We have spent much of the first week teaching the children about “Planning Time”. This is a time in the week when the children can ” do anything they want”. This isn’t just a free for all though! The children begin to learn through examples and class discussions that it is a time to try something new, practise something they want to get better at, come back to learning and collaborate with new friends.

To begin with, some children get distracted, or may not challenge themselves. This can be easily worked on by nudging them in the right direction through questionning and highlighting good examples of learning in review. We also plan with with the children, discussing ideas before they make a choice about what to do.

 The benefits of the children having this time are endless. They learn to be imaginative, come up with new and amazing ideas and have the space to build friendships and links in the classroom. Not only that, it is a time where all of the BLP learning muscles and all of the curriculum areas can come together, making links between areas of learning and making learning meaningful and relevant to the children. Sadly, there is less and less time  for children to do this in the current UK system, but we make sure the children have it once a week (and more if it’s wet play – children love it when it’s wet play in Ash Class – more Planning Time – yes!!).
I have chosen to write about Planning Time in this blog because the children amazed me with their focus and ideas just within week one. I was buzzing this Friday afternoon. Here are just a few (some photos to follow when I have parental permission):

1) The children had chalks to do whatever they wanted with outside. One girl drew a hopscotch and started playing with it. Perfect. We’re ordering numbers to 10 with the year ones next week and I will use this idea. The girl will be delighted! Lots of the children drew footprints and were telling me The Gruffalo and The Big Bad Wolf were at large! We will use this in our storytelling about fairy tales.

2) Children challenged themselves to build 3D shapes out of Polydron. We discussed perseverance and which ones were the trickiest (“The 3D diamond because it kept falling apart and I had to fix it”) As a class we learnt new shape names.

3) 2 girls collaborated with fairy tales in mind. One built a fairytale house from junk modelling whilst the other made a fairytale book, linking writing with DT. One of the fairies had a broken  leg like a girl in our class – love the imagination!

4) One year one girl had made an amazing repeating pattern of a square. We reviewed it and a year two boy mimicked the idea, made a similar pattern then extended the idea and made it into a medal. This led to a discussion about mimicking and why it is a great learning skill.

5) A year one girl wanted to challenge herself and finish her “3 chilli challenge” writing which involved writing a whole paragraph about her family. She made lots of mistakes as she went. We reviewed mistakes and one boy said, ” It’s good to make mistakes because then you learn more.” Another girl said, “I don’t like chillis but I like a challenge!” – we may need to start Ash Class quote of the week!

So I’m pretty excited about our new class because I think that’s pretty impressive for a Friday afternoon’s learning!


2 thoughts

  • Was it a struggle to find the time? Did you worry that other things you were supposed to fit in were getting squeezed out? I’m sure some teachers will want to know how practical this is for them. Also: you have all the learning muscles at your fingertips, so to speak, and can quickly capitalise on what’s going on in the class to show their relevance. But how could someone less familiar with the framework get started, do you think?

  • We already have this time planned into our timetable. You’re right, though, it is tricky to fit in, especially with an ever-fuller curriculum and the necessity to provide evidence for OfSted every step of the way, so I can see why teachers might find it hard to fit in. For me, though, the benefits of this time are so invaluable for the children’s development and well-being, I’d never let it be squeezed out! It’s a case of making the time. In the first school I worked in, they ensured all classes up to year 6 had at least an afternoon dedicated to child-led learning and projects. I know the teachers worked hard as teams to find ways to cover the curriculum through cross-curricular teaching, which then freed up time to do this. Apart from well-being, this is the time where the children come with the most inventive and innovative ideas. In fact, a child in my last school came up with such a fantastic invention, we are exploring actually getting it made – how empowering and meaningful is that?!
    To get started and make it purposeful, I would start from developing a really good understanding with the children about what that time is for and WHY it is important. I would talk to them all about their plans and extend them to think about what they were going to learn. I would also remind them through the week that planning time was coming up – “what do you think you might do this week in planning time?” Or, “That would be great to continue in Planning Time”. This way they can reflect on, distill and build on their plans so they have a really good one by the end of the week. Reviewing good learning is really important and also having resources readily available so they can be independent and carry out their plan.

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