A brief history of themed planning and how it might be incorporated within the EYFS
By Sarah Neville ~ childminder and early years writer
I am very pleased to introduce you to Sarah. Sarah has worked with young children for many years, and has very kindly agreed to write a guest post on themed planning and how it might be incorporated within the EYFS.
"My name is Sarah Neville and I am an Ofsted registered independent childminder – my childminding provision is known as Knutsford Childminding. I love my job working with young children – it is what enthuses me to get up every morning, set out my playroom ready for the children to arrive, complete all the expected paperwork and spend my evenings trawling the internet looking for ideas and inspiration to engage and excite them!
In fact, it was my evening internet trawling for new activity ideas to include in my weekly group planning led me to Tracy’s blog pages and ultimately to writing this blog! So hello to Tracy’s readers, I hope you are well
In my free time I write e-books for childminders to support their learning and understanding of the EYFS. I also moderate the Childminding Forum and Independent Childminders Facebook group.
Many years ago when I was a teacher - and I have been a registered childminder for 20 years so I am talking many years ago - themes were the in-things! Every teacher I know used them and recognised their value.
We were taught that themes covered so much learning – you could theme your whole classroom and totally immerse little minds in subjects they were interested in and you wanted them to learn more about. Of course, you would still plan the normal routine activities – singing and reading sessions, playtime and the like - but the themes you planned would carry children’s learning to new levels, introducing them to the wider world. They were limited only by the teacher’s imagination.
Then themes went out of fashion. Children need to play their own games and child initiated planning is the way to go… said all the experts. A lot of teachers continued to use them – they just called them something else! However, as Ofsted started to inspect childminders, quite a few inspectors said they didn’t like themed planning and wanted to see child initiated play instead. Local Authority support workers started to say the same thing and many childminders were worried about using themes for fear of doing something wrong and bringing the wrath of Ofsted down on themselves.
Then the EYFS 2008 – and 2012 when it was published – said that ‘It is expected that the balance [of child initiated and adult led play] will shift towards a more equal focus on all areas of learning as children grow in confidence and ability within the three prime areas’ (requirement 1.7) and ‘As children grow older, and as their development allows, it is expected that the balance will gradually shift towards more activities led by adults, to help children prepare for more formal learning, ready for Year 1’ (requirement 1.9).
Many childminders were very excited by this wording – it meant they could reintroduce themed planning to follow young children’s interests and to teach them new things about the world around them. Adult-led learning suits themes very well – we set up the environment first, considering each child’s current interests and learning styles – we use all 7 areas of learning to support children’s understanding – we tick the Ofsted ‘teaching children’ box without them knowing they are doing anything other than having fun and playing games they enjoy.
Plus, the new focus during Ofsted inspections is for inspectors to look at the quality of teaching… we are all teachers… every time we set up an activity, show children how to play a game, help children to share out toys or snack, follow up a child’s interest with an activity we think they will like – we are teaching! We might not like the name but it’s what we do every day so we need (in my opinion) to celebrate the quality of the learning experiences we offer children – and themed planning is one way we can do that.
Tracy’s themes, such as this one she has recently written which covers under sea activities, are very similar to mine! They contain far more details than most childminders will ever use because it is good to have lots of general activity ideas to carry you forward (better too many than not enough) – they link to the 7 areas of learning and development – and they are very flexible so that if the children change their minds or want to take their learning in new directions, off you go following their lead!
Of course, individual planning is still the most important type of planning, written to meet each child’s likes, dislikes, interests, ways of learning (learning characteristics), home and other setting experiences etc… and your themed planning can be used as part of that. When you have lots of activity ideas around a subject, you can personalise them so that each child is learning something new and following their interests at the same time.
I am sure you, like me, will find lots of inspiration from themed planning and use it effectively to support children’s learning. Don’t forget to share your planning ideas with children’s parents and suggest ways they can support their child’s learning at home… being a young child should be exciting and stimulating, challenging and fun! The more we can teach them through playful activities that interest them and hold their attention, the better equipped they will be to cope in a school environment.
Sarah has wrote some ebooks that you may be interested in. Clicking on the links below will take you to Sarah's childminding page where you can purchase your own copy of one of Sarah's ebooks.
Planning mini e-books - http://www.freewebs.com/sarahnev707/planningminiebooks.htm
E-books for sale page 1- http://www.freewebs.com/sarahnev707/booksforsale1.htm
E-books for sale page 2 - http://www.freewebs.com/sarahnev707/booksforsale2.htm
Illustrated e-books for sale - http://www.freewebs.com/sarahnev707/illustratedebooks.htm