You can find the blog, with this example, here:
Now, call it a coincidence if you wish, but I keep reading about this exact same action in childminder and group provider Ofsted inspection reports that have been uploaded onto the Ofsted website since September 2019.
I am an early years provider – I know how hard it can be not to interrupt children when they are playing. Sometimes, you want to give them an instruction – other times, you might want to share something exciting you have seen or heard – often, you want to ask them a quick question or move a group of children onto something new …
Other times, you have asked them a question and they don't answer! You know they know the answer but they stand there, tongue sticking out or looking to the sky for inspiration – and an Ofsted inspector is standing behind you … watching you … so, you rephrase quicker than you would normally or you tell them the answer because the silence is becoming oppressive.
We need to remember two important things here –
- Children need uninterrupted periods of play during the day and…
- Some children take a long time to process questions.
Tips to help you during inspection include:
- Know the child – really well – know what they know and can do – know how they react in different circumstances. This way, you can tailor the sort of questions you ask them if you know they will be feeling under pressure because an Ofsted inspector is in the house.
- Know the characteristics of the child’s learning – recognise the importance of the characteristics of effective learning – motivation, engagement and learning. When a child is using their learning characteristics, they need to be left alone to continue thinking deeply in their play. Interrupting them can stop them from thinking and lead them moving away from what they were doing.
- Know the child’s wellbeing – if a child is under stress or has low levels of wellbeing and engagement, they will not be able to concentrate deeply and will need different types of activities to a child who is happy and carefree. You can monitor children’s wellbeing and engagement using the Leuven scales – they are especially important when new children are settling in.
- Discuss with staff – have a policy in your setting that staff do not interrupt children when they are deeply involved in their play. Agree times when children can be moved on during the normal daily routine, but accept that, for example, meal times can be arranged flexibly to allow children a short time to finish what they are doing first.
- Count to 10 after asking a child a question – if a child is learning English as an additional or second language, count to 20 because it can take them twice as long to process the question, translate it, think of the answer and translate it back to English, assuming, of course, they have sufficient vocabulary to understand the question and put an answer together.
- Ask open-ended questions - ask open-ended questions when you are playing with and talking to the children because open-ended questions encourage children to use their knowledge or express their feelings, rather than closed questions that only require a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer. Ofsted will be looking for staff asking open-ended questions during inspection, so you want to ensure children get lots of practice answering.
- Remember your role – your main role when children are deeply involved in their play is to facilitate play without interrupting them – add a resource, provide support and share ideas but don’t take over or stop the children from playing unless it becomes dangerous or a child is going to be hurt (emotionally or physically).
- Plan secure daily routines - routine is important in the early years because it gives children structure and ensures they understand what is happening through the day. Pre-school children need a different routine from the little ones because there are different things you will want to teach them. However, your routine must be flexible – a practitioner walking into a room of busy children shouting ‘tidy up time’ will simply disrupt them – whereas a practitioner who gives them a gentle warning first will allow them to transition smoothly.
I hope this has shared some ideas for supporting children’s concentration in a positive way and allowing them to think before expecting an answer to a question.
If you have any questions, please ask me. Sarah.