The revised EYFS introduced three ‘Characteristics of Effective Teaching and Learning’, but how can you implement them in your setting? NDNA lead early years adviser, Jo Baranek, explains…
Q: How can I make sure children are engaged in playing and exploring?
A: Children become engaged in their learning when they are able actively to explore and find out things for themselves. As adults we need to provide appropriate support and the right kind of environment for this exploration and learning to take place. Here are three ways to help engage children in playing and exploring are:
1. Open-ended resources – offer children resources to play with which have multiple uses. This can be something as simple as a cardboard box, which can be used for anything from model-building to making music. Adults should encourage children to think of ideas for play themselves; often you will find them doing something completely different to what you had imagined – but this should be encouraged!
2. Role-play – children love to make sense of their world through re-enacting situations, activities and conversations they see in their lives. Role play should reflect areas of the children’s lives, so make sure you offer ‘real-life’ resources that reflect the community you serve.
3. Risky play – children need to learn to take risks in a secure and safe environment, to enable them to negotiate the many hazards and obstacles they will encounter as they grow older. Adults should support children both to challenge themselves and to assess possible risks. For example, if they are climbing higher than usual on the climbing frame or using a new garden tool in the nursery allotment.
Q: How can I help children be creative and think critically?
A: You must provide children with opportunities for child-initiated play. As an adult it is important that you respect children’s ideas and use open-ended activities, environments and resources to allow children to take play and learning in their own direction. Working alongside the child to work through a problem or think about their next steps is an excellent way for children to learn skills for problem-solving, sharing their ideas and thinking, which equips them for future learning and development. Adults can extend children’s play without directing by asking open-ended questions such as:
● What else is possible?
● How can we solve this problem?
● What else could help you with this?
Children make links from a very early age, for example, babies make a link between crying and receiving attention. It is important that you continue to support children to make links and talk through their processes to build a learning foundation that focuses on the ‘how’ as well as the end result.
You should make sure that your learning environment offers children the opportunity to make decisions about their own processes, for example, how will they carry the soil from one end of the garden to the other without spilling any? They may need to think about the process, the resources they need, the route they will take, whether they need any help and the desired result.
Q: How can I encourage active learning?
A: Children need to develop concentration and perseverance to actively learn. Try the following ways to help encourage concentration and perseverance:
● Give children time and space to become deeply involved in their play. You should try to avoid interrupting children while they are doing an activity. If they come across an obstacle give them the opportunity to find a solution themselves to help them develop their thought process.
● Make sure you offer children praise when they reach a goal and lots of encouragement when they need to persevere with something.
● Look at your learning environment through the eyes of a child. Are there elements you would find frustrating, for example, being told to tidy up before you have completed a puzzle or not being able to see your artwork on display as it is too high up?
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