Assessment and Planning
One of the most powerful forms of assessment takes place in the here-and-now. This happens as part of our ‘in the moment planning.’ It is when we notice something important about a child’s learning, then respond to it helping them to build upon their learning. This response can take different forms – we might:
- stand back, watch, wait and wonder;
- get involved to extend the learning, by joining in with the play, engaging in a conversation, providing resources, or showing the child a specific skill to help them accomplish what they want to do;
- reflect afterwards and bring in new resources or plan something special in response to what we noticed.
This type of assessment work is not written down. It often focuses on the key milestones on the way to the curricular goals. It shows how we can assess what children know and can do, and help them to progress, through our minute-by-minute interactions.
Adults meet daily to record and discuss individual children’s learning and then plan the environment to support the learning. The focus of our assessment is on clear and specific things that a child needs to be able to do, or needs to know. In order to do this practitioners need to understand how the different elements of the curriculum fit together to help children build their learning over time. Reflective discussions about practitioner’s key children after school and during planning meetings support this understanding.
Practitioners also need to have a secure understanding of child development, as well as the features of effective pedagogy. This will help with judging when to get involved and when to encourage and knowing how to scaffold children’s learning so we support them to keep trying without over-helping them.
Some children will need a lot more help and scaffolding to access that curriculum. This is a strength of the practitioners at Maidenhead Nursery School. We will notice what children can and can’t do. We are good at deciding when it will be helpful to step in and support a child through interacting and when it’s best to be encouraging without interrupting or interfering. It is important that we are certain that children are secure in what they know and can do, before introducing them to something new.
This curriculum learning must be balanced with learning that stems from the children’s interests. Plans must be flexible and go with children’s fascinations. Children learn a huge amount through the play they choose. We will help maximise this learning by making sure we provide a high-quality learning environment, indoors and outdoors. We can then sensitively get involved and extend the play. It is important that we have a systematic approach to evaluating the quality of the environment, and those interactions, so that we can build on what we do well, and improve where we need to. Regular audits of the learning environment ensure this takes place.
Practitioners meet weekly to discuss the children we are focusing on through in the moment planning that week. Each child is discussed with the whole team once per term. We discuss what the child knows, what they can do and any barriers they may have to learning. Together we decide what action to take next in order to support their next steps in learning. The majority of assessment and responsive action or teaching will happen in the here-and-now. Discussions at planning often involve discussing the actions practitioners have already taken, how successful they were and what will happen next. The teaching input will also be documented; the entry will describe what the practitioner did to support or extend the child’s learning and how the child responded.
All members of the team contribute to each child’s in the moment planning. Working as a team in this way enables us to build up a full picture of each child as children interact differently with different adults and may have made a strong attachment to an adult other than their key person. Key people feed back in the moment planning to parents and the parents add their contributions and the child’s voice which further help the team to gain an even greater understanding of each child’s fascinations and interests.
This responsive action is often linked to the provision planning. For example we may plan to keep a particular part of the provision the same to allow the child more time to explore and master a skill, or if the practitioner decides that a child has reached a particular milestone in a curricular goal we might introduce a new resource that allows the child to progress on to the next stage of learning. We might also plan for a part of the provision that is linked to a child’s particular fascination, such as making tickets to ‘take the train to Legoland’ together. Our plans are flexible to ensure both curricular and child-initiated learning is included.
We plan in enrichment activities throughout the year such as trips to the theatre, autumn and spring walks, visits from drummers workshops, Indian dancers, drama workshops, farm visits and plenty of gardening, forest school activities and life cycle observations. These activities provide us with a starting point to further explore the world around us and all of its diversity and wonder, they enrich opportunities for teaching and learning.
Phonics and mathematics are systematically taught during adult led group times as well as in context naturally through our high quality play-based learning environment.
Curricular learning weaves in and out throughout the year and can be picked up and worked on together at multiple points. A curricular goal doesn't need to be the sole focus of the work the child and practitioner do together week in week out, unless the child is deeply motivated to return to the learning again and again, in which case we would follow the child’s lead.
Practitioners record significant observations or ‘wow moments’ in the child’s learning journey folder as well as a photographic record of each child’s first week. The aim of these records is to ‘bring the child’s learning to life.’ The child’s achievements and perseverance are made clear and they take great pride in sharing their folders with their friends, the nursery adults and their families.
We track and monitor children’s well-being and involvement throughout the year using the Leuven scales. This helps us to identify any children needing extra support, for example with attachment, friendships or managing their feelings. Alongside this we track and monitor all children’s communication, language and speech development to ensure that additional input is provided where need. These ongoing observations and assessments are shared regularly with parents.