## Thursday, 9 May 2013

### Racing to understand place value in EYFS

Place value is a fundamental concept in our number system, but it tends to fall between the cracks until children reach KS1. In fact many children struggle with it well into KS2. The National Strategies research project - 'Children who get ‘stuck’ at level 2C in mathematics' states place value as a key barrier to children progressing to the all important level 2B. To quote from the report...

"Most children were not able to recognise and state that there are 52 objects altogether in a set containing 50 objects that were arranged in 5 groups of tens alongside another 2 individual objects."

"In a test question, none of the children working at level 2C could identify that 37 has 3 tens; this compared with 60% of the children working at level 2B."

Neither Development Matters or the EYFS framework makes any mention of place value, so you could justifiably think 'it's not my problem' if this is where you work. However I hope that my previous post on counting shows how it can be successfully embedded from Nursery onwards.

However, the activity I set up today was never intended to tackle place value...

It started off as an attempt to engage a group of boys in number recognition. It's a group of boys that are always together, usually dressed as superheroes, and whose interaction with adults is mainly limited to 'can you put this Batman cloak on for me', 'can you make me another Ben 10 watch' and 'tcheew' (you know, the sound that Spiderman makes when he throws a web at a baddie).

They were intrigued when the giant cardboard tube appeared, and no doubt had ideas of their own before I placed it on a slant between the bridge and a table. I sat down at the table with pen, paper, and a box of cars. Batman came up to me and spoke...

"What are you making?"

"I'm not sure yet Batman...what do you think?"

"I'm not Batman, you are"

"Why do you think I'm Batman?"

"Because you say 'Batman here' when you answer the phone from the office"

"Oh yeah, I was only joking. You're the real Batman right?"

"I am....can I have a car?"

"Ok....take one for Robin as well"

"Who's Robin?"

So off he went with the cars. He gave one to his friend and they did the obvious thing....what else would 3 and 4 year old boys do when supplied with some toy cars and a cardboard tube set up on a slant!?

After a few goes each the next natural step occurred...

"Mine went further than yours"

"No it didn't"

For me, Early Years teaching is all about intervention. You set up a learning opportunity, let the children lead it, and then intervene at the key moments that can lead them to learn something new.

I intervened...

"Can I draw a number line so you can see which car goes the furthest?"

"What's a number line?"

"I'll show you"

So now we had the learning opportunity set up...digits in place, and a motivation to use them.

Five minutes later there were about 15 children lining up to take part. Some recognised a few digits, some all, and some none. Some of those that knew all took on the role of teaching others (natural referees!), and I sat back and watched. It soon became time to intervene again...

"The cars keep falling off the end, we need more numbers!"

It wasn't my idea, this was a 3 year old girl intervening.

I brought out another table and extended the number line for them. I added the blue Numicon pieces at the side to represent the tens (with arrows drawn to show which numbers they related to), thereby supporting them in decoding the bigger numbers. They are familiar with counting in tens from our counting sessions, and I modelled how to match the Numicon with the tens digit, and then how to add on the units digit (establishing place value). The race was on again...

One boy was very proud that his car had almost reached the end of the number line. I asked him what number it was. He said 77. I was pleased that he had linked a big number with the end of the number line, and started to show him how to use the Numicon to decode 31. He was somewhat ahead of me...

"I know that's 31. My car is number 77. That would be 7 Numicons."

"Wow, that's very impressive!"

Using the National Strategies research quoted above, that's a piece of level 2B knowledge that we wouldn't expect to see for another 3 years or so. This is not a child genius (generally working within 40-60 months), and I haven't done anything particularly time consuming or exceptional to support him. However he was presented with the opportunity to piece together his existing knowledge and to 'construct' his own learning. It's served as a reminder to me that there's no harm in planning with 'unrealistically' high expectations in mind!

## Tuesday, 30 April 2013

### How to use the Revised EYFS Profile...from the horse's mouth!

I attended a course today entitled 'Implementing and Moderating the Revised EYFS Profile'...

The details of the Revised profile are only just becoming clear, and with deadlines for data submission looming it seemed like a good idea to find out how it's supposed to be done!

My expectations for the course were not too high, but it soon became apparent that the man delivering it, Jan Dubiel, is a key player in the Early Years world. He was in fact responsible for delivering the previous EYFS Framework, and was on the approval panel for the revised version. He is the man responsible for coming up with the 80/20 rule for child initiated/teacher led! We were lucky enough to be hearing it from 'the horse's mouth' as it were, and I took the opportunity to get answers to many of the questions we no doubt all have...to be fair, Jan answered most before there was any need to ask.

I thought it would be useful to share some of Jan's key points (I won't repeat things that are clearly stated in the DfE documentation)...

Evidence & Documentation
Only record what is significant for that child. Record what you will otherwise forget.

Observations should not be carried out on a planned or timetabled basis, we should respond to whatever the children are doing/learning.

There is no need to gather 3 pieces of evidence or similar for every learning step (apparently it's a myth that there ever was...Jan would know, as he is the one who wrote it!)

There are two types of observations...

Instantaneous : Recording the 'wow' moments.

Detached (what we might call extended observations) : No need to do these regularly or for every child. Be careful, as they usually won't tell you anything new about the child. They can be useful for the 'invisible' children that might otherwise go unnoticed (the ones that don't grab us by the arm all the time!)

The majority of evidence should come from child initiated activities, as this demonstrates that they can apply their learning in a different context to that which they were taught in.

It's OK, or even good, to intervene when observing a child in order to extend their learning at a key point where they might otherwise lose interest.  It is also OK to move them on and enable them to demonstrate their new skill/knowledge.

It is clear that children should only be assessed against the ELG's as 'Emerging', 'Expected', or 'Exceeding' when completing the profile. However, if a child has moved beyond 40-60months before profile time, then they can be assessed as 'working within' the relevant ELG.

It is a statutory requirement to prepare children for the ELG's (the implication is that ELG's need to be built into planning from an early stage).

The ELG's must not be split up into their constituent sentences. Assessing is about the 'best fit', not ticking off all the parts.

The characteristics of learning assessment should be 5-6 sentences in total.

OFSTED & Demonstrating Progress
Despite the fact that the ELG's are only assessed at the end of Year R, OFSTED require schools to demonstrate the progress that children make. Although Development Matters is non-statutory, OFSTED are largely expecting it to be used as a framework for assessment within schools, particularly to assess children on entry...

On entry to Nursery, 3yr olds should be secure in 22-36 months, and be working within 30-50 months.

On entry to Year R, children should be secure in 30-50 months, and be working within 40-60 months.

Anything less is below age-related expectation.

On-entry assessments should focus on the Prime areas, and be completed by October half-term. Don't judge the first two weeks, as this is assessing the children's response to transition.

Despite plenty of analysis, no correlation has been found between EYFS data and performance at the end of KS1 or KS2. Therefore, no sensible predictions or targets can be made for children at the end of EYFS.

Finally, the pilot for the revised EYFS Profile showed that 41% of children reached a good level of achievement (this low figure is due to raised expectations, particular in literacy and maths). We have been set a target of 75%.......I suspect we'll all be keeping our heads down when the national results are published in October....Gove will no doubt be blaming us for the poor results, but who will the press turn on!?

Jan Dubiel is the National Development Manager for Early Excellence. www.earlyexcellence.com

## Thursday, 29 November 2012

### EYFS - Turning a face slap into a question.

A new school year has well and truly started, and my 2 classes of 26 children are settling in nicely...

No more tears at drop off...tussles over favourite toys diminishing...friendships developing.

Initial assessments done...an Ofsted visit successfully completed.

Lots of niggling issues in my head...why hasn't the new EYFS Framework reduced my paperwork?...why am I now doing more assessments than ever?...do I really have to start singing Christmas songs now!

But one issue in smacking me in the face at the moment....literally.

We have a language issue. Ofsted noted it, and my Development Matters assessments show the children to be an average of 9 months behind. To find out more I tested the children using the BPVS Standardised vocab test, and discovered they are a year behind on average.

The problem is clear on an average day in class. Many children use gesture to support communication, and that's a good thing. However, the way children demand attention seems to be getting a little out of hand. Getting your sleeves pulled, your shoulders tapped, and even your feet trodden on is all part of the job. But when they start actually grabbing your chin and turning your head to face them, or even slapping your face with a giggle you know you've got a problem! Basic manners and etiquette can be taught, and we are getting there slowly, but I think this hints at a deeper problem.

Keen to look more deeply into the issue and bearing in mind Ofsted's March 2012 report on 'Raising Standards in Literacy' (Which suggests that Nurseries and Primary Reception Classes should develop structured programs to develop communication skills), I set up some workshops...

I ran 2 small workshops with family groups of children (from Nursery to Year 6), to see how older siblings help their younger ones learn language. I observed them helping their Nursery siblings to read books, write their names, and during 'small world' play. It's hardly a professional
research project, but it revealed two key points :-

1/. The family groups with poorer language skills interact mainly with 'directive' language, whereas the family groups with good language skills use questioning effectively.

2/. The family groups with good language skills used context and 'real life experience' when interacting. e.g "Do you remember Tilly when we stayed at the farm?...she was a
sheep." The other groups don't seem to have a bank of real life experiences to use as context.

Hence I'm now focusing on developing questioning skills in Nursery, as this provides a starting point for a learning conversation that many of the children do not have.

You could say that my vision of success has moved from...

A child that knows what all the farm animals are called.

To...

A child that knows they don't know what they are called, but has the confidence and language skills to ask.

Teaching always involves striking a balance between the passing on of knowledge and the development of skills, but I wonder if we lean a little too far towards passing on knowledge in Early Years? We often complain that parents are introducing their children to school without basic object based vocabulary such as animal names, shapes, or even colours. We should fill in these gaps, but by doing so are we using up valuable time that could be spent dealing with the bigger language problem?

And as for giving them more real life experience....you want me to take fifty two 3 and 4 year old's to a farm?...not this term!

## Monday, 19 March 2012

### The lost poo.

We all love a bit of toilet humour, but it doesn't often happen for real...

I suspected that one of my 3 year olds needed a nappy change, so had a quick peek down the back of his nappy to confirm the source of the aroma. I took his hand and lead him into the changing area, but was distracted by a phone call before I could get started. My TA kindly took over.

The phone call ended and I moved back towards the changing area. My TA came out and stood in the doorway...

'It's alright...force alarm, must have been wind.'

'Err no, I saw it actually.'

'Saw what?'

'You know, a poo.'

'No...there was nothing there.'

This was the point at which I realised two things...
1. The poo was missing.
2. It couldn't have been far away, because I could smell it.

The look on my TA's face indicated that she had come to the same conclusions.  Our eyes moved downwards to track the source of the aroma, and there it was...the poo...neatly poised on the end of her shoe.

## Sunday, 26 February 2012

### Getting what you want when you're 3!

I recently had an intake of 3 year old's in my class, which has taken us back to basics in some areas...snack time in particular...

I'm a great advocate for having a communal snack time in Nursery.  It's a good opportunity for the children to learn social and communication skills, and to help develop a sense of community through adult lead discussions.

Turn taking is one of the first social skills that comes into focus...

No matter how many times you explain how the process works, the temptation is far too great when you're 3.  The temptation to get off your seat and go and help yourself to a juicy apple and a carton of milk.  My TA's and I have developed a 'zonal defence' system that ensures all the runners are intercepted and returned to their seats with a minimum of fuss.  It takes about 3 days for the runners to learn that their attempts are futile.

Next they move on to the 'I want one' stage...

Despite the routine of milk and fruit being passed around the table, it seems likely when you're 3, that standing up and excitedly shouting ' I want one' will get you an apple more quickly.  Of course it doesn't work, and the shouts are ignored by adults until the fruit bowl is within reach.  This leads to the introduction of the concepts 'please' and 'thank you'.  Some children already use these concepts effectively to get what they want, some get too excited and forget them, and some...well actually one in particular...

'I want one'

'I'm sure you do. How do you ask for one nicely?'

'I want an apple.'

'How do we get things that we want?'

'I want an apple.  Do I have to count.  1.....2.....'

Seems modelling behaviour is a very effective strategy!

## Thursday, 2 February 2012

### Getting stuck with stickers in Nursery!

There are some things that I just can't seem to nail in Nursery...things that ought to be easy...things that all teachers do without trouble...things that I used to manage perfectly well in Year 3...things like lining the class up in pairs...or calling out the register...and using stickers as rewards.

I made my first attempt at using stickers in week one...

I decided to use stickers to motivate the class at tidy-up time...didn't put much thought into it...didn't need to did I?...can't be difficult.

'Everyone who tidies up will get a sticker!'. The class cheers.

No problem, easy. All I had to do now was remember who did a good job. I wrote about ten names on a post-it note. Less than half the class...better than previous days, but not great...that was why I needed to use stickers though!...they'll learn.

We all sat down on the carpet once the room was tidy, and I started...

'Who thinks they should get a sticker then?'

Every hand goes up...'Me, me, me, I do' etc.

'Ok, let's settle down. What did we have to do to get a sticker?'

Blank faces and silence.

'Tidy up'...at last, one child managed to remember. This triggered the memory for a few more, but most looked baffled. Fine, let's carry on...

'Ok, well I have a list here of the people who did a great job.  They're going to get a sticker!'

Everybody cheers, and there's plenty of chatter..'Yessss...I'm getting a sticker, i did it, i did it' etc.

Sensing that things were going slightly pear shaped, I added...

'Don't worry if you don't get a sticker, because you can get one tomorrow by doing really good tidying up!'

Sorted...let's get on with it.

I decide to make a small ceremony out of it. I call out the first name and enthusiastically beckon the child to come forward. She stands up and comes to the front.  I call the second name, but the first one wants their sticker right now...they're trying to grab it from the sheet of stickers I'm holding. I decide that's ok and give them the sticker.

By this time half the class is standing up and moving towards the front for a sticker. I start regaining control...aided by the second child who is pushing some of the others back saying 'it's my turn'.  I settle the second child down, and gently remind the class that not everyone will get one, and manage to get them sitting down again. Alarm bells are ringing in my head, but I've come too far to stop now!

I call the second child out again and give the sticker. All's going well again. I decide to speed things up whilst I'm ahead, and begin calling out the rest of the names. By the time I get to the fifth name most of the class are on their feet and moving towards the front again. Some are jumping up and down with excitement. Some are coming directly towards me, at speed, with outstretched arms...

I recall my first experience of trying to do the register by calling names out...a random mixture of complete silence and yesses from children who may or may not have the name that I called out. The process ended up with a list of ticked names that bore no relation whatsoever to who was actually in the class that day! This was a similar experience, except that this time they had a goal...a shiny gold sticker.

Within a few seconds the situation was indeed pear shaped...children grabbing at the sticker sheet...children grabbing at stickers already on someone else's jumper...'it's mine'...'I want one'...'give it back'...and then the tears started...tears because they didn't have a sticker...tears because someone else had their sticker...tears because their sticker didn't stick any more.

Some of the tears lasted until hometime, but that wasn't very long. It had seemed a good idea to have the ceremony just before we put our coats on, to leave on a high!...seeing the parents beginning to queue outside led me to reflect that this probably hadn't been a good idea.

Nothing stops tears like a sticker. Especially when you're in a hurry. So there we were, everyone had a sticker...some had theirs for tidying up...some had theirs because they'd stolen it from someone else...and some had one to stop them crying. I'd lost track of who and why, but they all went home happy. Stickers had been devalued. I needed a new plan for tidy-up time...

## Saturday, 28 January 2012

### Counting to 100 and understanding place value in Nursery

Most children get the hang of counting to ten without too much trouble. It's usually learned through a mixture of nursery rhymes, games, playing with objects and lots of practice!  Many parents do a great job in getting their children to this point before they start attending nursery school.

However, getting to grips with what happens beyond ten is another matter, and full of pitfalls.  Those with good memories can do well when taught by rote, but what about the children who don't learn well using this method? Some children aren't prepared to learn this way, and are looking for a purpose or an understanding before committing valuable memory space.  How often do children who don't join in counting by rote sessions get labelled as 'a bit dim', or 'slow at maths'?

The vast majority of them are perfectly capable of memorising other things, such as how to get through the levels on their favourite iPod touch game, or the words to a catchy pop song.  Even those who learn the number order successfully by rote can be left with misconceptions, or without any real understanding of how our number system works.

During the year I spent as an Every Child Counts maths specialist I gained a good understanding of how to help children learn, or even better discover, the number system.  These ideas worked very well with Year 2 children who had fallen behind, and are working very well with my current Nursery class...

I like to bring place value into consideration as early as possible.  The first step here is to know that the units form a repeating, or circular, pattern...

Arranging Numicon in this circular pattern and pointing to each piece in turn when practicing counting, sets-up the starting point for place value nicely.

Children might tell you that it's a counting circle, or even ask why it goes from 10 back to 1?  These are signs that they are ready to progress.

There's no harm in progressing to the next stage now anyway, even if they are not secure in remembering all of the number labels 1-10.

You simply pick up another 10 and use it to point to the Numicon as you go round the circle again, saying the numbers as you go...eleven, twelve, thirteen...

 Eleven...or should it be tenty one?
The children will get the hang of the pattern way before they can remember the number names, and that can lead to good things a little later on!

However, saying the numbers beyond ten brings us to a major 'road block' in understanding how the number system works...

The number labels between 10 and 20 are simply stupid (in my humble opinion).  Whoever came up with them is responsible for holding back the maths learning progression of pretty much everyone who speaks English, and for confusing some for life...either that or I've missed something!?

If only it was tenty one, tenty two, tenty three, tenty four etc....

It's even worse than that though...when listening and speaking, the teen numbers are easily confused with the tens...

Thirteen can sound very similar to thirty, and seventeen very similar to seventy etc.

Try listening very carefully to children counting in this range...are they really saying all the teen numbers correctly?  Teen/ten confusion is very common, and often remains undiagnosed.

 Eighteen...or should it be tenty eight? Hang on though, did he say eighty?
I'm quite happy to gloss over the number names for 11-19 at this stage in favour of establishing the number pattern beyond...

Pick up another 10 and we're off round the circle again...

Twenty one, twenty two, twenty three...

Most children will be joining in with you by now.  You've just taught them twenty, and they can see what's happening with the units.

There's no need to explain what you're doing.  You've created an excellent model of the number system for them, and it's easy to follow and join in.

Pick up another ten, and before you know it you've led them all the way to 99!

It's a bold statement to make, but the children will have gained a solid grounding in place value before they can count securely to 20, or even 10 in some cases!

At this point it's really useful to start counting in tens.  Ever noticed a child struggling at a tens boundary?

37, 38, 39, err....

They understand the repeating units pattern, but need to learn that 40 comes after 39, and 50 after 49 etc.  It can seem really odd focusing on counting in tens when you've only just introduced the idea of 11, but once a child has that grounding in place value it really does help.  The children can see the point in learning the tens when you use the circular model, and of course you're leading them towards 100 and beyond!

It's still going to take lots of practice before all the children are secure, but this method pays dividends beyond.  Remember to practice with and without Numicon, as some children can become reliant on seeing the circular model when counting (a Numdrum is another excellent resource to use).

Oh yes, and now you can go back and help them learn 11-19 by rote...they'll probably tell you that the number names are stupid though!  To help iron out any teen/ty confusion you can put pictures of tea cups (as in tea/ty) next to the tens on a number line, and pictures of teenagers next to the teen numbers.

Finally, next time you hear someone from Key Stage 2 in the staffroom complaining that their children 'just don't get place value'...

I'd like you to remember tenty one, tenty two, tenty three...