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How Floorbooks can re-engage children

Floorbooks are a part of the Talking and Thinking Floorbook Approach® as developed by Claire Warden (1994), and discussed in Claire's book Talking and Thinking Floorbooks (3rd ed, 2015). Floorbooks are a child-led approach to documentation and planning which give children a place to write down or draw their thoughts about a topic, or for an adult to write down accurate child voices. The Talking and Thinking Floorbook Approach can be adopted by any educator working with 0-11 year olds.

A common problem for educators is trying to re-engage with children who have lost interest either in a specific topic or in occasionally in many topics. Floorbooks are often cited as a useful tool to re-engage children, but why? Here are 5 reasons why Floorbooks are seen as a useful re-engagement tool.

#1 Learning is entirely based on child interests

Lesson plans can be created from themes which children show an interest in. By following up on Possible Lines of Development (PLODs) and really listening to what children are saying a practitioner can ensure that any learning is of real interest to children. Instead of getting children to learn through abstract examples that they may not understand or that they have no interest in, we can teach complex subjects such as flight or engineering through every day interests like birds and boxes. Both adults and children are much more engaged when learning about something they genuinely want to learn about, and we should be trying to include such interests in every day learning. Not only will this engage them but it can greatly boost their confidence with oral and writing skills as well as their creativity.

 #2 They cater to all learning styles

Everybody has a dominant learning style, whether it is Visual, Auditory or Kinesthetic. Floorbooks allow us to appeal to all kinds of learners. Visual learners will benefit from being able to write down their thoughts or by creating small and personal diagrams on the Floorbook. Auditory learners will benefit from group discussions around a Talkaround Mat about the learners, and will be able to create links in their learning through such discussions. Talking Tubs encourage children to pass around objects and really get a feel for a variety of objects related to the wider topic, appealing to Kinesthetic learners.

The voice of the child is always evidenced in the Floorbook through writing or recordings alongside photos and drawings which show active engagement. If the evidence shows that a particular child hasn’t been engaging much then the practitioner can adjust their style to re-engage with a particular child.

#3 Multiple ongoing themes

A Floorbook is not limited to one topic: a good Floorbook should flow like a river down the learning interests of children. At Auchlone Nature Kindergarten near Crieff, we recently completed a Floorbook which started about medieval knights. From knights, discussion began about the types of clothing they would wear and how it differs from clothing today. After identifying a real interest from the children we were able to create a learning experience about clothing, which alerted us to a further interest around colours and dyes. While investigating dyes, we included a mathematics activities about litres and mixtures. Without using the Talking and Thinking Floorbooks Approach we may never have discovered a child interest and the learning may have stopped at medieval knights.

A child may not be interested in the current topic, but the Floorbook approach will allow you to follow different lines of enquiry at the same time with different groups of children. A Floorbook about birds may have two different activities going at the same time: one group may be investigating eggs and lifecycles whereas another group may choose to investigate nests, habitats and structures. By really listening to children and giving them the freedom and the confidence to lead their own learning we can keep them engaged.

#4 Empowered Learners

The child-led nature of Floorbooks means that children become proactive learners very quickly. Whenever I visit Auchlone, it is immediately clear how confident children can become from engaging with the approach on the daily basis.

We should view children as young authors and illustrators: a Floorbook simply gives them a canvas to express their ideas and imagination. A key part of the Floorbook is that we allow children a sense of ownership over it. All of the children sign or mark the inner cover in some way, reinforcing the idea that they are taking ownership of their own learning. They will be able to take pride in their learning because of the Floorbook that they have helped to create, and revisiting their Floorbook in the future will help to develop new links in their learning. Letting children take direct control of their learning through following up on PLODs and asking open ended questions will not only improve confidence but will also inspire children.

#5 They are informative and fun

Play is such a key part of every child’s upbringing and education. In discussing all of the ways that children are engaged by Floorbooks, it can be easy to forget that they work so well because children genuinely enjoy creating them. The entire Floorbook approach appeals to a child's expressive side. We don't force a Floorbook upon any child, but instead provide it as an optional way to express themselves.

Many children struggle under heavily structured and formalised learning. An informal approach, even if it isn't adopted every day, can make learning seem like less of a lesson and more like a fun activity.

My biggest piece of advice to anyone looking to use the Floorbooks approach to engage children is this: be enthusiastic; be passionate; be committed to child-led learning, and be supportive to boost child confidence levels. By really understanding and believing in the ethos behind the approach you will be able to re-engage with children.

You can join our Floorbooks Facebook Group or visit our website to find out more about the Talking and Thinking Floorbooks Approach.

Blog written by Steven Watson.  

Do you have an idea or topic you would like discussed in a blog? Email steven.watson@mindstretchers.co.uk with your sugesstions and feedback. 

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