Having discussed some of the skills needed to achieve successful Sustained Shared Thinking, I thought it would be beneficial to step back a little to view the whole of the Key Person role, with respect to Sustained Shared Thinking.
A major part of the Key Person’s role is to be the person most attuned to both the children and their family. This means knowing about the children’s interests, likes, fascinations – as well as the things they are not so keen on. Having some knowledge about the family is very useful, for example any siblings, who lives at home and the family’s cultural identity.
By having this information at your fingertips, it really helps you to extend conversations and understand the background to your children’s thinking. For example, if your child is talking about going to Nanna’s house, you may know she has a dog, so you can ask about the dog.
A critical collaboration time between Key Person and their children’s family is if any additional support is ever needed, for example if a Special Educational Need is being investigated or if the family have a bereavement. During these times, active listening (to both children and parents) becomes really important and can be very helpful.
In addition to care, a Key Person’s role (as any practitioner’s role) includes education. As a Key Person, you are most likely to spot progress in the areas of learning and development.
Perhaps even more importantly you will be able to spot when progress is slowing down or where there may be cause for concern. One of the quirks of the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) is that, in order to show progress in many of the areas of learning and development, the children have to describe or discuss their learning verbally. So by using positive questioning to support your Sustained Shared Thinking, you will be able to evidence children’s progress much more easily.
Finally, being a reflective practitioner is core to being a Key Person. Constantly improving your practice by reflecting on your strengths and areas for improvement means that the children in your care will have better outcomes. This could include formal training, but should certainly include discussing your practice with colleagues and critical friends.
Active listening, positive questioning and Sustained Shared Thinking are skills that need to be practiced – who better to practice with than supportive colleagues.
The formidable Rita Pierson, talking about why every child needs a champion and the legacy of relationships with children. Inspirational stuff!