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EYFS Planning

‘In the Moment’ Planning


“Babies and young children …. are experiencing and learning in the here and now, not storing up their questions until tomorrow or next week. It is in that moment of curiosity, puzzlement, effort or interest – the ‘teachable moment’ –

that the skilful adult makes a difference. By using this cycle on a moment-by-moment basis, the adult will be always alert to individual children (observation), always thinking about what it tells us about the child’s thinking (assessment), and always ready to respond by using appropriate strategies at the right moment to support children’s well-being and learning (planning for the next moment).”


From National Standards document: Learning, Playing and Interacting P.22 - 23


This idea echoes the starting point for the planning system that has been developed by a group of teachers in Essex and came about following a visit to Melbourne, Australia.  One Australian provider, which ran two children’s centres, had been working with a team from Melbourne University over a period of three years researching effective planning systems for young children.  The conclusion was that we should not plan ahead for young children.  Rather, as the quote above suggests, we should respond to their interests and efforts immediately.  We can then record such interactions afterwards.    


Therefore, the environment and the interactions are key to progress – written plans are not! So, what does this look like in practice? The aim is to organise the setting - including the time, the resources and the adults – to ensure that the majority of the children display deep level engagement for the majority of the time.  If that happens, then we can be confident that they are making good progress.  When deeply engaged, their brains will be “lit up”, adults will notice when support is needed, interactions will ensure that obstacles are overcome or that new directions and possibilities are available and learning will be meaningful and fun!


As mentioned, an enabling environment is critical. When the children arrive, minimal activities are set out but everything is available and accessible.  The doors to the outside are open all day, no matter the weather!  From day one, the children are supported to explore the environment to see what is available, to select the resources they would like, to use them appropriately and to tidy the area when they have finished.  Tidy up time is short –  Because the children have got the resources out themselves, they know where to return them to!  


The induction period is always critical – even more so when the children have so much autonomy and choice. Small groups with high ratios of adults is the ideal and part time attendance in the first two weeks can ensure that the routines and expectations are established efficiently.  Ground rules are essential when so much freedom is given – all the children need to feel safe.  Clear and consistent expectations are key.  For example, indoors the children will walk and use quieter voices – running and shouting can be done outside. 


The sessions are organised to maximise the amount of “free-flow” time available.  All staff support the children in their chosen activity –there are rarely any Focus activities. For the majority of the time the adults go to the children–they don’t call the children to them. This change in emphasis ensures that the children become the focus instead of a particular activity that has been planned by the adult. The result is that children are more engaged in their learning and eager to develop their knowledge, understanding and skill in areas that are of interest to them.


The weekly organisation is as follows: Towards the end of the week the teaching staff select 6 children in reception and 2 children in preschool who will be the “focus children” for the following week.  The parents of these children are asked to complete a Parent Feedback Form asking about current interests of the child and any special events in the family. The Parent Feedback Form also allows parents the opportunity to ask any questions they might have about their child’s progress. The information gleaned from these forms help the staff identify the children’s interests and inform their planning.


On Monday a “Learning Journey” sheet for each of the focus children is put on the planning board.  These sheets are blank (except for a couple of words to indicate areas that the staff or parents would like to try and capture).  During the week, any adult who has a productive interaction with a focus child records the event on the learning journey.  It is important that the whole cycle is recorded – i.e. the initial observation, the assessment, the planning, teaching and the outcome.  An example of such an entry might read: 


“Ross was looking at the plants and said ‘I need some carrots for my soup’.  He started to pull up some onions.  I joined him and explained how to look carefully at the leaves and told him what the leaves on the carrot plants looked like.  He examined the plants carefully and then pulled up three carrots.”  


Another example might be:

“Jenna was standing by the rope bridge watching a boy go across and back.  I joined her and she said ‘I want a turn on there!’  I encouraged her to repeat the phrase ‘Can I have a turn please?’  After a few minutes, Jenna approached the boy and said ‘Can I have a turn please?’  The boy went across once more and then jumped down ‘there you go’.  Jenna played with the boy for a long period taking turns independently.”  


The Adult input (or “teachable moment”) is highlighted in yellow.  Quality interactions should, and usually do, lead to progress.  In both the examples above, the “plan” was formulated and delivered “in the moment”.  Entries on the learning journeys are often accompanied by a photo.  The sheets are gradually filled up over the course of the week and become a wonderful individual record.  The reception class focus children have a letter sent home in the week following their focus week, outlining their next steps in learning and responding to any questions or concerns highlighted on the parent form. At Preschool, because they have fewer focus children per week, staff are able to meet with the parents of the focus children the following week. The discussion revolves around the completed learning journey – a truly individual picture of the child’s experience.  


So, “What about all the other children?”  Well they too are pursuing their own learning, in the same environment, supported by the same adults.  However, their journey is not recorded in such a detailed way, except when they are

a focus child.  Any learning moments are recorded for individual children on the In the Moment Planning sheet on the Planning Board and added to their Learning Journeys – whether focus children or not. 


“In the moment” planning is a very simple idea – observing and interacting with children as they pursue their own interests and also assessing and moving the learning on in that moment.  The written account of these interactions

becomes a learning journey.  This approach leads to deep level learning and wonderful surprises every day!

By Lydia Offen (March 2017)