Вы находитесь на странице: 1из 121

The

Nook
Book

Purposeful
provision

Written & Edited by James Tunnell

#nookbook

WELCOME

Welcome to the Nook Book. My name is James, I started Nurserynook.co.uk in 2013 as my own CPD to
network with other teachers in the country. I found it difficult to find good quality examples of provision to
develop my practice. In response I started my blog and started to upload photos of some of the activities I
was doing. I didnt catch the attention of many people to begin with but after a few hashtags on twitter I
found myself with a small trickle of visitors. Over the last few years things have moved forwards and I now
use various different social media to promote my blog as well as discussing critical issues in Early Years.
I now connect to a wide range of professionals both online and in person. Sharing ideas is at the
heart of what I do so that is why I wanted to write this ebook. I get a lot of questions about
provision in particular and whilst I have been very successful with what I have established in my
nurseries, I am fully aware that outstanding has many guises. What you see here you might
roll your eyes at - thats fine. But I hope you find some of the content here inspiring, drop me a
line and let me know what you think.

A LITTLE
ABOUT ME
I started teaching 2011 in an inner city Nursery class
attached to a large, 3 form primary school in
Bradford. We had 90 children in the Nursery (45 per
session) with 5 staff altogether. Over the 5 years I taught
there our team grew as did our Nursery. We added a 2year-old provision in 2014 and increased our capacity to
156 children. Our staff grew to a team of 17 and our
approach to teaching had to adapt to these changes. I
floated between a teacher and manager in my school so I
have had a range of experiences. I have a few

specialisms which I have honed over my time in Bradford


including developing language and mathematics.
I keep a regularly updated blog, Facebook page, twitter
and Instagram. Links to these are at the back of this
ebook.

PLANNING

Planning comes in many guises. In general, settings use long (LTP) and short

z (MTP)
term planning (STP) . Some will also use Medium term planning

however it all depends on what the setting would like to see. Ofsted does not
look at planning when they visit, nor do they look at previous planning. Instead
they want to see the effectiveness of any planning in place i.e. the interactions
between the child and the adult and the learning taking place.
Long term should outline your intentions over the coming year. Some settings
(particularly schools) favour the use of topics and themes. This has been a bit of
a hot topic over the last few years. Some say a topic limits the children's
creativity and quashes their interests. Whilst others (particularly those who work
in areas of high depravation) argue that their children have little or no life
experiences to share with practitioners so they need to be exposed to new ones
With that being said, its your choice how to design your planning, but you do
need to include your planned experiences for children over the year. For

example you may include specific experiences such as visits to the local park or
shopping centre or turning your home corner into a garden centre. You can also
include skills that you want the children to develop, stories you want to expose
the children to, specific references to the curriculum and specific focus activities
that you want to achieve with the children.
Medium term planning. I dont write medium term planning because you can often just take 1/6th or the specific term section from the LTP and use that. Sometimes settings want you to add more detail however if your LTP is clear enough
then you can usually forgo this planning.

Short term planning. In the short term planning you list specific activities that you want to achieve with the
children as well as provision enhancements (Well look at these more closely later). Short term planning is
usually structured over a week from Monday - Friday but many people now create planning to start on a
Wednesday or Thursday (immediately after their team planning meeting.) Your short term planning is the most
important as this gives the adults in the room the information they need within each provision area and at group
times.
Your planning is a working document and can and should be annotated to make note of what worked well, what
did not and what needs to be repeated in the future.
Where possible it is often beneficial to include the view of the child into your planning. This isnt always easy
when youre writing LTP in July for the following year, but where possible you can incorporate ideas and interests
that you glean from children when youre doing home visits or meeting parents on visit days.
Click here for an example of short term planning I have used before.

DELIVERING
THE
LEARNING
Children learn through play. If youre not on board with
this and enjoy your worksheets perhaps you should stop
reading.
Play is a long established medium for learning for
young children. It gives them the opportunities to create,
evaluate, analyse, apply, understand, remember,
hypothesise, test, predict and evaluate. Children play
within the setting through provision. The next few
chapters examine provision more closely and attempt to
define the differences between basic and enhanced
provision.
I will also examine focussed teaching. Whilst many
practitioners do focussed teaching in their sessions,
others look at it as unnecessary interruptions. I manage
it very successfully without interrupting the children's
play.

PROVISION
IN YOUR
SETTING

In this chapter well explore provision, the different types and how it is all linked together. Lets start with a few
definitions:
Provision is literally what you provide for the children. In general, provision relates to the physical space given
over to host an area of play, e.g. the sand area, the water area, the block area.
As a practitioner you are aiming for the provision areas to act as a third teacher (The Reggio approach) but
then it will take a lot of effort to get to that point. (See developing independence chapter) If you aim to create
spaces which allow children to develop their skills alongside each other and with adults (as co-operative players
rather than instructors) then youre on the right track.

Basic provision:
Lets start with what I call basic provision (or sometimes called continuous provision). This is the bare bones
before you add any enhancements based on interests, topics etc. The basic provision is made up of the furniture,
the resources, the light source (windows, lamps, etc.), displays and other sensory stimuli such as smells (such as
aromatherapy diffuser or a CD player). This is not an exhaustive list. Your basic provision is whatever you
consider to be the basic make up of an area where the basic skills are developed. Basic provision can and should
change when you believe other skills need to be developed.
It is through the basic provision that you encourage your children to develop basic skills and play through
schema. An exemplification of what schema is can be found here.

Furniture

Sensory

Resources

Displays

experiences

How provision
fits together.

Enhancements

Enhanced provision
Enhanced provision literally refers to the enhancements you put into the basic provision based on your topic/
theme, their interest or an event or time of the year. Enhancements dont need to be long lasting - you might
have some Fireman Sam small world in your construction area for a few days because of a childs interest but
then change when their interests change - thats ok. Enhancements can take on any form so long as they add to
the basic provision. Enhancements could be resources, furniture, sensory experiences or even staff and visitors.
Enhancements do need to be planned and discussed with your team because often they need to be modeled to
the children and adults need to understand their purpose.
Example of enhanced provision 1:
Sam is a very excited little boy who has been talking about dinosaurs for the last few days. He has been reading
a lot of Harry and the dinosaur books with his daddy. In the sand area he has poured some water in a corner
and made it into a swamp.
Look, the dinosaurs will get caught in the swamp!
His key person decided to fetch the dinosaurs from the outside store and placed a basket on the shelf for the
next day. She designed some dinosaur posters with the dinosaur name on as Sam is learning some phonics at
home with his mum. His key worker also plays a CD of dinosaur roars quietly in the area.
Example 2:
Saima, Chardonnay and Felicity are playing in the mud kitchen outside. They have been making mud pies all
day long and serving them to other children in the setting.
My mummy makes pies with berries, Saima says to Felicity.
I saw berries outside my house, Felicity replies.
Saimas key person knows that Felicity lives next door to school and there are some elderberry trees nearby.
That afternoon the girls set off to the trees with a couple of members of staff to harvest some

elderberries. They return to the setting with a basket full and the girls quickly make berry pies, for all of the children.
The berries are short lived but their play is enhanced by having berries available all day throughout the session.
Felicity brings elderberries into the setting for the next 2 weeks and the girls repeat their play, developing it until
they eventually set up a restaurant and make menus for their creations.
Example 3:
Arif is playing in the construction area. He is playing alone and prefers to spend time by himself. He is wearing a
hard hat and is trying to use the tape measure to wrap up his building. His key person sees what Arif is doing and
realises that he is trying to build a bridge. At home time his key person talks to his dad and she finds out that Arif
walks to school over a steel suspension bridge by the river.
The next day she places a box of wool and string in the construction area alongside a book about bridges. Arif
doesnt notice the book immediately however when he sees the box of string he quickly sets about making a
bridge. When he notices the book he brings it to his key person and they spend time exploring the different
bridges within it.
Arif is joined over the coming days by a lot og other boys, all of whom know about the bridge. They work together
to constuct bridges which eventually spills out into the modelling area. Arif now has a group of boys to share his
experiences with.

Enhanced provision can be done on a small scale such as with Sam or on a larger scale which encompasses many
other children such as with Arif. Enhancements dont need to be based on interest either, if you have a topic about
the beach you can include lots of shells and sea creatures in your water area, large rocks in your sand and ice
cream cones and wafers in your playdough area.

FOCUSSED 4
TEACHING

Vygotsky and Bruner wrote extensively about Social-constructivism. The idea that a child learns through interaction
with others, especially adults. Vygotsky talks about the zone of proximal development which is a really faffy way of
saying 1:1 interaction with a child. (Ill burn in Edu-hell for that!)
However you directly teach in your setting its important to consider the method you select and the timing of this
intervention.
In my setting we have 2 focussed teaching times. 1 at the start of the session which is key person group time. The
key person has his or her group and they deliver an activities over 10-15 minutes based on the needs and abilities of
their children. Through this mixed ability approach the older children are able to teach the younger children some of
the basic skills.
At the end of the session we have an ability group time. We split the children into 3 groups Butterflies, Caterpillars
and Eggs. It is through this time we teach the children phonics, mathematics, Talk4Writing and other skills usually
grounded within the specific areas of the curriculum. Many settings would criticise the teaching of phonics at such a
young age however it is usually only the first 2 sets of phonics, and done so in an engaging way with children who are
ready for it.
Through these focus groups we are able to teach children a lot of the skills that they cannot glean from the

environment independently. We expect children to engage in the focus groups and then to develop the skills

independently through enhancements we make to the provision.


For example:
I am teaching the phoneme m. We have been sorting a basket of objects into two piles, m and not m. I do this as a
focus activity at ability group time at the end of the session. The next day I place the same basket and the same
activity in the provision, however I adapt the activity so there are new objects. Children can engage with this
independently if they choose and are able to share this experience with the other children in the setting.

10

The true direction of the development of thinking is not


from the individual to the social, but from the social to
the individual.
- Vygotsky
By having our focus activities at the beginning and the end of the session it leaves 2.5 hours for the children to access
the provision unhindered by adult intervention. That level of freedom to choose and explore is exceptionally important.
Many settings interrupt childrens play which is often deep and meaningful to teach something that the children do not
care about. Their mind is usually still on their previous play.

11

THE BLACK
TRAY

The black tray, tuff spot, builders tray, that bugger to wash - whatever you
call your trusty friend, its one of the most important tools for your
classroom. If you dont have one out all of the time then I highly
suggest you make space for it.
The main benefit of the black tray is you can get as messy in it as
you like and it can be washed. Its for this reason that I get quite
sad when I see those tray inlays that you can get with pictures of
the sea and farms on etc. Small world still works very well in the
tray but you can add things too to enhance it such as shaving foam for
your polar small world, or blue hair gel for your underwater small world.
In our classroom we used the black tray for lots of different messy activities. We always have a shelf full of tools
and containers to encourage filling and emptying and the development of fine motor skills.
This is also a great opportunity for language development if the materials are modeled correctly and the adults
are available to talk to the children about the materials.
Over the next few pages are examples of black tray activities that we have tried as well as approaches to setting
the provision area up:

12

We have had different setups for our messy shelves over the years. Above is an example of different plastic, metal
and wooden resources. We ensure that we have brushes available for the children as well as plastic sweet trays and
some small world objects.
All of the objects are displayed in a way which makes them visible (this time in clear plastic containers) and
attractive as possible. We didnt used to label all of the resources because they might change quickly to reflect
interests or a topic.

13

Black tray trolley: My new classroom

This is the trolley for my black tray in my new classroom. I was restricted by not having shelves or clear baskets so I
used these instead. The needs of my children are also different so this time I decided to use plastic, wood and metal
objects and encourage the children to sort them. There is a basket of containers and tools per shelf.

14

Black tray trolley: My new classroom

Wooden tools container mixing spoons of different sizes. This is the set up in September - as the weeks progress I will
add slotted spoons, salad spoons, wooden spatulas etc.

15

Black tray trolley: My new classroom

Metal objects including measuring cups. This photo is from early on in the set up. For September I also have metal
spoons, whisks, measuring spoons, dessert and table spoons.

16

Black tray trolley: My new classroom

Plastic containers, this time I had ice cream cuts and shot glasses. I can included cups and other resources as the
month goes on.

17

If youve ever looked through my Instagram feed you know I adore a good charity shop. One of the things I
always look for is a mud/woodland kitchen resource. However any resource for the outside mud kitchen can be
used inside if you think it is appropriate. Below is a collection of things I have found from charity shops
nearby. I have probably spent over 150 on items for my mud kitchen but you can resource your area for less
than 10 if you shop around and know what you want. As well as charity shops, eBay, poundland and bargain
madness are great places for bargains for your classroom - but I adore the old fashioned resources which are
usually metal (in particular, brass).

18

Just a few examples of black tray activities.

We added blue food colouring to the black tray and allowed the children to bring brushes and their small world
toys. The children decided that they didnt like the colour of the cars very much so painted them blue. They
ended up with very very blue hands afterwards!

19

Just a few examples of black tray activities.

This is one from one of our fantastically gifted teaching assistants. She decided to mix up frozen chocolate
mouse to make a swamp. My mother-in-law also tried this in her setting and loved it.

20

Just a few examples of black tray activities.

This is one of my old favourites. Every year I buy a big bag of candy canes from poundland, crush them up and add
them to gloop (water and corn flour). The colour bleeds off from the candy canes into the gloop and mixes beautifully.

21

Just a few examples of black tray activities.

This is one from the fabulous Ellie when she was a teaching student in the Nursery. Very simple activity to
encourage fine motor skills threading cheerios onto spaghetti pieces.

22

Just a few examples of black tray activities.


This is a simple activity. We froze a
box of small world and disney characters in water and cornflour (water is fine - but I wanted something
a little different). We encouraged
the children to use the tools on the
shelves to chip away and find the
creatures within.

23

Just a few examples of black tray activities.

This isnt a single activity necessarily. We colour a lot of rice and pasta in the setting
and place them out in interesting patterns. The children can then mix and sort them out
again.

24

Just a few examples of black tray activities.

This isnt a single activity necessarily. We colour a lot of rice and pasta in the setting and
place them out in interesting patterns. The children can then mix and sort them out again.

25

Just a few examples of black tray activities.

This is one of my favourite


black tray activities. It was
entirely child led by one little
boy in the setting who was
very quiet. I left it up to the
children what resources went
into the tray and allowed
them to bring whatever toys
they wanted into it. In the
end we had some beautiful
play and a wonderful experience.

26

Just a few examples of black tray activities.

Scrambled egg dough was another great hit with the children. It was a very straight forward
mix of shaving foam and custard powder. Custard powder is wonderful because it works in a
very similar way to cornflour - it just smells much better and looks very attractive.
We placed out egg cartons after the children said it looked just like eggs.

27

Just a few examples of black tray activities.

Another very simple activity - one that didnt take any setting up, just a little modelling. I had grown a very large sunflower in my allotment and had left it out for the
birds to eat the seeds for a little while. What they left I brought into the setting and
the children used tools to pick the seeds out. I kept them and used them for a new activity later in the month.

28

Just a few examples of black tray activities.

Cornmeal was a mispick on a Tesco online order one time. Im so glad we


were sent it because I would never have chosen it for the classroom. Its an extremely soft and gentle material that can be drawn into with various tools including brushes. Its wonderful if you mix it with water or other materials as it

29

Just a few examples of black tray activities.

Chickpeas can be coloured in much the same way that rice and pasta can be.
Simply mix with poster or any water based paint and allow to dry. Keep mixing as the pint dries to ensure that you dont end up with a lump. We use
white chickpeas in the winter and other colours when we have coloured weeks
or special events such as valentines day.

30

BASIC
PROVISION
LISTS

Below Ive gone through areas of provision you can have in your classroom.
There is no rule about what you must have but many of these are ones youre
likely to have. Ive included the basic resources, vocabulary and example
BLANK level questions (See developing language chapter for more
information) . For those of you who combine areas e.g. playdough in your
home corner, you can combine the lists, vocabulary and questions. (These
lists arent exhaustive)
These lists are for the indoors. Keep an eye out for an outside set;)

Sand area:
Possible resources in your provision:
Spade
Buckets
Scoops
Sieves and shakers
Graded beakers or cylinders
Grade funnels
Sand wheel
Rakes
Moulds
Natural materials
Different size and shaped spoons
Cars and diggers
Stones and shells
Example vocabulary:
16

wet, dry, soft, hard, fine, coarse, rough, smooth, dig, rake, flatten, hollow, castle, structure,
building, built, tracks, marks, sloppy, grain, full, half full, empty, firm, loose,
Example BLANK level questions:
Level 1: What is that?
Level 2: What did you use to make this? Where is the truck?
Level 3: How did you make this? What did you use to make this?
Level 4: How can you make it bigger and stronger? Why did you put the stones there?

Water area:
Possible resources in your provision:
Graded cylinders and beakers
Graded funnels
Water wheel
Sea shells
Sea and pond creatures
Fish nets
Glass pebbles
Colander or sieves
Pipes and tubing
Corks
Recycled bottles and bottle tops
Child size mop and bucket
Example Vocabulary:
Pour, empty(ing), half full, (more/less)full, filling, bubbles, splash, big(ger/est), small(er/est),
float, sink, current, wave, drop(let).
Example BLANK level questions:
Level 1: What is this?
Level 2: What happened to the rock?
Level 3: How did you fill that bottle?
17

Level 4: What can we use to get this car from this side of the water tray to the other?

Dough area:
Possible resources in your provision:
Dough (playdough, clay, unusual dough..)
Water (if using appropriate dough)
Pizza cutters
Plastic knives
Metal butter knives
Wooden rolling pins
Googley eyes
Pipe cleaners
Baking trays
Moulds
Cookie cutters
Paint brushes
Example vocabulary:
Make, mould, manipulate, twist, turn, push, pull, long(er/est), short(er/est), tall(er/est),
wide(r/st), thick(er/est), thin(ner/nest), model, smooth, rough, big, small, cut, form, bake, cook,
slice.
Example BLANK level questions:
Level 1: What have you made? What is this tool?
Level 2: What can you tell me about your model? What colour/shape is it?
Level 3: How did you make this? Can you help me make one?
Level 4: How can you make it fit into this mould? Why did you use this tool?

18

Painting area:
Possible resources in your provision:
Range of brushes
Powder paint
Poster paint
Palettes
Junk modelling (to paint or contain paints)
Easel
Pots
Spatulas (Fish slices)
Sponges
Painting moulds and stamps
Rollers
Spoons
Small pots
Example Vocabulary:
Paint, brush, mix, roll, stamp, (names of colours), wet, dry, paper, line, stroke, shade, light(er), dark(er),
more, less,
Example BLANK level questions:
Level 1: What have you painted?
Level 2: What colours have you used?
Level 3: How did you paint this?
Level 4: Why did you choose these colours?

Messy tray:
(See section on Black tray for more information about what you can do with your messy tray.
Possible resources in your provision:

19

Collection of spoons made from different materials and in different sizes.


Collection of brushes (old and new)
Containers (metal, plastic, wood)
Rolling pins
Other metal, wood and plastic utensils (think kitchen!)
Ice cube trays
Chocolate box inserts
Minibeasts and small world creatures.
Tweezers
Tongs
Cheese graters
Example Vocabulary:
Fill, full, empty, rake, move, shift, smooth, rough, wet, dry, brush, push, pull, soft, hard, gentle,
mix, sort, shake, tap, bounce, rattle, sound, feel, smell, touch, hear, eye, ears, hands, senses,
nose.
Example BLANK level questions:
Level 1: What is in your cup?
Level 2: How is this different to that?
Level 3: How did you make that?
Level 4: Why did you use a spoon here?

Home corner:
Possible resources in your provision:
Magazines and Newspapers
Metal and plastic utensils (real utensils that you would have in your home!)
Kettle
Toaster
Microwave
Washing up liquid bottle
Sponge
Cloth

20

Brush
Draining board
Cutlery and Crockery
Clothes horse
Babies and babies toys
Babies clothing
Babies cot or bed
High chair
Babies food
Picture frames
Oven glove
Scales
Baking trays
Cookie cutters
Pizza slicers
Dressing up clothes (night clothes as well as day)
Example Vocabulary:
Baby, food, feed, plate, cup, bowl, knife, fork, spoon, breakfast, lunch, tea/dinner, hot, cold, cook, bake,
roll, mould, fold, slice, stir, grate, fry, boil, grill, sleep, sit, (un)dress, read, serve, (ADD MORE)
Example BLANK level questions:
Level 1: What are you using to make the pizza?
Level 2: What can you tell me about the toppings on your pizza?
Level 3: How did you make this pizza?
Level 4: Why did you make a pizza today?

Snack area:
Our snack area is staffed all of the time. We try to ensure that the children get a range of foods and that
they are encouraged to be as independent as possible in this area. The resources we provide are there to
be used by the children when they know how to use them.
Possible resources in your provision:

21

Jugs,
plates,
bowls,
cups,
knives,
forks,
spoons,
butter knives,
chopping boards,
fruit bowls,
toaster (only with adult supervision),
dustpan and brush,
cereal containers.
Example Vocabulary:
fill, full, empty, half full, dirty, clean, wash, dry, replace, find, pour, spread, stir, mix, shake.
Example BLANK level questions:
Level 1: What is that?
Level 2: What colour is your toast?
Level 3: How did you make your milkshake?
Level 4: Why did you choose cheese spread on your toast today?

Reading area:
Possible resources in your provision:
Book relating to your topic/interests
Books with Phase 2 phonics in (SATPIN)
Puppets linked to core stories.
Nursery rhyme packs.
Range of board, paperback and hardback books.
Newspaper and/or magazines
Reference books

22

Dual language books (where applicable)


Bean bags or comfortable seating.
Book marks
Music player/headphones for telling stories. (MP3)
Example vocabulary:
read, see, notice, familiar, different, same, text, papers, writing, words, letters, phonics, phoneme,
sound, puppet, act, retell, character, narrative, story, novel, book, print, magazine, newspaper, number,
characteristics, beginning, middle, end.
Example BLANK level questions:
Level 1: What story is this? What is this/it? Where is the book? Who is this?
Level 2: What story is this? (the one with...)
Level 3: What happens in this story? What does Goldilocks do?
Level 4: What could Goldilocks do now? Why did the bears get cross?

Writing area:
Possible resources in your provision:
Pens and pencils
Crayons (chunky and thin)
Felt tips (chunky and thin)
Chalk (chunky and thin)
White board and pens (chunky and thin)
Coloured paper
Envelopes
Treasury tags
Paper clips
Diaries
Calendars
Appointment cards
Exercise books

23

Example Vocabulary:
Write, writing, mark make, drawing, draw, letter, books, diaries, (colours),
Example BLANK level questions:
Level 1: What have you drawn?
Level 2: What shape is this?
Level 3: How did you write your name?
Level 4: How did you know that letter came next?

Maths area:
Possible resources in your provision:
Dice
Russian dolls
Pinecones and stones
Compare bears
Beads and string
Plastic numbers
Resources to sort and compare
Rules
Tape measures
Scales and measures
Collection of shapes
Washing lines and pegs
Socks or something else to pair
Example Vocabulary:
(shape names), Sort, match, order, compare, big(ger/est), small(er/est), medium, middle, in between,
measure, weigh, long(er/est), short (est/er), heavy(iest/ier), light(er/est), count, more, less.
Example BLANK level questions:
Level 1: How many?

24

Level 2: Describe this.


Level 3: How did you measure this?
Level 4: How did you know there were ten?

Construction area:
Possible resources in your provision:
Large wooden blocks
Solid wooden blocks
Hollow wooden blocks
Builders hats
Tape measures and rulers
Clipboards
Graph paper and writing frames.
Pencils and pens
Milk crates or other crates
Tool box and plastic tools (or real tools if youre feeling adventurous)
Example Vocabulary:
build, construct, tower, castle, house, home, building, construction, structure, repair, fix, break, destruct, destruction, brick, block, line, straight, curved, long(er/est), short(er/est), tall(er/est),
wide(r/st), thick(er/est), thin(ner/nest), cube, cuboid, cylinder, rectangular, circular, triangular, plastic, metal, wood, writing, drawing, planning, gap, tool box, hammer, screw driver, saw, spanner,
straight rule, twist, turn, strike, hit, measure.
Example BLANK level questions:
Level 1: What is it? Where is it?
Level 2: What are you doing? What shape is this?

25

Level 3: How did you build this? What did you do here?
Level 4: How can we make this stronger? Why did you put this brick here?

26

SEPTEMBER

In the UK schools start in September. Private nurseries work all year round however those who take children under the
15 hours free program start these children in September. Its a great time to start things fresh and to set up your basic
provision and to get your processes working from the first day.
Below I have included how I have set my classroom up for a September start. This is the basic provision as this is the
year I started fresh in a new school. Not all of the areas are included.

43

xliv

xlv

xlvi

xlvii

xlviii

xlix

li

lii

liii

liv

lv

lvi

lvii

lviii

Displays
Displays/bulletin boards/working walls - whatever
you call them they are usually abundant in
classrooms, especially Nurseries. Purpose built
settings within the last 5 years tend to
have far fewer boards and those they
have are hessian and are much lower
to the floor. Settings which are older
tend to have a plethora of board
materials at ridiculous heights and
they are usually numerous.
I have worked in settings where
boards have been so high Ive needed
a 6ft ladder to reach. Wherever
possible try to ensure boards are lower
down so children can see them and even
engage with them. Obviously if you think
your displays could be ruined by careless hands
then placing sticky back plastic over them might be
prudent.

59

DISPLAY
POLICY

As a team its wise to work out what your policy or


method of displays is going to look like. For example:
- Use of colour throughout display, pictures of children,
copies of their work mounted, full names on each
piece of work, borders on display.
OR
- Colourful background, all pieces of work are mounted
onto the display straight, no names or faces, links to
the curriculum.
OR
- Neutral backgrounds of hessian fabric, photographs of
the children doing the work next to the piece they create, speech bubbles, links to the curriculum, names on
work, extending display beyond the board.

We have adopted a mixture of methods in our


nurseries over the last few years. I love having neutral
displays in some areas such as the creative, literacy
and home corner area because it allows the work on it
to stand out more. However in the sand, water and
maths I usually have quite colourful displays which
focus less on the work of the children and more on
linking the provision to a theme/topic or an interest.
Its up to your team how you approach a display but
over the next few pages are examples of displays in my
setting and the benefits of each.
60

OUR
CLASSROOM
DISPLAYS

Here are examples of displays from our classroom. We


favour a mixed approach of neutral backgrounds and
colour. We also try to incorporate interests into our
displays. Also, its important to remember that
sometimes displays are to attract the attention of
parents too.

Picture frames adorn the creative area displays - ready to be filled with exciting working from
the children.

OUR
CLASSROOM
DISPLAYS

Here are examples of displays from our classroom. We


favour a mixed approach of neutral backgrounds and
colour. We also try to incorporate interests into our
displays. Also, its important to remember that
sometimes displays are to attract the attention of
parents too.

Some displays such as this Jake and the Neverland pirate one is more to entice the children to
the provision areas rather than display their work.

62

OUR
CLASSROOM
DISPLAYS

Here are examples of displays from our classroom. We


favour a mixed approach of neutral backgrounds and
colour. We also try to incorporate interests into our
displays. Also, its important to remember that
sometimes displays are to attract the attention of
parents too.

Despite this when children create work it can go onto the board - it is their classroom. (This is
a childs treasure map.)

63

OUR
CLASSROOM
DISPLAYS

Here are examples of displays from our classroom. We


favour a mixed approach of neutral backgrounds and
colour. We also try to incorporate interests into our
displays. Also, its important to remember that
sometimes displays are to attract the attention of
parents too.

We always had a project board. This one was all set for our Chinese new year project.

64

OUR
CLASSROOM
DISPLAYS

Each project display is led by a provocation.

65

Here are examples of displays from our classroom. We


favour a mixed approach of neutral backgrounds and
colour. We also try to incorporate interests into our
displays. Also, its important to remember that
sometimes displays are to attract the attention of
parents too.

OUR
CLASSROOM
DISPLAYS

Here are examples of displays from our classroom. We


favour a mixed approach of neutral backgrounds and
colour. We also try to incorporate interests into our
displays. Also, its important to remember that
sometimes displays are to attract the attention of
parents too.

This about the way that you display childrens work and their language. Here there is a picture of the child and a speech bubble containing their own speech.

66

OUR
CLASSROOM
DISPLAYS

67

Here are examples of displays from our classroom. We


favour a mixed approach of neutral backgrounds and
colour. We also try to incorporate interests into our
displays. Also, its important to remember that
sometimes displays are to attract the attention of
parents too.

OUR
CLASSROOM
DISPLAYS

Here are examples of displays from our classroom. We


favour a mixed approach of neutral backgrounds and
colour. We also try to incorporate interests into our
displays. Also, its important to remember that
sometimes displays are to attract the attention of
parents too.

Another example of our projects. This one is about dinosaurs.

68

OUR
CLASSROOM
DISPLAYS

Here are examples of displays from our classroom. We


favour a mixed approach of neutral backgrounds and
colour. We also try to incorporate interests into our
displays. Also, its important to remember that
sometimes displays are to attract the attention of
parents too.

Whereever possible we use hessian as a background to our displays so that the items really
stick out.

69

OUR
CLASSROOM
DISPLAYS

Here are examples of displays from our classroom. We


favour a mixed approach of neutral backgrounds and
colour. We also try to incorporate interests into our
displays. Also, its important to remember that
sometimes displays are to attract the attention of
parents too.

We displayed egg shells and plaster eggs on this board in a 3d way. More inviting for parents
and adults in the room as well as the children.

70

OUR
CLASSROOM
DISPLAYS

Here are examples of displays from our classroom. We


favour a mixed approach of neutral backgrounds and
colour. We also try to incorporate interests into our
displays. Also, its important to remember that
sometimes displays are to attract the attention of
parents too.

Our key worker (person) board before we added the childrens photos. We try to link this to
the interests of the children each time.

71

BOARDS TO ENGAGE
PARENTS

Boards for parents need to show what


youre doing within the setting and
extend the learning into the home.
Parents displays in our setting are
colourful and creative as parents often
prefer this look rather than neutral
ones.

One of the teachers created this wonderful Phase 1 phonics display.

BOARDS TO ENGAGE
PARENTS

Boards for parents need to show what


youre doing within the setting and
extend the learning into the home.
Parents displays in our setting are
colourful and creative as parents often
prefer this look rather than neutral
ones.

Some displays remain for a few days, others for a week or two or even a whole season. It depends on how relevant it still is.

73

BOARDS TO ENGAGE
PARENTS

Boards for parents need to show what


youre doing within the setting and
extend the learning into the home.
Parents displays in our setting are
colourful and creative as parents often
prefer this look rather than neutral
ones.

Many of our displays attempt to engage parents to take some resources home to try at home.

74

BOARDS TO ENGAGE
PARENTS

Boards for parents need to show what


youre doing within the setting and
extend the learning into the home.
Parents displays in our setting are
colourful and creative as parents often
prefer this look rather than neutral
ones.

75

BOARDS TO ENGAGE
PARENTS

Boards for parents need to show what


youre doing within the setting and
extend the learning into the home.
Parents displays in our setting are
colourful and creative as parents often
prefer this look rather than neutral
ones.

Language is modeled so parents know how to explain the learning to the children.

76

BOARDS TO ENGAGE
PARENTS

Boards for parents need to show what


youre doing within the setting and
extend the learning into the home.
Parents displays in our setting are
colourful and creative as parents often
prefer this look rather than neutral
ones.

77

BOARDS TO ENGAGE
PARENTS

Boards for parents need to show what


youre doing within the setting and
extend the learning into the home.
Parents displays in our setting are
colourful and creative as parents often
prefer this look rather than neutral
ones.

We often produce exemplification materials for parents, some kind of help at home sheet.

78

BOARDS TO ENGAGE
PARENTS

Boards for parents need to show what


youre doing within the setting and
extend the learning into the home.
Parents displays in our setting are
colourful and creative as parents often
prefer this look rather than neutral
ones.

We also run a try at home display of one activity we have tried during the week.

79

BOARDS TO ENGAGE
PARENTS

Boards for parents need to show what


youre doing within the setting and
extend the learning into the home.
Parents displays in our setting are
colourful and creative as parents often
prefer this look rather than neutral
ones.

We also run a try at home display of one activity we have tried during the week.

80

BOARDS TO ENGAGE
PARENTS

Boards for parents need to show what


youre doing within the setting and
extend the learning into the home.
Parents displays in our setting are
colourful and creative as parents often
prefer this look rather than neutral
ones.

81

DEVELOPING 9
LANGUAGE
For many practitioners, language is one of the main foci of their
setting. Indeed it is already highlighted in prominence within the EYFS
as being a prime area, however with the increase of EAL and children
with speech and language difficulties, language is fast becoming an
area of developing for all workers in the EY sector.
I was lucky enough to work in a school of mostly EAL speakers where
the majority of children came to the setting with very little or no
English speaking abilities. Staff members within our school developed programs and training which were extremely
successful and many of these we adapted to use in the Nursery.
One of the most powerful approaches we adopted was deciding and displaying differentiated questions and language
within each provision area. Many settings adopt a similar approach and have provision maps or display long term
planning. Each approach has its own successes however the biggest benefit for our setting was that it was uncluttered,
clear and concise. It was also dry wipe so that questions could be changed to meet the enhancements of the setting.
We combined a few different strategies and approaches:
* BLANK level questions (Click here for more information)
* Colour coded question words - This is a school wide approach to learning sentence structure. It is linked to colour
coded flashcards which help children to differentiate between different questions, e.g. a who question would be accompanied by a blue answer such as Mr Tunnell.
* Tower hamlets language structure (Click here for more information)

82

These are displayed in each provision area of the classroom

Draft one
In our first approach we combined the colour coded questions as well as BLANK level
questions. Over the 4 different types of leveled questions we slipped the coloured coded
question cards to make it. Each area had one of these signs.
Initially it didnt really work because the staff didnt model language to the children, they
simply used the questions, ignored the activities and subsequently they werent updated
very often.

83

These are displayed in each provision area of the classroom

Draft two
In the second attempt I included more language to model but kept the activity and
questions. The language was then a powerful way to improve the conversations the
children were having.

84

These are displayed in each provision area of the classroom

Draft three
In the third draft I changed the format to include language structures in a ladder form.
The idea was to increase the types of sentences the children were using and getting them
to speak more creatively.

85

BLANK level questioning:


Below are examples of blank level questions that you can ask in your setting. Children move through the levels and arent expected to answer
Level 1: (Naming) - [look at it]
What is it?
What can you see?
Can you find one like this?
Is it a x? (yes or no)
Can you find me one like this (compare).
Level 2: (Describing) - [talk about it]
What is happening in this picture?
Where is x?
What colour is this?
How are these different?
Describe this.
Level 3: (Re-telling) - [think about it]
How do you think he feels?
What happened?
How did you do that?
How is it [Define]?
Level 4: - [reasoning]
Why did he sell those beans?
What should we do now?
Why can't we eat soup with a knife?

86

level 4 until they are about 5 years old.

Non-verbal
communication:
Our school received 'Communication friendly status' within the last year. Its an accolade well earned as all
of the staff have worked tremendously hard at introducing strategies which have made impact on all of the
children.
However with anything it requires constant work in order for it to remain successful. Over the last few years
with such influx of children with different and difficult needs we have let slip a lot of the things which made
us so great. So we're working on developing these again and have already seen some wonderful results.

Makaton:
Having done a lot of work around makaton in the past few years we're working on refreshing this for the
swathes of new staff we now have working in the setting.
We decided to begin with 5 new signs
and to start this in the snack area. The
snack area seemed the easiest because
thats one where we already use quite a
lot of makaton already.
Our signs were:
In the 2 year old nursery: More, milk,
finished, snack, water
In the 3/4 nursery: Milk, water, please,
thank you, more.

87

Ideally we should be thinking about more of that higher level language which our children should be learning
compared to the 2's but as we're introducing makaton to these children it isn't possible to do that just yet. In the
future we can focus on new language.
Next we designed a display
which had makaton posters
(signs) on them as the
children would sign them. We
also included some symbols

On this board there are also some objects of


reference. Objects of reference are for children
who are pre-symbols and sign but whose
communication skills are very low. They see
the cups and know that that means snack time
and they follow you to the snack table.

88

Symbols:
In our setting we are just rolling out symbols to use with the whole cohort. Until now we have
focussed on using them on lanyards for our SEN children. They are good but I've always been a bit
reluctant to use them because I feel that the signs come first. I have introduced these in a couple of
areas alongside the makaton sign and the picture.
The beauty of the symbols is that a symbol of a cup in the roleplay area would be the same as the
one in the snack. The children learn the purpose of an object despite it (the cup) looking slightly
different. Its use remains constant.
We can also use the symbols to request that a child does something such as a symbol for toilet. We
often use these with the SEN children but children with EAL would also benefits from such a strategy.

89

90

91

92

93

Colour coded question words:


Colour coded questions and words are a strategy our Designated special provision has introduced to the school. The
question work is coloured and each corresponding answer or phrase is coloured to match this.
In nursery we have started on a very basic level with 'what' and 'what doing'. I did sneak a 'how' into the display
below because I felt that it was relevant with colour mixing.
Each key word (we usually display 5-6 in each
area) is coloured to match the corresponding
question. For example a noun would be blue
because it is a 'what' word. A verb would be
yellow because it is a 'what doing' word. I do
appreciate that the children cannot read these
but the purpose is to get staff and parents
thinking about the complex language we want
our children to learn about and to get the
children used to seeing this being used further
up school.
We subscribe to the BLANK level question
hierarchy and what and what doing are level 1
questions. How is a level 4 but we need to find
ways of filling in the gaps and building up
provision from level 1 onwards seems like a
good way to start!

94

Outdoors

10

Children should have free access to the outdoor area


throughout the session. Where possible they should not
be limited by time, group size or resources and they
should have as much contact with natural r e s o u r c e s
there as possible.

What does the outdoors offer?


There are the obvious benefits to being outdoors - fresh
air, space to run and move freely and access to natural
resources such as grass and tress. But for some children
being outdoors in Nursery might be their only

opportunity to experience it. Parents are becoming


increasingly concerned about letting children outside for
a variety of reasons and we have found in the past that
children are even warned against being outside in
Nursery by their parents. But being outside brings with
it a lot more independence and the opportunities to
challenge themselves. As practitioners we need to be
sensitive to the needs of the children and the wishes of
the parents and design an outdoor space which nurtures
their creativity as well as keeps them as safe as possible.

95

Traditionally practitioners would try to emulate the successful provision from inside and set up outdoor writing areas,
outdoor construction areas etc. There has been a paradigm shift over the last few years as more practitioners are seeing
the outdoors as being a unique environment in itself. With a sharp increase in mud kitchens and maths shacks it
seems that everyone is beginning to pick up on this shift. There are, however bad examples of mud kitchens and
maths shacks in many settings with practitioners clearly thinking very indoorsy when trying to develop their outside
There are plenty more examples on the nurserynook.co.uk website.

In our beach area outside we allow the children to bring water into the area to explore making rivers and streams.

96

There are plenty more examples on the nurserynook.co.uk website.

Similarly in the stream in the water area the children used planks to make bridges.

97

There are plenty more examples on the nurserynook.co.uk website.

We used willow sticks outside. The children had the freedom to do whatever they wanted
with them. A lot of children started to make shapes and patterns and labelling them.

98

There are plenty more examples on the nurserynook.co.uk website.

99

There are plenty more examples on the nurserynook.co.uk website.

We sometimes make paintings outside on sheets in the rain. The water on the sheets means
any marks we make runs down the sheet.

100

There are plenty more examples on the nurserynook.co.uk website.

Simple small world such as dinosaurs can lead into lots of different exciting play. One little
boy dug a whole and added

101

There are plenty more examples on the nurserynook.co.uk website.

Later we made some giant footprints in the digging area and filled it with water. The same
little boy got very excited about the squelching sounds he was making.

102

There are plenty more examples on the nurserynook.co.uk website.

Simple activities like 'washing' the toys cars and bikes in the rain are excellent for developing fine motor control.

103

There are plenty more examples on the nurserynook.co.uk website.

Collecting leaves and outdoor mathematics.

104

There are plenty more examples on the nurserynook.co.uk website.

105

MANAGING RISK
In Nursery we should be looking to manage the risk, not remove it entirely.
Children need to have opportunities to engage in risky play in order to
understand how to stay safe. Think about your own experiences of falling out
of trees..
In Scandinavia it is common practice for children to be left to climb a tree to
the height they feel comfortable. There is no reasons why children in our care
cannot do the same - you just need to think about how you manage risk and
one of those ways is through educating the children.
In our educational climate it is imperative that risks are managed adequately
to protect children and the staff. Settings should ensure they keep up to date
risk assessments of each area. When youre dealing with outside this means
having a separate risk assessment for each provision area. It may seem
excessive but it is important to know the dangers and limits as a practitioner
so you can help the children to overcome the risks themselves.
Currently it is not a legal requirement to have written risk assessments
however almost all settings do keep written copies. If youre placing an
enhancement into an area it would be sufficient to discuss the risks with the
rest of the team before the start of the session. If this new resource becomes
part of the basic or continuous provision then you need to incorporate this the
next time to come to update the risk assessments.
Good practice is that risk assessments are updated at least once per year but
are reviewed should any incident occur to ensure that the risks are still
manageable. Children with complex needs should be included on risk
assessments if they do not have their own risk assessment in place.

106

Risk Assessment:
Activity
Building
structures.

Hazards
Severity/Loss
Controls
Head
injury
leading
to
Buildings are high
Children are aware to look out for damages to bricks and
above head height. hospitalization.
report these to adults.

Using bricks
within their play. Buildings or
structures are
Using resources sprawling, creating
from the area in trip hazards.

Cuts, grazes, sprains


and strains from
falling objects or
falling over
resources.

other areas.
Bricks are brought
to areas which are
not designed for
them, e.g. wooden
bricks in the water
which become
VERY slippery.

Splinters or cuts from


worn or damaged
bricks.

Risk Rating
Insignificant

Children know not to build above head height and sprawling


structures should be secure as possible.
Children are reminded now to take bricks into inappropriate
areas.
Staff ratios are met as agreed on general risk assessment.
First aid is available.
Adults check bricks for damages and and breakages at the
start of each session.

Items are balanced


on bricks which
make these
unstable.
Old bricks become
sharp or bristly.

This is one of the risk assessments for our outdoors space. It is just a preview as there is more to it but it is
for the outdoor block and brick area.

107

11

Different
approaches

Within the Early Years there are a plethora of different approaches. Below are brief
outlines of those currently in vogue and websites you can go to to learn more:
Reggio Emelia
Montessori
Steiner
As a practitioner youll no doubt be attracted to many of the aspects in
each approach. To a large extent there is a lot of overlap, especially
around the importance of play. Unless you are specially trained in one
approach it is unlikely that you will follow one approach exclusively
and even if you wanted to, the team around you is unlikely to follow it
precisely. There are good examples of these schools throughout the
world to visit should you wish.
In your environment you need to decide how best to approach your cohort
of children. Inevitably it will be different with each year group who comes
through and youre likely to adapt each year as you magpie ideas from
other practitioners. In our setting we have developed a mixed approach,

incorporating a lot of the concepts of Reggio, Montessori and Steiner whilst being
aware of the needs of the stakeholders and the school.
At the end of this book you will find a section on blogs and groups to follow on social
media. Many of this examples follow their own mixed approach in their setting.

108

DEVELOPING
INDEPENDENCE
Over the academic year 2015-16, I undertook a practitioner enquiry on developing
independence in the Nursery. Over the next few pages I have detailed that
research, its findings and the implications for further practice. Independence is
something we all strive for but its not necessarily something we give time to
develop, this practitioner enquiry taught me that if I want my children to be
independent then I need to put time into developing it.

Why did I decide to undertake this


study?
There is a perception in our Nursery that the children are not able to complete
many tasks without adult intervention. Whilst this could be true to some extent I
believe that often adults are intervening long before they are required to do so.
They could be doing this for a variety of reasons however rather than fostering a
greater level of independence, this is creating a dependent cohort which will
struggle as that support is removed.
Historically children were transitioning to reception without the ability to

undertake many simple tasks such as cleaning up after themselves, putting on


their coat or shoes and feed themselves. Whilst staffing ratios are higher in the

109

12

nursery they are not so high to allow all adults to help children constantly. Within the school the ratios are
higher so it is important for us to develop independence as soon as possible.

What was put into place?


An initial staff briefing on the purpose of the project was held. A discussion was had about the best
approach for developing independence and what we thought were the main areas where independence
was key.
We then developed a statement which we then displayed in the staff area:
We want children in our setting to be independent in many activities.
We show children how to complete activities however we want children to
be able to then show the other children how to do this. As a staff we
would like to spend more time with the children developing their

language and communication skills, relationship skills and literacy and


numeracy skills rather than fastening coats, etc.
Staff were then given guidance on how to use phrases and vocabulary to encourage the children to
demonstrate their own levels of independence, e.g. Show me how to tell me how to ask X to help
you This was reinforced with 1:1 exchanges with staff in the setting throughout the year.
Provision areas were then developed to reflect the high expectations that the staff had of the children. For
example, a self-service wet suit area was established which encouraged the children to dress and undress
themselves. They could also select the wellies themselves and share this experience with their peers.
Other adults in the room were shown how to demonstrate modelling to the children and how importance it
is to use language to explain the process.
For example, one member of staff observed me as I played with a group of children in the superhero role
play area. One child approached me to put on their costume. I helped him and explained each part of the
process, first you take your jumper off, then it goes over your head, then you put your two arms in and
finally you get someone to fasten the velcro at the back. After I had helped this boy I told him to help

110

someone else but as he was helping him I was giving him verbal cues, reminding him of the different
stages of putting on the costume. The staff member who was observing them repeated this in the

afternoon but in the painting area where children had to put an apron on and fasten this at the back.
Adults were then instructed to model activities to the children and to explain each step. This language was
then to be used by the children who could then peer-model these activities to other children in the setting.
Throughout the year the adults were coached about how to improve their practise and were given cues by
myself. This coaching took the form of 5 minutes at the end of the day where we could reflect on the
activities of the day. Usually these were 1:1 sessions where I had just observed some practice which might
have been improved. For example:
I was outside with another member of staff. I was instructing children to different parts of the outside
area to collect resources and put them away. The other adult was collecting resources from the hands of
children as well as picking objects up off of the floor. When resources were dirty and needed to be washed
she would quickly wash them herself. We discussed how best to encourage the children to tidy up

independently, returning to the rationale as above. We decided that the children can wash they resources
and collect them together to be out away because they have done this before. One of the reasons she was
doing it for them was her uncertainty of the remaining time. I explained that the following day we could
alter the tidy up time, she suggested 5 minutes earlier. The following day we tried this and it was
somewhat successful however she chose to start tidying up 10 minute earlier as she felt there was a lot of
mess.
I returned to a similar situation with this member of staff a few weeks later in the messy area inside. Lots
of the different resources can be cleaned and put away by the children. She agreed that if the children are
given time to clean up themselves it will increase their skill level and make our jobs easier. She is
continuing to try this method in the classroom.

111

Background research:
Kaleidoscope: Contemporary and Classic Readings in Education
The Perils and promises of praise, Carol Dweck, 2007, Page 57-60
Developing Independent Learning in the Early Years, David Whitebread, Holly Anderson, Penny Coltman, Charlotte Page, Deborah Pino Pasternak & Sanjana Mehta
https://www.educ.cam.ac.uk/research/projects/cindle/EarlyYears_04.doc

I used the above research and highlighted a few strategies which I felt were beneficial to the children.
These strategies were ones we had tried before but in an ad-hoc way. They were:
reciprocal teaching (Palincsar & Brown, 1984): a structured procedure which involves teachers modeling the teaching of a particular task to children who are then asked to teach the activity to
their peers (pg 6, Whitebread et al.)
and
co-operative groupwork (Forman and Cazden, 1985): a range of techniques involving children in collaborative activites which oblige them to articulate their own understandings, evaluate their
own performance and be reflective about their own learning. (pg 6, Whitebread et al.)
The research also highlighted a checklist of independence. Whilst it is not a strategy that can be
applied to the setting, it is noteworthy to mention the similarities between that and the characteristics
of effective learning.

Results and outcomes:


In our setting the obvious way to assess the increase in independence was to observe the children at
the beginning of the project, the middle and the end. I chose 6 children (2 higher ability, 2 middle
ability and 2 lower ability) children based on their academic abilities within the prime areas. The
higher ability children had good speaking and listening skills, physical development skills as well as
developing personal, social and emotional skills with a higher degree of resilience compared to the

112

cohort as a whole. As expected the higher ability children demonstrated more independence than their less
academically able peers initially however this was still limited to a few activities (e.g. putting on their coat,
finding their name cards, going to the toilet) which they had been doing at home or in the 2-year-old nursery.
It is worth noting that at this stage I am defining independence as the ability to carry out an activity which has
been modelled by an adult. When carrying out this activity the children can do so with a high level of skill and
satisfaction to both themselves and the adults around, e.g putting their coat on the correct way up.
The lower ability children had the skills and experience of some of the basic activities however would come to
an adult first to ask for help, e.g. putting their coat on, going to the toilet, etc. This could be because they did
not have the confidence in their own abilities or, and perhaps more likely, they were used to having an adult
available to help them and were unaccustomed to doing these things themselves. The middle ability children,
as expected, rested somewhere in the middle. At this point I felt confident that a link between abilities in the
prime areas and the levels of independence seemed appropriate mainly due to the skills I had perceived as
being important to developing independence such as the ability to speak, listen, attend, take account of what
is being shared, make and maintain relationships and the ability to control their bodies all of which are
prime area characteristics.
Throughout the year I continued to monitor the progress of these children and initially saw little progress with
the middle and lower ability children. They were still relying heavily on the staff in the setting. At this point I
was asking the higher ability children to reciprocally teach the different tasks in the setting to the other
children however they were becoming frustrated that the lower ability children were unable or unwilling to do
it their way.
I was also becoming aware that the adults in the room were not necessarily following the training that was
initially delivered. A small group of adults were not allowing the middle or lower ability children the time
they needed to problem solve and to learn the rudiments of the activities. I modelled the approach again with
the these staff, this time focussing much more on the language that would encourage them to try themselves,
(show me how to, etc.).
As the year progressed the higher ability children were more and more unwilling to peer model to the younger
children unless there was an intrinsic desire. For example, one of the higher ability children showed her much
younger brother how to tidy up the messy area. When I asked her why she showed him she replied, I want

113

him to do it like me. The other higher ability child showed no intrinsic motivation and neither showed any
motivation based on tokens or praise.
However, the middle and lower ability children were beginning to demonstrate much more independence
by observing what the adults in the room had been doing and trying this themselves. Much of this is evidenced later in the year when the children were becoming older and the expectations within the setting
were being raised in preparation for transition to reception. Many of the less able children in the room
and in particular the 2 children selected, are now able to explain in very basic terms how to carry out an
activity with which they were unfamiliar earlier in the year. The middle ability children are now modelling
to the lower ability children how to complete activities and sharing their own knowledge with the adults.
They are even correcting adults who took short cuts.

To some extent the middle and lower ability children have surpassed the higher ability children by demonstrating more independence than their peers. There are a few reasons why this might be the case.

1)Higher ability children are often seen as more able and are therefore less targeted by the adults in
the room for direct instruction. When new activities are devised it is often expected that they will already
know how to take part.

2)These higher ability children are less resilient than their middle or lower ability counterparts. They are
not as used to getting things wrong so when they struggle with an activity or a learning a new process they
will often give up. This is especially pertinent now as the child to staff ration is so high and these children
are unable to ask for help directly from the adults.

3)Higher ability children are less inclined to spend time learning new skills and processes within the setting as they are being exposed to more academic learning at home. For example, one of the higher ability children who was chosen is doing a great deal of maths and literacy work with their parents at home.

114

There is greater emphasis placed on this type of learning at home so she, in turn, is placing more
importance on those skills than learning how to wash the snack cutlery.

I believe it could be a mixture of all three that has caused the higher ability children to plateau in their
learning of independence skills.
Dwecks view on growth mind-sets has suggested that point 2 above might be particularly pertinent in
the nursery at this time. Many of our higher ability children display a fixed mind-set approach to some
activities and therefore feel set back when they fail because they are so used to being praised for
getting things right. Dweck suggests that for some children, being praised for getting something right,
rather than the effort exerted, could contribute to this fixed mind-set.
At the time of this study I had not investigated Dweck sufficiently otherwise I would have used praise as
a strategy with the children.
However, one must also consider the adult element in all of this. As we are approaching the end of the
year, adults are less patient with children and often do things for children to get through to the next
activity. These take time and the pressures of assessment, transition and high ratios lead to some staff
doing things for the children to make things quicker. We also must return to Dweck and the concept of
a fixed and growth mind-set. The adults in the room who are working with the children are being asked
to alter their established practice something they know they are good at. It is not unreasonable to
think the adults approached this project with a fixed mind-set.
Perhaps more training was necessary with adults in order for them to fully engage with the practice and
see this as something achievable and to value the process and not just the end result.

115

What went well/what didn't go well and what


would I do differently?
The strategies I chose were not always accessible by all of the children. Reciprocal teaching for example
could be a very sound strategy for children with increased speaking and understanding abilities. However,
for our children this was not always possible. Higher ability children struggled to communicate with the
lower ability children and this less to frustration and exhaustion.
Despite starting relatively early in the year, many of these children had been with us for over a year
already. These strategies should have been started with the youngest children who were just entering the
nursery from the two-year-old provision. The higher ability children should have been chosen based on
their time in the setting and their familiarity with the processes and their understanding of them and not
just on academic abilities.
I assumed the childrens academic abilities in the prime areas would automatically equate to higher levels
of independence. This was a mistake. There are children who are in the setting at the moment who are
very independent because they have learned a lot of this at home out of necessity yet show low levels
within the prime areas. I should have used the checklist of independence (Whitebread et al.) to gauge
where the children were working at or devised my own and incorporated this into my planning. For
example, we have a little girl who can wash, dry and clothe herself. She can put on her shoes and coat
and then go out to play. Yet she shows no ability to make friends, to speak or listen to other children nor
does she have particularly high level of confidence all of which are prime area skills.
Parents are infrequently on board with strategies we are introducing at school. Their focus is often on the
traditional academic subjects and this means developing independence is very misunderstood. Any
strategies we tried at nursery were not carried on into the home.
However, staff remain the biggest barrier to developing independence. With the best intentions, staff are
still doing many things for the children. Despite reminders and retraining this will continue until the staff
see the benefit to taking the time to allow the children to try for themselves.

116

Implications for further practice?


Older children are moving onto reception and taking with them a lot of the skills we have taught them.
The teachers in reception are new to teaching and therefore might not fully understand the need for
independence. The younger children staying in Nursery have learned some skills from the older children
but still rely on the adults. The adults in particular need to develop their understanding of why
independence is so important and how they themselves are modelling this. There will need to be a lot of
work in September on developing the independence with the other children.
One thing that has struck me throughout this project is that the skills I have been developing are present
within the characteristics of effective learning. We do not use the characteristics of effective learning
very much in the nursery. We sometimes write a report about these but rarely do we plan for them or
assess against them. One major implication for my future practice and that of the setting is the need to
use these characteristics far more. One way could be to unpick each characteristic and examine ways
that we as practitioners can develop this through the strategies highlighted above. The use of peer
modelling within every sub-characteristic would appear, at a glance, to be a beneficial strategy to use.

This study has had a lot of implications for my future practice. I am now aware of a lot more strategies
for developing independence but I also have a much deeper understanding of resilience and how this
influences the development of independence with the children in my class. I also feel that the team has
benefitted from this study though I do feel that constant coaching may be required to support staff in
continuing this work.

117

Facebook: Nurserynook
Twitter: @Nurserynook
Pinterest: @Nurserynook
Instagram: @Nurserynook
Email: james@nurserynook.co.uk

...WANT MORE?

13

Despite what I first thought when I started my blog there are literally
thousands of Facebook pages, twitter accounts, instagram accounts and
blogs out there with excellent examples of outstanding provision and
practice. Take a look, let the authors know what you think:

Facebook:
Early years ideas with Tishylishy
Stimulating learning with Rachel
Leading learning Ltd.
Little Miss Early Years
Tuff Tray and Sensory play

Blogs:
Stimulating learning with Rachel
Early Years ideas with Tishylishy
Abc does
Kathy Brodie
Teacher tom

Twitter:
@geoffbilling
@signoramac
57

@eytalking

@laurachildcare
@kathybrodie

Twitter hashtags: (Hashtags allow you to follow a conversation. Press to view the conversations)
#Eytalking
#ECE
#earlychildhood
#eyfstwitterpals

Nurserynook on instagram

Nurserynook on pinterest

And if youre fond of those old papery things:


Foundation in mathematics by Skinner and
Stevens:
One of my favourite books about early mathematics. It has a
lot of very exciting practical advice and lots of examples that
you can use in your classroom.
Theres a separate section on the outdoors too which is vital in
this day and age.

58

100 languages of children by Edwards, Gandini and


Forman:
A great introductory book into the world of Reggio Amelia. I particularly like
the layout, all set out in essays. My favourite essay on the Atelier changed the
way I look at my art area in my classroom. One of those books you can pick
up whenever you have a few moments.

Bringing the Reggio Approach to your Early Years


Practice by Thornton and Brunton:
A little less quality in this book compared to the hundred languages of children.
It does give a simple approach to the Reggio approach but for me it lacks a lot
of the depth of the book above. That being said I do think its a good book,
worth a read if you get a chance.

Sustained Shared Thinking in Early Years by Kathy


Brodie:
Another excellent book, this time about adult:child interactions. For those of
you unfamiliar with Sustained shared thinking would do well to invest in a
copy.
Very in depth but quite academic, I took a little time to read this book as I had
to ponder how I could make this work in my classroom.

cxx