Moving away from planning in Early Years

We often get asked the question about ‘planning’ “How do you start to move away from a planned timetable?”

FIRSTLY our important piece of advice would be …..

Don’t just stop all your planning on one day and hope and pray for the best. Releasing yourself from the binds of planning may require a weaning-off process. It requires a transitional process. Let’s face it, moving away from a structured, well-documented and visible plan of activities and a timeline of the day's events ( linked to outcomes) can offer educators (false) security and the confidence that areas of learning are being covered! That evidential proof ( on paper ) can verify to anyone who asks (the ‘powers that be’) that children are learning and that adults have planned how to fit learning into each day. It’s orderly, it’s documented, structured and tangible.

So to release oneself from such a document takes time.

Let’s face it for decades our education system has demanded we need to PROVE ourselves. PROVE what we do based on how well we document it! But the question is “Is that plan, the one you spent hours documenting, really a TRUE representation of the learning that is going to happen today or that’s actually happened so far this week ?” Or is it just a hope, a dream, a wish, a crystal ball reading?

Actually a complete waste of your precious time?

This image is from ‘Dance with Me in the Heart’
Is it really a true representation of the quality teaching, learning and play opportunities that happen in the day? Does that pre-written plan ‘accurately’ capture all the impromptu moments that you the educator, discussed, explained, demonstrated, supported, praised, encouraged, modelled, asked, and engaged? All the moments you paused, knelt down, where you were present and connected, talked to, chatted to, supported a child?

All the quality teaching moments that happened unplanned and in the moment with a child?

Does it also effectively capture the undirected free-play moments where the child is in charge of their own learning? Where they were exploring, investigating, inquiring. Where they were negotiating, analysing, hypothesising. Where they were accessing risk? Negotiating a challenge? Working something out? Collaborating, conversing, constructing, creating, imagining and building on past experiences and ideas?

Where the child was lost in the flow of play and learning was based on their own individual learning styles, urges thinking and stage of development?

Or are we saying none of that free play matters? That learning only happens when WE the adults have documented it, when WE the adults have planned it! When WE the adult are in charge of what a child learns?

To go back to the question, To step away from planning requires time and confidence for educators to know and fully understand PLAY.

To reframe thinking and take focus away from us the educator, our supremacy OUR ideas and OUR predictions.

To stop focusing on what WE want to achieve, what WE want children to learn, the learning WE WANT to fit into the day and INSTEAD appreciate that each child will take onboard their OWN learning personal to THEM! ( we cannot predict that )

To fully recognise that through undirected, self-initiated play children WILL be learning. To appreciate that learning Is NOT orderly, neat, and completely the same for every child in the group

A one-fits-all approach ( a planned timetable ) is not a true representation of the incredible play, and learning that happens throughout the day.

The FIRST step to letting go of planning, is to notice the holistic learning that’s happening throughout your provision. To regain and gain trust in your own understanding of child development, and brain development. To PLAY.

As you start to let go of planning, but still need to document and prove yourself to those pesky powers that be. Try recording learning retrospectively instead! Document what ACTUALLY happened instead of trying to guess in advance. ( slowly you can start to wean yourself off excessive paperwork and spend more time with the children instead)

Let’s look at the photo below! Could you have predicted this on your planning sheet?

No! Because this isn’t about US. It's all about the child!

The child/children are fully in control of their learning!

It’s individual to them.

The girl on the crate will be learning something completely different to the boy holding her hand. The boy's experience and learning will be different to the girls! It’s unique to them! So the question asked, “How do you start to step away from planning?”

Shift the focus from what WE want children to learn and recognise it is not about US!

At the forefront of everything. The child first, child-centric, child-focused,

Individuals, unique, how do we view the child? A helpless individual who requires US to teach them something?

OR capable, competent learners?

“Be careful what you teach it might interfere with what they are learning” Magda Gerber

Here is a photo of our ‘planning in the moment‘ board where we actively record quality teaching and learning moments on A3 sheets of paper, using clipboards that can be taken down off the board.

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