don't think it hurts to start with something within their comfort zone and take it from there.
  15. Thank you for clarifying InkyP [​IMG] I must have confused myself when
    reading all the replies; I didn't realise that the mind map I asked you
    about is the one which you devise with the children, which you referred
    to earlier. I like the sound of your style of planning. I think I'll
    have to stick with the pre-planned topics, but I'll definitely introduce
    the topics to the children first. I'm excited to see where their interests take us.
  16. Thongy1

    Thongy1 New commenter

    PLODS - possible lines of development, as others have pointed out. (Sorry, haven't visited the forum to reply.) I currently have two advisors in telling me that despite having an outstanding Ofsted, this is what I have to now do, and change all planning. Mindstretchers want me to throw away everything that is plastic in the Nursery and surround the children with natural materials,. They would like the children to be outside all day, and even have small bonfires or cooking fires. I am in an inner city school with a tiny yard - all tarmac, no grass area. I look forward to the demonstration lesson, and the heart attack that our H&S rep will have!!! Our other advisor is far more practical (in a sensible sense IYKWIM) and said that child-centred planning is a requirement of EYFS. Mind maps and Talking Tubs seem to be a good starting point for child-centred learning, as our observations and just talking to the children.
  17. Msz

    Msz Established commenter

    You might be interested in this article about PLODs and
    <h1>Planning to follow children's interests</h1>
    Child-initiated learning
    Put simply, this is where the child/children:
    - decide what they will do, based on what they are interested in
    - initiate activities that enable them to learn from each other and the adults around them.
    practice, however, it is a much more complex process, which the revised
    EYFS documents, published in May this year, recognises in the emphasis
    it places on a balance between activities planned by the adult and those
    initiated by the child/children. A balance means creating a partnership
    in who decides the learning journey.
    The EYFS (2008) describes
    this process in several ways. For example: 'Staff who are committed to
    the development of sustained shared thinking by offering encouragement,
    clarifying ideas and asking open questions which support and extend
    children's thinking and help them make connections in learning, while
    ensuring a balance between adult-led and child-initiated activities'
    (Practice Guidance for the EYFS, page 9).
    And, 'Creativity
    involves children in initiating their own learning and making choices
    and decisions' (Practice Guidance, page 106).
    Our research with
    the children at Early Days certainly demonstrated that the most
    effective way to engage children in sustained shared thinking was
    through what interested them.
    Sustained shared thinking
    shared thinking was identified in Researching Effective Pedagogy in the
    Early Years (REPEY 2002) as happening in situations where children's
    level of thinking is 'lifted' and becomes much deeper. This usually
    takes place when the child/children have initiated (started) something
    themselves with another child, group of children or adult. The
    child/children's thinking is extended through interaction with others
    and built up as they play, talk, practise and experiment with their
    'Sustained shared thinking involves the adult being aware
    of the children's interest and understandings and the adult and children
    working together to develop an idea or a skill' (Learning and
    Development 4.3 - Creativity and Critical Thinking).
    Possible Lines of Development (PLODs)
    Lines of Development is a model of 'planning' originally from the Pen
    Green Centre for Children and Families in Corby. We adapted the PLOD
    model to record what children are interested in and map out where the
    interest can be supported and developed (with the children). Comments
    are added as the interest develops. It becomes a map or 'story' of the
    children's thinking and learning.
    This documentation is based on
    observations, which are discussed with the children, practitioners and
    parents, and ultimately forms ongoing recording, assessment and
    planning. It should be displayed on the wall along with the
    child/children's ongoing comments, pictures, writing, photographs, etc
    to show the progress of the thinking and learning.
    It helps to
    think about these three key terms through the children's stories and the
    context of their play, so that we can see what they look like in
  18. Msz

    Msz Established commenter

    Thongy I'm surprised to hear your mention of Mindstretchers I've always found Claire Warden's message to be on the lines of "this is what works in our setting" rather than "this is what you should do" of course her kindergardens were created so children could spend most of their time outdoors in natural surroundings (Nature's Kindergarden) sort of gives her approach away but she's very realistic that we aren't all as fortunate as her.
  19. Thongy1

    Thongy1 New commenter

    Yes - I agree;Claire is very realistic...but the recommendations made by her representative, and the workload placed on me, is unbelieveable. Also, I think some of the expectations are a bit far reaching when you only have the children for 1/2 a day.

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