Module 5: Curriculum for EYFS Teaching

The EYFS Curriculum Design

The course curriculum is designed to give your child a challenging education that will unlock their potential and prepare them for the world’s best universities. We want to encourage them to be ambitious from the outset in their education journey, and to thrive in an international and global setting.

Key Goals for EYFS Learners

Four themes underpin the learning and development that your child will take part in through the EYFS Curriculum which are:

  • A Unique Child– every child is a competent learner from birth and can be resilient, capable, confident and self-assured.
  • Positive Relationships– children learn to be strong and independent from a base of loving and secure relationships with parents and carers.
  • Enabling Environments– the environment plays a key role in supporting and extending a child’s development and learning.
  • Learning and Developing– children develop and learn in different ways and at different rates and all areas of learning and development are equally important.

Areas of Learning and Development

The EYFS curriculum is organised into seven areas of learning and development:

Personal, Social and Emotional Development

We provide children with experiences and support which will help them to develop a positive sense of themselves and of others, respect for others, social skills and a positive disposition to learn.

Communication and Language

Children’s learning and competence in communicating, speaking and listening is constantly supported and extended.

Mathematical Development

We develop children’s understanding of Math’s in a broad range of contexts in which they can explore, enjoy, learn, practice and talk about their developing understanding.

Understanding the World

We support children in helping them to make sense of the world through offering opportunities for them to use a range of tools safely; encounter creatures, people, plants and objects in their natural environments; undertake practical experiments and work with a range of materials.

Physical Development

The physical development of students is encouraged through the provision of opportunities for them to be active and interactive and to improve their skills of coordination, control, manipulation and movement. With our specialist Early Years PE teachers, our pupils are always supported in developing an understanding of the importance of physical activity and making healthy choices in relation to food.

Expressive Arts and Design

Children’s creativity is extended by supporting their curiosity, exploration and play. Our pupils are provided with opportunities to explore and share their thoughts, ideas and feelings, for example, through a variety of art, music, movement, dance, imaginative and role-play activities, design and technology. In addition, pupils will also receive specialist teaching in Music.

Literacy Development

Children’s learning and competence in beginning to read and write is constantly supported and extended.

Core Subjects

Our curriculum builds a solid foundation for future learning, with a strong emphasis on high levels of attainment in the core subjects of Literacy, Numeracy, Science and ICT. Children are also exposed to Mandarin from Nursery up and the language acquisition is an integral part of our curriculum.

Our Approach in Teaching

Our teachers make sure that the activities are suited to each child’s unique needs and provide them through a range of hands-on activities, both indoors and outdoors, whole class and small group teaching and through structured play opportunities.

Other Learning Opportunities

In addition to academic learning, regular concerts, performances, and assemblies which parents are invited to throughout the year, add to the rich range of opportunities open to our children. We enhance their experiences further with trips, visiting musicians and artists as well as extra-curricular activities.

Learning and Teaching Through Play

Learning through play is one of the key principles of Early Years education, which is supported by a wealth of research. Play and playfulness are shared across all cultural groups, but with some variations according to the beliefs and customs that influence child-rearing practices. Family members and caregivers typically play with their children, and they devote a great deal of time to helping children to learn by teaching them:

  • How to play, through structured games such as peek-a-boo, and open-ended activities such as sand and water play;
  • How to pretend, by being imaginative, acting different roles, making one thing stand for something else;
  • How to be playful, by demonstrating playful ways of interacting with others through humour, gentle teasing, jokes, mimicry, riddles and rhymes, singing and chanting, clapping games, and using materials and resources in imaginative ways.

In high-quality Early Years settings, children have opportunities to play as well as to experience a wide variety of adult-led and child-initiated activities. Practitioners build on children’s home-based knowledge and experiences and provide opportunities for progression, extension and challenge. These activities can also successfully build on the child’s innate joy in play.

Ideas of play, child-initiated and adult-led activities overlap, and it is useful to be clear about what is meant by these terms, how they can work together to support learning, and the adult’s role in each.

Play is freely chosen by the child and is under the control of the child. The child decides how to play, how long to sustain the play, what the play is about, and who to play with. There are many forms of play, but it is usually highly creative, open-ended and imaginative. It requires the active engagement of the players and can be deeply satisfying.

Play engages children’s bodies, minds and emotions. In playing children can learn to interact with others and be part of a community, to experience and manage feelings, and to be in control and confident about themselves and their abilities.

Play can help children to develop these positive dispositions for learning:

  • Finding an interest
  • Being willing to explore, experiment and try things out
  • Knowing how and where to seek help
  • Being inventive – creating problems, and finding solutions
  • Being flexible – testing and refining solutions
  • Being engaged and involved – concentrating, sustaining interest, persevering with a task, even when it is challenging
  • Making choices and decisions
  • Making plans and knowing how to carry them out
  • Playing and working collaboratively with peers and adults
  • Managing self, managing others
  • Developing ‘can-do’ orientations to learning
  • Being resilient – finding alternative strategies if things don’t always go as planned
  • Understanding the perspectives and emotions of other people.

There are many forms of play that support the EYFS areas of learning and development. Construction play, for example, involves spatial and mathematical knowledge, problem-solving and reasoning. Exploratory play with natural and man-made resources builds knowledge and understanding of materials and their properties and develops manipulative skills. Learning across all areas of the EYFS can be seen by practitioners who observe children’s play.

As children develop as players, the ability to pretend has special significance for children as learners. When a small child begins to pretend that one object stands for something else – such as a toy cow ‘eating’ the toy bricks – a key ability is being formed. The child is beginning to understand the idea of symbols, which eventually leads to being able to think in abstract ways. In time the child will be able to use words and images (marks, drawings, and symbols) to express ideas, predict or solve problems, instead of having always to rely on trial and error with physical objects. This supports the child’s development as a flexible, creative thinker.

Role-play involves the next development of this imaginative play, where a child is able to ‘become’ someone or something else. In taking on a role a child sees how it feels to have another point of view and learns that the world looks different to different people. This brings the realisation that we all think, including the child, and this awareness of being a thinker and a learner is one of the strongest supports for successful learning. Children become more aware of their own mind, and that they can think of different strategies to try when faced with a task or a problem.

Practitioners cannot plan children’s play, because this would work against the choice and control that are central features of the play. Practitioners can and should plan for children’s play, however, by creating high-quality learning environments, and ensuring uninterrupted periods for children to develop their play.

The adult is an interested observer of play, finding out about the individual children and the community that is created through play. The adult should seek to discover what children are interested in, know and can do in order to support their learning more effectively. Children’s achievements across all areas of learning can be recognised through observing play. The skilful practitioner will also be alert to opportunities to join in the play sensitively and appropriately, in order to enhance the play and learning. Supporting children’s language as they play, by describing what children are doing or commenting on current actions, is a prime way in which practitioners help children to learn through their play. At times the adult will support children in developing their abilities to play, perhaps through modelling how to pretend, or ensuring that children with specific educational needs are supported in how to participate in in-play opportunities.

The child-initiated activity has many characteristics in common with play, as it is wholly decided upon by the child, based on the child’s own motivation, and remains under the child’s control. It may involve the play of many types, or it may be seen by the child as an activity with a serious purpose to explore a project or express an idea which the child may not see as pure play. It is guided by certain expectations within an Early Years setting regarding the responsible use of space, time and purposes.

Practitioners are aware that child-initiated activity is a powerful opportunity for learning and make the most of this. Practitioners:

  • Maintain their focus on learning, and actively use a range of strategies to support and extend learning through engagement with the children – including introducing new words and new ideas, thinking out loud, modelling more complex ways of speaking, posing new problems, encouraging negotiation of conflicts, explaining, or demonstrating approaches.
  • Offer assistance and support as needed to help children to be successful in following their ideas, including talking about or suggesting strategies, and practical support such as holding an object in Place as the child works with it.
  • Ensure that the learning environment offers a range of stimulating open-ended materials, outdoors and indoors, which children can use and combine in their own way to meet their own purposes.
  • Ensure that children have sustained time to develop their activities.
  • Encourage children to use the language of learning as they make their plans and carry out and review their activities, talking about things such as ‘I remembered, I tried, we found out, we know, I can, we thought, we solved the problem.’
  • Use a problem-solving approach to resolving conflicts or behavioural issues, helping children to be aware of others’ points of view and thinking together to agree on a solution.
  • Observe children’s activities carefully, trying to discover what the child is thinking about and learning and the goals of the play, so they can accurately support and extend the child’s learning focus either at the time or later by changes to the environment or in planned activities.

Adult-led activities are those which adults initiate. The activities are not played, and children are likely not to see them as play, but they should be playful – with activities presented to children which are as open-ended as possible, with elements of imagination and active exploration that will increase the interest and motivation for children. As well as focused activities with groups of children, adult-led activities can include greeting times, storytimes, songs and even tidying up.

Practitioners plan adult-led activities with an awareness of the children in the setting and of their responsibility to support children’s progress in all areas of learning. They will build on what children know and can do, and often draw on interests and use materials or themes observed in child-initiated activities. As with child-initiated activities, the practitioner actively uses a range of effective interaction strategies to support learning in the adult-led context.

Playful Learning and Playful Teaching

Children are strongly motivated to play and can experience satisfaction and deep learning in play, as they bring their current interests, questions and thinking together with strong motivation so that they are able to function at their highest level. In-play children can concentrate deeply, sustain concentration for long periods, and communicate with others to develop and maintain the play. Playful practitioners are able to engage with children in their play and to use characteristics of play in other activities as well.

Practitioners participating in play

Practitioners often have difficulties knowing when and how to interact in children’s self-initiated play. They often make the mistake of going into a play activity with lots of questions and may try to take on a role that does not flow easily into the play – one practitioner described this as ‘going in with your size tens and flattening the play’. Children like playing with adults, however, and actively seek adults as co-players. A guiding principle is to do what young children do when they are learning to be good players – they often stand at the edges of play and watch what is happening. They may be observing strategies for entering the play, trying to understand the rules of the play, or thinking about what they can offer. Sometimes they ask permission to enter – ‘Please can I play?’ – and sometimes they wait to be asked.

Children seem to know intuitively that they need to tune in to what is happening in order to be included in the flow of the play.

Practitioners can use the following strategies to join in play:

  • Take a little time to observe, find out what the children are playing, and what are their roles and intentions.
  • Consider whether you need to enter the play, and for what purposes (such as offering suggestions, introducing new ideas or vocabulary, managing the noise or behaviour, extending the activity through additional resources or negotiating entry for another child).
  • Try to play on the children’s terms by taking on a role that they suggest and following children’s instructions. With the youngest children, often participating alongside and imitating a child’s actions with the same type of materials will signal that you are in tune and start a playful interaction.
  • Offer your own ideas when you are sure that they are consistent with the flow of the play.
  • Avoid going into closed questioning (‘How many? What colour? What size?’). Instead, try to maintain playful ways of engaging by following children’s directions, and tuning into their meanings.
  • Try not to direct the play to your own learning objectives or assessment agenda. Instead, be alert to the qualities of play, and to the knowledge and skills that children are using and applying.

Playful adult-led activities

Alongside the child-initiated and play activities where adults can have a key role in supporting learning, there is an important place for activities initiated by adults. Adult-led activities provide opportunities for introducing new knowledge or ideas, and for developing and practising skills. The activities can provide a new stimulus, or an opportunity to revisit or further develop learning.

Sometimes the activities could be prompted by children’s interests as observed in their play. At other times practitioners will identify areas of learning which are less likely to be available to children through daily experience and play, where adults can best take a lead in introducing new ideas and concepts.

This ‘adult agenda’ could be addressed in any adult-led time (planned small or large group activities, greeting time, story or song times; in reception, this will include the discrete daily phonics session). Adult-led activities may:

  • Provide open-ended opportunities where practitioners observe and support children’s learning during the experience and consider next steps based on children’s responses; or
  • Have clearly specified learning objectives which will be matched to children’s current learning to extend or consolidate what children know and can do.

Adult-led activities should be playful, even when planned with a specific objective in mind, by maintaining characteristics of play through a sense of playing with things, ideas, imagination, and others. Playful practitioners will plan activities which motivate children by:

  • Presenting tasks in imaginative ways
  • Ensuring tasks are as open-ended as possible, allowing children to make choices and express their own ideas
  • Using materials or story-lines that children associate with play
  • Providing for children’s hands-on, active participation.

The Unique Child and play

Children bring their own experiences, culture and personal characteristics to their play and practitioners need to understand and respond to children’s individual differences as players just as in every other aspect of their development.

Skilful adults understand that children develop as players at different rates and are able to support patterns of development within the play. For babies, play may be primarily about playful interactions with sensitive and responsive to others, such as games of peek-a-boo. With toddlers who enjoy exploring objects alongside others, imitating the way a child uses an object can become a playful communication, and using objects to pretend opens new areas of play. Creative and open-ended play of many types follows, where children decide the purpose and may agree the ‘rules’ of the play. Children also come to understand more formal games as a different type of play that involves set rules.

Depending on their previous experiences, some children may not be familiar with particular play opportunities within settings. They will be encouraged to play when they encounter familiar resources similar to those at home, possibly including elements from popular culture such as TV characters or favourite toys. Children may need support to engage in new and unfamiliar play experiences. Some children may not feel secure in making open-ended choices and benefit from more support and structure as they gradually develop the ability to manage themselves and their activities in play.

Practitioners also need to be aware of different cultural expectations about the play. It is important to share points of view with fathers as well as mothers about play and learning.