Research on successful outcomes of Early Years’ provision, both in the short term and for later success in school and as adults – has pointed to some general guidance and guidelines for consideration in practice.
Research on successful outcomes of early years’ provision, both in the short term and for later success in school and as adults – has pointed to some general guidance and guidelines for consideration in practice. The best outcomes for children’s learning occur where most of the activity within a child’s day is a mixture of:
- Child-initiated play, actively supported by adults
- Focused (adult led) learning, with adults guiding the learning through playful, rich experiential activities
Throughout the academic year, the children will explore various concepts throughout a themed curriculum. These themes are broad, making sure that life at the setting is not prescriptive, yet ensuring that the children have sufficient free flow to be able to guide their own learning by forming interests and preferences. Each theme runs for a set period of time and this fluctuates depending upon the depth of information, learning opportunities and key vocabulary identified.
A MIX OF ACTIVITIES:
Within a whole day in the setting, periods of free play (without adult involvement) meet our pupils’ need for space, independence and relaxation. Short sessions of carefully planned, structured activity are used to support the learning of specific skills and are especially useful when building vocabulary for bilingual children or demonstrating how to use tools and equipment. Research has shown that children are born highly motivated, intelligent learners who actively seek interactions from those around them. To this end, we recognise that our pupils need plentiful opportunity to be able to socialise and interact with their peers, have periods of uninterrupted play and time to explore the world around them. Frustration arises when a child finally figures a challenge / task / activity out and before they have a chance to try it out again, they are moved on to another activity. This inhibits a full understanding and doesn’t support our belief in learning. Our pupils have time, support and encouragement from the team around them.
Play engages children’s bodies, minds and emotions. In play, children can learn to interact with others and be part of a community, to experience and manage feelings, and to be in control and confident about themselves and their abilities. Play is know to help develop positive dispositions to learning:
- Finding an interest
- Being willing to explore, experiment and try things out
- Knowing how and where to seek help
- Being inventive – creating problems and finding solutions
- Being flexible – testing and refining solutions
- Being engaged and involved – concentrating, sustaining interest, persevering with a task, even when it is challenging
- Making choices and decisions
- Making plans and knowing how to carry them out
- Playing and working collaboratively with peers and adults
- Managing ‘self’ and managing others; understanding the perspectives and emotions of other people
- Developing ‘can do’ orientations to learning
- Being resilient – finding alternative strategies if things don’t go as planned
It is believed that every child deserves the best possible start in life and the support that enables them to fulfil their potential. Children develop quickly in the early years and a child’s experiences between birth and age five have a major impact on their future life chances. Four guiding principles should shape practice in early years settings. These are:
- Every child is a unique child, who is constantly learning and can be resilient, capable, confident and self-assured.Every child is a unique child, who is constantly learning and can be resilient, capable, confident and self-assured.
- Children learn to be strong and independent through positive relationships.
- Children learn and develop well in enabling environments, in which their experiences respond to their individual needs and there is a strong partnership between practitioners and parents and/or carers.
- Children develop and learn in different ways and at different rates
These principles are aligned to the college vision and directly underpin the acquisition of the Wellington Identity. To support this the learning environment is designed to inspire and challenge pupils through:
In and around the setting, pupils have an opportunity to read. We believe it is a child’s right to be able to have quiet time, think and contemplate, or look at books. To this end, we provide adequate space for pupils to have both quiet, individual reading opportunities as well as read-aloud storytelling sessions with their class teacher. Children learn to love the sound of language long before they even notice the existence of printed words on a page. Reading books aloud to children stimulates their imagination and expands their understanding of the world. It helps them to develop language and listening skills and prepares them to understand the written word. When the rhythm or melody of language become a part of a child’s life, learning to read is as natural as learning to walk and talk. At Wellington College Bilingual Tianjin, we have well-resourced communal reading spaces, alongside smaller spaces for dipping in and out as and when required throughout the day.
ROLE PLAY SPACES
Role play provides opportunities for children to identify with the adult world; to develop social skills, practise negotiation skills, taking turns and sharing. It provides opportunities for working out problems and experimenting with solutions. Children are able to understand and express feelings through the re-enactment of certain experiences and take on roles that encourage discipline and empathy. Role play encourages imagination; children can be anyone and do anything in the pretend world. Through role play, children develop language skills; practicing listening, looking and talking. Being spoken to and talking with other people, they also develop an understanding of what is being communicated through body language such as smiles and nodding.
Each classroom has a dedicated area for role play which is linked in to the curriculum theme and developed further throughout the indoor and balcony spaces. Pupils at Wellington College Bilingual Tianjin will lead their own journeys through role play, having the freedom to use their imaginations to create worlds to enjoy, share and explore.
Young children learn with all of their senses. As children, they still need these experiences but use a more scientific process as they explore, allowing them to continually learn about the world and how it works. From birth, children learn about the world by touching, tasting, smelling, seeing and hearing. Sensory play also contributes in crucial ways to brain development. Stimulating the senses sends signals to children’s brains that help to strengthen neural pathways important for all types of learning. Wellington College Bilingual Tianjin has dedicated sensory spaces throughout the setting, to ensure that we promote the development of:
- Cognitive development – before children can speak, they develop an understanding of their environment by actively exploring with all of their senses. As children become verbal, they are able to describe differences and similarities in what they see, hear, taste, touch and smell.Cognitive development – before children can speak, they develop an understanding of their environment by actively exploring with all of their senses. As children become verbal, they are able to describe differences and similarities in what they see, hear, taste, touch and smell.
- Social skills – working closely together during sensory activities presents opportunities to observe how peers handle materials, try out the ideas of others, share their own ideas and discoveries, and build relationships.
- Sense of self – As children experience things themselves, they explore and communicate preferences, making sense of the world around them. By accepting a child’s preferences, children learn that their feelings and decisions are valid.
- Physical skills – Children develop and strengthen new motor skills through shaping, moulding, scooping, dumping and splashing. These actions all support the development of small and large muscles.
- Emotional development – Sensory experiences can be very calming for many children and can help them work through troubling emotions such as anxiety and frustration. Likewise, sensory materials lend to children’s expression of positive feelings, such as joy and excitement.
- Communication skills – through their choices of materials and actions during sensory play, children have opportunities to communicate both verbally and non-verbally. Emotions will be evident by the look on a child’s face, noises they make and words they may use.
PHYSICAL PLAY SPACES
Research has shown that physical activity in young children can enhance:
Children enjoy physical play, indoors and outdoors. They revel in the freedom of movement and in play that is inventive, adventurous and stimulating. Children also learn social skills as they co-operate with one another and show consideration for one another. Physical play activities are used to develop gross motor / locomotor skills and fine motor skills. Gross motor / locomotor activities develop body management, balance, body co-ordination, strength, agility and confidence. Fine motor activities promote hand-eye co-ordination, spatial awareness, fine motor control, accuracy, two-handed co-ordination and manipulative strength. Eye-hand and eye-foot co-ordination activities promote spatial awareness, hand-eye co-ordination, strength and foot and leg co-ordination.
Physical activity is important to many aspects of child health and development, and early childhood is a critical time for establishing healthy behaviours and patterns that will carry over in to later childhood, adolescence and adulthood. Physical play activities happen through structured physical activities (for example, gym time) or through unstructured physical activities (for example, playing in the play area or dancing).
EXPLORATION AND INVESTIGATION SPACES
Exploring the inside and outside world is important for children’s emotional, social and physical development. They learn about the world and how it works. Imagine: it is one thing to see an orange, but it’s another to hold it in your hand, feel its cool smooth surface, smell its fragrance and maybe even taste it. Exploring also gives children a chance to work on important motor skills, boosting their self-confidence and competence. They begin to think, “I can do it”.
We believe that children should have plentiful opportunities to actively construct their own knowledge and understanding of the world through the many different experiences they have. Finding out and exploring is all about the open-ended, hands-on experiences which arise from children’s innate curiosity. These provide the multisensory experiences from which children build concepts, test their ideas and find things out. Using what they know in their play highlights the importance of play as the context where children bring together their current understanding and combine, refine and explore their ideas in imaginative ways. Being willing to have a go reinforces the role of play in enabling children to follow their interests and initiate activities.
INTERACTIVE MEDIA SPACES
Children are growing up in a world that is increasingly dominated by digital technology. Experts confirm that preschool aged children are developmentally ready and able to benefit from interaction from technology. The use of educational technology is now known to have a major positive impact on the social, emotional, language and cognitive development of children. It is recommended that opportunities be given during the early childhood years for exploration using technology tools in a playful, supportive environment. For us, this opportunity will be presented through the use of interactive whiteboards (smartboards). Interactive games are useful in developing maths and literacy skills. The smartboard is extremely useful for researching children’s interests. It is also used for drawing, science and story making. An interactive whiteboard brings learning to life and is helpful to all children of all ages and abilities, increasing their attention span which directly impacts on their learning. Mark making is encouraged through the use of the interactive whiteboard. This precursor to writing is further developed as the children grow and motor skills develop. Using specially designed writing pads, children can share the fruits of labour with the whole class, celebrating their achievements.
Interactive whiteboards are known to:
- Allow pupils to access materials easily from their own seatsAllow pupils to access materials easily from their own seats
- Accommodate different learning styles. Tactile learners can touch and manipulate the board, recording tools are used for audio learners whilst visual learners can track that is happening in a session as it happens
- Allow immediate access to all that the internet has to offer in a controlled and safe way
- It is recognised, however that the true power of the interactive whiteboard lies in its interactivity. Pupils can actively engage with material, manipulate learning objects and receive instant feedback on what they’re working on.