Using SWAY Newsletters to put play at the heart of family learning.
Early Years learning is one of the most magical spaces in education to work in, and when you have a deeper understanding of what happens when you are supporting children to learn through play, you really feel the impact of your work.
My professional enquiry aspect of the Sharing the Ambition project is borne of an understanding of the value we create, when we share our knowledge with parents and carers. Parents are the first educators of children. And we know that children experience better outcomes when their parents are active participants in their learning (Education Scotland, 2019).
Children are learning from birth and before, they are learning from their primary caregiver. My own experience of early childhood has inspired my passion for early learning and childcare, and it is the experiences and practices which my own mother did not know which would have had the biggest impact on my childhood experiences. You can find out more about that here:
What format will your communication take?
My professional enquiry project for Sharing the Ambition takes my own experience to form my enquiry question:
How can we make parents more knowledgeable of what happens in the nursery class, and how can they use this at home?
To this end, my enquiry project seeks to improve the level of communication between the nursery setting and home. Though our family relationships are already a strong aspect of our practice, we will work to offer a more structured and regular communication using Microsoft Sway to offer information, insight and support for families.
What content will your communication have?
So far, my setting has created and delivered four Sway newsletters which are delivered to parents fortnightly. Each newsletter contains information and photographs of our learning thus far with ideas of how to continue this at home. We offer play and learning activities, including links to digital games and ideas for extending learning in the local environment.
Our newsletters have included information for developing Literacy and Numeracy at home through play as well as fun ways to develop fine motor skills.
Our next steps are to continue to use these newsletters to share our learning and experiences, with links to schematic play and Realising the Ambition – how to implement the national practice guidance at home. We also plan to survey our parents to seek impact views and next steps.
In January 2021, our nursery experienced a short closure due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This meant that our children were learning and playing at home. The staff team had to focus on both providing play opportunities for children at home whilst also being in the nursery to support children who were accessing keywork provision. This caused a hiatus in the delivery of our Sway communications.
Though we paused sending out fortnightly play newsletters, we did send one email every day with a different play and learning activity to try at home. We found that the daily emails with a short activity or video was well received and the numbers of people accessing the videos stayed consistently high throughout the nursery closure.
Since returning to nursery in February 2021, we have re-established the creation and distribution of our Sway newsletters to keep families updated with the goings on in the nursery. The Sway documents show the play which has been happening, our linked planning for the block and how we are responding to individual’s interests. The data collected from our Sway shows that the number of families accessing the Sway remains consistently high. Our first Sway in February had 117 views and our most recent Sway, from last week, has 103 views. This shows that families are accessing the Sway and either revisiting or sharing with family and friends.
I identified the next steps of this project to include information for parents to relate their child’s play to schematic agenda and Realising the Ambition. Due to a number of factors, including nursery closure and significant staff changes at nursery, we have not fully achieved this yet. Although, we have begun to add links to schematic play in our learning journals.
To strengthen the nursery and home links through play we are committed, through the Sway communications and relationships with families to ensure we know children’s interests. Consequently, we have had various experiences recently of extending experiences and learning based on interests from home. For example, one child shared a recent experience visiting a llama far, he was encouraged to bring in photographs and share this with his friends.
Our use of Sway to share our play with families highlighted our recent exploration of growing in the Spring season. This then inspired one child to bring in radish seeds from home which he said “were to grow in nursery and eat at snack.” This rich experience allowed the children to further explore sowing and growing, showing that they are extending their own learning with the help of adults.
We recently surveyed parents to seek their views in relation to the return to nursery since our start of year lockdown and many parents have highlighted the Sway newsletter as a strength of communication and home/nursery partnership. One parent said:
“The fortnightly Sway is excellent in sharing the goings on in the nursery. I love to see what my child is doing with their friends and the Sway does this. The Twitter is also very strong at showing us each day what my child is up to.”
As mentioned previously, the Sway views are consistently high showing that families are accessing them and either revisiting or sharing them with friends and family.
Our next steps moving forward is to commit to including links to schematic play and realising the ambition in our fortnightly Sways. This structure will allow us to share with parents the importance of some play behaviours they see at home and how this can be extended or engaged with.