It is crucially important that an early learning curriculum is responsive to the changing needs of children so that opportunities for growth and development are not missed.
We have high aspirations for our children and we share this with our parents and carers through our curriculum workshops where we share:
- the intent, so our learning intentions for the children as supported by the themes that we choose;
- our implementation and teaching strategies that we use in the classroom to support the building of the different skills; and finally
- the impact that we obtain in the development of our children through early learning projects and activities.
The focus of the younger class is on the development of the three prime areas of learning. Establishing key relationships with our children is the first stepping stone to their educational journey. The key teacher-child relationships will allow us to learn what interests the children and fascinates them so we can use this interest and fascinations to motivate them and support their learning.
We want children to develop a sense of belonging in the nursery and develop their confidence in working with other children and their key teachers.
Another key area is on the emphasis on communication and language development. Through books, rhymes and songs and our drama class, we work with children to develop their vocabulary, sentence structure and listening skills. Lastly, music and movement, physical education, dough disco sessions and access to outdoor play all give our children many opportunities to develop their physical skills and coordination.
The older class is also working on social skills like learning to work together as a group, sharing resources and ideas and learning how to negotiate with their peers.
Communication and language development is promoted through the use of books. We explore key vocabulary, the structure of stories (beginning-middle-end format), different plots and characters and we also act out, sequencing and changing the direction and endings of our stories. In drama classes, we have many opportunities to become the different characters in our stories and to act them out.
In PE classes, as well as in Music, Movement and Yoga, we experiment with different ways of moving, learning how to negotiate space and developing our control and coordination.
Prime & Specific areas of learning
Overall, there are seven areas of learning. These are broken down into the Prime Areas and the Specific Areas. The reason for this is that each of these is more pertinent for different age groups. For instance, the Prime Areas are more relevant for the younger age group, while the Specific Areas are more relevant for the older age group.
The three Prime Areas of learning are:
- Communication and Language
- Physical Development
- Personal, Social and Emotional Development
Solid foundations in these enable us to instil the acquisition and development of key skills in the Specific Areas of Literacy, Maths, Expressive Arts, and so-called Understanding of the World.
Children take part in different phonics and maths workshops according to their level of development. We learn about experiments, the world and our environment through our science and Forest School sessions.
We implement our curriculum through a hybrid educational approach, which brings together the best elements of different teaching methodologies in order to maximise children’s learning potential and to ‘scaffold’ their learning. Our classroom is specifically designed according to the needs of the children and the skills we want them to develop.
The significance of mark-making
We have written about the importance of mark-making in early education in a previous post. A few additional thoughts are presented here as well, as they relate to our Intent-Implementation-Impact approach as part of an evolving early learning curriculum.
Parents often ask us what they can do to support their children’s mark-making and handwriting skills. Mark making and handwriting require two key physical skills: (1) dexterity and (2) fine motor function. This mechanical part needs to be coupled with the ability to assign representations to marks and later on to use symbols like letters to write words.
Children need to be able to experiment with making marks from an early age using a range of resources as well as their body to create marks. There is a range of skills that children need to develop to be able to use mark-making tools effectively; physical skills like dexterity and coordination, cognitive skills like symbolism but more importantly than all motivation to make marks and writing for a purpose.
Parents or teachers need to get fascinated by children’s mark-making journey and to provide a range of opportunities to celebrate the achievement and development of their skills.
The child in the picture used chunky felt tips using a whole palm grasp to draw the picture on the whiteboard. The child said, “This is daddy and Max.”
So why is this developmentally significant?
Firstly, the child has the appropriate grip for the age – with practice this will soon become a tripod grip (three fingers together), which takes place roughly after the age of 3. But the most important element is that this child can attribute meaning to her creations – is aware that marks represent symbols. Her representational skills are very good. The creation looks like a person.
As the child develops her representational skills her pictures and drawing will become more defined. When the child learns that letters represent different sounds they will attempt to use letters to create words, words that that are special and familiar like their name or their friend’s name or familiar objects like “hat”.
The take-home message is that all these aspects of early learning are of crucial importance and constantly present us with “learning opportunities” that we need to take advantage of. Identify the stage of development that your child is at and provide them with the right support.
If you think you child needs support to develop his/her fine motor skills to improve their dexterity you need to provide them with malleable materials like playdough and tools like scissors, a whisk, threading, using pegs and pipets so they can improve their fine motor skills. This is the essence of personalised learning, which is a core aspect of our hybrid approach in early years education.