5 Ways to Engage Parents in the EYFS

1. Reading Morning

Every Monday morning my parents come into class from 8.50 – 9.10am to read and play reading games with their children. It gives me the opportunity to mill about and model how to segment and blend to read, amongst other reading skills.  It has been very successful and always sets the day off to a great start!

We put out a selection of fiction and non-fiction books, guided reading texts and reading games such as Bingo and Treasure & Trash.  We also put a reading game on the interactive whiteboard and class computer.

5 ways to engage parents

image2. Maths Morning

We have recently started to alternate our reading mornings with maths mornings. We have seen amazing results with progression in reading and phonics, but numeracy doesn’t seem to have as high a profile.

We set out a selection of board games, number ordering activities,  counting and number recognition activities, games on the computer and Numicon activities.

image3. Online Learning Journals

This is another amazing way to engage with parents. Tapestry has a function which allows parents to respond to observations as well as upload their own observations from home.  I cannot recommend it highly enough.

A teacher's perspective on Tapestry Rockmyclassroom.com

4. Mystery Reader

image My TA came back from a course with this fab idea, which we implemented immediately.  Every week or couple of weeks a parent will sign up to be our mystery reader.  They can choose to either read a story or talk about their jobs or their culture.  So far we have had several stories in English, one in Urdu, a mum in to talk about Channukah, an Auntie in to play the violin and a dad in to talk about his work as a builder, complete with his tool box!  

The exciting thing is that we keep it top secret, so that their child has no idea they are coming in. When I get word from the office that our mystery reader has arrived the children sit down and cover their eyes. They then count down from 10 and when they open their eyes the mystery reader is sitting in my chair.

The look on their child’s face is priceless and something I always try to catch on camera. It has been such a success; the children love it and the parents are continually signing up.

5. Parent Volunteers

If they are willing and you are comfortable having parents in your class, get them in and get them involved! They are such an amazing resource and quickly understand and learn about how their children learn through play.

Do you have any other fab ideas for getting parents involved in your EYFS setting? If so, please leave a comment. I’d love to hear from you 🙂

 

 

Superhero Ideas for the Early Years

I started off this topic with a letter addressed to Reception. It was from the Joker to say that he had kidnapped all of the small world superhero characters.  The children were outraged and I feigned serious distress!  We hadn’t set anything on the tables that morning because we wanted to see what the children would come up with.   A few of them suggested building a trap to catch the Joker.

I jumped on this idea suggesting that the children work together to plan and design a trap and that we could then go outside and build them. To say that there was a writing buzz is an understatement.  Almost every single child wanted to design a trap. Some worked alone and others worked together, drawing and writing on big sheets of sugar paper.

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The children used a variety of materials outdoors to build their traps…

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Some of the girls chose to remain indoors and made a trap using the small wooden blocks. They explained that the red pom poms were bombs – terrifying!imageThe following day the Joker delivered another note, taunting the class, explaining that their traps hadn’t worked and that he was still at large.  He told them to look out for signs saying ‘superhero challenge’ around the setting.  If the children were able to complete the challenges he would begin to return a few of the superheroes each day.  

These challenges lasted over a period of about 2 weeks and appeared indoors and out, some times popping up on the interactive whiteboard during phonics and others in their home learning folders.  Below are some pictures of the various challenges. 

Shoot the Baddies

Outside the kids found one of the signs on the side of the shed along with some pictures of various baddies with tricky words superimposed on top.  Their task here was to shout out the tricky word and then shoot the baddie with a gun from Poundland.

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Free the Superheroes

At the funky fingers table their task was to free the superheroes who had been tied up (threaded).

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Unlocking Padlocks

Each padlock had a number to 20 written on it.  The keys all had tags attached with instructions ‘1 less than ….’ The children had to find the padlock that was one less than the number on the key.  The children absolutely loved this activity and were queuing up to have a turn!

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Doubling Salad

Another challenge was for the children to make a superhero salad.  They had to pick their favourite ingredient, choose between 1-5 pieces and then double the portion.

I used polystyrene plates from Poundland and thought they were a great visual aid for teaching the concept of doubling.

They put one set of ingredients in one side of the plate and then the equivalent amount in the other side, hence calculating the double. They then counted how many pieces altogether into the central compartment.

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For the more able children I had them record their answers on a recipe sheet.

EYFS superhero ideas

Potion Making

Later in the week we also set out potion making ingredients in the mud kitchen, along with some writing frames.  We used strong scented items such as ginger, lemon and herbs under the premise that the strong smell would help to keep the Joker at bay.  They absolutely loved it as you can see from the photos below…

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Superhero Role Play

We also developed a superhero den indoors.  We kept it relatively simple with a dark tent, lots of superhero books, torches, writing frames and some craft supplies for costume making. 

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The topic of superheroes always captivates the children.  We got some fabulous writing and independent learning over the few weeks we ran it.  Even now they blame anything that gets broken, or goes missing, on the Joker 🙂

Challenging Outdoor Activities for Boys

Every morning as soon as we leave the carpet and the doors to outside open, my boys take off at 100mph and would happily spend the rest of the day chasing each other around the setting like maniacs, with their k-nex guns in tow.  Obviously doing this all day, every day is not very conducive to learning and so we constantly have to try to think of other ways to engage and challenge them that will give them just as much of a thrill.

Last week 2 activities I came up with had them, to my amazement, enthralled for hours. Hooray 🙂

Water beads and guttering challenge

Last week was too cold for water play outside, so we put some blue water beads in the water tray instead. The boys were enjoying hurtling them down a single piece of guttering from the water tray into the tuff spot below.

Water bead challenge

I moved the tuff spot further away, put out the guttering stands and more pieces of guttering and set them a challenge – to move the water beads from the water tray to the tuff spot, using the pieces of guttering, without spilling any.  

This perhaps doesn’t sound overly challenging but it really flummoxed my kids! It took them a good 20minutes to work out how to 1. Slant the guttering to make the beads roll and; 2. How to link the pieces of guttering together.

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Once they achieved this, more experimentation ensued; slanting the guttering higher/lower to make the beads travel faster/slower.

Water bead challenges- move the beads along the guttering without dropping any

imageIt had the children, particularly the boys, captivated.  It was a great one to stand back and observe because of all the wonderful active learning and problem solving happening.

Car Race

The following day the boys were getting a bit lairy indoors with the cars, whizzing them up and down the classroom at break neck speed, so I directed them outside to the guttering. Again it took them some time to position the guttering correctly, but when they got it in place, boy was engagement high! They absolutely loved hurtling them down the ramp and seeing whose travelled furthest. Originally I had positioned a measuring stick at the bottom of the ramp, but them remembered something I’d seen on Pinterest and added numbers to a piece of guttering. Of course they became even more competitive whilst learning to recognise numbers amongst lots of other skills. 👍

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Please excuse the minging rug! We replaced our indoor rug and temporarily used our old one outdoors until it was well and truly destroyed! The children enjoyed building on it with the community bricks and pretending it was a bedroom/living room. 

 

Frozen Mania

This week I introduced elements of the film Frozen to my provision, much to the delight of the girls in my class.  I often do very boy-orientated topics to try to ensure engagement, but this year I just couldn’t ignore the obsession with the much loved film.

I introduced the topic by having a package delivered to class, at which point the children began to clap. Bear in mind that the last package they received contained The Elf On The Shelf.   I read out the sender’s address, Queen Elsa, Arendelle Castle, Norway, at which point they started to squeal.  The special helpers opened the box and discovered several frozen characters. There was a note inside from Elsa explaining that she had accidentally frozen her sister and her friends and that she needed the children’s help to free them.  The children offered some suggestions about how we could free them – ‘Bash the ice, crack it, use cold water, put them in the sun’.

A packages arrives from Arendelle. Elsa needs the children's help. She has accidentally frozen her sister and friends

We set up an investigation table containing some of their suggestions – hot and cold water, wooden spoons and salt (an added provocation).  One of the children then put Anna outside in the sun.

Frozen ice investigation

There was the most incredible learning buzz in the air. The children were so highly engaged and focused on the task in hand.  When Anna didn’t melt outside they all offered suggestions as to why this might have been, with one little boy realising that it was too cold.

The following day we kept the ice theme going by freezing some of the children’s favourite toys – the superheroes.  We hid them in the ‘people’ small world drawer knowing that they would be discovered very quickly.  The kids were desperate to free them and brought them outside, fetching buckets of hot water and asked me to get some salt.  One of the boys told me that the salt had ‘eaten’ the ice yesterday so it was a good idea to use it again!

Frozen superheroes

We created our ice palace small world by spray painting a happyland ebay purchase with white enamel spray and flinging some (a lot) of glitter on top!

DIY ice palace

As you can imagine it was very popular and we had to limit the number of children. We did this by saying that if the children wanted to play with it then they needed to write a letter saying so and post it in the letter box.  You can imagine it was overflowing 🙂 We then chose 4 letters from the letter box and those 4 children were allowed to play.

Frozen Small World

We also set up a simple Frozen roleplay area. Having been inspired by Tishylishy I have costume making as the main focus, as well as lots of writing frames and some boxes and tubes for children to build their own castles or whatever they wish.

Simple Frozen Role Play

Again I gained inspiration for this activity from another Facebook friend, Stimulating Learning With Rachel, who has some wonderful examples of transient art.  I just love the creations the children came up with independently.

Winters loose parts

Objective Led Planning in Practice

Planning is something I’ve often fretted about getting right over the years.  I’ve chopped and changed my planning several times every year and I now feel like I’ve got a system that I’m pretty happy with and that I’m willing to share with you all, albeit nervously.  The planning proforma I’ve developed works well for me in that it is clearly linked to assessment and is succinctly limited to just one A3 sheet. Hooray!

Of course, it is not perfect – is there any perfect planning system?  One section I used to have, but subsequently deleted, was an evaluation box. I felt that it was a token addition, in that it was a hastily scrawled section on a Friday with no real purpose.  You just have to log into my Tapestry account, or glance at the classroom displays, to see how the provision has been developed to cater for the children’s interests that particular week through our many and varied observations.  I think that is a truer reflection of the week’s work.

Over the past few years I used to plan elaborate focus activities in order to attempt to meet all the various learning objectives I had chosen for the week. I usually had one indoor and one outdoor activity and when I had a 3rd adult, they would float. This planning method did not work for me because:

1) The focus activities usually changed daily meaning that it was almost impossible to work with all 30 children in one day;

2) The person floating often did not feel that they had a clear role; and

3) The elaborate focus activities I set up sometimes did not spark the children’s interests and it sometimes felt like a chore having to run around with the clipboard looking for the children who had evaded the activity all day!

Feeling dissatisfied, I started to research planning in the summer when I stumbled across this article about objective led planning written by Alistair Bryce Clegg.   As I read it, it all made perfect sense and I decided to give it a whirl.  I would strongly urge you to read this article for further information.

Below is my  weekly planning so that before we delve into what objective led planning is, you can get a feel for how I run my week.  Also attached is my staff timetable for you to get a feel for how we are all deployed throughout the day!

Objective Led Planning

Download the PDF here – Weekly plan Rockmyclassroom.com/

Reception Staff Timetable

Reception Staff Timetable

Download the PDF here – Reception Class Staff Timetable 2014-15

Objective Led Planning – How does it actually work?

Every week, from *Tuesday – Friday, each member of staff takes responsibility for one learning objective each e.g.

Teacher – Writing

TA 1 – Using the language of weight

TA 2 – EAD being imaginative

These objectives are broken down and differentiated and the children are ability grouped.   We specify what they children can currently do and what their next steps are.  All staff are clear about how to take the children’s learning forward.

*Please note that we leave a Monday free from objectives in order to observe and extend our weekly focus children in their play. 

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Download the PDF here – Objective Led Planning Assessment Sheets Rockmyclassrooom.com

Each member of staff will then focus only on their one objective, for the whole week.  You will notice on my planning above that rather than planning specific activities I plan ‘enhancements’ and provocations for learning around the setting indoors and out. For example, this week my TA focused on weighing. We  put scales: at the playdough table, in the sand pit, on the carpet/construction area and set up the outdoor scales with some extremely heavy (1kg) weights next to it – so that the children would constantly bump into learning opportunities.

Rather than setting up a weighing ‘activity’ on the numeracy table and sitting there for the day, calling children over to weigh random teacher-selected objects, the children had the opportunity to weigh things that they might be interested to weigh during their child initiated learning.  It resulted in higher level engagement and therefore, higher level attainment…

Objective led planning on Rockmyclassroom.com

As a result we have now permanently included a set of scales among our play dough provision, so that the children will be able to use them when they wish to do so. I am thinking (or hoping!) it will help to solve arguments about how to share out the play dough fairly!

Other Benefits/Points to think about

  • I often hear teachers asking, “how do you ensure that you have evidence  for each child in each area of learning?”  Well, the beauty of objective led planning is that you will have a minimum of 2 observations per child, per week.  These  objectives will vary from week to week in order for you to ensure curriculum coverage so, “voila”, you have your evidence for each child.
  • Differentiation is made explicit and you get a good feel for exactly where your children are, plus you can see clear progress from week to week.
  • The learning is truly child led, in that you take the learning to them rather than calling the children to an activity.
  • You won’t end up with 30 identical pieces of writing or observations of addition with compare bears. It’s lovely to see such personalised observations and pieces of writing in their learning journals. From their observations, an outsider will get a true reflection of the child and their interests along with a clear picture of their capabilities.
  • Although it may sound tedious having to visit 30 children in their child iniated play in order to extend their learning, this isn’t the case.  I find that when children see you engrossed with another child who is having fun learning, they will flock to you and so it ends up turning into a group activity!  Yesterday for example I noticed two boys making books using hole punches and treasury tags on the PE mat on he floor.  I approached them to see what they were doing and to try to extend their learning by getting them to annotate their drawings with words and captions.  This resulted in several other children sidling over to get a glimpse of what we were doing and then they all wanted to join in too!
  • This isn’t to say that you can never do pre-planned group activities again. For example, you may want to do some cookery through guided reading and so this would have to be a planned activity.
  • I’ve heard some EYFS practitioners question how objective led planning ensures curriculum coverage because we only focus on 2 or 3 objectives per week.  However, the very nature of Early Years education means that there are constantly cross curricular links.  Just look at how my funky fingers activities below coincide with literacy/numeracy in the photos below.  With some careful thought you can ensure that your provision is set up in a way that the learning is  open ended and with cross curricular links.

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imageThe drawbacks

  • The time it takes break down each learning objective and to group the children according to their ability. There are so many elements to one skill e.g.  segmenting sounds in words;
    • To begin to hear & say initial sounds in simple CVC words
    • To begin to hear & say initial and final sounds in CVC words
    • To begin to hear all sounds in CVC words
    • To begin to segment sounds in several words and form a simple caption etc, etc

(However, once you have broken down an objective once, you can reuse the assessment sheet next time and just move the children around the groups.)

  • Sometimes it’s difficult to think of how to introduce the objective into the children’s child initiated learning without ‘killing the play’. You really need to use your imagination and be able to think on your feet about how to make it appealing to the children.
  • It may take them some time for you and your support staff to let go of your traditional way of working i.e. sitting at a pre-planned activity and calling the children over to you, rather than you introducing the learning objective into the children’s child initiated learning.  This takes quite a lot of skill and the ability to be able to think on your feet.  You will need to spend time before you start,  talking about how to create opportunities for learning  in certain areas around your setting.

If you would like to read more about objective led planning please see these articles for further information:

Foundation Stage Forum (There are also some interesting discussions about objective led planning in the forums) 

ABC does

 In the meantime, I hope this blog post has given you some food for thought.  Changing to objective led planning has not been without its difficulties, but I feel that the benefits far outweigh the drawbacks.

Happy planning, people 🙂

 

 

 










 

Tweeting Teachers


I saw this quote over Christmas and the words really struck a chord with me as it is one of the main reasons that I started this blog.

I work in a single form entry school without a Nursery and as the only Early Years teacher in the school it is very easy to start to feel isolated and lonely.  Having previously worked in a 3, and when we had a bulge class, 4 form entry school, I knew the benefits of working in a team and bouncing ideas off one another.  When a friend told me she was starting a moderation group with another school I was quick to latch on and it was one of the best things I did last year.  Not only was it an opportunity to moderate our profile scores, but it also gave us a chance air our grievances and have a good nosey around each other’s settings.

Always with my iPad to hand, I documented these visits taking pictures of things I could replicate and try to persuade my Caretaker to make back in my setting. It was also useful to be able to show my Teaching Assistants these photos during team meetings and to inspire the Head Teacher with improvements that could be made.

I was inspired to create my own paint making and colour mixing area in my classroom using sugar shakers and pipettes.  It has been messy, yes, but a huge hit with the children.

My wonderful Caretaker was able to replicate this two-tier tuff spot holder using cheap cuts of wood. Doesn’t it look fabulous? It is also great to put out next to the water tray.

Again, having seen a similar display during a school visit, I created my own selfie display using neutral hessian as the display backdrop.  The children did self portraits on white paper using black pens and we put up black and white photographs of the children beside their pictures.

Social media is such a powerful tool.  My practice has been hugely influenced and I’ve been so inspired by other teachers on Facebook.  Stimulating Learning with Rachel and Early Years Ideas with Tishylishy are two of my particular favourites. 

Pinterest is a also a very valuable resource – a place where you can collate all of the ideas you’ve been inspired by online. I also recently heard of a school who allow their staff to record their professional development portfolios in the form of a pinterest board. What a great idea!

Twitter is also a minefield of information. Use and look up hash tags #eyfstwitterpals, #eytalking and #kinderchat to find some highly informative discussions and to find some like minded people to follow.  Just look at some of the ideas that other early years professionals have been sharing…

 

I’ve also gathered some super ideas for guided reading, displays and lesson planning  via discussions over on Twitter….It is so important to get out of your classroom to see others practice, whether that is in an online sense, or by physically going to visit other schools.  It can reaffirm what you are doing in your setting and can open your mind to other ideas and approaches.  Get out there and be a magpie!

10 Elf On The Shelf Ideas for the Classroom

Here are 10 ideas for using the elf on the shelf in your classroom.  Some of these you may have already seen on the Facebook, but I thought I’d include them for any new readers of my blog.

I’ve included a possible writing hook with each scenario as they often really lend themselves to encouraging writing and mark making.

1. Snowball fight

Writing hook: Lollipop sticks and small pieces of paper for children to make support banners for their elf e.g. Go Sparkle, Sparkle to win!Snow ball fight!

2. Toilet paper the classroom

Writing hook: Leave out the large road signs or suggest that the children write posters to the elf telling him to stop making such a mess!

Toilet paper the classroom3. Dinosaur attack.

Writing hook: Leave pieces of paper and sellotape nearby for the children to write signs and posters telling the dinosaurs to leave the elf alone.

Dinosaur attack

4. Elf School

If you follow me on Facebook you’ll remember the little elves I bought in Tiger. I think they look so sweet in my elf school.  The children actually squealed when they discovered them this morning!

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Writing hook –  The children already spend the day re-enacting the school day in their ‘school’ role play area and didn’t need any prompting to start teaching the elves the sounds they have been learning. One of the boys even started writing the school rules on the board!!

5. Poorly Elf

Writing hook: Usually the children suggest this before I do, but even so, make it easier for them by leaving some cards laid out on the table as a prompt. Poorly elf

6. Snow angel and mark making in glittery snow (salt)

Writing hook: I left some name cards in the tuff spot to encourage the children to come and write their names and other letters in the salt.

image7. Toilet paper the outdoor area/block off the door with tape

Writing hook: As above, Leave out the large road signs or suggest that the children write posters to the elf telling him to stop making such a mess!

Sleigh elf

8. Invite to make reindeer food and write a recipe

Writing hook: the recipe templates that have been left on the tuff spot. I’m going to encourage the children to write out the list of ingredients that they used to create their reindeer food.

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9. Letters to Santa/Elf School

Writing hook: Santa letter templates left on the table

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10. Big chalk writing

Really sorry but I forgot to take a picture of this! I set up the elf holding a big piece of chalk with the words ‘Hi Santa’ written on the ground. I encouraged the children to have a go at writing big words on the ground so that Santa would be able to see them from the sky!

There you have it, 10 ideas for using your elf in the classroom and encouraging some writing while you’re at it!

Only 3 more get ups people, we can do this! This will be my last blog post until the New Year. I hope you all have a fabulous, peaceful and restful Christmas.

Alison x