Is Less, More?
Hi and welcome to hopefully the first of many blogs penned by me! My name is Adele and I am really pleased to be able to share with you my many thoughts and adventures, all relating to the Early Years. I am fairly new to this blogging lark but let’s see how we go! Join me now as I discuss and reflect upon learning in lockdown……..
I have always considered myself a reflective Early Years practitioner, particularly when it comes to the learning environment I provide. I can often be seen just standing and observing, and to some, it may seem as though I’m not doing any work! However, I am doing what could be considered as the most important work – I am observing and reflecting. I am watching how the children interact, both with each other, and with the learning environment.
During this time, I am asking myself many questions – Are all the learning areas being used? If not, why? If they are in use, are they doing so productively? Are the activities and resources I have provided and modelled being used in the manner I intended? Do they have to be? Have the children come up with their own, more creative way to use them? Are the resources captivating to encourage the extended language and vocabulary I am working hard to promote? Are the children mark-making and writing? Will there be enough resources? Do we have too many? And so it goes on!
Then, along came lockdown and suddenly, for a time, we weren’t even in school. The learning environment changed to a more virtual kind which I threw myself into. Apparently my cat and I were very entertaining but that’s another story!
As time went on, we had to prepare for a return to school, but a very different one. Ever changing Government guidelines meant ever changing risk assessments to cater for educating in a new world of social distancing. Let’s be realistic, 3-4 year old children will not social distance, although some of them tried, plus they touch everything! So down came my lovely displays and signs, and out went furnishings and the majority of resources. The classroom environment I had worked so hard to achieve was now very bare and unwelcoming. The youngest children in my care now faced a different environment with minimal learning resources at their disposal. So, I now encountered a new challenge in transforming this bare room to one that was still child-friendly and welcoming.
When considering which resources to provide, I now had to choose items that could be easily cleaned . However, although I didn’t realise it at the time, this may have turned out to be a good thing. I now really had to think about the purpose of each item I provided. Would they enable the children to remain engaged in beneficial learning through play?
Then the children returned, and things were all very different from the word go. They now had to say goodbye to their parent at the main school gate and stand in individual areas on the playground. They then followed me in to be faced with a new routine – find a table for your belongings, wash your hands and join me on the carpet. Initially they were very quiet as I watched them taking in their new surroundings.
But before long, the questions began as they quite rightly wondered where the familiar things they loved had gone, and more importantly, why? So, I explained in the most age appropriate way I could, and it became clear once again, that I did not give these little people enough credit. Although they had many questions, they just accepted this new way of doing things. They just got on with it and adapted to this new way of learning as only they could.
I still had concerns over the amount and quality of the resources available to them in the continuous provision, envisaging scenes of eventual boredom, frustration and even, dare I say it, destruction. But, a few days in, I once again stood back and observed these young human beings in their play. It was purposeful, engaging and they were thinking critically. They adapted. The coloured plastic discs used for a counting activity were now pancakes in the home corner. Not just any pancakes either. The red ones were strawberry pancakes, the yellow ones were banana and sometimes lemon pancakes. The green ones were apple pancakes and, on occasion, even broccoli pancakes! An acquired taste!
There are other examples, and this is just one of many that came about as the weeks went by. However, the conclusion I have come too as a reflective practitioner, is one that I always really knew, but has now been tested and observed in practice. Children don’t necessarily need an overload of resources to prompt their imaginative play. Ironically, it is possible that having fewer items at their disposal even promotes their inquisitive critical thinking skills even further. If they do not have the specific items they need, they must think outside of the box and create them for themselves.
And so, as I begin to put my classroom back together in preparation for September, I am stepping back and really thinking about it. I am not simply putting it back to the way it was before. In fact, I am totally redesigning the whole room by creating more spacious learning areas and stripping down the resources in favour of more open-ended items, still accounting for Government guidelines of course.
I am looking forward to the result and being able to step back once again and observe my new intake of children as they learn and adapt these resources through their play. Bearing in mind that every cohort is different, I will reflect upon what I see and again adapt my learning environment accordingly. So I leave you with my own lesson from lockdown – when it comes to continuous provision, less is quite possibly, more.