Friday, 6 September 2013

Weekly planning and childminders

A lot of childminders ask me how to write weekly planning - how much is enough? What should it include?

Weekly individual planning is easy! It is your individual / next steps / possible lines of development (PLODS) planning and you will already have it in place for every child. You do it every time you follow a child’s observed interests and learning styles with a variety of new and / or exciting activities and experiences which you know they will enjoy. You do it automatically as part of your practice. You also note each child’s characteristics of their learning, so that you are sure the activities and experiences you are offering are tailored to meet their needs.

Writing it down is easy - just make general notes (some in advance and some later) about what you have provided for the child to do. You can then follow it up with the odd observation to show that the child is learning from the activities and experiences you have planned. Job done!

Group activities can also be used to extend a child’s learning and development and are very important to support children with learning to make friends, communicate with others, listen, develop confidence, play games etc - all essential skills for establishing the prime areas of learning and starting school. You can share information with parents about their child’s engagement in group activities in their Learning Journey file by using photos and observations to note the fun they have had.

How much group planning to write down? It’s up to you but I would not suggest you go into a lot of detail about something that might not happen! After all, children’s needs and interests will change through the week and your planning must be flexible enough to allow this. If you have spent most of Sunday coming up with a complicated plan and they don’t want to play, you will feel resentful and stop enjoying your job - so you have to make sure your workload is manageable.
Some retrospective planning is fine if you write it soon afterwards, so you don’t forget what you did and how the children learned and reacted to the activities.

Sharing information with parents can be tricky, especially if they are not able to spend time talking to you during the week due to work or family pressures or they do not understand the importance of their child’s time in your provision.

The revised EYFS (2012) makes it clear that all parents must be involved in their child’s time with you… and that you need to offer ideas to support children’s learning at home which you will do through the child’s Learning Journey or daily diary. Sharing details about your weekly planning will be essential for showing evidence of how you inform parents about the activities and experiences their child if given the opportunity to engage with while they are in your care.

Many childminders pin an ‘activities and experiences this week’ document to their notice board and point it out to parents on their first day of the week. This type of notice board planning should be kept brief because plans will change depending on the children’s moods and to ensure you are flexible and complementing their time spent elsewhere.

Other childminders put information about each child’s planned activities and experiences in their daily diary booklets or send a weekly email to parents - this can work well as long as you remember to ask them for feedback - what has their child said about the activities at home? How have they used the information you have given them to extend their child’s home learning etc?

Remember you are offering a range of activities and experiences through the week. This does not mean that every piece of equipment and every game needs to be out each day. Nor does it mean that children’s every move needs to be documented!! Just make general notes - they will build up over the months to show the child is making progress.