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    An approach to creative learning in the early years

    Creativity is about representing ones own image, not reproducing someone elses.(B. Duffy, Supporting Creativity and Imagination in the Early Years, p.10)

    CH A P T E R 1

    This chapter will give you ideas to consider concerning:

    The importance of developing creative activities in the early years. Developing an ethos and structure to support creative activities. Further reading.

    Figure 1.1 This little boy explored a whole range of creative activities via his senses, culminatingin the observation of the shadow of his hand in the water tray

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    The importance of developing creative skills

    We have the evidence in archaeological remains and historical artefacts thathumans have always commented on the world they live in, using available mate-rials as well as their voices and bodies to record stories, songs and dance. Theneed to describe and share experiences seems to be very important to us. Studiesof child development have revealed that children must have the opportunity toproduce representations that reflect their own experiences, thoughts and feelings.Offering young children the opportunity to explore a rich range of creative expe-riences will help to develop a child who is able to:

    Make connections with others by speaking feelings in verbal/non-verbalways.

    Express thoughts and possibilities on a given subject.

    Challenge ideas and problem solve in a variety of situations.

    Develop a personal definition of aesthetic beauty.

    Consider cultural issues.

    Demonstrate good self-esteem.

    Extend physical skills.

    These are life skills that will enable young children not only to access all areas oflearning but to develop their full potential as human beings.

    How does creative development feature in theEarly Years curriculum?

    At the time of writing, the curriculum guidance for Early Years is undergoing a revi-sion with the intention to bring together, in 2008, the Birth to Three Matters frame-work with the QCA Curriculum Guidance for the Foundation Stage to create an EarlyYears Foundation Stage framework for services to children from birth to five.

    The Early Years Foundation Stage framework for services to children from birthto five has Creative Development as one of its six areas of learning and develop-ment, dividing it into four concepts:

    Being creative responding to experiences and expressing and communi-cating ideas.

    Exploring media and materials 2D and 3D representations.

    Creating music and dance.

    Developing imagination and imaginative play.

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  • Each concept describes the pathway that the childrens progress might take,illustrated by the development matters section in the framework guidance, cul-minating in the Early Learning Goal which most children should achieve by theend of their Reception year.

    Early Years practitioners will be aware of what a huge area of learning this isand how many important connections it can make to the other five areas of learn-ing and development.

    If a setting cultivates a creative approach to any area of learning, the practi-tioners will be encouraging children to:

    Have the confidence to air new ideas and develop them as far as possible.

    Learn from past experiences and relate this learning to new situations.

    Invent individual methods of problem solving.

    Create something that is unique and original.

    Current research which supports this approach to learning

    The ethos of the CreatAbility Project has been heavily influenced by the inter-esting results emerging from the Reggio Emilia approach to pre-school educationin Italy. In essence, the young child is considered to be already capable, strong,possessing curiosity and the ability to construct his/her own learning. The impor-tance of the childs collaborative skills and relationships with family, peers andcommunity is given a high profile. The children are stimulated to communicatein many different forms, such as symbolic representation, word, movement,building, sculpture, dramatic play, shadow play, music. The environment thechild plays in is considered to be the third teacher, with much thought beinggiven to the use of space and light. The practitioners take the role of partner,nurturer, friend and facilitator of the childrens exploration of themes. (See fur-ther reading suggestions.)

    This approach is further supported by the Effective Provision of Pre-SchoolEducation (EPPE) report, which focused on the effectiveness of Early Years edu-cation and was able to identify elements of effective practice, including theimportance of the quality of the adultchild verbal interactions and the balanceof child- and adult-initiated activity. An environment in which play was valuedalongside new skills being introduced was seen to be very beneficial to the child,as was the active engagement of parents in their childrens learning.

    Thirdly, the Governments Green Paper Every Child Matters, produced in 2003,outlined five outcomes for children, one of which was that children should beable to enjoy and achieve. This has had a big impact on the quality of childrenslearning, particularly in the way in which childrens views are being taken intoaccount and developed.



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  • Definition of Early Years

    The focus of the book is about working with children in the Foundation Stage(35) range, although some of the ideas could easily be adapted to suit the needsof older or younger children. In terms of curriculum planning the book refers to



    Figure 1.2 A monoprinting session which entailed much more than just making a print

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  • possible learning outcomes relating to the appropriate Creative Early LearningGoals and potential links to other areas of the curriculum.

    What do we need in place to support an imaginativedelivery of the creative arts?

    This section will look at factors that will support the planning and delivery of thecreative area of learning and give the practitioner some questions to considerwithin individual settings.

    The ethos of the setting

    Process over productObservations of children at play clearly reveal that young children are fascinatedby the exploration of materials and tools and we know that children learn asmuch from the doing as from the potential end product. Figure 1.2 illustratesthe childs fascination with the experience of using paint and a roller. Theplanned creative activity was to explore mono-printing but practitioners wereamazed at how long some children spent investigating the properties of the mate-rials and using them in unexpected ways. This illustrates that the sensitive inter-action between the child and practitioner is an important part of this discoveryprocess and it is not just a question of the adult standing back and supervisingthe activity. The child will be watching the practitioners reaction to their investi-gation and needing reassurance that they are not doing something wrong. If thereis an end product, and sometimes there has to be, it should be unique and mean-ingful to the child. The understanding of this ethos should be clear and carriedout positively throughout the setting.

    RoutinesYoung children really need the time to play, to discover the possibilities and poten-tial of the world around them. If this time is given sparingly within the confines oftoo rigid a routine, the learning outcomes for the child will be limited. This has bigimplications for planning because practitioners need to ensure that there have beenplanned opportunities for children simply to explore materials before a specific skillsactivity takes place. Settings also need to consider their daily structures and observewhether, as far as possible, these allow for freedom of exploration. If this explorationis facilitated in a sensitive way with a balance of adult-led and child-initiated playand the opportunity to return to an activity, the childrens emotional and commu-nication skills will flourish and the practitioner will be able to observe a wealth ofimportant steps in the childs development.



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  • Points to consider

    1. Do we have an agreed ethos within our setting, which describes the way in whichcreative learning will be facilitated? Do all practitioners understand and deliver it oris further training needed?

    2. If we offer flexible sessions are we sure that all children can access a wide and variedrange of activities?

    3. Does our daily routine allow time for children to explore materials? Are there oppor-tunities for children to revisit an experience?

    4. Does our assessment process complement the learning which is taking place through play?5. Are the children currently producing their own unique creations?

    The learning environment (inside and outside)

    Physical spaceWhatever the type of setting, this should be maximised to allow real potential forexploration and creativity. Young children naturally move about a great dealwhen taking part in activities, operating at different levels, and considerationneeds to be given to the arrangement of the furniture and flexibility of its use. Aneasy way to assess this is to make a series of tracking observations of the childrento see which areas of the learning environment are being

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