Archive for September 2012

So no early phonics and no laminated word cards ………   Leave a comment

……….. so how are the children being supported in the use of words and those important early literacy skills?


Are the children making good or even excellent progress in the prime area of Communication and Language and the specific area of Literacy?

Are there any concerns that the environment and curriculum provided at Penny’s Place is not meeting the children’s needs or providing opportunities for the children to reach their full potential?

These are actually typical of my self reflection questions – which I do in my head all the time – but rarely do on paper – the reason being that unless my in my head reflection says that something could be improved or changed – I see no reason to self congratulate myself.

However as I have written a blog about my decision to stop using laminated words – it seems a natural next step to reflect in writing through my blog about why I am sure that not doing early phonics and not using laminated words will not disadvantage the children in my care – and also why my environment and ‘curriculum’ do promote communication and language and early literacy skills.

My Environment / Curriculum

Regular readers will know that I do not do any written planning – and so therefore I do not have any formal plans to include any aspects of the EYFS 2012 – I do not say; for example on Tuesday we are going to play a lotto game about initial sounds or on Wednesday we will have circle time and all talk about the object that I decide we are talking about or even that the children should bring something in for ‘show and tell’. I do not have a long term plan that shows how I am working my way through letters and sounds or a list of topics for the year and that within those topics I will cover x,y and z.

Yet despite this I know that I do offer opportunities in all areas – some more than others on occasion –  but this is because I go with the interests of the children and sometimes – they are just not interested in certain areas of the curriculum. I am not in the least bit bothered about that – because it is within my ethos, value and principles documentation that I believe children do not have to have experienced a full curriculum (as set by EYFS 12) before the age of 5.

I will go further on this statement – in fact I believe that children don’t need to have acquired specific knowledge about x,y and z before the age of 5 – but what they do need is the opportunity to develop the skills that they will need in the future – both for their formal education and for life

In fact I am going to take a statement from EYFS 12 – one of those Early Learning Goals  – and through changing the wording to fit all areas rather than the specific one refered to – demonstrate just what it is that I want children leaving my setting – whether at 3, 4, 5 or older to have achieved.

The actual goal (for Expressive arts and design: Being imaginative)

Children use what they have learnt about media and materials in original ways, thinking about uses and purposes. They represent their own ideas, thoughts and feelings through design and technology, art, music, dance, role play and stories.

My version

Children use what they have learnt during their time at Penny’s Place in original ways, thinking about uses and purposes. They represent their own ideas, thoughts and feelings through everything they do.

With the skills they have learnt, they will be be able to apply them to to every situation and therefore achieve their full potential.

I could now write pages and pages about the academic reading I have done, the brain research that shows how children learn and more importantly the optimum time for developing certain skills. I could use big words and references to those who are much better at explaining things than I am – but I am not going to – I prefer to use every day words and to try to explain in ways that make sense not only to me but hopefully to those that read my blog.

So what do I mean by skills?

Knowledge is something you know – as a very simple example – if you know (have knowledge) that pressing a door bell will result in the door being opened – you expect that to happen. If the door is not answered you may press the door bell again and again. If it is not answered you may well eventually give up and go home.

However if you have the right skills – you would think – maybe the door bell is not working – (and apply your knowledge of batteries), you would think how else can you let the person know you are waiting to be let in – you might knock on the door or even the window, you might shout very loud – you might even shout through the letterbox, or if with someone who has a phone ask them to phone the person in the house, you might look to see if the there is a back door or a gate to the garden, you might think the car is not on the drive they may have gone out and so go home  – but before doing so leave a note or maybe call the person on the phone later on.

In other words you would THINK about it – you would apply knowledge that you have learnt in one situation to another situation

Applying this principle to the areas of communication and language,  – and literacy.

In everyday terms – and in my opinion – thinking skills are essential to being able to communicate effectively both out loud and in your own head. You need to know words and what those words mean, you need to be able to express those words and if people don’t understand what you are trying to say – to use different words. You need to know about sentence structure, you need to know about turn taking in conversations – and yes you do need to be able to hear sounds, and rhyme and to differentiate between similar sounds – and so much more.

And how do children learn all these things?

Through early phonics? – well some might – but many won’t – just look at the governments own results from the phonics test on year one pupils – those children who have been taking part in the letters and sounds initiative  – it is not working for huge numbers of children. I need say no more really as the results are there for all to see.

Through laminated words? Until they can read, the words themselves mean nothing – pictures are what the children relate to – but each child will ‘read’ something different from the picture – which is good – but therefore does not relate to the words by the cards. As an example – I could have a display of the 3 Billy goats Gruff to go with our current story  – in fact I do have such a display, just no words.

But lets imagine that I have put up words (and I admit in the past I have) so picture of Big Billy Goat Gruff   and word card ‘Big Billy Goat Gruff’- Shona might think it is the Big goat – no mention in her thinking of the words Billy or Gruff – so does she think the words displayed say ‘ Big Goat’. Archie may think it is ‘Daddy goat’ so again do the words say that? Erin might think ‘ He got big horns?’ Alex ‘No like it big goat’, Mia ‘ Trip Trap the goat goes Trip Trap?’ and so on – they will each think something different about the pictures and therefore could come to the conclusion that the words displayed say what they are thinking – what they are thinking at that moment in time – because of course next time they look at the picture they may well think something different!

Of course I could point to the words and I could say the words out loud and demand that the children chant them back parrot fashion after me – but what are they learning? My guess is nothing much – only how to copy (and maybe how to switch off and not pay any attention to what Penny is saying – because lets be honest – repeating words is hardly inspiring or fun)! And if that happened I would be devastated – turning a child off learning even before they got to school.

Oh and out of interest I have carried out a small experiment recently. The children have self registration cards – with their photo and their name – they all not only recognise and select their own name card – but can find the cards for each of their friends. About 2 months ago I started including just their name on the back of their place mats (they have new ones to go with each story) and not one child can identify from sight their own name. Don’t get me wrong the can work the names out with support but the fact is despite using their picture / word name cards for a year and a half they do not recognise their name without the picture of themselves.

The answer to how I support the children is of course ;

Through talking, through questioning, through explaining, through  offering children  choices,  through rhymes and stories and songs, through play – and all the things that children do naturally, want to do and indeed are ‘programmed’ to do.

This is what we do at Penny’s Place – all the time, day in, day out – not timetabled, not in a long term plan but through our everyday experiences and routines.

So are the children making good progress? Am I meeting the requirements of EYFS 12?

Need to check the guidance document ‘Development Matters’ – it might be guidance but I like it – as gives suggestions and ideas and some wide band development norms –  roughly what a child should be doing – not a test, not targets – and I think the same needs to be remembered for the ELG’s.

Anyway as I have recently completed the two year check on all the two year olds in my care – and a progress check on all 7 areas for the three years olds – and stated that all of them are within the 30 – 50 month band (with the youngest just moving into it and the eldest moving out of it) – I shall reference to the 30 -50 development band statements for Communication and Language – and Literacy. As is my way I am not going to bother to write down all the things that the children are secure in or all the things mentioned within Positive Relationship or Enabling environments that I provide / do – BUT I will honestly list the things I think need developing or including (will be a good reflective exercise for me)

Please remember the oldest child in my care is 41 m and the youngest 29 m

Communication and Language :Listening and attention

A Unique Child  – All  in place – a little more development needed with point 4 (Focussing Attention)

Positive Relationships -Point 4 (Rhymes etc, from other cultures) only partly in place because I do not speak any other languages. Point 6 not in place – but I wonder who does do this? And remember only a suggestion not a must.

Enabling Environments – All in place although I don’t have ‘areas’ for example ‘set up a listening area’ I have a music system in the lounge and a portable children’s tape / CD player

Communication and Language: Understanding

A Unique Child –All in place

Positive Relationships  – All in place

Enabling Environments – All in place

Communication and Language: Speaking

A Unique Child – All in place

Positive Relationships – All in place

Enabling Environments – All in place – although children choose to not use home language in the setting

Literacy: Reading

A Unique Child – Only one not yet in place – suggesting how a story might end.

Positive Relationships – Only one not in place I don’t involve bilingual adults in story time (personally as I have 2 bilingual children in my setting who speak different languages – I can not see the point in this as only one child would understand the story. Parents of the bilingual children speak and read to their child in their home language at home. They have brought books from home to show us – but I can’t read them – we have duel language books in the setting and picture books in different langauges.

Enabling Environment – As don’t have ‘areas’ I don’t have books in areas – I have books – lots of them. At the moment we don’t have any child made books – but have in the past , and will in the near future. In case wondering – yes my environment is ‘rich in print’

Literacy: Writing

A Unique child – In place

Positive Relationships – In place – although the books of children is in fact the setting photo evidence book – the photos taken just about every day – and referred to just about every day!

Enabling Environments – Only one not in place – is encouraging children to use their phonic knowledge – and I won’t be doing this until the children ask me to help them spell words.

So there we are – after my refection on the areas of Communication and Language – and Literacy, I am very happy not only with the children’s development but also with the environment that I provide.

The lack of early phonics (as in formal stuff rather than as and when a child is ready and wants to) and the lack of laminated words are not disadvantaging the children at all. Furthermore the environment that I provide is meeting the requirements of EYFS 12.

If anyone is interested I found doing the self audit in these areas very useful – and may now repeat in my head – for the other areas of learning.


Posted September 29, 2012 by psw260259 in Revised EYFS

Laminated words, box labels and other things   10 comments

Following on from the Early Years 2012 conference – and the question posed by Helen Bromley about the use of laminated words  – I have been giving some thought to my personal view on the use of laminated words and other laminated things within my childminding setting.

However before I start – I should remind everyone that the children in my care are all 2 or 3 years of age.

Using my question approach – I have asked myself the following questions

WHO are these laminated cards for?

WHAT  do I hope to achieve by using them?

IS there any evidence that they improve outcomes for the children in my setting ?

So one at a time

Who are these laminated cards for?

My first response was – for the children

– so going on to question 2

What do I hope to achieve by using them ?

Again first response – to provide information and an environment that showed words had a purpose, were useful, to help the children become familiar with letters,words, sentences.

– and the third question

Is there any evidence that they improve outcomes for children?

Well if I am honest – No – not that I have noticed – in fact the children don’t notice the words, or use the words, or point to the words, or show their parents or their friends or me.

I have no evidence that the children in my care are using the words or even taking any notice of them, no evidence that this group of children who have now experienced laminated words since they were 12 months old are making any better progress in the area of literacy than any of the many children that I have cared for over the years (including my own children).


Lets ask myself the questions again

Who are the laminated cards for?

Well me! Not because I want to read them – I know what they say as I went to the trouble of printing and laminating them.

No  -I do it because I have been brain washed into thinking that they have a use. that parents and inspectors will like them, but my own evidence is that they do not improve outcomes for children.  The parents do not see most of them – as on wall in conservatory and although come into setting every day usually do not go and look at the displays.

And the inspectors – my view is that I should not do things just because others say I should  – I should only do things that safeguard the children or improve outcomes for children – and my evidence is that laminated word cards do neither.

So as of now the laminated words are to GO

Is my laminator redundant?

Far from it – I will still laminate pictures and the place mats (including the ones with words), the children’s self registration cards – number lines  and other picture based display items  – the big difference being that from now on I will be asking myself every time before I laminate something – WHY do I need to laminate this thing? – and – WIL it improve outcomes for the children?

My own children did not not experience a single laminated word at home or at play group. They came across a few  – very few – words displayed on the wall at school – and these were usually their name and class under their picture or piece of work – and a title for the display.

But in all cases – home, playgroup and school – there were pictures and art work displayed.

I have to ask – just where did the idea that laminated words were a good thing, come from?

I find myself thinking back to the environment provided for my own children and in the first few years that I was registered – and will be adding some more blogs about these thoughts, when I have time.

One benefit of all this thinking and recording of that thinking in my blog – when I do get my next inspection – I think  Ofsted will have to agree – I am a reflective practitioner.

Oh and the toy box labels?

I stopped using these nearly a year ago – because the children just took them off and I like to swap the boxes round and to add things, take things away, to change the continuous provision – and to include an element of surprise and discovery.

Posted September 28, 2012 by psw260259 in Random Things!

Monday 24th September – Heuristic Play? Loose Parts Play?   1 comment

A very wet and  windy day – what to do today? – I asked myself as I set out the environment and did my usual in my head planning.

Well of course the continuous provision is in place – but with inspiration from the Early Years 2012 conference fresh in my mind (and a huge pile of stuff sorted and ready to go) I want to offer some open ended play today.

My mindees are all used to playing independently and used to treasure basket and heuristic play – but I wanted something a bit more.

So I decided to offer a range of resources – some might term it loose parts play,some heuristic play – but I thought ‘What the heck?’ Do the children mind  – either what it is called or what is available? The answer of course is no – they will use their imagination, use the resources creatively and have fun – no matter what is made available and what it is called.

So having created this freedom with in my mind – and therefore within my in my head planning, I set about putting things in the play area – all sorts that could be moved between the continuous provision in the conservatory and the open ended play in what I call the ‘Middle Room’ (because in the middle of  the house between the lounge and the conservatory)

Rather than bore you with lists of what I put out – I thought I would just add a few photo’s and descriptions of the children’s play. Of course they did loads more – filling bags, putting things in and out of containers – making ‘collections and ‘guarding them from the others, taking things to the home area to cook, and mix – and on and on and on

Shona and Erin put on  socks – as you can see Shona managed to pull on the very long socks. Erin actually managed to get 4 pairs of socks on- on top of her own. Both girls sorted the socks into pairs and commented too big, too small – and both chose what they considered to be ‘pretty’ socks – showing no interest in the grey stripy ones or the ones with Thomas pictures

All the children built ‘towers’ with the ceramic discs – both with large discs and the smaller ones.



Shona made patterns and shapes with the discs


Erin used the hair rollers to make binoculars


They all used the assortment of brushes to pretend paint and to clean Penny’s furniture!


Posted September 27, 2012 by psw260259 in Daily blog from my childminding setting

Wednesday 19th September – A visitor with a tape measure!   1 comment

So there we  all were – getting on with breakfast and thinking about our visit later on to the arboretum – when I had a text message – ‘Phone Penny’ say 5 little people and Shona brings me my phone -‘ here you are Penny’ she says (the children don’t realise it but the bringing Penny her phone is all part of the emergency planning – they all know where Penny’s phone is kept and all take turns to bring in to Penny. Therefore if ever Penny falls, can not move and does not have the phone on her person – one of the children will bring it to her)

So who was texting? It was my friend Lynn – an ex LA colleague – I had been to lunch at her house during my week off  and she had mentioned she had started a little business making old fashion aprons – like the ones worn traditionally by butchers. I was very interested in this news because it just happened that I had been looking for aprons for my mindees – now they are too big for bibs – but still a bit messy at meal times.

So it was  Lynn  texting to see if she could pop over to measure the children for their aprons. Of course it was all right – I know Lynn has an enhanced CRB and she is a trusted friend –  she said she would be there within the hour.

I text Carol to say we would be late getting to the arboretum. Then prepared the children for our visitor. Alex decided straight away that he did not like the idea of an apron and did not want Lynn to measure him, but the four girls were very excited about Lynn’s visit.

As Lynn arrived I said quietly ‘4 keen girls, 1 reluctant boy’  – the girls did not hear as too busy saying hello, Alex did not hear because he was staying out of the way in the conservatory.

Lynn came in and said hello to everyone including Alex. I should perhaps mention that Lynn is an ex teacher and has lots of experience of this age group. So when I suggested that she takes the girls in the lounge and that Alex could stay in the conservatory playing – she understood fully.

So off skipped the girls with Lynn chatting away – ‘What’s that in your bag Lynn?’ ‘What you doing?’ ‘ I got pretty jumper’ ‘I got pretty hair’ and so on (the girls are into ‘pretty’ and ‘girly’ things at the moment).

Lynn showed them the roll of material – ‘Did they like it?’ They did – it was pretty. (had butterflies and cars and other pictures on it) Lynn showed them an apron that she had made – would it fit? she wondered out loud, Who is the tallest? She got the children to stand in line in height order. She measured the children with her tape measure to check they were in the right order, she tried the ready made apron on them for size – did it fit she asked? Too big, too small and so on.

Alex mean while was pretending to play -but  he was  listening to every word that Lynn said. So I asked him if he would like to sit on my lap and watch what Lynn was doing. He would. So in the end Alex did join in – he still did not want an apron – but thought that Archie would.

And Lynn went home with all the measurements to make 12 aprons (2 for each child), we set off to arboretum and await delivery of  the aprons in a week or two

Posted September 27, 2012 by psw260259 in Daily blog from my childminding setting

Wednesday 19th September – Another Rickety Rackety Bridge   Leave a comment

We are off to the arboretum again today – making the most of the better weather – as third ‘outing’ this week – Farm Park on Monday, Walk on Tuesday and now arboretum on Wednesday.

Carol is already at the arboretum when we arrive because I had  a few things that I needed to do first (see blog ‘Visitor with a tape measure) – but a quick call to Carol and she walked back to the entrance to meet us.

Straight to the picnic place that Carol had chosen – a bench at the end of a wide grass path – perfect.

When we had finished eating the children enjoyed running up and down the grass path and trying different methods of moving – including walking backwards – which some were very good at.

The children were keen to see the trains – we have heard lots while eating our picnic – so off we set through the arboretum – noticing signs of autumn (to link with Carol’s topic) some leaves starting to fall / change colour – but to be honest the children were more interested in getting to the train watching place.   On the way though the children did notice that one of the fairies had had an accident and their head had broken off – lots of ‘poor fairy’ but no real concern or desire to mend the fairy.

Once at the train watching spot the children sit on the picnic rug and wait and wait and wait – ‘where are the trains?’ they ask – to be honest Carol and I don’t know – so we help the children work out some possible reasons – the most popular is – the trains are having lunch.

So while they are waiting the children go off an explore – fully in sight of Carol and myself but wondering around looking at things that interest them. At first it is sticks – some of  the so called sticks are a bit more like small branches! Then they rediscovered the fallen tree – we have examined it before but of course to the children it is a new discovery because each time they spot new mini beasts and think of new things to do on and around the log.


Then in the distance we hear the familiar sound of the steam train and the children rush to look – well most do  – a couple are a bit slower and miss the arrival of the train on ‘our’ bit of track – but they see the departure.

Off we set down the long tree lined avenue – Shona finds some lovely leaves that interest her – and she shows them to Carol and to me.

We spot a large patch of mud – then notice some track marks in it – we wonder who or what made the tracks. ‘Train’ says Erin – logical really this is where we see trains – when we are at the arboretum. ‘No’ says Alex – ‘It tractor because it got wheels’ Carol and I both are amazed –  at 2yrs and 8m Alex is showing a level of understanding, and reasoning skills – including the use of the word ‘because’ that we had not expected.

Before we get as far as the fish pond we turn right to cross the bridge – straight away – without a word from me – my children look for the Troll  – Alex who does not like many things  that are new or make noises -says with glee ‘Where is the Troll – he might gobble me up’ With a bit of support they chant as they cross the bridge ‘Trip, Trap, Trip Trap over the Rickety, Rackety bridge’ Carol’s children follow behind (both younger than the children I care for) and all 7 children trip trap over the bridge several times – they come to the conclusion that the Troll is not there – and yes they have noticed it is not the same bridge that we crossed last time we were at the arboretum. They start to reason – where is the Troll – Having lunch? Gone shopping? Playing? All very reasonable guesses .


A quick run round the grass circular mown maze – and then it is time to go home

Posted September 26, 2012 by psw260259 in Daily blog from my childminding setting

Tuesday 18th September – A walk with Carol   Leave a comment

Regular readers of my blog with recognise the name Carol as she is often mentioned.

Carol and I do a lot of things together – we think a like, like many of the same things and enjoy each others company – and our mindees all get on together and all relate well to Carol and I.

I think it is really good for the children and for us adults to have these close relationships and to be able to do things together.

So on this particular day Carol came to my setting – not to come in and play – but to go for a walk to my nearest park. The children and I were ready when Carol arrived and so we all set off together – crossing the head of the cul de sac where I live and onto the footpath that runs between the railway line and the housing estate.

Carol and her children are focusing on looking for signs of autumn – we were not focusing on anything in particular – but in my head I did wonder if the children would comment on the viaduct bridge.

So off we set and because we support each other without any planning or even conversation – we started looking for signs of autumn – the thing we noticed most were berries – lots of them – different sizes, different colours  and of course with different names. The names were of no interest to the children – although they were familiar with the name blackberries – but the colours did interest them – there were shouts (and pointing) I see more red berries, I see more orange berries and so on.

My children did notice the viaduct bridge and the trains going over it – from a distance they thought Penny was taller than the bridge – but when we stood under the bridge they could see that the bridge was much taller. One of the children noted that the bridge was made of bricks and therefore was a strong bridge (nice link back to our work on the 3 Little Pigs).

And so we continued our walk to the park – which is set on a hill – bonus is the view of the top of the viaduct and therefore the trains – downside  a bit of a climb to the top – not that the children mind!

The children continued to develop their climbing skills  – up the bank to the slide, into  and onto pieces of equipment.



After about an hour we head back – as time for lunch and naps, we said our goodbyes to Carol and her minded children on my driveway and go our separate ways.

A lovely walk – and of course I ticked (in my head) lots of boxes including the need for out side play and physical activity – and many others linked to the 7 areas of learning.

Which is just as well because the thing I have not mentioned up to now is  – today was my  first day of providing  funded places for 3 year olds!

Posted September 26, 2012 by psw260259 in Daily blog from my childminding setting

Monday 17th September pm – Five go to the farm park   Leave a comment

Well more delay than usual in writing this – mainly because I wanted to record my feedback to the Early Years 2012 conference while it was still fresh in my mind.

Now to do a bit of catch up – there is already a blog about 17th September called Five visit Penny’s Doctor – and so picking up from the end of that blog where we had met up with Carol at the prearranged meeting point.

We drove to the Sandwell Valley  Park Farm  -details here

and I have to admit as we passed the hospital and streets of houses I did wonder if my Sat Nav was taking me to the right place! But it was – we turned in to a lane and suddenly the environment changed dramatically.  Green spaces, cows, adventure playground, a caravan park – and just beyond the caravan park – buildings that were the actual farm buildings.

We parked and all got out-  me and my five mindees, Carol and her two mindees and a friend that we were meeting for the first time and her two own children and one mindee – so quite a large group.

We walked from car park – across the caravan park – where the was an added free bonus – a gathering of dog owners training their dogs.

And so into the Farm Park – not sure if a special offer on that day – or not – but just £1.75 for myself and all 5 mindees !

What a lovely place for little ones – a courtyard area with plenty of animals for the children to see – we saw pigs, ponies, goat, rabbits, chickens, ducks, farm cat – and more than one pen of most animals  so no crowding round trying to see.

The children loved the steps that they could climb up and look into the pig sty. Archie was particularly impressed – no – not by the steps or even the pigs but by the pig poo!

Lots and lots of discussions between the children and questions for Penny. Some of the discussions were about the goat – was it Big Billy Goat gruff or Little Billy Goat Gruff – a joint decision was not reached – with each child having his or her own opinion.

Due to the courtyard arrangement the children were able to have  a certain amount of freedom to wander and look at the things that interested them. Brilliant.

All together though to leave the courtyard and to find the loo and the picnic area – both were good – especially the hand washing area by the picnic benches.

After our picnic we went for a little walk through the ‘cottage garden’ stopping to look for the fish and to run round and round the raised pond – and then onto the maze – rust right for little one not too high and and not too big. My mindees loved being allowed to go into the maze without Penny – but with our friends ‘big girl’.

Walking on a bit further we came to some giant chess boards and a old fashion wooden skittles range – both great fun and good for the development of those large muscles and gross motor skills.

Reluctantly we then had to make our way back to the car park – but we will return and explore further – especially as did not get to explore the adventure playground.

Posted September 26, 2012 by psw260259 in Daily blog from my childminding setting