At Westgate, we believe that children learn best when they are motivated, interested, and empowered. As such, this year we have redesigned our planning system to better reflect our children’s interests and harness their natural desire to learn. We are pleased to present: our learning tree!
Following observations and discussion with our children, each room has been able to identify themes that reflect the interests of groups of children. The key carers then use their knowledge of the child and the curriculum to plan activities that are both based around each child’s interest, and provide a challenge to the child. We have also been lucky enough for our parents to get involved, by sharing their children’s interests or suggestions for areas of development.
The Butterflies team have used the learning tree to ensure that the role play area is a source of awe and wonder for children by relating it to the most popular theme from the tree. Over the summer, many of our children indicated that they were interested in exploring flowers. In order to facilitate this indoors as well as in our garden, the Butterflies team created a florist shop, which the children loved. This enabled the team to support the children’s fine motor skills by providing opportunities to wrap bouquets; extend vocabulary by using specific language related to flowers (flower names and parts); develop awareness of numerals and quantity by completing order forms and counting out flowers; and express their creativity by making flowers for the shop.
After several weeks, however, the children’s interest in flowers waned and the practitioners observed increasing interest in babies. As the learning tree was updated, it was also important to update the role play area to reflect the change in interest. Children were consulted about what they would like to do with the babies; each child made marks to represent their ideas. When it became apparent that the children wanted to care for the babies like grown ups, several children were taken to visit the Ladybird’s room and invited to take photographs of elements that they would like to incorporate into their role play area, before helping to create the new baby room role play.
Following the addition, the children are once again inspired to explore the roleplay area. Our baby room role play encourages the children to be empathetic to the needs of others (dolls); thus supporting PSE. The children talk to one another and act out scenarios, as well as singing to the babies like the ‘upstairs grown ups do’, to support C&L. The children act out care routines including hand washing and toileting, helping to solidify their own independence and self-care. Stories are read (and told) to the babies to support literacy; and of course acting out experiences and roleplaying is key to EAD development.
In this way, the learning tree has helped the Butterflies team to identify a change in interest and create an area that provides awe and wonder, and motivates our children to access opportunities to develop in so many other areas of learning.