CONTRIBUTORS Behave yourself!

Continuing our series in association with Edge Hill University looking at Early Years, ALICIA BAYO-BLANCO, Early Years Lecturer and WTEY Programme Leader, this month looks at “adequacy” in an Early Years context.

Learning outside the classroom

This month regular Education Today contributor KIRSTY BERTENSHAWrevisits and updates a concept she has covered previously – creative ideas for learning outside the classroom.

This is a concept that has featured in this column before, but as budgets are tighter than ever, creative ideas for learning outside the classroom provide a free alternative. Outside spaces are for more than just PE and lunchtime! Spending time outside is beneficial for many reasons - exposure to

Saarni (1999) refers to “adequacy” as the ability to connect with others whilst developing a sense of self-worth. Interestingly, all cultures develop as a result of people coming together to create a community. Cole et al. (2006), Vinden (1999), Camras et al. (2014), De Leersnyder et al. (2011) and Dunsmore & Halberstadt (2009) amongst others, suggest that behaviours that are acceptable in one type of community within a culture but might not be so in another. Each community develops its own beliefs but, in the end, they are all based on a sense of belonging and a sense that members matter to one another. In order to connect with others, it is important to understand what levels of ‘adequacy’ different members are bringing into the community. In an Early Years setting this Cycle of Belonging begins when children connect with practitioners and other children and they feel they matter to others. If this is how children can develop “adequacy”, perhaps the answer is to use LOVE in order to promote adequate behaviour. Whilst researching the use of LOVE as a behaviour management

strategy, I came across the Love and Logic approach developed by Jim Fay and Charles Fay in the late 1970’s. This approach suggests that practitioners may develop strategies unique to each community based on the principles of: 1. Perseverance and enhancement of self-worth. 2. Teach children how to acknowledge and solve problems. 3. Adult and child share the control during the decision-making process. 4. Define consequences which emphasise empathy and warmth. 5. Focus on developing strong relationships between the adult and the child.

An environment that enables interactions will also offer children

opportunities to develop self-worth and as a result emotional maturity to solve problems (big or small). Building a tower, pouring water through a funnel or accepting that today it is somebody else’s turn to be at the front of the line are some of the examples of situations that occur on a daily basis in an Early Years setting. Children need to learn to acknowledge emotions as they arise in different social contexts and our role as practitioners is to help them develop the ability to self-regulate. The importance of supporting the development of self-worth through

strong relationships based on positive interactions is also highlighted in these principles. The idea of comforting children in a loving and caring manner offers a canvas of calmness where logic can be applied. We can reason with children if we show them affection first. Whether we use the Love and Logic approach to behaviour management or simply develop our own based on LOVE, it is essential to focus on the development of empathetic connections. Saarni (1999) explains that when we try to understand somebody else’s emotional experience whilst we consider our own beliefs and values, we are able to make our interactions with others much more powerful. The question we need to answer is, “are we doing enough, as Early Years practitioners, to support the development of empathy in young children?”


sunlight improves mood and allows the body to make vitamin D. Fresh air combined with gentle exercise increases the oxygen reaching the brain, allowing students to feel more alert and therefore increase their learning ability. A simple way to use the outside space with classes is reading outside.

A bandstand is ideal but any space where students can sit comfortably is fine. Be mindful of outdoor temperatures as coats and gloves may be required, or water in the warmer weather. Playgrounds often have markings on them such as hopscotch grids or

number grids. These can be combined with maths lessons - use current markings in playground to calculate some simple sums e.g. hopscotch grids for simple addition and subtraction. Alternatively, use chalk to make your own relevant markings e.g. timetable grids. Whole class division can be taught by getting students to organise themselves into groups. eg. 30 divided by 3 requires 10 groups of 3 children. This includes social interactions and collaborative skills as well as the academic knowledge. Science can also be taught outside - as well as ecology, the

playground can be used for sound experiments bouncing sound waves off walls, modelling atoms, compounds and even solar systems using the students themselves. Carry out tree surveys, plant real seeds and watch real plants grow and develop instead of just teaching the theory. Nature hunts in hedgerows and observing weather patterns and changing seasons are in the national curriculum and can be outside activities too. Simple wind speed measuring systems can be constructed from plastic cups and pencils, allowing students to make a record of the wind speed every day, which can then be displayed as a graph. Alternatively, collect the rainwater and measure the amount of rain per day. Compare data – does it rain more on windy days? Maybe even take part in wildlife surveys such as the RSPCA’S Big Garden Birdwatch this January. Outside areas are also great for drama and creativity. Art classes can

be held on the field where paint spills are less of a mess to tidy up. Crayon rubbings of outside spaces can be used for textures, and leaves and twigs can be collected to make colleges or camouflaged animal pictures. Music classes can be held outside, exploring the acoustic properties of different parts of the outdoor areas. Make and design treasure hunts using clues, themed to whichever

topic is being taught. E.g. place number or letters around the area and then have a multiple-choice clue that corresponds to the markings. Or use the student’s English classes to write poems with clues in them to find the hidden treasure in the school grounds. Why not stage historic battles outside when teaching history? Or

become explorers and imagine sailing across to new lands, making new discoveries. Learn languages outside the classroom by identifying objects in the corridors or outside…. the only limit to the possibilities is your imagination or the weather!

Kirsty is the founder of STEMtastic, an education consultancy with a focus on Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths

January 2020

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