At Holy Cross School we provide children with the resources, space and time to truly learn through play; as we passionately believe that learning in this way enables them to become competent, confident and independent learners. Please find our Play Statement here.
Figure 1. A summary of teaching and learning in the early years at Holy Cross.
Adults plan a well thought out environment which enables children to effectively learn through play, following their own interests. Adults then join the children in their play and move their learning and development on, through high quality interactions.
The Nursery and Reception classes (also referred to as EYFS) follow the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) Framework to plan and deliver an exciting curriculum based on the seven areas of learning and development and the characteristics of effective learning.
Characteristics of Effective Learning
The focus of the characteristics of effective learning is on how children learn rather than what they learn. This is based on the understanding that during their earliest years, children form attitudes about learning that will last a lifetime. Children who receive the right sort of support and encouragement during these years will develop characteristics conducive to a growth mind set, leading them to be creative, adventurous, resilient learners throughout their lives.
The three characteristics of effective teaching and learning, identified by the EYFS framework, are:
- Playing and exploring – children investigate and experience things, and ‘have a go.
- Active learning – children concentrate and keep on trying if they encounter difficulties, and enjoy achievements.
- Creating and thinking critically – children have and develop their own ideas, make links between ideas, and develop strategies for doing things.
Areas of Learning
All seven areas of the curriculum are important and all are inter-connected. Three of the areas are known as the ‘Prime Areas’ and these are:
- Personal, Social and Emotional Development
- Communication and Language
- Physical Development
Good development in these areas gives children the basic skills that they need to be successful in all other areas of learning. Therefore, we have a strong focus on supporting children in these Prime Areas across the EYFS at Holy Cross.
The other four areas of learning, known as the Specific Areas, are:
- Literacy (includes Reading and Writing)
- Understanding the World
- Expressive Arts and Design
We also teach RE using the ‘Come and See’ programme recommended by the Diocesan Education Service – please refer to the Religious Education Policy.
We believe that the most meaningful learning takes place when children are motivated by their own interests and as such we follow ‘in the moment planning’.
In the Moment Planning
“Babies and young children are experiencing and learning in the here and now, not storing up their questions until tomorrow or next week. It is in these moments of curiosity, puzzlement, effort or interest – the ‘teachable moments’ – that the skilful adult makes a difference.” (National Strategies, 2009).
In light of this, our EYFS setting adopts a planning in the moment approach. Young children are innately curious and explorative and will naturally seek challenge to extend their own learning so our sessions are organised to maximise the amount of uninterrupted “choosing time” available for the children. In our reception classes children have 1.5 hours of choosing time in the morning and just over 1 hour in the afternoon. Short carpet sessions are planned at the beginning and at the end of the session where children tidy up and come together before lunch and home time. These carpet sessions are used for the teaching of phonics, mathematics, R.E and shared reading and writing. In Nursery, children have over 2 hours of choosing time during their morning session.
We work in this way because higher level involvement occurs most often when children are able to pursue their own activities and have control over their own learning in an engaging, enabling environment. When children show high levels of involvement, that is when there is progress and development occurring – when the brain is at its most active.
The role of the adults in our setting is to support this independent learning. Every time a member of staff listens to a child they are assessing and ‘planning’ how to respond. They will then draw upon any previous knowledge of the child, alongside this observation to inform their response. The adult will carefully consider if it is the right moment to extend the child’s learning further, supporting that child to make a ‘next step’ in learning and development.
Teaching within our EYFS settings can take on many forms, and is summed up perfectly in the words of Jane Wotherspoon:
‘’Teaching is all those different things that you do as adults to help young children learn…communicating, modelling language, working with children as they initiate their own play and activities., being ready to intervene on the moment, demonstrating how to do something, explaining why something is as it is, showing children something, exploring ideas with them, encouraging them, questioning them, checking what it is they are understanding, helping them to record something that they did so that they get the structure and sequence of events, providing a narrative for what they are doing, facilitating what they are doing, setting challenges, all those sorts of things are the sorts of things we mean when we talk about teaching.’’ Jane Wotherspoon – Lead HMI for Early Years.
Each time an adult interacts with a child, they are observing, assessing, planning for, and responding to, that individual child. The idea is to capture the interest of a child in the present moment, the children set the agenda of their play and the adults are there to show interest, to engage with and to find the teachable moment to push learning forward.
In terms of recording these moments, staff will focus on four children per week, ensuring each child has a focus week once per half term. Staff will collect observations of the focus children which will be added to an A4 learning journey sheet. This will then be uploaded to SeeSaw, on a Friday, along with any photos that have been taken. In addition, staff will also use SeeSaw to record wow moments for the rest of the class, as and when they occur, as well as recording group experiences and trips.