Every child deserves the best possible start in life and support to their full potential. A child’s experience in the early years has a major impact on their future life chances…the Early Years Foundation Stage is the framework that provides that assurance from birth to 5 years.
Meeting the needs and interests of the children is at the heart of the Meadows Nursery Schools curriculum, where personalised learning, development, and care allow us to deliver the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) in a holistic way.
The EYFS is split into four distinct complimentary themes, these are:
- Unique Child
- Positive Relationships
- Enabling Environments
- Learning and Development
These principles are integral to a child’s development and underpin the activities, routines and learning at the nursery school.
There are 6 key areas of learning that make up the EYFS and these are integral to the planning at the nursery school, these are:
- Personal, Social and Emotional Development
- Communication, Language and Literacy
- Problem Solving, Reasoning and Numeracy
- Knowledge and Understanding of the World
- Physical Development
- Creative Development
These 6 areas are carefully planned into the nurseries curriculum and are lead through a balance of both adults led and child-initiated activities.
Every child is a competent learner from birth who can be resilient, capable, confident and self-assured.
Children learn to be strong and independent from a base of loving and secure relationships with parents and/or a key person.
The environment plays a key role in supporting and extending children’s learning and development.
Learning and Development
Children develop and learn in different ways and at different rates, and all areas of learning and development are equally important and inter-connected.
- How do we promote Personal, Social and Emotional Development?
We promote that they are like their peers and that we all have the same personal and emotional needs.
Develop turn-taking and sharing through general play or as part of an activity.
Teach and develop how to form relationships with other adults and children who may come from the same or different backgrounds and cultures.
Various topics based on young children’s experiences are often explored and presented.
Multi-cultural celebrations and customs are introduced in the hope that children will grow to understand and respect people from different lands and diverse needs.
We celebrate festivals of different faiths through stories, art and craft activities, cooking, decorations and dressing up.
We also celebrate the children’s birthdays with games and singing.
We aim to help them to be independent and exercise the confidence needed in later life through them acting as helpers and helping us at our break and lunchtimes.
- How do we promote Communication, Language, and Literacy?
A book corner where the children enjoy exploring books, the images, and text.
Storytelling and role-play where the children enjoy dressing up and developing large construction scenes of the story.
Every session includes a ‘circle time’ where children listen, discuss and talk about, the days of the week, the season, the weather, the theme and things that may have happened.
We love to sing at the nursery. We have songs for our routines, i.e. when tidying up, songs that we sing for activities and at the end of every session, we have a singing session, that often involves puppets, singing cards, actions or Makaton.
We develop their vocabulary by playing language games, rhyming soup, saying riddles and rhymes and through identifying letters and sounds in theme activities.
- How do we promote Problem Solving, Reasoning and Numeracy?
Sorting activities through colour, shape, patterns, size, and features.
Measuring volumes through water tray and sand tray activities, as well as through cooking.
Activities where children explore shape, size, weight, and length.
Comparing sizes through using our hands, feet, and heights
Exploring numbers through counting, adding and subtracting objects in a fun way.
Finding ways of constructing, using large and small construction equipment.
Exploring ways of travelling through garden activities.
- How do we promote Knowledge and Understanding of the World?
Exploring Science and why things happen and how they happen through small experiments
Exploring natural resources through sensory play, i.e. sand, water, and cornflour.
Invite members of the community in to talk to the children about their work, i.e. a fireman, a policeman or members of the lifeboat team.
Introduce and explore ICT equipment
Celebrate different cultures and festivals.
- How do we promote Physical Development?
We have climbing frames, slides and balancing platforms to develop gross motor skills.
Creative, problem solving, and physical skills are developed through the outside blackboards, painting boards, tricycles, scooters and sports equipment.
We include dancing as part of our curriculum and this takes many different forms, i.e. expressive, prop and exploratory.
We have soft play equipment that they can climb and explore.
- How do we promote Creative Development?
We use storytelling, drama, role-play, music and movement as ways to develop their expressive skills.
Using a range of art and craft media to develop small and large-scale artwork, i.e. clay, painting, charcoal, pencils and sticking.
Use of natural resources to develop imagination through construction and artwork, i.e. forming a large collage of the garden through the use of natural materials from the garden.
It’s no secret that the face of education has changed dramatically over the past ten years or so. Teachers across the country are working hard to equip children with the skills needed for success in the 21st-century world. In addition to instilling in students the flexibility to readily adapt to changing technologies, teachers must foster learning environments that encourage critical thinking, creativity, problem-solving, communication, collaboration, global awareness, and social responsibility.
Today’s youngsters were born in the age of the Internet. Many are more technologically savvy than the adults assigned the task of teaching them. To connect with these kids, teachers must learn to speak their language and become conversant with the technology that comes so naturally to the young. Integrating technology means tapping into students’ interests and strengthening their technical skills, all while providing enriching learning opportunities. As with any new development, many teachers, eager to keep up with the latest fashion, simply go through the motions of integrating technology. However, if they are to succeed with it, they need more than the motions – they need a deep understanding of the tools available, as well as meaningful reflection about how to use them to enhance learning. In addition, the increased connectivity that accompanies this technology makes it vital that teachers stress the importance of Internet safety.
COOPERATIVE LEARNING STRUCTURES
Teacher-centred instruction has had its day. Effective teachers are increasingly using a student-centred approach. Cooperative learning sparks engagement in classrooms by encouraging interaction among the students themselves. The teacher, rather than calling on one student at a time, allows children to discuss class materials with buddies or in groups, thus maximising the level of participation. The students work just as hard as the teachers. No longer a one-man show, the teacher’s role becomes that of a facilitator instead. This, in turn, leads to higher achievement, while promoting both team and class building.
Teachers can tailor learning experiences to differentiate among the individual needs of students in the classroom. There are three main learning styles: visual, auditory and kinesthetic. Cognitive Learning Styles of Children describes the characteristics of these learners as well as the types of activities in which they best thrive, with the caveat that it is only learning styles being described, to be distinguished from cognitive styles (holistic, analytic, field-dependent, etc.). Teachers can also differentiate by matching assignments to readiness levels, offering appropriate intervention or extension activities as required. Allowing children to select activities based on areas of interest is another great way to differentiate. Offering choices is an excellent motivator for kids. Small-group work is one of the most effective ways to meet the needs of diverse learners in large class settings
Cognitive Learning Styles of Children
Cognitive Styles Vs. Learning Styles: Cognitive styles and learning styles are important concepts in the study of education. For a time, people used the two terms interchangeably, but experts today study both types of styles individually to determine the best methods for educating children in the classroom who may learn or process information differently from their peers.
The term “cognitive style” refers to the way a person processes information in his head in a way that is distinctive to that individual. A person is set in a particular cognitive style from birth. In contrast, a learning style is a manner in which a learner interacts with and responds to the learning material or environment. A person’s cultural background may influence his learning style. The student may also use a different learning strategy depending on the task.
In the mid-20th century, most people treated kids who learned or processed information differently from everyone else as less intelligent than other students. Psychologists first started raising concerns in the 1950s and 1960s that typical intelligence tests were much too narrow in assessing a student’s abilities. For example, they seemed to place a high emphasis on “convergent thinking” — focused on predetermined answers — and not enough on “divergent thinking,” which deals with creative innovation.
Examples of Cognitive Styles
You will see a person’s cognitive style come out in the way she uses her brain to solve a problem. For example, some people may need to visualise a task before starting, but others may not. Some may work quickly, but others must process information slowly and deliberately before delivering an answer. Some may look at concepts holistically, while others approach subjects in a more piecemeal fashion.
Examples of Learning Styles
Visual learning is one learning style. It refers to a student’s need to see body language or facial expressions from the teacher to fully grasp the lesson. Others are auditory learners who get the most out of the lesson through lectures and discussions. They may benefit from noting things like voice, pitch and tone. Kinesthetic learners need hands-on experience with the subject, and they need to be able to explore their world or environment. They may become restless if forced to sit through long lectures with not enough activity.
Involving children in the goal-setting process is an excellent way to encourage them to take ownership of their learning. In the early stages, goal setting needs to be done in a very clear and simplistic way – for example, frequent two-way conversations with children about their progress in specific areas. Teachers can further facilitate goal setting through the use of organisers, anchor charts and similar aids.
In contrast to the traditional teaching of subjects in isolation, teaching multiple subjects simultaneously can help students go much deeper in learning concepts and skills. Naturally, this approach asks more from the teacher. It can be easy to blend math, science, or social studies content with reading or writing. However, it is more challenging to combine all the subjects at once. Here are some of the major approaches to simultaneous learning. Project-based learning involves children carrying out a project that ends up with a concrete result of some kind. Problem-based learning asks the teacher to guide children in developing solutions to real-world problems. In inquiry-based learning, children generate their own questions according to their curiosities or interests, which they then investigate. These methods work so well because teachers don’t simply tell students what they should know, but instead they engage children in exploring and uncovering the information in a more meaningful way in which all the subjects come into play together.
ASSESSMENT FOR LEARNING
Assessment for Learning, or Formative Assessment, is a data-gathering process used by teachers to help them customise instruction to match students’ needs. Summative assessments don’t always give a clear picture of what a student knows. Also, by the time the data is gathered, it’s already too late! The teacher is already moving to the next objective, leaving many students behind who haven’t fully grasped the previous content yet. To prevent this problem, teachers can monitor how the children are learning as they teach, using observations, questioning strategies, class discussions, exit tickets, learning logs, peer assessments, self-assessments, and slate work, among other methods. Teachers can gauge the progress of individuals, groups, or the whole class, and they can adjust the process by supporting or challenging students as needed.
The Early Years Foundation Stage has a number of requirements and guiding principles. One of these principles is ‘enabling environments’. But, what are they and how can you contribute to ensuring the best environment for the children in your care?
What is an enabling environment?
An enabling environment can contribute greatly to supporting children’s learning and development in the early years. An enabling environment is about providing a setting in which children can play, explore and learn in a safe, caring and supportive space. The environment should be child-centred – it is important that practitioners understand how individual children learn best and what they value and encourage independence.
Enabling environments can be split into three important factors:
- The Emotional Environment– the atmosphere of a setting and how it feels.
- The Indoor Environment– the resources available in the indoor space, how they are accessed and how activities are led.
- The Outdoor Environment– the resources available in the outdoor space, how they are accessed and how activities are led.
Why are enabling environments important in early years?
An enabling environment supports children’s development and learning across all seven areas of the Early Years Foundation Stage, ensuring that children grow and develop to be ‘resilient, capable, confident and self-assured’.
The environment in which a child plays and learns has always been an important factor to consider when thinking about children’s development and much research takes place around this very subject. Giving children the physical and mental space in which to enable learning in a safe environment is key to their growth.
How do I create an enabling environment?
Looking at each aspect of the environment from a child’s point of view can be a great way to start when it comes to thinking about what changes can be made to improve the environment provided by your early years setting.
Important factors in creating an enabling environment:
- Give children the freedom and opportunity to explore and take part in the experiences and utilise the resources they want to where possible
- Try to ensure activities focus on process more than the end result
- Provide interesting objects and resources for children to explore independently, allow children to decide what they play with, where they play and who with
- Provide some focus activities that span a longer time period than just one play/learning session
- Be considerate and provide for individual children with specific emotional or physical needs
- Ensure you have thought about equality and diversity with the setting and the resources provided
- Provide for both group and solitary play
- Arrange resources and activities in line with children’s stage of development rather than just their age
- Use your observations of the children and their likes and dislikes to help plan your activities
An enabling environment is more than simply a physical space, it is also made up of the emotions of the people in the environment – the children, the people who work in the setting and the parents of the children who attend. Emotional environments reflect the relationships of those within them, and how those in the setting talk to each other, how they behave, how they treat others and how inclusive it feels.
The emotional environment of your early years setting is contributed to by all the people in the setting and it is important to make sure that the atmosphere created is one that is warm and accepting. Adults in the setting should support children to express and cope with their different emotions safely by being empathetic and understanding – children will find that emotions expressed in a safe and accepting environment are easier to deal with and understand than those that are left unresolved. Children should be able to feel accepted, confident and valued.
- It is important for early years professionals to understand that some children might need extra support with their emotions – how to express them and how to come to terms with them.
- Create an ‘about me’ sheet for each child that includes more than the basic information, ensure all staff that come into contact with the child have access to this information.
- Make sure children are welcomed into the setting using their name and with warmth and familiarity – always with a smile!
- Encourage parents to stay and play a while to aid the transition from home to the early years setting (this can also help to reassure children when they observe the relationship between a parent and their key worker).
- Offer open days and allow parents to visit the setting with their child/children – in particular before the child starts and/or moves from one room/group to another, but also at intervals throughout their stay.
- Make sure all staff and practitioners within the setting understand their approach needs to be a positive one where they show empathy and display and encourage consideration of their own feelings and of those around them.
- Ensure your setting has a clear behaviour policy and that all staff understand the policy – try to focus more on the behaviours, attitudes and values that are important rather than extensive lists of rules.
The indoor environment of a setting should make children feel safe and secure. There should be areas for different types of play or activity with appropriate and well-maintained resources that fit with each stage of learning across the ages of the children in the setting. Indoor play and learning environments need careful planning to ensure they take account of children’s changing interests and needs.
- Ensure the indoor environment feels comfortable, safe and homely.
- Make sure the setting and all the elements within it are clean and safe – sometimes it may be a good idea to have a bit of a clear-out and get rid of any resources that are old, tired or broken.
- Use displays of photographs, drawings and posters to encourage interest.
- Try to make as many plays and learning resources as possible accessible to the children themselves, think about the environment from a child’s height – can they reach things and easily see posters and displays?
- Create specific areas for different types of play so that children can easily access and distinguish between activities on their own – think about including a messy area, a book area, a construction area, a craft area, a quiet area, a role-playing area, a senses area…
- Ensure resources for the children are accessible and clearly labelled – perhaps using pictures as well as words to mark boxes.
- Encourage children to find the things they want within the setting.
- Include and encourage children to help in the tidying and putting away.
- Regularly review how areas are used – if they are not being used think about why not and consider what you could do to either make the area more accessible and inviting/stimulating, or alternatively re-develop the area.
Outdoor environments have many positive effects on children’s development. They give opportunities to experience and enhance many different skills with a greater sense of freedom than that experienced indoors. Outdoor spaces and learning environments provide contact with the natural world allowing children to use all their senses. Often, children who are more reserved in an indoor setting will ‘come out of their shell’ when given the opportunity to play and learn outdoors.
Outdoor learning environments allow children to experience problem-solving, risk-taking and big-scale play in a safe environment. They can use all of their senses and be creative in a different way of using an indoor space.
- Try to make sure that children have the opportunity to be outside as much as possible throughout the year.
- Talk to children about personal safety and the safety of others to help them understand how to behave in an outdoor setting.
- Offer a multi-sensory environment by including areas for different types of outdoor play with different resources – think about sand play and wet play areas, wheeled toys, balls, areas for planting or with flowers and vegetables, areas with larger items such as boxes, crates or tyres, areas focused on animals and insects such as bird feeders or log piles.
- Don’t shy away from using the outdoor space in different types of weather – experiencing different weather is a fantastic learning and play opportunity for children. Ensure they have the correct clothing/footwear/hats to allow stamping in puddles, playing with snow or playing safely out in the sunshine.
- An outdoor environment gives you the space you need to plan activities that cannot be done indoors – think about what activities can be done on a larger scale that will encourage collaboration and cooperation between the children.
- Ensure the outdoor environment caters for all the children – think about those with mobility issues and how they will use the space.
- Try to link indoor and outdoor environments with a transition space where children can be independent (as much as possible), with low-level pegs and storage for the clothing and items they may need.
- Think about having quiet areas where children can be away from the more noisy or energetic play that tends to take place outside – perhaps providing secret corners or dens.
Thinking about and planning for these three environmental aspects together will help you to provide an overall space and atmosphere that enables positive growth and development for all those in your early years setting.
Innovative Ideas to Make Your Teaching Methods More Effective
The biggest challenge any teacher faces is capturing the students’ attention and putting across ideas in such a way that it stays with them long after they have left the classroom. For this to happen, classroom experience should be redefined and innovative ideas that make teaching methods more effective should be implemented.
So here are some innovative ideas that will help teachers reinvent their teaching methods and make their classes interesting.
Take the help of creative tools to stimulate creativity. Include playful games or forms of visual exercises that will excite the young minds and capture their interest. This is a time-tested method to identify young student’s creative abilities and encourage creative contributions. Bring aspects of creativity into all your subjects, be it mathematics, science, or history. Think of ways to develop their creative ideas. Encourage different ideas, give them the freedom to explore.
Audio & Video Tools
Incorporate audio-visual materials in your sessions. Supplement textbooks with models, filmstrips, movies and pictorial material. Use infographics or other mind mapping and brain mapping tools that will help their imagination thrive and grow. These methods will not only develop their ability to listen but will also help them understand the concepts better. For example, you can get some oral history materials, conduct live online discussions or playback recordings of public lectures. There are a lot of smart apps for preschoolers that you can utilise to create awesome slideshows or presentations.
Link your lessons to real-world learning. Infusing real-world experiences into your instructions will make teaching moments fresh and enrich classroom learning. Relating and demonstrating through real-life situations will make the material easy to understand and easy to learn. It will spark their interest and get the children excited and involved. You can make use of smart apps for preschoolers to make these sessions all the more interesting.
Make time for brainstorming sessions into your classrooms. These sessions are a great way to get the creative juices flowing. When you have multiple brains focusing on one single idea, you are sure to get numerous ideas and will also involve everyone in the discussion. These sessions will be a great platform for students to voice their thoughts without having to worry about right or wrong. Set some ground rules before you start. You can go for simple brainstorming or group brainstorming or pair brainstorming.
Some lessons are best learnt when they are taught outside of the classroom. Organise field trips that are relevant to the lessons or just simply take students for a walk outside of the classroom. The children will find this fresh and exciting and will learn and remember the things taught faster. Role-playing is most effective for students of almost any age group. You just need to customise depending on the age group. You can even use this method for teaching preschoolers; just make sure you keep it simple enough to capture their limited attention span.
Teaching through role play is a great way to make children step out of their comfort zone and develop their interpersonal skills. This method comes in handy, especially when you are teaching literature, history or current events. The role-playing approach will help the student understand how the academic material will be relevant to his everyday tasks.
Rudyard Kipling rightly said, “If history were taught in the form of stories, it would never be forgotten.” Storyboarding is a great way to teach any subject which requires step-by-step memorisation or visualisation highly-conceptual ideas. History teachers can use a storyboard to recreate a famous event. Such a visually stimulating activity will ensure that even complex ideas are easily put across to students. You can also encourage the use of storyboards as a form of communication and let the students tell a story in pictures using their imagination.
Stimulating Classroom Environment
A classroom environment that is well-decorated, fun, and engaging will help stimulate a student’s mind and will help think and learn better. Children, especially young ones cannot be expected to sit all day and learn. Such a creative and stimulating environment will help them explore and will encourage them to learn about the subject. An environment that positively impacts the children is beneficial for the teacher as well. Schools associated with Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) will vouch for the fact that the learning environment has a prime role in learning and development.
Welcome New Ideas
An open-minded attitude can help you innovate new teaching methods. Though open-minded, sometimes most of us show reluctance to new ideas. If you’re a teacher never do this, always try to accept new ideas even if it looks strange at the beginning.
Think About A New Hobby
Sometimes, the hectic workload may affect your engagement in teaching. If it happens to you, it’s natural. You can take a break for a couple of hours and engage in some other activity that you’re interested in. This will rejuvenate you and you can return to your work with more passion and interest.
Work Together as a Team
As everyone knows, the end result of collaborative efforts is always immense. Think about spending some quality time with your colleagues. Ask them to share their views on improving teaching methods, you can see many of them come up with interesting strategies. So, collaborate and introduce innovative teaching methods.
Puzzles and Games
Learning is fun where puzzles and games are part of education. Children may not feel they’re learning when their lessons are introduced through games. Puzzles and games help children to think creatively and face challenges.
Start School Clubs or Groups
What about starting an after-school club or group? Being a teacher, you may not get enough time to work on interesting topics that you are passionate about. You can share your views and learn more from others when you have school clubs or groups.
Refer Books on Creativity
To be a creative teacher, you need to do some research on creative ideas and techniques. There are a lot of books on creativity. Choose some of the best works and start learning, it will be helpful for your professional development as well.
Love What You Do
You can give your best only if you truly love what you do. You will be more creative and inspired when you are not stressed. Loving your work keep you relaxed and give you room to experiment with new ideas.
Introduce Lessons Like a Story
Just think, why do you watch movies with much interest? You like to watch movies because there is always an interesting story to keep you engaged. Like that, learning sessions become more interesting when you introduce it like a story. If you are creative even math lessons can be related to interesting stories.