Right from the start I just want to make it clear that I am not writing this post to attack anyone. I am absolutely not saying that anyone is getting it wrong or shouldn't be posting what they are doing in their setting. I'm not saying it isn't nice to see inspiring activities and environments. I'm not saying it isn't important to read about how other people are getting it right. But is anyone else feeling that they aren't doing enough?
I'm meant to have a welcoming start to the day, with a creative self-registration idea. I'm meant to be available to the adults dropping off in case there are problems but also support the children if they need settling in. I can't waste any time during the day at all so these welcome activities should be designed to be visually attractive to the children but also move their learning on.
During the day I should let them have long periods of uninterrupted playing. This way they can follow their interests and develop their skills in a natural way. So I shouldn't force them to leave their play and come and sit at a table. It should be purely their choice. I should observe all of the children and look for teachable moments. Seize those moments and prepare activities that join their interests with their next steps.
To plan this, I should look carefully at my assessments. My assessments should be written down so that I have evidence. Or they could be recorded in an 'online' EYFS tracker. But some of my assessments can come from my professional knowledge and might therefore be in my head. My planning should be done in the moment and in advance. I should be child-led. Child-initiated. When would I even have time to be adult led? My planning should take into account where children have come from, their interests and their next steps. I should plan exciting activities that engage all of the children to develop their skills. Unless they aren't interested, in which case I should observe their play and teach them the objective through their play. Unless their play is already worthwhile. In which case I should just make observations. I should make sure I do exciting topics. But I shouldn't do topics at all because that's not child-led. I should base my topics, that I'm not doing, on stories.
To find support I should follow people on Facebook. And follow them on Instagram. Follow them on twitter. And follow them on Pinterest. And follow them on Snapchat. But not follow them home - for obvious reasons. I should read blogs and newspapers and journals and books. And watch the Secret Life of 4 and 5 Year Olds....
I'm meant to allow self-service snack time, allowing the children to prepare their own snack and clear up. I am meant to encourage them to talk during this process as we need to develop their vocabulary. Speaking of which I'm meant to get them talking all day. All the time. Except when they have to be quiet. Although maybe there shouldn't be an expectation that they are quiet because they're only young? But they can't talk in assembly. But perhaps they shouldn't go to assembly because there are more important things for them to learn about. Right?
I'm meant to read to them every day. Unless they choose not to listen. In that case I should let them choose what they want to be doing instead. Unless it's using the iPad because that is ruining their development. Except those useful apps that teach them phonics. Or numbers.
Oh and speaking of phonics - I should be teaching that, right? But not formally because they're too young for formal teaching. But it is good for them to develop their concentration skills so perhaps I could sit them on the carpet for 5 minutes? Then I can allow them to practise their phonic skills during their play. But we should group them by ability to allow focussed teaching. Except we shouldn't because it affects self-esteem and there is no evidence that 'setting' actually makes a positive difference.
Inside I should have furniture made out of natural materials. No plastic resources. Except Numicon because we should use that. I should have stones, twigs and half of the school wild area in a beautifully arranged display to encourage them to make art with loose parts. I should have areas to be quiet, areas to be alone and areas to be together. And a sofa. And lots and lots of mirrors. I should have fairy lights. And lamps. And I should have hessian. And no bright colours. Except maybe on their work. Which should be displayed on a tree branch. And it should show the child's thought processes. And what the adults think. And what their next steps are. And their photo. My sand and water tray should have Victorian sieves, copper pans and teapots from around the world. And they should be arranged more beautifully than in a Harrods shop window display. My art area should be organised into coloured sections and should look so attractive that even an Instagram filter couldn't improve it. I should have a tepee for reading. Or at least a table with some books under it. I should have a role play area. But it should be deconstructed so that the children can build it into whatever they like. I shouldn't have a writing area but instead have writing integrated across the entire classroom so that children can write whenever they feel inspired. Perhaps I could put some pens and paper in the toilets?
The children shouldn't be forced to write. They will write when they are ready. They will write when they feel inspired to. When it is important to them. But I should get them writing their name, right? But not with tracing or dots to follow. And I'm teaching them cursive handwriting. Or pre-cursive handwriting. To be honest, just getting some of them to hold a pencil is enough at times. But if we are writing is it in an exercise book?! And if I'm writing in an exercise book do I have a separate one for maths work? Not that I'm 'teaching' maths because it's all in context.
I should teach them mindfulness. And yoga. And we should have a charity that we raise money for. We should do Dough Disco. And Dough Gym. And Magic Maths, And Super Sentences. And Story Bags. And Funky Fingers.
Outside I'm meant to have lots of space to run and jump and play. They need to be able to grow their own plants and perhaps look after their own animals. They should be made to feel like it is their environment by allowing them to help develop it so perhaps they can help me repurpose some olf guttering and plastic bottles to build a water wall. Or the music wall. Made out of junk. They could help me paint the boat and turn it into an outside reading area. Or an area for quiet reflection. I should have old tires made into fairy gardens and a wooden spool turned into a small world table. I need a mud kitchen that is fitted out with all modern conveniences. And a pond. But it needs to be fenced off. And there should be trees to climb. Because I should allow the children to take risks. Except playing with conkers - that is still banned, right?
And I need tuff spots. I need tuff spots that look so inviting even grown-ups want to join in. I need stuff spots that are so beautiful that they would make you weep. And I might after I spend so long on them and then the children get their destructive little hands on them....
And I should make my own dough.
In the same way that we shouldn't compare our bodies to the airbrushed perfection that we see in celebrity magazines and on the internet, we should be careful to judge our 'early years' self against what we see on the internet. It is impossible to do everything. At once. And also, not everything is right for everyone. Not everything is right for every setting. Or every child. Take inspiration sure. But you know your children best so don't feel under pressure to copy anyone. Be kind to yourself. But definitely keep following Ace Early Years, eh?! xx