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What is new for childminders in the Sept 2019 Inspection Framework?

Lots of childminders have been asking for a guide to the September 2019 Inspection Framework. I have done my best in this article to wade through the new Ofsted jargon and pull out what I think are the most important points for childminders.

 

The Common Inspection Framework has been replaced with the Education Inspection Framework (EIF)

From Sept 2019, the Common Inspection Framework will be replaced by a new document called the Education Inspection Framework (EIF). This document needs to be read in conjunction with the updated version of the Early Years Inspection Handbook.

 

Be familiar with the new judgement areas

 

One key change to the structure of the Inspection Handbook document is the judgement areas. What was previously two separate areas ‘Teaching, learning and assessment’ and ‘outcomes’ is now combined into one new category: ‘quality of education’. What was previously ‘personal development, behaviour and welfare’ is now split into ‘behaviour and attitudes’ and ‘personal development’. Leadership and management remains the same.

 

Know what ‘curriculum’ you offer

The word ‘curriculum’ is central to the new Framework, so you need to be familiar with the term. In the Early Years your ‘curriculum’ in an ‘education’ sense is defined by the EYFS Statutory Framework – it is the seven areas of learning and development.

 

Have an idea of HOW you offer the EYFS curriculum in your setting and why you do what you do

You should be able to explain to an inspector broadly HOW you teach the children the seven Areas of Learning in your setting. Most childminders use a combination of adult-led learning (structured activities) and free play. You will also need to show that whatever type of curriculum you offer promotes the Characteristics of Effective Learning (COEL) which are important for turning children into good lifelong learners in school. You should be able to explain to an Ofsted inspector your choices in terms of what types of activities you do in your setting and why.

“Learn, Know and Do” is Ofsted’s new phrase. You must be able to explain to the Ofsted inspector what you hope that the children should be able to learn, know and do as a result of the EYFS curriculum you offer.

 

Be familiar with the idea of: “Intent – Implementation – Impact” and how this relates to the ‘quality of education’ you offer

Across all seven areas of learning and development, when you plan anything for the children, you should have a purpose, your ‘intent’ for what the children should learn from what you are planning. You then ‘implement’ the activity by doing it. After you have finished the activity you should be able to evaluate the ‘impact’ that the activity had on the children’s learning and development.

An easy example might be getting out a jigsaw puzzle. Your ‘intent’ in planning a jigsaw activity is to promote early maths skills. Doing the jigsaw is how you are ‘implementing’ the idea of ‘promoting maths skills’. After you have finished doing the jigsaw you should ask yourself what ‘impact’ the activity had on the children. In other words, you should be able to identify what the children learned from the jigsaw activity and how you would build on the jigsaw with further maths activities.

A more complex example might be a child you have established as being poor at sharing toys. Your ‘intent’ is to find ways to help the child to become better at sharing. To ‘implement’ this, you decide to plan a series of craft activities over the next six months that will specifically require the child to share craft items in a safe, supervised setting where you can intervene when the child forgets to share. After six months it would be important to ask yourself what ‘impact’ these craft activities have had on the child’s learning in this area and see if what you have been doing has worked, or if you need to come up with a new plan.

This is really nothing different to what you have been doing already with the observation – assessment – planning cycle. But you need to be familiar with the new terms: ‘Intent – Implementation – Impact’ because the Ofsted inspector will use them at your inspection.

Let me also stress that you do not need to write any of this down if you don’t want to. As long as you are able to explain this to an Ofsted inspector and demonstrate how you are involving parents in your plans and making it clear what they should be doing at home to help their child, you don’t need to write it down if you don’t want to.

In summary, for every activity you plan:

  • Decide what the children you look after need to learn and develop (intent)
  • Deliver this so that the children make progress in the seven areas of learning (implementation)
  • Ask yourself how you will know if what you planned to deliver was successful? What can the children do now or know that they couldn’t before as a result of what you planned? (impact)

 

Think how you will tell your Ofsted inspector about how you teach children without showing them piles of ‘data’

Do not be surprised if your inspector no longer wants to look at your learning journeys or planning documents. They have been clear that they do not want to see a paperwork mountain. But if you are doing a ‘dinosaurs’ theme with the children when your inspector visits, for example, you should be able to explain out loud your ‘Intent’ of doing dinosaurs as a theme. In other words, what Areas of Learning and which COEL are you hoping to promote through studying this theme? She may also ask you how you are ‘Implementing’ your theme? You might be using dinosaur books, colouring pages, planning a day trip to the science centre, making a craft activity, and playing a dino-bones counting game. You should also be able to explain how you will measure what ‘impact’ the activities had on the children once you are finished.

I think that many childminders will find a quick written sketch of what you are planning and why will help you to stay focussed and be honest with yourself about what worked and what didn’t. Notes in the form of a written plan can help you to keep track of what you did so you can see what worked and what you’d want to change next time. But the key point Ofsted has stressed is that you should only do written planning if it is helpful to YOU. Your inspector will probably not look at it.

 

Plan your “Learning Walk” – your opportunity to show off what you do

When your inspector arrives in your setting, this is your opportunity to ‘wow’ them by taking them on a ‘learning walk’ (new Ofsted word) around your playroom and show them what you do. A learning walk relates specifically to education, so they don’t want a tour of your house, they want a tour of what you teach.

Suppose you have been studying dinosaurs (as in the example above) and you want your inspector to know this. One way would be to put up a display on your wall of your dinosaur theme activities – showing the children engaged in different activities that promote the different areas of learning. Another way would be to set up a “dig for dinosaur bones” invitation to play in your play tray and this would be a perfect activity for the children to be doing when your inspector arrives. She will see your display, your themed activity and later on you will sit down and read a Harry and the Dinosaurs book. Remember that you should be able to explain the learning goals of the activities you have planned within the theme, but you do not have to write this down if you prefer not to.  

 

Be familiar with the term ‘cultural capital’

All children come to your setting with different skills to each other. You need to be aware of a child’s strengths and weaknesses and plan activities to help address the weaknesses. How you plan your curriculum to enhance the opportunities you give to children especially the most disadvantaged is very important. I have written more about what cultural capital means to childminders in this article.

 

Be prepared for your inspector to want to question you while you do an activity at your inspection

This is not new but often takes people by surprise who have prepared folders of paperwork for their inspection that isn’t then needed. Your inspector may want to observe your children with you and discuss their learning, progress and behaviour as part of the activities the children are engaged in. She will then ASK you what the child learned and furthermore how you intend to build on the activity so that the child makes progress. She is more likely to do this than to ask to see your learning journeys. If you have assistants, you should be prepared for her to question them at the same level to prove you are training your staff properly.

Making learning journeys remains an important way to practice formally observing children and planning next steps for them. In my opinion it is also a nice way to share that information with parents. So please don’t throw your learning journeys into the bin!

 

If you want to show that you are offering good ‘quality of education’ you need to check that the curriculum you plan:

  • Is ambitious and sufficiently challenging
  • Includes everybody you childmind for including children with SEND
  • Increases the Cultural Capital of the children
  • Prepares children for being lifelong learners in school
  • Covers all seven areas of learning and development
  • Includes assessment of where the children are relative to the development milestones in Development Matters
  • Has a big focus on reading

 

‘Behaviour and attitudes’ and ‘personal development’ are things that help children’s life chances

The key points about these two judgement sections is that not much has really changed in terms of what Ofsted hopes to see you doing from what you did previously. They’ve split the sections up but haven’t really changed the content much.

You still need to be able to explain to the inspector how you help the children you look after to succeed in life and become good citizens of the future. Whereas the ‘quality of education’ focusses mainly on the learning and development areas of the EYFS, these two judgements focus more on the COEL plus welfare requirements of the EYFS like promoting healthy eating, physical exercise and self-care with a new emphasis on potty training. Make sure you are planning activities that actively promote the COEL and that you can recognise what these are when children display them.

The COEL really are more important than ever.

 

Be prepared for the inspector to actually want to speak to your parents at your inspection

Lastly I want to call your attention to a new section under how the inspector intends to ‘gather evidence’ at your inspection from talking to parents themselves. So do not be surprised if your inspector actually plans her visit around speaking to your parents!

Those are the key new points of new Education Inspection Framework and Early Years Inspection Handbook. You need to read these documents and make sure that you are following the new guidelines, especially if you are being inspected any time soon. From September onwards anything in this article is fair game!

Good luck!

Do you want to improve your understanding of the Characteristics of Effective Learning?

Promoting the Characteristics of Effective Learning PosterFor help putting the Characteristics of Effective Learning into practice including tools, activity ideas, certificates you can give to children, poster and display ideas, CPD worksheets for your setting, examples for your SEF and a setting checklist for the COEL, check out my new Characteristics of Effective Learning Pack for childminders.

 

About Kay Woods and Kids To Go

Kay Woods Kids To GoKay Woods has been writing and selling childminding resources through her company Kids To Go since 2008. Her products include the Ultimate Childminding Checklist, the Learning Journey Plus for planning, observation and assessment and best practice resources promoting diversity and childminding in the great outdoors (Forest Childcare). She is the author of the Start Learning book set published by Tarquin and she writes the free quarterly Childminding Best Practice Newsletter.

Lots of places offer help to childminders. I provide solutions.

www.kidstogo.co.uk

What does ‘Cultural Capital’ mean childminders should DO?

The first and most important thing to say about “Cultural Capital” – the new Ofsted buzz word that has appeared in the September 2019 Inspection Handbook –  is DON’T PANIC.

  • You do not need to attend a training course on cultural capital.
  • Ofsted does not want to see a poster up in your setting labelled cultural capital.
  • You do not have to start taking childminded children to the opera.

Most of you will find that the only change you need to make to what you are already doing is to learn the new buzz word so that if you hear it during your inspection you keep calm and carry on!

Cultural capital is defined in the new framework as ‘the essential knowledge that children need to be educated citizens’ and what is necessary to ‘prepare them for future success’.

Some children arrive at your setting with different experiences than others. The experiences they arrive with are their ‘cultural capital’. All children have SOME cultural capital when they arrive with you at your setting. But for some, this cultural capital is not enough to narrow the gap and get them ready for school. The curriculum you plan for that unique child can make all the difference to his or her future.

Your job as a childminder is to find ways to establish what a child’s ‘weaknesses’ are, and then plan your curriculum to help the child in the area that he is missing or behind.

A key example is talking. Some children arrive at your setting speaking really well with great vocabularies because they are exposed to lots of words and their parents read loads of books to them at home. Research has shown time and again that this gives them a massive advantage in school and in life. Other children come from much less fortunate backgrounds where they are not read to so much at home and know far fewer words. If you identify talking and vocabulary for example, as a child’s weakness, then your job as his childminder is to find ways to enhance it. In other words, you should make sure to plan a curriculum where you read a lot more and talk a lot more to children whose parents do not read to them at home.

The same rule applies right across the areas of learning and development and would also apply to the characteristics of effective learning.

Another example Ofsted gave during its webinar was a child who knows everything about dinosaurs, but nothing about plants. In this case, you could enhance his learning by teaching him about plants.

A characteristic of effective learning example might be a child who is never given any choices at home and who appears to passively take everything he is given. You can enhance his learning and prepare him for school by encouraging him to make choices while he is with you.

None of this is anything you are probably not already doing! 

It just has a new name and is now in the Inspection Handbook to draw your attention to the sheer importance of doing the utterly obvious!

Here is what you need to do to ‘do’ cultural capital:

  • Do starting points observations on all new children across all the learning and development areas and the COEL. This will show you the child’s strengths and areas of weaknesses.
  • Ask yourself what you would do to improve the child’s area of weakness.
  • Make a plan for each individual child. What can you develop? What can you encourage?
  • Follow through on your plans.
  • After you’ve been doing your plans for a while, check that your plans are having an effect. Has the child started to catch up? Have you broadened his cultural capital from when he started with you?

All children arrive in your setting with a different background and different skills.

Ofsted’s new buzz word is just another way of asking childminders to help to reduce disadvantage when you see it.

Remember that what you do for that child can potentially make all the difference.

 

Childminding Best Practice Newsletter

Sign up for the free quarterly Childminding Best Practice Newsletter using the orange sign up box on my website and I will send you best practice ideas, childminding news, EYFS tips, outstanding ideas, stories from other childminders, arts and crafts project templates, new products, and links.

http://www.kidstogo.co.uk/childminders/childminding.html

 

About Kay Woods and Kids To Go

Kay Woods Kids To GoKay Woods has been writing and selling childminding resources through her company Kids To Go since 2008. Her products include the Ultimate Childminding Checklist, the Learning Journey Plus for planning, observation and assessment and best practice resources promoting diversity, safety and childminding in the great outdoors (Forest Childcare). She is the author of the Start Learning book set published by Tarquin and she writes the free quarterly Childminding Best Practice Newsletter.

Lots of places offer help to childminders. I provide solutions.

http://www.kidstogo.co.uk/childminders/childminding.html

Should I use a childminding app?

Childminders often email me to ask if they should use a childminding app. This always makes me smile a bit because I don’t actually sell apps, so I am hardly likely to be the best person to recommend them! However, my feeling on apps is that there are actually lots of really great apps and online software out there you can use to really cut down on your paperwork. BUT, in my opinion, you should only use them once you fully understand the PROCESS you are automating and the steps they are helping you to ‘skip’.

 

Should I use an app for learning journeys and tracking children’s progress?

I get this question a lot and always tell childminders the same thing: you are fine to switch to apps but only once you fully understand how the observation – assessment – planning cycle works. You also need to be able to demonstrate that you really KNOW where each child is in their stage of development, what you can realistically expect them to do ‘next’ and most importantly, if a child is falling behind in any of the important areas, you need to spot this.

Getting a true understanding of what is meant by all of this takes time and needs experience. Every childminder needs to have a good working knowledge of what is considered normal development for a child under five in each of the seven areas of learning and development. You don’t need to keep this information in your head – but you really need to have a well-thumbed printed version of Development Matters to hand which is the ultimate EYFS reference book for what you can realistically expect and when from any child. This is your development bible that will flag up for you if a child has fallen behind in an area. All childminders should understand this publication inside and out!

Be careful about switching to an online learning journey system or any kind of app until you fully understand the process of observation-assessment-planning. I want to compare this to teaching school children basic maths. It would be perfectly easy to give a young child a calculator and teach them to do simple sums on it. They could be taught to multiply, divide, add and subtract using the calculator simply by pressing the right buttons. They could learn to press the right buttons without a shred of understanding what it actually means to add, subtract, multiply and divide. Calculators are only a great tool once you know what they are for!  All I am saying is that you need to be careful that you understand the ‘process’ you are doing before automating it.

Active learning for childmindersA childminder (who has read Development Matters) would not expect a child to run before they can walk. Once you really understand normal child development and what you are doing when you are writing a ‘next step’, planning for an individual child and how to stand back and write a ‘whole child assessment’ only then are you ready to consider removing some parts of the paperwork and automating them through apps and taking other shortcuts.

 

Should I do ‘in the moment planning’ rather than written planning?

A question that gets asked on Facebook forums a lot is what planning people do. Lots of childminders respond that they never do written planning or that they do ‘in the moment planning’ which is something of a buzz word that I worry a lot of people use without really understanding what it means.

Like automating learning journeys and assessments, before you throw out the idea of making written plans, you should try planning on paper a couple of times just so that you understand the process of what is meant by a plan. For example, you should try writing:

Ultimately, childminding plans don’t have to be written down, but if you do write them down a couple of times, you can check that you understand the point of making plans and how they can help you and the children to explore new things. Once you have done this a few times, then you should feel free to adopt a policy of ‘I never do written planning’ not because you don’t know how or can’t be bothered, but because no written planning IS your plan!

 

Should I do risk assessments in my head or write them down?

The EYFS Statutory Framework states that you must take all reasonable steps to manage risks and determine where it is helpful to do some written risk assessments. It used to be a requirement for childminders to write written risk assessments for EVERYTHING but this has been removed from the current version of the legislation to help childminders to cut back on paperwork.

In most normal day to day childminding, a written risk assessment is simply not necessary and just adds to unnecessary paperwork load.

However, from time to time, and especially when you are just starting out at childminding or doing something new, I think that it is very useful to go through the whole risk assessment process properly in writing at least once so that you know how to do it. Writing it out forces you to formalise the process in your mind so that any corners you choose to cut in the future, at least you know what you SHOULD be doing.

Use these free risk assessment forms and list of risk assessments that most childminders should do around their house, garden and trips.

 

Should I do an online first aid and safeguarding course?

If you have been reading this article from the top, I am sure you are going to be picking up on a theme at this point and are going to know what I am going to say. Many experienced childminders who have attended multiple first aid courses in their time, are perfectly fine to do refresher courses that are primarily based online. The same goes for safeguarding, where you sit there to listen to the same stuff that you know in your sleep, all to get the one or two nuggets of new information or legislation you actually need.

However, there is nothing like practicing choking and chest compressions on dummies that can be recreated online. And with safeguarding, it is vital that you attend a safeguarding course to hear and interact properly first before (mindlessly) clicking your way through an online version of the course.  So in my opinion, you should go to online first aid and safeguarding courses only once you’ve done several of these in person.

 

In a fast moving digital age, don’t forget the power of the handprint.

There are lots of other benefits to starting out using paper based methods and for all sorts of good reasons, many childminders choose to continue to work in a paper-based method for lots of aspects of childminding. You may enjoy my article: Rediscovering the pure pleasure of paper – for over-digitised childminders.

 

Learning Journey Plus – Word document based

learning-journey-plus-workbookIf my article has swayed you at all to reconsider the benefits of paper-based observation-assessment-planning cycle, then please check out my Learning Journey Plus. It is a printable system based in Word so you can customise the pages for your setting before you print them.

The Learning Journey Plus is a complete observation – planning – assessment system and comes with 200 sample observations with next steps so you can learn how to write observations and next steps in whatever learning journey system you are using. The workbook takes you step by step through setting up the whole process from scratch or you can use it to check you fully understand the steps of whatever system you are using.

 

 

About Kay Woods and Kids To Go

Kay Woods Kids To GoKay Woods has been writing and selling childminding resources through her company Kids To Go since 2008. Her products include the Ultimate Childminding Checklist, the Learning Journey Plus for planning, observation and assessment and best practice resources promoting diversity, safety and childminding in the great outdoors (Forest Childcare). She is the author of the Start Learning book set published by Tarquin and she writes the free quarterly Childminding Best Practice Newsletter.

Lots of places offer help to childminders. I provide solutions.

http://www.kidstogo.co.uk/childminders/childminding.html

Rediscovering the pure pleasure of paper – for over-digitised childminders

If you are a childminder reading this and are under the age of 30, please just cough politely and delete this post, because this article is probably not for you. It is written by an old person. I am 41. And showing my age by writing an article in which I dare to propose that in SOME aspects of childminding, it might be ‘nice’ to move away from technology and app-based-login-to-view-my-child digitised childcare. I want to use this article to encourage you to reconsider the simple pleasure of paper – writing daily dairies out by hand and making printed learning journey albums – and why this might even be good for your business.

 

The most efficient way of doing things is not always the BEST way of doing things

If you are a childminder who views learning journeys as meaningless Ofsted paperwork, then you are bound to look for the fastest, easiest way of completing the task. If this is you, then go for the app! However, if, you treat your learning journeys as a valuable piece of communication with parents, as a type of marketing tool to show your business in good light, then while an app may be convenient and easy for you, it is not necessarily best for your business. Some parents love running their whole lives on their phones, but others may prefer a more ‘old-fashioned’ approach. Keep YOUR parents in mind when you make your decision to go electronic or paper, because they are at the heart of your business.

 

Paper is “nice” and it’s personal – like childminders

chocolate fridge cakeSome things are better handwritten. Some things are better handmade like homemade baking is always better than store bought. Sometimes, a book with glued in pictures, while less tidy than an online app, is simply “nicer”. Many parents like to imagine choosing a childminder for their child in a dreamy, slowing down, biscuit crumbs and soft edges, sunny days pushing children on swings sort of way. Paper-based learning journeys smell of warmth and friendliness and fit better with this image. It is a good image because nurseries cannot recreate it, however many ‘key people’ they attempt to assign to a child or home corners they install!

 

Paper forces you to look and think a little more carefully

When you zap off a photo and click a button on your phone, you have succeeded in finishing the task you believe Ofsted is expecting of you. But when you put a paper-based learning journey together, you have to select which photos you are going to use and why. You have to think carefully about the text you are going to write, the ‘story’ of the observation you are sharing and it’s meaning to the child, to the child’s parents and you. Paper can force you to engage with the process of observing and linking to planning more.

 

Paper forces you to understand the observation – assessment- planning cycle

Make sure that if you are using an online learning journey planning system that you still understand the PROCESS you are doing. If your Ofsted inspector asks you what stage of development a child is at, you need to know. You need to make sure that your automated system hasn’t removed your understanding of the system yourself.

I want to compare this to teaching school children basic maths. It would be perfectly easy to give a young child a calculator and teach them to do simple sums on it. They could be taught to multiply, divide, add and subtract using the calculator simply by pressing the right buttons. They could learn to press the right buttons without a shred of understanding what it actually means to add, subtract, multiply and divide. Calculators are only a great tool once you know what they are for!  All I am saying is that you need to be careful that you understand the ‘process’ you are doing before automating it.

 

Books can make it easier for parents to engage

Learning Journey PlusDo parents really want to spend their time logging on to some horrible, cumbersome online system to find out how their child is developing? Can they really be bothered? For those of you who do online learning journeys, how many parents ever really look at what you put in them?  Do they bother to log on and check on their child’s development? Some parents will, but others might be much more likely to engage with the work you are doing and take more of an interest in their child’s development if you were to hand them a nice album with a few photos of their child in it and some simple observations you have written (or typed out) next to it.

 

Printed learning journeys are friendly and relaxing

Call me old-fashioned. Call me a technophobe if you like. But whenever I’m told I need to log on and do something, a small stress response begins as my palms sweat a little. I scowl at my device. There is yet another password to remember (can I remember it) and something will probably crash just as I get to the ‘critical’ part and waste loads of my time! In an age where absolutely everything from banking and grocery shopping, to ordering school uniforms is done online, how nice for parents NOT to have to go online. How nice to be handed a friendly, cheerful-looking relaxing book by their childminder!

 

Paper may be appreciated by the sorts of people who choose small childminding settings over large, impersonal nurseries

In the large overcrowded nursery down the road from your small, friendly house, that the parents DIDN’T choose to send their child to, electronic learning journeys are vital for the large number of observations and complex planning they need to do. However, you don’t look after as many children as they do, and from the parents’ point of view, they may prefer the home based paper approach. Some parents will love online systems, don’t get me wrong. But others may secretly hate them, seeing them as rather impersonal. Make sure YOUR system responds to YOUR parents.

 

Parents will treasure the album long after they have left you

I love looking back through my old photo albums and scrap books. While I also spend my fair share of time looking at photos on my phone and social media sites, ultimately and long term I take far less pleasure in electronic photos than I do looking through the actual physical albums I have made. The pleasure of turning the pages, lingering and relaxing is an experience that cannot be recreated by any mobile phone app. It is simply not the same.

If you make printed learning journeys, after the child leaves, his parents will have a keepsake photo album of their time with you. During their lives they will take lots of photos of big events in that child’s life. But parents forget to photograph the ordinary, everyday stuff, learning to paint, or playing with play dough, or putting on their shoes. Parents forget this stuff. You see it and can record it for them.

 

It’s nice to make something – an actual physical record of your own days and the child’s days – a finished product you can hold in in your hands

On days when you are feeling unmotivated, it can be nice to look back through children’s learning journeys and see all the things you’ve done with them. To watch them going from crawling to walking to running, and all those nice trips you took them on and wow moments that matter. It is motivating to see what you have done.

 

Even your Ofsted inspector will be more likely to flip through your photo album than to take time to look online

While perched on your couch with her laptop on her lap, observing you with the children, it is nice to distract her for a few minutes with an album she can look through. She’ll be far more likely to take a look at your work, wow moments and outings if she has an album to look through than if you expect her to look online.

 

You could photograph a child’s hand, but it isn’t the same as a painted handprint

Taking a photograph of a child’s hand preserves the moment forever. But it’s the handprint in paint and glitter that parents keep and treasure. Not because it is the most efficient way to record the moment but because it is the “nicest”. Parents love and treasure what is sentimental, personal and real.

Think again about switching back to paper learning journeys. It doesn’t mean you’re a technophobe. Or old. It just means you are thinking about your business, about your readers and about your parents. Who knows, some of you may even agree with me?

 

Learning Journey Plus – Word document based

learning-journey-plus-workbookIf my article has swayed you at all to reconsider the benefits of paper-based learning journeys, then please check out my Learning Journey Plus. It is a printable system based in Word so you can customise the pages for your setting before you print them.

The Learning Journey Plus is a complete observation – planning – assessment system and comes with 200 sample observations with next steps so you can learn how to write observations and next steps in whatever learning journey system you are using.

 

 

About Kay Woods and Kids To Go

Kay Woods Kids To GoKay Woods has been writing and selling childminding resources through her company Kids To Go since 2008. Her products include the Ultimate Childminding Checklist, the Learning Journey Plus for planning, observation and assessment and best practice resources promoting diversity, safety and childminding in the great outdoors (Forest Childcare). She is the author of the Start Learning book set published by Tarquin and she writes the free quarterly Childminding Best Practice Newsletter.

Lots of places offer help to childminders. I provide solutions.

http://www.kidstogo.co.uk/childminders/childminding.html

How to write about the Characteristics of Effective Learning (COEL) in childminding learning journeys

Ever find yourself staring at that row of letters and boxes on your learning journey form that asks you to circle which Characteristic of Effective Learning (CEOL) you are seeing in your learning journey observation and feeling baffled?  If so, you are certainly not alone! The Learning and Development areas are relatively easy to understand. But the COEL are more complicated, and even the most experienced childminders can struggle to know which COEL they are seeing.

which characteristic of effective learning should i circleSometimes it helps to purposely set up some activities where you will almost certainly observe the COEL. It is a good to “practice” observing in a controlled way. That way you will become more familiar with the COEL when you observe them more randomly. This article will give you some simple activities you can plan to promote the COEL in a way that is easy to observe and write about.

 

It’s not always easy to recognise WHICH COEL you are seeing for a particular activity

Many childminders will admit that it is often very, very difficult to select which COEL box to circle on their learning journeys. This is for several reasons but primarily it is because the three COEL are interlinked with each other so it is not always straightforward to pin point which COEL you are observing. In fact, with many activities you will see children doing and might write about in your learning journeys, you could easily circle all three COEL boxes. Or none. Please don’t worry about this too much. It is more important for you to know that you are observing a child displaying the COEL than to necessarily know WHICH COEL you are observing in a particular situation.

 

 

active-learning-for-childmindersTake a trip to the playground or soft play gym to observe ‘Active Learning’

Active Learning (AL) is essentially about describing a child’s motivation to learn. At a playground you should see many examples of children ‘keeping on trying’ to accomplish something and ‘achieving what they set out to do’. In your learning journey write about how the child felt when he succeeded or ‘felt proud’ about something.

Plan structured art activities to promote ‘Active Learning’ and unstructured play with art materials to promote ‘Creating and Thinking Critically’

There are two Characteristics of Effective Learning (COEL) that you can explore while you do art projects with small children. By changing the focus of the art project, you can change which COEL you hope to promote and observe.

Art projects with small children tend to come in two different types. The first type of art project is one where you set out purposely to make a specific project that you ultimately hope will at least vaguely resemble the model or idea you are copying. The second type of art projects is where you set the children loose to simply play with the art materials, exploring them for their own sake. Both of these types have their place in childminding settings and in the activities you plan for the children.

 

When you set out to purposely make a specific project (like colouring a picture), then this is a great opportunity to make observations on how well the children can concentrate on a particular task. It is also an opportunity to witness them keeping on trying when difficulties persist and feeling proud of their accomplishment when it is finished. These are all ‘Active Learning (AL)’ observations.

 

On the other hand, when you set the children loose with paint brushes and stand back and just let them paint, or give them random collage materials or scraps to build with, then you are observing them ‘Creating and Thinking Critically (CT)’. Time spent in this way gives children the opportunity to explore their own ideas, to make links between ideas, to have their own ideas and to choose the best way to do something.

 

Mathematical and construction toys promote ‘Creating and Thinking Critically’

creating-and-thinking-critically-for-childmindersMany mathematical and construction toys and activities help to promote the COEL: Creating and Thinking Critically in children. They are designed to help children to test their ideas about space, shapes and sizes, to find new ways to do things, to make links and to change strategy as needed. They offer you plenty of opportunities to ask children to review what approach worked and to try something differently next time.

 

Cooking projects can promote all three Characteristics of Effective Learning

When children try something for the first time, are willing to ‘have a go’ and show a ‘can-do’ attitude about an experience, then they are demonstrating Playing and Exploring (PE). Cooking requires concentration and motivation to finish a difficult task. When you observe children keeping on trying, persisting with an activity that is hard for them, and taking pride in their end result, then they are demonstrating Active Learning (AL). Cooking projects are also a great opportunity to observe children Creating and Thinking Critically (CTC). When they are cooking they will have their own ideas about the best way to do things, and find ways to solve problems (like how to tip all the flour into the bowl without pouring it on the floor).

 

Forest Childcare outings promote ‘Creating and Thinking Critically’

Forest childcare autumnForest Childcare outings to the great outdoors are a great way to observe all aspects of children’s Learning and Development including Personal, Emotional and Social skills, Physical Development and Communication. Outdoor outings are also a great way to observe children displaying the COEL.

Being outdoors in ‘wild’ places gives children the opportunity to practice their critical thinking and problem solving skills. How will they get across there without getting wet? How will they carry that home? What will happen if I throw that? How will I get down from here without hurting myself?

You can help children to practice their thinking and problem solving skills while you are out in the woods with them by asking them questions like:

  • How are you going to do that?
  • Is there another way you could try that?
  • What else is possible?

Outdoor tasks are a great opportunity to ask children to think of different approaches to a problem if the first approach doesn’t seem to be working. I felt so proud the day my two four year olds figured out that on their own neither was strong enough to drag the log, but that if they worked together they could move it!

Forest Childcare is about making a commitment to taking children on weekly outdoor outings to wild spaces. By taking regular trips, children build familiarity with the outdoors and can learn to make links and predications about the things they will encounter there and experience.

Being outdoors will mean that children will ask lots of questions about the things they see and find. You won’t always know the answers to the questions they ask, so it is also a great opportunity to let children watch how you think, and then to show them how to find the answers to their questions.

 

Remember that many childminding activities do not promote any of the COEL

Many of the activities you do as a childminder will promote NONE of the COEL. Many observations you may make and write about in your learning journeys will focus entirely on the learning and development areas and not promote a COEL at all. When that happens, you shouldn’t circle any of the COEL boxes at all.

 

Do you want to improve your understanding of the Characteristics of Effective Learning?

Promoting the Characteristics of Effective Learning PosterFor help putting the Characteristics of Effective Learning into practice including tools, activity ideas, certificates you can give to children, poster and display ideas, CPD worksheets for your setting, examples for your SEF and a setting checklist for the COEL, check out my new Characteristics of Effective Learning Pack for childminders.

 

Do you want to improve how you write your learning journeys?

I am now offering an 8 module distance learning course for childminders to improve how you write your learning journey observations. The course focusses on both the Learning and Development observations AND the Characteristics of Effective Learning. The course also covers the following topics:

  • Writing next steps and linking them to planning
  • Writing observations in different Learning and Development areas including Physical Development, Personal, Social and Emotional development, Communication and Language, Mathematics and Creative development
  • Writing and observing the Characteristics of Effective Learning
  • Improving the ‘story’ and ‘message’ of the observation
  • Sharing learning journeys with parents
  • Linking learning journeys to whole child assessments
  • Using learning journeys to promote a childminding business
  • Writing about ‘bad’ and ‘negative’ behaviour in a positive way

 

About Kay Woods and Kids To Go

Kay Woods Kids To GoKay Woods has been writing and selling childminding resources through her company Kids To Go since 2008. Her products include the Ultimate Childminding Checklist, the Learning Journey Plus for planning, observation and assessment and best practice resources promoting diversity and childminding in the great outdoors (Forest Childcare). She is the author of the Start Learning book set published by Tarquin and she writes the free quarterly Childminding Best Practice Newsletter.

Lots of places offer help to childminders. I provide solutions.

www.kidstogo.co.uk

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