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Early Years Teaching News Jan 2020

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Wednesday, 15 January, 2020

Deepen your pedagogical thinking

Welcome to our Early Education Early Years Teaching News. I have been writing issues of Early Years Teaching News for over two years and we thought we would start the new year with a Blog issue to share far and wide across the sector. Whether you are starting out in EYFS or have been leading pedagogy for many years, I hope there is something to provoke food for thought, inspiration, change, reflection to continue your professional development and deepen your pedagogical thinking.

Time to think?

I have been challenged and inspired by the writing of Nancy Kline recently. The essence of her writing is that we can find the answers within ourselves if we are given enough time to THINK in an effective, conducive environment. A thinking environment requires patience, good listeners, and time. It could be worth considering this reflective question as you start 2020

  • How can I make enough time and space for myself to think about my values and pedagogy?

Nancy's theory has devised The ten components for an effective thinking environment. This aligns with coaching and being enabled to think through being listened to, which can empower and help others to work things out themselves.

In leadership?

This article on Nancy Kline's website Catalytic Converter describes the process of using a Thinking Environment through a coaching conversation. Supervision in the Early Years is a statutory requirement in the EYFS (in England) - see the Statutory framework for the early years foundation stage (2017) page 21. Perhaps you could use this time for coaching or to support your thinking and that of your team. 

Getting into the flow: a Q&A with Dr. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi offers some great thinking about the concept of "flow". Reading his book Flow: the classic work on how to achieve happiness impacted my practice and thinking my work significantly during my Masters study. Mihaly describes the conept of flow being "the state in which people are so involved in an actiivty that nothing else seems to matter; the experience itself is so enjoyable that people will do it even at great cost, for the sheer sake of doing it." (page 4). He also says "It is true that if one finds flow in work, and in relations with other people, one is well on the way toward improving the quality of life as a whole."  (page 144). Csikszenentmihalyi's TED talk Flow the secret to happiness explains his thinking and concept further (a 17.5 minute listen). 

It is interesting to note that Ferre Laevers developed his theories of wellbeing and involvement from this concept of flow, and this Nursery World article Early years pioneers: Mihaly Cszikszentmihalyi provides a useful critique. This article 8 ways to create flow according to Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi provides futher information and discusses internal and external motivation. 

New to early years?

Welcome to early years, and I am glad that you are taking time to read this blog. The early years and working with young children is a crucial phase of lifelong learning and we are very privileged to be nurturing and teaching these youngest children. I hope that you can pick from the articles below to support your thinking and pedagogy as you start out. To support your thinking, here are two reflective questions for you to consider

  1. How am I supported and encouraged in my practice? Supervision in the Early Years is a statutory requirement in the EYFS (in England) - see the Statutory framework for the early years foundation stage (2017) page 21. You could use this time to support your thinking and learning. 
  2. How can I best nurture the children I work with? The Keyperson approach in early years (a statutory requirement of the EYFS) promotes and ensures that this underpinning awareness of attachment needs in young children and when used well can support co-regulation, transitions and separations well, thus nurturing healthy self regulation when children are ready. The keyperson approach: positive relationships with children in the early years is a free booklet that will support your learning and practice in this area. 

Thinking about curriculum?

Creative development: music and singing

Music accesses many parts of the brain and we should include much musicality in our early years provisions and leadership. Here is a piece to help to inspire you to bring singing into your provision and curriculum: What happens inside us when we sing? (a 4.5 minute listen) from BBC Ideas. Music Development Matters is a free resource for early years covering ideas and provision to support and nurture musical development. There is an interactive resource online from Youth Network Music including this section on Vocalising and singing and the wonderful video of Professor Colwyn Trevarthen talking about Pre-birth to three: Professor Colwyn Trevarthen - Musicality of language from Education Scotland (a 2.5 minute listen). 

Those of you who have not yet listened to our first #PedPod podcast will find Anni McTavish's reflections and thoughts on creativity very useful - the Creativity and critical thinking pedpod is 30 minutes of food for thought about creative thinking, developing and supporting creativity in our practice and in our settings. Now on iTunes too!

Creativity and possibility in the early years by Professor Anna Craft is useful for developing the idea of 'possibility thinking' that Anni refers to in her podcast and this book excerpt Developing creative learning through possiblity thinking with children aged 3-7 by Anna Craft, Teresa Cremin, Pamela Burnard and Kerry Chappell will feed your creative thinking further.

Personal, social  and emotional development: executive function and self-regulation

Executive Function refers to a set of skills that enable self control, thinking ahead, planning, following directions and persistence, for example. We all know that executive function develops rapidly between ages three to five and this infographic explains more What is executive function and how does it relate to child development? from the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University. They have a really comprehensive guide too: A guide to executive function. This important recent document Getting it right in the early years foundation stage: a review of the evidence cites many references to the importance of both executive function and self regulation in early childhood (see pages 18-19). 

Physical development: being outdoors

Juliet Robertson from Creative Star wrote an interesting blog recently about her visit to Kierna Corr's school: Valuing the outdoors in the early years. Kierna is a nusery teacher and also an Early Education Trustee and it is great to read about her practice in print, inspiring us to be outside in all weathers and its importance for young children. Those of you that read our news often, will know about Kathryn Solly's Outside in all weathers blog that we published almost a year ago. It accompanies a page all about Outside play and learning which has a long list of resources, references and reading to support your outdoors provision and practice.

Early Education have developed an Exploring the wider world project in Stoke on Trent with their Private, Voluntary and Independent (PVI) settings which includes many freely accessible resources and ideas that are transferable across the country. The resources include Benefits of using the local environmentTaking 2 year olds out, Involving families, Benefits of walking, Cultural Capital and much more.

Reading, writing and storytelling

I enjoyed watching The Tiger Who Came to Tea over the Christmas break. I also re-watched We're Going on a Bearhunt and The Snowman and others. I thought about how many wonderful picture books there are and how we can engage children in so many ways in a love of books and reading - we can even go on Gruffalo trails now in the forests! The children we work with can be inspired by our role modelling and love of books, stories and writing. This article: The importance of fantasy, fairness and friendship in children's play is a refreshing and interesting interview with Vivian Gussin Paley and her beliefs about play.

The Grufflo website is full of activities and songs (with signs) that you could use to support your practice. Michael Rosen's website has a section on his videos of poems, one of which is the delightfully performed Chocolate cake (warning - you may feel you have to go and make chocolate cake after watching this - just like I did!).

As many of you know, there is also more information about picture books on our website.

Attachment, the brain and neuroscience

Being trauma-informed and attachment aware is now an important part of pedagogy and practice. You can increase your knowledge and understanding in this area by looking up the free resources from the Beacon House website

Listening to Dr Stephen Porges: What is the polyvagal theory? (a 4 min listen) will help to support your understanding about stress states, triggers, fight and flight and the best conditions for children's learning. It underlines the importance of having safe adults for young children to learn and be supported to co-regulate. More informative videos can be found on Dr Stephen Porges' website.

Why attachment-aware teaching matters for every child is an helpful read for those who work with children of all ages, and also very relevant to early years, and the keyperson approach. This link includes the TES article and Podogogy podcast. Pam Jarvis writes 4 things teachers need to know about attachment theory, also in the TES. For more information and to develop your practice in this area, we have written an Attachment and Trauma Aware Pedagogic Page with many more links and references. 

The Keyperson approach in early years (a statutory requirement of the EYFS) promotes and ensures that this underpinning awareness of attachment needs in young children and when used well can support co-regulation, transitions and separations well, thus nurturing healthy self regulation when children are ready. The keyperson approach: positive relationships with children in the early years is a free booklet that will support your learning and practice in this area. 

Experiences build brain architecture by the Center for the Developing Child at Harvard University (a 2 min listen) shows us how important early experiences are in a child's developing brain. Our work in this area is crucial. This video is one of the Three core concepts in early development, a very helpful series for early educators. Their website has a useful section about Brain architecture - did you know that in the early years, "more than one million new neural connections form every second"? 

What is epigenetics is an important infographic and the page may well influence our thinking about nature and nurture theories in early childhood. 

And finally....

If you have experienced Frozen II fever or have fans of Frozen around you, here is something for you: CBeebies Bedtime Stories Idina Menzel - Robin's Winter Song. Many of you will know that Idina sang "Let It Go", and you can find many more celebrities reading picture books on the CBeebies iPlayer page. Robin's Winter Song features in the Booktrust's Top 10 picture books for winter and Love my Books have a page including a review and ideas related to the book - plus a video of a real robin singing - such a beautiful song.

Thank you for reading 

Have a great start to the new year and new term and I hope that you feel encouraged and inspired to keep on doing your great work for young children. Please do keep in touch by finding me on email or Twitter and let me know what else you would like to read about.

All the best to you this month.

Cathy Gunning (Pedagogic Lead for Early Education)

This free to access blog is part of a series of Early Years Teaching newsletters produced by Early Education, in association with the following Early Years Teaching Schools. If you have found this collection of links useful for your pedagogical thinking, you can subscribe to receive them every month into your inbox by becoming a member of Early Education or by joining one of the Teaching School Alliances below.