Anna MacPherson’s Play Project

Using online communications to put play at the heart of family learning.

Anna MacPherson
Working Party Member
Senior Early Years Officer

Floorbooks & Learning Journals

Reflecting upon the results from our staff and family surveys it was evident that improved communication was something that shone through. Families were looking for shared information about their children’s time in the setting and what their day looked like. Regular communication from their child’s teacher and key workers was something that families were keen to develop upon. The survey results indicated that families found feedback from their child’s teacher and key worker helpful and it guided them on how they could best support their child at home and build upon their play, interests and learning.

For my professional enquiry project, I am planning to make stronger links to the home by sharing children’s play and learning with families through weekly updates on learning journals. Along with the weekly updates there will be linked suggestions to do at home which will support families with extending their child’s interests and learning.

I will also be promoting the sharing of our setting’s floorbooks, again through learning journals, for families to see the leaning that has taken place and how their child’s voice and thoughts are valued and built upon. My enquiry project will provide families with opportunity to be involved in, share and celebrate their child’s play, learning and achievements.

What format will your communication take?

Each of our families will receive a weekly update on their child’s play and learning through Learning Journals.

What content will your communication have?

The weekly updates will share the main learning and play that has taken place and the children’s interests that have been explored over the week. This will be illustrated through a mini update and photos. Each group’s floorbook pages will also be shared on learning journals, which will reflect the children’s voices on their play and learning.

Some suggested activities or points of discussion will also be promoted for families to use, to extend their child’s play, learning and interests at home.

Project Progress

Firstly, I shared my plans with each group explaining the plans for the weekly updates and the reasons behind my professional enquiry project. I discussed with staff in each group the expectations of the weekly updates and how it will promote positive communications with our families. I explained that I would review parental engagement from the weekly updates to see if the level of parental engagement increases.

Next Steps

The project’s next steps are to:

  • Continue to share weekly updates with our families on Learning Journals,
  • Continue to share our floorbook pages on Learning Journals,
  • Create a ‘mini newsletter’ template for staff to use in their groups to support the updates and make them more uniform across the setting,
  • Review the parental engagement,
  • Encourage families to engage with the weekly updates,
  • Collaborate with families and staff to gather suggestions and views on the effectiveness of the updates.

Covid-19 Caveat

My project has been about making stronger links to home by sharing and promoting children’s play and learning so the project has not been severely impacted by Covid-19 as our communication with families has had to be stronger than ever. Learning Journals continued to be a valuable platform with our weekly learning journal updates turning into weekly idea sharing while creating opportunities for families to engage in a two-way dialogue with their key workers. We also began to create videos of staff sharing singing and cooking, while also introducing live story times.

“…recognises play as ‘a fundamental and vital dimension of the pleasure of childhood…”

Blair, 2020 from Play is the Way

Project Progress

A couple of months into my project, I felt that I would be a good time to reflect and review what was going well with it and what needed to be further explored and developed.  

When looking at family engagement in the weekly updates that the groups were sending out through learning journals, I observed lovely positive comments from families about how they enjoyed the updates and loved seeing and hearing what the children had been doing while at nursery. The weekly updates enabled families to chat about things they had been doing at home and share photos. By having the opportunity to share these moments, it also allowed them to have a two-way conversation with their key worker. As I continued to look at the level of family engagement, I noticed that there was a proportion of families who were not actively logging into their child’s learning journal to view them.  As I use email with our families for other communications, I was aware of some families engaging with email communication more than they do with the learning journals so noted that this was something I needed to reflect on.

Having looked at the information that was being shared by each group in the weekly updates, it was fantastic to see so much play and learning taking place each week. The group updates effectively reflected the children’s interests and how all the play and ideas that had occurred over the week had been initiated from the children. Floorbook pages were also being shared through images, which was great to see as this also projected the children’s voice. As I went through each group’s weekly update, I did note that they were all doing them slightly differently. Although I had shared a general structure with the groups about the main information that should be shared to promote a uniform approach, some groups were for example, sharing information about local walks and ideas for things to do at the weekend that I felt all our children and families would maybe benefit from knowing rather than just one group. Bearing this in mind I knew I had to rethink how we went about sharing our weekly updates to ensure the most effective family engagement and information sharing across the setting.

This led me into the next step of my project’s journey.

“It is essential that we develop positive relationships with parents and carers and work closely alongside them and value their contribution.”

Sharing the Ambition, 2020

Having drafted some ideas I decided that the new newsletter design would include:

  • Each group would have their own dedicated pages to illustrate: the play that had taken place over the previous fortnight, through photos and a short paragraph, the learning that has come from the play and ideas do to at home that links into the current play and interests.
  • Each group page would include a ‘Meet the Team’ page with staff photos. A ‘Meet the Senior Team’ plus contact details would also be added to the end of the newsletter.
  • There would be separate pages for Beach and Forest Kindergarten to share experiences across all the groups.
  • ‘Nursery News’ section to share any updates or information relevant across the setting.
  • ‘Eco News’ page to share what the children have been involved in to promote an eco-friendly setting while also sharing ideas from both the children and staff that had come from our eco meeting.
  • Foorbook images would be shared across all group pages, eco page and beach and forest kindergarten pages.
  • A Animoto photo video named ‘Our Fortnight in Photos’.
  • A page would be created to share ‘Sing at Home’ and ‘Cook at Home’ videos that are created by our staff.
  • Promoting local events and relevant family websites.

The family newsletter is still relatively new but the engagement and feedback so far has been positive.

At the beginning of my project I has set up a small family group to share thoughts around our online communications and ensure that family voices were being heard and effectively implemented. After reviewing the weekly updates, I decided to get our family group together to share my thoughts with them and ask the group for their opinions, as after all they were the audience I was looking to captivate. Through collaborate conversations, the main threads that shown through were:

  • Fortnightly updates rather than weekly
  • Sharing the play that has taken place
  • What the children have been learning from their play
  • Ideas to extend play and current interests as home
  • It was noted that it would be nice to see what all the groups were up to not just their child’s group
  • General nursery news
  • Not too much text
  • More photos.

Taking on board all thoughts that had been shared and discussed in our family group meeting and thinking about my own reflections I decided that going forward I would create a fortnightly family newsletter using Microsoft Sway. I planned on sharing the newsletter every second Friday and it would be sent to families through both Learning Journals and via email to ensure that all our families were able to easily access it. By continuing to share the newsletter through learning journals it was continuing to allow for family comments and contributions. The newsletter would incorporate all the main points that families were looking to see, while continuing to provide the opportunity for families to see the play and learning that is taking place not only in their child’s nursery but across the setting. The newsletter would continue to have updates from each group but in a more streamline, consistent and equal approach across all our groups. It structure of the updates would be designed in a way that be shared through lots of photographs as well as text, which was something that we could not do through learning journals due to their limit on the number of photographs that can be added to a post. I wanted to ensure that the format was user friendly on all types of devices and be designed in a way that would be engaging to our children as well as our families.

Family & Staff Feedback

“Really interesting to see across the different rooms.”

“Newsletter is fab!”

“What a wonderful informative newsletter for parents and carers.  Love it and thank you”

“Hi Anna, Just looked through the newsletter and I think it is fab. I liked being able to see all the different groups at the nursery but I quickly focussed in to see what the Tigers had been up to! I thought the quick summary and a few pictures was a good length and I liked seeing ideas for linking in home with nursery. It gave me a nice update without being too much to read. I’ll chat with *** about some of the things I found out she had been doing. Nothing I think needs changing, just wanted to give you my feedback – all positive!”

“From a staff point of view, it’s lovely to see what the other groups are doing too.”

“Another brilliant newsletter, makes me feel so lucky this is my job.”

“We must make time each day for children to create, move, sing, discuss, observe and read all the while remembering that this foundation is held together by that which we call play.”

Murphy 2016

Next Steps

  • Expand Family Group to continue to obtain feedback and thoughts and ensure families are involved in nursery life.
  • Continue to develop our Family Newsletter in collaboration with our children, families and staff.
  • Review family engagement through learning journals and email.
  • Analyse data through Microsoft SWAY to observe and track the level of engagement over the course of the current term.
  • Promote our floorbooks across all areas and with different groups such as Beach and Forest Kindergarten and our Eco Group.
  • Look into different ideas of the best way to make the ‘learning that took place’ pages in the newsletter more interactive, through platforms such as Thinglink.

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