Practice makes perfect

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By Sally Featherstonefreelance consultant and trainer

Adapting your planning and resources based on how you see the children play is vital to an effective learning environment, as Sally Featherstone explains

Practice makes perfect

The crucial role of the adult in observing children’s learning has been evident for many years, but more work still remains to be done in reflecting on and using what is observed. Observations are vital as records of the past that register what children know, understand and can do, but this is a very small part of their usefulness. By far, the most powerful use of observations is in reflecting on and adjusting the future.

The most effective settings are those where practitioners discuss what they have seen, look at the resources and environment they provide, and then adapt what they do the next day, and the next week, to meet the needs of the children.

Evidence of schemas

You may spot schema play at any time, and in any area of your setting, indoors or outdoors, in block play, role play, small world or any of the other activities that the children choose to follow during a day.

It happens in the cloakroom, in story areas, on wheeled toys and in painting. Of course, you may see several schemas in the same child, several children involved in the same schema, or a child moving seamlessly in play from one schema to another, and this is why periods of uninterrupted, self-chosen activity are vital for brain building.

When we consider the importance of these periods of play, it is easier to understand the National Guidance that practitioners should spend plenty of time observing children at play, and it is also easier to understand that at least 80 per cent of evidence should be collected during child-initiated learning.

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