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Talking and Thinking Floorbooks: Consulting Children

This blog is an excerpt from the introduction of Claire Warden's Talking and Thinking Floorbooks book. Please refer to Warden's full book for an in-depth insight into the approach and how to implement it into your setting.

It would appear, from the training across the world, that people are aware of what they want to do, but lack a clear methodology to achieve it. The Talking and Thinking Floorbook has been adopted by many centres to support child-initiated planning. They are used in Primary classrooms to develop higher order thinking skills.

The UK Department for Education created the foundation stage guidelines for Scotland, England and Wales and based them on certain principles. These principles state that practitioners are required to 'plan and organise the learning environment to provide experiences that build on what children already know'. 

This will be demonstrated when practitioners 'enable children to become involved by planning experiences, which are mostly based on real life situations'

These relevant, real life situations come out through the Talking and Thinking Floorbook as part of the consultation process.

In a project called the Effective Provision for Pre-School Education (E.P.P.E.) Blatchford (2004) looked at the way that children use skills in contexts that are meaningful to them. In the creation of a munching monster that had tubes running through it the author states: 'This idea came from the children and they measured it up and developed it. The biggest problem came with trying to attach the cardboard tubes to the wall. In this way we became involved in shared thinking.' 

When the E.P.P.E project looked at different types of experience they found that this type of thinking was particularly important in developing and extending concepts. The group writing in a Talking and Thinking Floorbook explores the shared thinking in a more formal way so that children recall each others ideas and record them through writing, diagrams and photographs. Many children re-visit the books and learn from a previous group's experience or indeed their own ideas from a previous session. 

When children engage with an adult and discuss their ideas and thoughts they are entering into a partnership to 'find out'. Fisher (1996) states: 

'If children know that they are being trusted and are being given the opportunity to make their own choices and decisions then they also know, because it is part of a negotiation made explicit by the teacher, that they have to fulfill their side of the bargain.'

Recording the elements of the 'negotiation' allows children to remind themselves and the adult what they have agreed to do. Talking and Thinking Floorbooks create a child centred approach, which records the evidence of the process of play and the learning that comes from it. 

The Talking and Thinking Floorbooks approach is made up of a number of facets that are outlined in the chapters throughout this book. The strategies are all interlinked and can be used when the adults feel the time is right. 

The right to be consulted, and subsequently empowered to make decisions, lies at the heart of the way I work. 

Consultation with children is important because:

 It creates a closer match between the children and the curriculum they are experiencing;

 It builds self-esteem and positive attitudes when the learner is involved in the decision making;

 It increases the intrinsic motivation that stays with a children throughout life;

 Children have a right to be treated with respect. As individuals, we can show respect by valuing their thoughts and opinions. 

The initial thoughts, the evidence of the process of learning and play and a summary of ideas are collated in a Talking and Thinking Floorbook, which can reflect the progression over the learning journey. 

Talking and Thinking Floorbooks have evolved in my practice over the last 28 years in response to working with children in a variety of environments. When they were initially used we called them Floorbooks because we made them with children on the floor. They then moved into the planning frame and were known as Big Book planners! The term I now use is a 'Talking and Thinking Floorbook' since it reflects their purpose. This purpose which is to encourage thinking skills through thinking skills through talking and listening together in a group, so that children are consulted and can then influence the opportunities taking place. 

We hope you enjoyed this excerpt from Claire Warden's Talking and Thinking Floorbooks. The full book is available in print copy and also as a digital e-book from the Mindstretchers website. We ship internationally and the physical print includes an A2 poster about Floorbooks and the planning process. 

 

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