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Friday, December 19, 2014

The British National Curriculum - Foundation Stage

One major difference between education in England and the US is that they have an established National Curriculum. In Reception, Mrs. W focuses on the early years foundation stage (EYFS) standards set out by the National Curriculum, which include seven areas of learning:
-Personal, Social and Emotional Development (PSED): making relationships, confidence and self-awareness, and managing feelings and behavior
-Physical Development (PD): moving and handling, and health and self-care
-Communication and Language (CL): listening and attention, understanding, and speaking
-Literacy (L): reading and writing
-Mathematics (M): numbers, shape, space and measure
-Understanding the World (UW): people and communities, the world, and technology
-Expressive Arts and Design (EAD): exploring and using media and materials, and being imaginative

Each of these seven areas of learning and their specific strands of focus are broken down even further into early learning goals, which can be observed and assessed in the classroom. They are addressed primarily by ‘learning through play’ in which children are encouraged to discover, learn, and develop through games. Mrs. W keeps a book for each child, in which she includes notes and examples of that child’s development in each area of learning. I have chosen to focus specifically on the prime areas of learning (personal, social, and emotional development, communication and language, and physical development) by discussing the goals of learning for each area, as well as how they are implemented in the classroom.

Within personal, social, and emotional development, students’ ability to make relationships is based on how they play co-operatively, take account of one another’s ideas, show sensitivity to others’ needs and feelings, and form positive relationships with adults and other students. Their self-confidence and awareness is based on their confidence in trying new activities, ability to say why they like some activities more than others, confidence in speaking in front of a familiar group, talking about their ideas, and being able to say when they do and don’t need help. Finally, their ability to manage feelings and behavior is judged by how they talk about feelings, behavior, and consequences, their ability to work as part of a class, understand and follow the rules, and adjust their behavior to different situations. In Mrs. W's class, development in all of these areas is both an informal and constant part of the everyday classroom routine. One activity that I particularly like is celebrating a different ‘student of the week’ each Friday. Mrs. W chooses one student and asks the rest of the class to share things that they like about that person or things that person does well. All of the students really seem to enjoy not only being the student of the week, but also complementing their fellow students. I think this is a great way in which to encourage self-confidence and positive relationships between students.

Communication and language goals include students being able to listen attentively in a range of situations and respond appropriately. They should be able to demonstrate understanding by following instructions, and answering ‘how’ and ‘why’ questions about stories, events, and their own experiences. Finally, they should be able to express themselves effectively, show awareness of the needs of listeners, use past, present, and future language accurately, and develop their own narratives and explanations by connecting ideas or events. Mrs. W encourages these communication and language goals through activities such as ‘show and tell’, in which students have the opportunity to speak in front of a group, ask questions, and respond to their peers. This is definitely a complex area to address with some children, especially those in the class who speak very little or not at all. However, there are also many students who are extremely articulate and definitely excel in this area of development.

In terms of physical development, children should be able to show good control and coordination in large and small movements, move confidently and safely in a range of spaces, and handle tools effectively (including pencils when writing). They should also be aware of the importance of good health (including physical exercise and a healthy diet), talk about ways to be healthy and safe, and manage their own basic hygiene and personal needs successfully. Every Tuesday, the students spend some time in the hall participating in physical activities such as playing the ‘stoplight game’ or throwing balls to each other. They are also very much encouraged to do personal tasks (such as putting on their coats, remembering their schoolbags, putting materials away etc.) independently.

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