Supporting all Areas of the EYFS
Reflecting on how all 7 areas are implemented in the classroom, with particular focus on maths and phonics.
At Willows Hammersmith, roughly 40% of our children have English as an Additional Language (EAL).
There are seven areas of learning and development that must shape our educational programme in Willows. All areas of learning and development are important and inter-connected. There are three prime areas of learning that are particularly important for building a foundation for igniting children’s curiosity and enthusiasm for learning, forming relationships, and thriving. In the toddler and baby rooms we mostly focus on those Prime areas (Communication and Language (CL), Physical Development (PD), and Personal, Social and Emotional Development (EAD)) as we know how important it is to create that strong foundation for our children. The preschool children cover the prime areas as well as the 4 specific areas (Literacy (L), Mathematics (M), Understanding of the World (UW), and Expressive Arts and Design (EAD)) equally.
Personal, Social and Emotional Development
We understand the children’s personal, social, and emotional development is crucial for the children to lead healthy and happy lives and is fundamental to their cognitive development. At Willows we are creating strong, warm, and supportive relationships with our children, which will enable them to learn how to understand their own feelings and those of others. Throughout carefully planned activities children are being supported to manage emotions, develop a positive sense of self, set themselves simple goals, have confidence in their own abilities, to persist and wait for what they want and direct attention as necessary.
Through adult modelling and guidance, they will learn how to look after their bodies, including healthy eating, and manage personal needs independently. Through supported interaction with other children, they learn how to make good friendships, co-operate, and resolve conflicts. We believe that these attributes will provide a secure platform from which children can achieve at school and in their later life.
At Willows, children start their day with Circle time, where they all sit together in a semi-circle and welcome each other. During this time the children are encouraged to take part in discussions, wait for their turns to speak or take part in group activities. The teachers are supporting and motivating the children to share, to wait patiently and to be able to express their views and feelings on different topics.
Everybody has a chance to talk, and everybody is listened to. The children are encouraged to accept the views and ideas of their friends and discussions about how we are feeling is in focus too. Visual aids are used to support their understanding and concentration. The teachers regularly use flashcards for example when the group talks about the Golden Rules. The children are aware of the expectations and are involved in making and shaping those rules. The teachers are highly aware of the children’s needs and their different personalities and are supported according to those. PSED is present during the whole day. Children are encouraged, highly motivated throughout the day, sharing, turn taking, following rules are one of the main early learning goals in the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS).
Different activities such as pass the parcel, what’s in the box are planned and lead by the teachers. Toys and activities for instance cars, toy garage, role play areas, messy tray activities are supported by the teachers and sand timers are used so the children can see visually when one’s time is finished and when it is time for somebody else. Managing themselves also appears throughout the day. The children are encouraged to be independent and are supported in achieving their goals. During transitioning to the garden, the children are trying their hardest to dress up independently. They are taught the ‘tip and flip’ method to put on their jackets.
The children are proud of their achievements and show pride in their abilities. During mealtimes the children are encouraged to feed themselves, pour their water and then clean their faces and hands once they are finished.
Taking off and putting their shoes on not only happen before and after nap times, but there are also planned activities to promote their learning in this aspect too. They happily take part in the ‘who can take off/put on their shoes the fastest’ race few times a week. Activities such as ring games, pair work, dancing are planned throughout the week to support relationships. Discussions, stories about helping each other, supporting each other are also in focus to promote positive relationships.
Communication and Language
Communication and language are one of the seven areas of the early years foundation stage and is used to assess children’s ability to speak, pay attention, listen and understand. Speech and language development includes the ability to listen, understand and communicate verbally and non-verbally.
In every room, practically everything we do with the children is an opportunity for developing speech and language skills, however it’s also important to carefully plan activities according to our children’s individual needs. Knowing our children very well, understanding their needs and wants, working closely with their parents all help us to plan and create activities that support their development in this area.
We understand that children learn best by observing and copying adult behaviour, therefore we are modelling good speech and language skills whenever we are talking to them or to each other. We speak to our children clearly and calmly, we use age-appropriate language. We go down to their level when talking to them and we make eye contact. We listen carefully when our children talk to us, and we are giving them the time they need to find their words. Communication and speech are present throughout the day, the teachers are describing and commenting on what they are doing and what the children are doing. We understand the importance of extending their vocabulary even during spontaneous talk so during communication with them we repeat their sentences back to them, expanding on the words they have used. We correct their mistakes not by highlighting on them, but by replacing their mistakes with corrections. We provide stimulating activities such as story time. We have an allocated story time, however books are at easy reach, so the children often go there during free flow and pick books by themselves. They confidently ask their teachers to look at the books together. We understand the importance of stories and reading, and we are aware of the fact that it is a hugely effective way of improving their language and communication skills. We do not just read the books to them, we get them involved, encouraging them to finish off sentences and rhymes and we like to chat about the pictures and plots and characters. Given the fact that our Toddler room have children with English as an additional language, we often use visual aids, flashcards, or objects to support our children’s understanding and increase their attention span. Activities such as ‘What’s in the box’, ‘What’s in the bag’, ‘Pass the parcel’ are planned and children are prompted to describe objects that are revealed from the boxes, and they are also encouraged to ask their own questions too. We also sing songs, learn new songs according to our topic. We are aware that there is a strong link between singing and early language development. Singing songs with our children will help them to differentiate sounds and recognise rhymes and also it will extend their vocabulary and develop their memory.
Physical development (PD) is one of the Prime areas of learning in the EYFS. We understand that without a solid foundation of gross and fine motor control and experience of moving in different ways, children will struggle with the other areas of learning. With careful planning we would like to create a strong foundation in PD which lays the grounding for all future learning. Being active is vital not only for children’s health and physical development. It is also critical for their well-being, social and language development, reading and writing skills and their sense of themselves in relation to the world around them. We allow our children ample opportunities to develop their fine motor skills which will also develop the muscles in their hands. We plan activities based on our children’s individual interest to get them ready for our preschool room where tracing will be introduced once our teachers feel that the children are ready for those activities. We also plan physical activities to help the children bond with each other. Ring games, group activities such as ‘Sleeping bunnies’, ‘Walking through the jungle’ are played on a regular basis following the children’s interests and creativity. We have observed that during these sessions our children tend to interact with each other on a physical level making physical games an ideal time to form friendships especially for those non-verbal, more timid or EAL children who also participate more confidently and feel included. Our garden and outdoor space provides great opportunities for the children to develop their walking and running abilities as well as their climbing and balancing skills.
Mathematics is one of the seven areas of the early years foundation stage and is used to develop a child’s confidence and ability with number but also to encourage their understanding of shapes, space and measures. In the Toddler room when we are planning for Mathematics, we make sure this is through active learning as children are playing and exploring, and that as children grow, the experiences we provide support them to develop their own ideas. We are implementing Math through planned, purposeful play and a mix of adult-led and child-initiated activities. Peg puzzles, shapes and different Mathematical games are always available to our children in their environment. The children are aware of their routine, they know what is happening now, what happened and what will happen after their activities. Our visual timetable is on our circle time board, children can access it any time they would like to. The teachers also use it during transition, especially with our EAL children. Mathematical language such as before, after, now, next etc. are constantly used throughout the day and with discussions with our children.
During circle time we discuss what day it is, what month we are in and use our props too. We count how many children we have on the day and see how many chairs we will need so that everybody can sit down. During focused activities the teachers are planning activities that develop the children’s mathematical abilities, for example the children do many sorting and matching activities. We display numbers around each room, and we take every opportunity to involve numbers in our talk.
We also plan messy play activities around Mathematics, for example picking wooden numbers with a tweezer from rice, picking up given amount of pom poms from oats etc. Construction toys are also offered, children can use mega blocks, wooden blocks, and the Duplo to build. Positional language is used, such as behind, under, next to, on top, under whilst building (and whenever is appropriate). Gross motor activities during garden time are also provided. The children can position themselves on top, around, behind, next to, under different climbing equipment and can experience space themselves.
We understand that Literacy development is important for a child’s overall development. In the Toddler room activities like singing, reading, mark making, drawing happen every day. All these activities help to develop listening and speaking skills too. We carefully plan these activities, and they are embedded in our daily schedule. Allocated story time, carefully chosen stories are all helping our children’s Literacy skills. We make sure that we choose books with rhyme, rhythm, and repetition. Our children love these stories and happily get involved in repeating the refrains and filling in the rhyming words. When reading to our children we sometimes use our fingers to guide our children’s eyes from left to right across the page and we point out certain words to them. We also enjoy using rhyme whenever we can when we talk to the children. Phrases like ‘snug as a bug’ or made-up rhymes about the things we are doing are used regularly. We encourage the children to make different sounds for animals, wind, grass, rain, trains, cars etc. for example in adult led imaginative play or when we act out the stories we read.
We sing different nursery rhymes which teach language to our children, especially our children with English as an additional language. The children also like using our musical instruments either when it is planned during our music session or during free flow play. Hidden instruments game is planned so the children can distinguish between different sounds. During garden time the children hear different environmental sounds from the streets, and they often get excited when they hear the church’s bell chiming, the garbage truck reversing or the birds singing.
Scribbling, mark making and drawing not only help our children develop their fine motor skills but also help the children to understand that drawing/writing have meanings. As our toddlers get older, we encourage the children to talk about the marks they make. We provide mark making activities, our children enjoy drawing in different substances, such as sand, shaving foam, flour, rice, or oats. We encourage them to use their fingers to develop their tracing skills, but there are also different tools to mark make, such as brushes, spatulas, felt tip pens, crayons etc. The children do their self-registration by putting their names on our circle time board every day. Our older toddlers are now confidently able to pick their names from a selection. We always emphasise the first sound of their names and other words and we are planning to introduce games that focus on the first letter sounds. The children have also been introduced to the Jolly Phonics songs and the corresponding actions and they enjoy participating in these sessions. The children can find wooden letters in our messy tray, and they also enjoy looking at and organising our magnetic letters on our A board.
Understanding the World
In the Toddler room, we are making sure that children are making sense of their physical world and their community by for instance planning local outings and trips. We plan our trips around our topics, for example during Traditional stories we go to the local library together; when talking about seasonal changes we go to the local park and encourage our children to spot these changes themselves (autumn leaves, blossoms, daffodils, building a snowman etc.); we try to arrange meetings with some important members of our society such as firefighters, police officers or doctors or we go to the grocers and pick fruits and vegetables to make our healthy dish for tea. When learning about different cultures, we introduce our children to a broad selection of stories, rhymes and poems which help their understanding of different traditions and they will start realising how our world is all diverse and how important it is to understand and respect each other’s views and beliefs. We provide objects from different countries, musical instruments, dressing up costumes to promote our children’s understanding of different cultures and traditions. Our curriculum in the Willows allow us to carefully plan activities that support children’s understanding in the above mentioned aspects for instance we celebrate Holy and have a lovely and colourful day, we learn about Remembrance day, Hannukah, Christmas, Easter, Diwali etc. We encourage our toddlers to accept and respect other children’s opinions by giving everybody the chance to express themselves, to take turns and to understand the importance of respecting each other’s thoughts and feelings. Our Family tree display board is being put up now, where our children confidently show each other, their families using the family photos the parents provided, which not only help our children’s confidence but also develop communication skills and language development, especially with our EAL children.
Expressive Art and Design
In the Toddler room, the children are encouraged to explore and play with a wide range of materials. We plan and provide opportunities and encouragement for our children to share their thoughts, ideas, and feelings through a variety of activities in art, music, movement, role-play, and design and technology. We make sure that our children have regular opportunities to engage with arts and crafts. We carefully plan arts and craft activities every day, where the children can make their own choices and express themselves confidently. They learn about different ways of creating and get to know various methods to reach desired effects. The children particularly enjoy these sessions and are engaged for a length of time. Our art activities link to the weekly topics and through these activities the children gain a better understanding of the topics being discussed. Our children love participating in different imaginative games. They love acting out stories and happily take part in these either planned or spontaneous sessions.