Holly Whitehead’s Play Project

Using an Learning Journals to put play at the heart of family learning.

Holly Whitehead
Working Party Member
Early Years Practitioner

Online Learning Journals

From the survey feedback, something which was coming up a lot was communication which we reflected on to improve.

From looking at this, I’ve decided to implement this  into my professional enquiry project. Part of my project which I have started so far supports Anna’s (WP Member and also colleague of mine) in sending weekly updates to families in sharing their child’s play and learning and how this can be developed at home. Within my staff team, we have decided to rotate and take turns weekly to create these updates. Through doing weekly updates, this will provide families with an overview of their child’s week in Nursery and the learning which has taken place.

I am also continuing with our ‘Ask Me About’ Stickers. These are stickers which say ‘Ask Me About’ and then include an element of the child’s day. This was brought into my setting to spark a conversation between the child and their family about  their nursery day. To begin with, these were group based conversations but now more recently, this has taken the form of individual stickers and often the children telling me what they would like on their sticker to take home to talk about. The hope with this is that conversations from nursery about learning  are being sparked at home but the hope is for this to happen vice versa as well and for families to share play and learning experiences at home through learning journals (maybe even stickers in the future who knows!) this would then spark conversations at Nursery and the learning between nursery and home can be linked which I believe would put play at the heart of family learning!

I also plan to introduce ‘Sing At Home’ videos which provide song and rhyme in everyday contexts and through play to children and families to bringing singing into the home as we cannot sing within the setting right now. This would outline the benefits  of singing in child development  and by posting on YouTube, this is another communication tool. The plan is to role out to my group first and then extend this  into the wider setting.

What format will your communication take?

  • Families will receive  weekly updates on their child’s learning journals through the Learning Journals website.
  • Families can upload Home Learning in Learning Journals
  • Children will go home with ‘Ask Me About’ stickers to spark play and learning  conversations at home
  • Sing At Home Videos will be available on the Nursery YouTube Channel and via message on Learning Journals

What content will your communication have?

Each weekly observation and overview of the week will contain the play and learning which has taken place throughout the week along with a photo or video. These  will include particular interests from the children which have come up as well about our weekly outings to the Beach and Forest and suggestions for what families can do at home to follow up on their child’s interests and experiences through play and real life experiences. These will also include the option for families to share learning at home through play and this can either be link to Nursery experiences or home experiences which we can then discuss and take forward in the setting.

Sing at Home videos will include a rhyme of the week, some interactive chat and opportunity for the children to choose song and rhymes for me to do through comments and chat in nursery. The descriptions will include the importance of Music and Singing in child development to families and how this can be done at home through play and real life experiences in everyday context.

‘Ask Me About’ stickers will communicate an element  of the child’s day and prompt discussion at home. I’m thinking of monitoring this to measure the impact of this along with monitoring engagement on Learning Journals and YouTube channel.

Project Progress

The first part of the project following on from the surveys in part one was to explain to my team about my involvement in Sharing The Ambition and what my plans were and if they were happy to support this. We have began our weekly updates for families which include a summary and overview of a week in the setting, key play and learning which has taken place as well as photos and videos. I have also taken a lead in the ‘Ask Me About’ stickers within my group and continued with whole group learning  and interests to spark discussion on. I’ve now began to focus on the Ask Me About Stickers of individualise these for each child and for children to choose the topic of their discussions as well as pin pointing interests and learning through play through observation. To add to this are suggestions of play experiences  to take forests at home and opportunity and invitation to share on Home Learning Tab. Some families have already done so and I have commented back and began to spark the child’s interests and play and experiences  from home in the setting as well to really create that partnership. I have a plan put in place for how the Sing at Home videos will also run.

Next Steps

Now that the weekly updates to families and use of learning journals are being used more regularly and the ‘Ask Me About’ Stickers have began to run up again, I now need to monitor how the information is being accessed and how effective this method of communication is and measure how useful this and the ‘Ask Me About’ stickers are in putting play at the heart of family learning. My next steps in my professional  enquire project are:

  • Continue with weekly updates for families which include experiences through play, key learning experience and interests
  • Promote use of home learning tab on Learning Journals to create further partnerships and be able to link learning through play between home and setting  and maintain those all important relationships
  • Seek feedback from families on Learning Journals Partnerships, relationships and ‘Ask Me About Stickers
  • Continue ‘Ask Me About’ stickers for individual and generic experiences
  • Measure impact and engagement of use of Learning Journals and effective of ‘Ask Me About Stickers’
  • Begin Sing at Home  videos and record and measure impact and engagement in this.

Covid-19 Caveat

As you will all know, a lot has changed since my last blog post. We have started 2021 in a place where we didn’t think or believe we would be back to and find ourselves at home again. I’ve also been able to adapt to my project since returning to the setting. Families will each have their own circumstances. My job as a practitioner is to support the families and promote play and just really emphasise to families to enjoy being with and spending time with their child/children. Play is essential. 

“We are all in the same storm but not all in the same boat.” 

Parents are the first and most important educators of their children and I place this value as an important factor in my practice. This is why I joined the working party for Sharing the Ambition as it’s so important and I’m strongly passionate about this and believe that we should be working with parents as partners in their child’s play and learning. If families are an active part in their child’s learning, it hugely benefits the child and will allow them more opportunities in their learning journey. The connection between children, families and staff is essential in building those meaningful relationships.  I genuinely care for the children and families I work with as together we will ensure the best not only for the children but for families too. I am first and foremost here for the child and their best interests but a huge part of this is that I care about their families and I want to support them in the absolutely best way that I can. This will benefit the whole family. 

In terms of my professional enquiry project, I have had to adapt the plans slightly due to the impact of COVID-19 and most of my time being spent at home. However, I have since returned to the setting and been able to continue with my project with a few small changes. The principles of engagement with families haven’t changed. In fact, this is even more important now more than ever. 

Below I have written about how each element of my professional enquiry project is going, what I have achieved since my last blog entry, the next steps I have met and any adaptions I have needed to make.

Project Progress

Weekly updates and engagement on Learning Journals 

Weekly updates had initially been adapted due to the majority of our children not being in the setting at the start of the year and also not being in the setting daily. Instead, we took turns in my team to post updates of three suggested activities through play, which link to nursery experiences and interests of the children for the week. This also linked into elements of the curriculum including Health and Wellbeing, Literacy and Numeracy.

We also offered support to parents and if they needed to contact us in anyway, they could do so and we reassured them that these are optional activities and the most important thing they can do is play with their child. We had also suggested to parents that they can interact with us through the ‘parental contribution tab’ where they can share their child’s experiences at home.

I have been very active with commenting on posts and I’ve also promoted the parental contribution tab in my weekly update. So far since being at home, the parents have been actively engaging in commenting on Learning Journals and posting home learning. I have been monitoring and noting numbers of  engagement throughout the past couple of months for the Rainbow families (the bubble I am in). You can see the feedback and engagement amounts below. This was recorded in the time frame of between January – February 2021. This has not been updated since returning to the setting. I also am aware that engagement will have increased at the moment due to most of us being at home for the time being. However, on reflection from the first lockdown and being at home, this helped with the Learning Journals being more familiar and on return to the setting in August 2020 more parents were using the function. 

Since returning to the setting, I have been doing individual observations for children in line with their interests and capturing their learning through play. Families have been engaging through liking and commenting on posts and some families have been continuing to post on the Parental Contribution Tab too.

Through publishing my first Sing at Home video, I have also found that this increased the engagement further on the parental contribution tab on Learning Journals. Families were getting in touch and sharing their feedback on the videos including how their children were interacting and singing along. I’ve received some song requests from children and families for future videos as well drawings the children have drawn of how they feel.

Sing at Home

Sing At Home began in January and I’ve been recording weekly videos to send out to all families across the setting. The videos were initially shared to families through YouTube but we have now recently moved to using ClickView. Sing At Home was initially set up because when we were all at nursery before Christmas, we were restricted from singing together due to Government Guidance.  

I wanted to create an opportunity for children to sing interactively and what better way to do so than with involving families too.  I believe that singing is such a vital part of child development and now more than ever it is so important to keep the connections going with families.

Through an interactive video, children are seeing a familiar face and able to join in from their homes. This also creates that connection between families and staff.

The videos incorporate a ‘Hello’ and ‘How are you?’ songs to allow children and families to feel welcomed and have the platform to talk and discuss about their emotions and feelings as a family. This is followed by some interactive chat and a rhyme of the week which is chosen by the children and families. Through the feedback I have received from families on Learning Journals and emails, this has allowed me to adapt the videos and add to this what the children and families seek. For example, during recording, I have now been singing two rhyme of the week songs as song requests from children and families have been very popular and I want to include as many songs as possible.

The videos are designed for the children and their families. Following from the few videos going out to families, I have received lots of positive feedback from families regarding their children loving the videos, interacting with them and singing along too. I’ve been monitoring the engagement and taken on feedback. Part of the feedback has also made me aware that Sing at Home has been of interest that some families have been extending this further by listening to other singing videos at home. The only barrier which I have found so far is that families wanted to send in videos of their child singing but we don’t currently have the platform to do this. I’m hoping to work out a method in which we can resolve this so that families can send in the videos in an interactive way so that families can get involved in sending videos back. This will create further partnership and collaboration.

I’ve also made a link between Sing At Home and Learning Journals engagement levels in that this has supported with increasing the parental engagement when a Sing At Home video has been updated. I plan to add this into my next steps. Since returning to the setting, I’ve been keen to keep up the Sing at Home videos but on reflection, I’ve realised that doing it weekly wasn’t a reasonable to achieve or manage. I’ve now decided to continue with this on a fortnightly basis and it’s now part of our Sway Newsletter for families which Anna sends out every two weeks.

Ask Me Stickers

Our Ask Me Stickers needed to be adapted slightly due to the majority of our children not being within the setting. The initial plan on return was for the stickers to be hung on string and if we observed a particular interest from a child, we would note this on the sticker like taking a photo or noting an observation and hang up throughout the day for children to then take home and spark the discussion with families. We had been incorporating this language into the weekly updates of suggested play based activities to do at home and promote the spark of discussion on the home learning tab with us as well as families.

In our weekly updates we ask families about interests at home and about what they show us in the parental contribution tab. In my weekly update for families, I have included elements of home learning which support and extend interests from what I have seen being done at home on the parental contribution tab as well as adding further extension on to this to create that partnership and value of current interests. I’ve not been able to carry out this part of the project in the way I had of hoped due to COVID 19.

Since returning to nursery, I have been working on putting a real drive on promoting the ‘Ask Me About’ Stickers. As a team, we reflected upon the best way to carry this out. I took some inspiration from Anita’s nursery, where the Early Years Officer in her setting had come up with the idea of using ‘Ask me about’ stickers but linking them with the wellbeing indicators, which we have begun using to really embed this into practice. On the stickers, we write a prompting statement for families to see from the children but then in a way that encourages the child to communicate this further if they wish.  E.g if a child had been responsible by helping to set up snack, we would let the child know how they have been responsible, which is one of the wellbeing indicators and then they can explain to their families when asked. The stickers have also continued to be used as well from observations that staff have made of the child’s interests and we now do the stickers individually for each child.

Pupil Voice & Family Feedback

Sing at Home

Parental Engagement on Learning Journals

4th January 2021 until 5th February 2021

Week BeginningParental ContributionsNo of Families engaged on Parental Contribution TabsLikes (on posts)Comments (on posts)No of families engaged in posts

The results show that engagement is at its peak from the Rainbows group in the first week back (W/b 11th January). During this week, 68.96% of the Rainbows families engaged on the parental contributions on Learning Journals. That is 20 out of our 29 families.  On the third week, it shows more parental contributions however they have been contributed from fewer families. The results then rise and fall throughout the term but overall, the amount decreases.

To link into ‘Sing at Home’ which is another part of my Professional Enquiry Project, this has increased use of the parental contribution tab.  Engagement from Sing at Home however is from all families within the setting as the videos go out to all families, not just the Rainbows.

*During the week beginning the 4th January 2021, this wasn’t the start of term. Only staff members were working and Home Learning was proposed to start the week after, the week beginning 11th January 2021. This is why the parental engagement is particularly low this week.

Next Steps

Continue to communicate with families on Learning Journals and monitor and record engagement. 

Continue to record, promote and act on feedback for Sing at Home Videos and see if I can explore this further. 

Continue to connect and make links between Home and Nursery experiences in suggestions for Home Learning.

Tune into interests on the Parent Contribution Tab and extend these in weekly updates to families and embed into setting on return.

Provide a way for videos of Sing At Home sessions to be sent into us from families .

Monitor the impact of ‘Ask Me About’ stickers and seek feedback on the effectiveness of this.

Continue to work in partnership with families to put play at the heart of family learning.

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