Category : Articles

Articles

My three revelations about young children’s maths

I’ve been doing research this week on mathematical development in the Early Years, which has produced three very interesting revelations for me and how I’ve always perceived mathematical development.

First of all, let me say that I was a little sad when the EYFS moved away from ‘Problem Solving, reasoning and numeracy (PSRN)’ back to ‘mathematical development’ as a descriptor for this area of learning and development. PSRN really explained that this area is not just about numbers, but how we use maths, its benefits and how children learn about maths.

Let me give you an example. Probability is the mathematical term of how likely something will occur. If you have 10 balls, nine yellow and one pink, and you randomly choose a ball it is more likely (more probable) to be yellow than pink. As adults, this is fairly intuitive – obvious even.

However – it turns out that babies as young as six months old show surprise when there is an improbable colour ball drawn out – i.e. if you drew out the only pink ball in the box in the example here (Denison et al., 2013).

The inference is that babies start to reason mathematically about their world at around six months old – they are logical.

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Playing in the Forest

The Stockport Early Years Network had the great pleasure of visiting the ‘Wacky Woods’ near Bollington in Cheshire last week, with Alex. This is part the Schola Foris curriculum – ‘a fun, challenging but safe outdoor environment where creative play and learning can take place naturally’.

We went ostensibly to find out about the way that being in a forest environment can enhance, encourage, stretch, challenge, reinforce, invigorate children’s learning.

I went because I love the forest and Alex does a great cup of coffee (with water boiled over the camp fire in a blackened kettle).

It has been raining hard here, so the first thing we experienced was walking through the mud puddles, squelching and squealing as the mud pulled at our boots. And the delight as we spotted tiny boot prints from the children who had visited that afternoon (or was it tiny forest folk?).

Gathered around the fire, watching the water boil, we started to talk about risky play and how to explain to practitioners and parents that climbing trees has many benefits. In fact, Alex suggested that your risk analysis should start off with the benefits, which I thought was an excellent idea.

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Get Packing!

For some reason in the last few weeks I have either been doing lots of work with, or talking to, practitioners working in ‘packaway’ settings. These are settings that have to be packed into boxes and cupboards at the end of each day or each session, usually so the room or space can be used by someone else.

Although some of these are small settings, such as pre-schools, some are much larger, consisting of several rooms and outdoor areas. This can turn ‘tidy-up’ time from a quick check for any lego left out or toys in the garden into a huge logistical job where everyone needs to know their role inside out.

However, I do think that there are some great benefits that only those who DON’T have to heave boxes in and out every day can appreciate.

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On Your Marks!

Michael Jones Mark MakingI was very excited to hear that Michael Jones (well-known for his prowess in the speech and language world, via his blog Talk4Meaning) had a new book out about mark making and early writing – called On Your Marks!

This is a very different book to his other writing, as it is an activity filled, practical ideas based book. The first notable feature is that each page (the ‘ideas’) are all photocopiable, which is made easier as the book is spiral bound, with a landscape layout. Next you will notice how the chapters are organised in a very logical fashion – even starting with the types of paper you may use – moving onto big movements, fine motor skills and ‘handedness’.

Much is made of mark making as a process rather than product, so there is plenty of advice about taking photos during the activities, as well as displaying the final product.

Some of the less common good ideas are discussed too, such as how moving to music improves gross motor skills (essential for producing body movements for writing later on) and how the way we visually scan a page depends on cultural writing norms, affecting the way that we teach children.

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The Ultimate Guide to Sustained Shared Thinking

My new online course on Sustained Shared Thinking is now available. You can get it at a special price here…
>> The Sustained Shared Thinking Online Course < <

 
I’m currently getting a lot of interest around Sustained Shared Thinking, which is very encouraging as I am a massive fan of this proven method of quality practice.

This guide will consider the what, why, how, when, where and who of Sustained Shared Thinking.

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Talking and Learning: Book Review

I’ve followed Michael Jones’s blogs ‘Talk4Meaning’ for a number of years, for three very simple reasons:

  1. They always have sound advice, based on Michael’s vast knowledge
  2. They make me stop and think about the ‘obvious’
  3. They are fun, filled with music videos, reminiscences and stories.

So, when Michael mentioned to me that he had a book coming out, Talking and Learning with Young Children, I immediately pre-ordered it.

When the book arrived, it was even better than I’d hoped, with Michael’s enjoyment of language evident on every page.

From the very start, Talking and Learning with Young Children has a positive message: ‘It is fun to talk, for the sake of talking’ and has a focus on joint learning between adults and children, rather than adults hijacking the conversation.

As you would expect from such an experienced observer of children and raconteur, there are plenty of beautifully written examples of children’s interactions, in fact there are examples and case studies on almost every page. In addition, there is a very useful glossary at the end of the book.

The book starts with some of the most important theories, but doesn’t get bogged down with these. Michael starts his analysis of communication with those fascinating interactions between adults and babies, which start to form the basis of verbal communication. The chapters then move through first words, talking with two-year-olds and consideration of the home learning environment.

Chapters six and seven investigate the early years setting. First of all ‘quality talk’ is explored, with some excellent examples of Sustained Shared Thinking, and a range of different scenarios that practitioners will find themselves in.

In chapter seven, the perennial problem of having valuable and meaningful conversations with small groups of children is examined. This is the most realistic situation for most nursery settings and Michael has included some very practical ways that adults can extend and share conversations, even when there is a large group of children.

Taking a step back to look at the bigger picture, chapter eight looks at the pedagogy in a setting and how this can be organised to influence practice in a positive way, with some very thought provoking sections (see ‘Saying what you mean’ on page 157).

The final chapter considers ‘Communicating complex ideas’ and explores how practitioners can support children’s thinking using quality language. This chapter starts with a fantastic example of a four-and-a-half year old grappling with the question of ‘Is Elvis real?’ (page 172). The young child’s logic is impeccable and it is a brilliant illustration of how language exposes children’s thinking processes.

I think this is a book you could read just for the sheer joy of it – you don’t need to be doing a course or studying language development. It would certainly be a very valuable addition to the staff room or network group and for starting reflective conversations in staff meetings.

However, I will leave the last words to Michael – Enjoyable conversation is the place where children develop as talkers.

You can get the book from all good booksellers and your Amazon link is here.

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Food for thought at the Story Café

It was my great pleasure to attend the Cheshire East Early Years Teacher Network meeting this week. We were welcomed into the New Life Nursery in Congleton to find out all about their Story Café.

Now, I’ve read about story cafés. They are an excellent parent partnership idea, where parents can come along with their children to share a story, in a relaxed, café style environment. Practitioners can support parent’s story telling, give ideas for sharing books at home and share knowledge about language development. Parents can get an insight into nursery life and spend time with their children, other parents and practitioners in an informal way.

There are a mountain of obvious benefits for parents, practitioners, children and the relationships between all of them. However, I had always thought that it sounded difficult to organise and resource, so I was really looking forward to finding out how it was achieved so successfully in Congleton.

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Even More Sources of Free Information for Early Years Practitioners

BooksKeeping up to date with changes in legislation, practice and pedagogy can be a real headache, especially when there is so much information on the internet. I find that subscribing to some key sites (for free) helps to keep me in the know and ensures my practice is current.

Here I’ve listed some of my ‘go-to’ sites, which make getting information much easier and faster. Some of them you can decide how often you’d like emails, so you may only want them once a month or you can choose more often:

  1. CASPAR NSPCC updates This is an ‘awareness service for practice, policy and research’ with weekly emails. These are particularly good for the latest safeguarding and child protection news, from all parts of the UK. It also includes news for older children, children in care and social services updates
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