Thursday, 27 March 2014

Group planning for childminders

Following on from my weekly planning blog here ... a number of childminders have asked me to share information about group planning - long and short term.

I hope you find this blog useful.

Annual / long term group planning

You do not need to have written annual / long term planning.

A lot of childminders find it useful to put their future planning ideas in writing for sharing with parents but it is not a requirement.

Annual / long term planning is ideas for things you MIGHT do with the children over the coming year. Things you might plan include -
• Festivals and celebrations - national, UK and further afield
• Local events like the fire station open day, the fair or circus coming to town or May Day celebrations
• The seasons - spring (April - June), summer (July - Sept), autumn (Oct - Dec), winter (Jan - March)
• Children’s birthdays, family weddings etc...

To record annual / long term planning you can make yourself a simple table -
January -
o New Year
o Australia Day
o Jack’s birthday

February -
o Valentines Day
o John’s parents getting married
Etc.... some childminders use diaries or calendars to record their annual planning.

Remember, if the events are of no interest to the children for whom you care then you are not really going to achieve very much.

For example -
• If you live near Chinatown and the children visit there regularly then by all means do some Chinese New year themed activities with them in February / March...
• If your children are from another culture then ask their parents what they are celebrating at home and plan some activities to complement their home learning...
• If you are an African childminder and your children know very little about Christmas because they mostly celebrate Kwanzaa at home and in your provision, you might plan to introduce Christmas to them so they learn more about what they can see happening in the world around them (lights on houses, displays in shops etc) but you would probably want to enhance their home learning as well.

Remember! Don’t knock yourself out trying to plan for 2 x 2 year olds to celebrate Eid if it means nothing to them or you! Focus on other things that are more relevant instead.


Medium term planning

You do not need to have written medium term planning. A lot of childminders find it useful to have a file of ideas and activities to fall back on through the year but Ofsted cannot insist you have it all in writing if you work a different way.

If you want to put together some medium term planning you will need to buy a folder - divide it into months - and as you plan for this year add -

• Your planning notes from last year / this year
• Ideas for activities that went well / failed miserably last time you tried them
• Downloads from the internet / links to useful websites
• Ideas for activities the children might follow up at home
• Follow up activities for things children are doing at nursery or pre-school
• Activity ideas provided by parents
• Activity ideas taken from magazines etc...

By next year you will have a brilliant medium term planning resource!

Remember, every folder you build up starts with one piece of paper - it takes time to put together a workable way of doing things and you will make lots of changes through the year... that is what continuous professional development is all about.


Short term planning - group

It is not a requirement to have written short term group planning. Most childminders like to have something in writing to share with parents and to keep them focussed through the weeks. It is important that you share your group planning with parents so they know what their child is doing while they are with you and can (hopefully) follow up some of the activities at home.

If you want to start doing or enhance your current short term group planning, here are some ideas...
Go back to your long term planning and medium term planning notes and think about your current children. Change things as necessary - for example, you might not have any children who are interested in something you had planned so why flog the proverbial dead horse? It will be far better to adapt your planning to their current interests.
Include notes about your planning on your newsletter and write a quick ‘ideas for home activities’.

Remember, just make brief notes - do not add too much detail - the children might not be interested and your hard work will be wasted. I focus on the following -
• Date - Week number - our main theme
• Why? -
• Book of the week -
• Activity ideas inside / outside -
• Home learning idea -
• Main EYFS links -
• Other group activity ideas -
• Comments -

Here is a completed example from the other week -

30.9 - Week 1 - autumn leaves
• Why? - The children saw leaves falling from the trees last week and wanted to find out more...
• Activity ideas - shapes, colours, sizes, rubbing, drawing round, copying / painting, crunching, finding minibeasts, leaves in the messy tray, tree books, floating leaves
• Book of the week - trees of the world / leaf finder (internet)
• Home learning idea - find leaves in the garden and talk to the children about them
• Main EYFS links* - maths, language / vocabulary, understanding the world
Other group activity ideas - Grandparents Day on 6th

Comments - the children loved finding leaves. We did lots of crafts with them. We looked at trees and developed vocabulary. Plenty of opportunities for colour recognition, counting, sorting, size, shape and similar vocabulary.

I received some lovely feedback from one child’s home exploration of leaves in the garden - crinkling them in her fingers and throwing them around /collecting them into piles.
Older children made cards for their grandparents, we all read a book about grandparents and talked about older relatives we have in our families.

* I write general links to the Development Matters guidance of the EYFS and look back over the month to make sure I have included something from every area of learning. If you are given complicated sheets of activity planning to fill in, remind the person who gives you them that children engage with a huge amount of other activities during the day which also link to the EYFS - with you, at home and in other settings - and you are not solely responsible for everything they learn. Your aim is to complement what they are learning elsewhere.

Remember, don’t write too much - you will feel resentful if things change - which they often do when children are involved! Don’t ignore a child’s interest because you have a written plan - just put your ideas to one side and follow what they want to do and make some notes about that instead.

I will add a blog about individual planning and recording planning to finish this series... you can find more planning information in e-book 15 'Eyfs planning' from Knutsford Childminding resources.

Chat soon, Sarah