About purposeful observation
Observation of children’s activities, interests, and interactions by our early years teachers is an integral part of our daily routine. It is a crucial responsibility of every practitioner to ensure that accurate, purposeful observations are recorded on all children, not just their key children. Observations are as important as every other part of the practitioners’ role. Time is made to discuss and evaluate observations as a team so as to inform children’s individual profiles accordingly and to set targets for learning, which in turn inform all future planning.
Why is it important?
Observation for us is the key to effective planning and assessment. Here are some of the reasons why we observe children, and why it’s important to do so consistently and with due care:
An important piece of research into language development and how it can be used as an indicator of a child’s well-being, was published recently, and we have been looking at its implications for early years practice.
The report highlights the centrality of language development for the overall development of a child (in the wider social, emotional, and cognitive contexts). In the words of its authors:
Early language acquisition impacts on all aspects of young children’s non-physical development. It contributes to their ability to manage emotions and communicate feelings, to establish and maintain relationships, to think symbolically, and to learn to read and write.
Can mathematics be taught at an early age? Is it beneficial to do so? What sort of mathematics can be taught in the 3-5 year old age group?
In this blog post we will answer these questions (and, as a sneak peak, here are the short answers: Yes, Yes, and Pretty Advanced Stuff, as it turns out!)
Mathematics can indeed be taught at an early age and it is beneficial to do so for at least two reasons: first, it helps put in place the fundamental mathematical concepts, which will carry a child’s understanding of the subject through primary school and beyond; and second, it introduces the topic without cumbersome tasks that tend to tire children and possibly dissuade them from taking up mathematics later on.
The prevailing wisdom among parents and early years professionals is that early math should begin with numbers and counting, starting with small numbers up to 5 and slowly introducing bigger numbers, before moving on to addition and eventually subtraction (in primary school). Multiplication and division are more advanced operations that are taught only in primary school. All through this linear progression from one task to the next, there is a strong focus on calculation. As a result, central concepts of mathematics, such as functions and variables, limits and symmetry, are typically introduced in high school. However, these very concepts are the ones that mathematicians identify as their true “tools of the trade”. The ability to memorize a multiplication table, by comparison, is only marginally useful.
A recent report by Ofsted produced a good practice survey to address the recurring myth that teaching and play are separate activities in the early years education sector.
Inspectors visited a sample of the most successful early years providers to observe the interplay between teaching and play. All providers were selected because they were successful in achieving good or better outcomes for children.
You can read the full report here: Teaching and play in the early years: a balancing act
Read about Alphablocks Nursery School’s ethos and approach to early years education, as well as best practices on How to choose a nursery for your child.
Alphablocks Nursery School in Hadley Wood empowers children to become confident learners through a balanced combination of hybrid teaching methods and play.
A four year old girl (who happens to be my daughter, but this could be almost any child in that age group) is gathering sticks and leaves in the park. She uses them to make a tiny tent on the base of a large oak tree. I don’t interfere with her play, although I’m just near enough to make out some of the things she’s saying to her imaginary pets. Apparently, there is a storm coming and they have to protect themselves while she’s away. Later on, she will explain the whole situation to her friend, who’ll join her important project, and together they’ll ensure the safety of their extraordinary collection of pets – ranging from squirrels to unicorns. This is play in its purest form and, as most parents and early years educators would say, it seems to be extremely beneficial for the overall development and learning of children.
The impact of spontaneous play on early learning cannot be overestimated – Alphablocks Nursery School & Pre-Prep, Hadley Wood