One question Dr Claire Warden is asked about the Floorbook Approach is whether there is a set sequence, here she answers this popular query. This is part two to a three-part blog series, you can read the first one here. Claire shares how you can make the most of Floorbooks and Talking Tubs to effectively consult and engage children.
I would argue that you have to be responsive to what your children need on that particular day. But as a general rule, you would do the first part of the cycle about noticing, which is observing and seeing what children are doing and saying to you. This is your starting point and will show you where your journey is going to go.
Then you have your Talking Tub. Your Talking Tub is there to guide the conversation. It’s not going to dictate or show children how to do things; it is going to provoke dialogue. Through these conversations at group time or in the main play environment, you hear in-depth reflections. Then you write these into the Floorbook. Write them verbatim—listen to what the children are talking about. We ‘photograph’ their enquiries—both in the general and epistemic play environment, and also within child and adult conversations.
Then you analyse those voices because there will be many. You analyse them to create the Possible Line of Direction (or Development) (PLOD). In this, what you are saying is, ‘We are going to do this, or the activity’, but you must always write on the PLOD why you’re doing it. For example, ‘I’m going to do this because I’m going to learn this’, ‘I’m going to provide hammers and cloths in order to explore the place of chlorophyll in plants’. By looking at the learning attached to the activity will mean getting a much clearer connection for the children.
When this is done, it’s all very nice and you might stop at this point. But if you are going to use a Floorbook for planning and for documentation of that planning, then you need to have a mind map at the back of your Floorbook, which is called the Learning Journey. As you write the PLODs and tick and date them to show they’ve been done, you then transfer that information into the Learning Journey. This lets you say, ‘If you want any information on what we did about plant dyes, find it on page 31.’ It is like an index for your Floorbook.
For planning requirements in Australia, Scotland and many other countries, there is a curriculum, which helps people understand the breadth and balance of the experiences that children need to explore within a certain age frame. So what we do with ours is, rather than cutting up the curriculum at the beginning and ‘creating activities’, we write in the back of the Floorbook, ‘these are all the outcomes’ which are ticked and identified with page number/date to say, ‘We feel we have addressed this outcome through the experiences that are recorded in this Floorbook.’
All of this takes time. People say, ‘Well, how long does a Floorbook last?’ Well, it could last three weeks and then the interest fades. But rather than stopping it, you let it sit for a while and return to it when the interest re-emerges. At this point, you go back to the original Floorbook, date the page to show the gap, then write and carry on the learning journey as it develops.
There is a lot of detail that goes into the Floorbook Approach, but as an overview, I would hold onto the Floorbook to provoke conversation. The writing down, the language and the communication of the child in whichever way they communicate with you. Always think about ‘what are we learning here?’ and ‘what are the things that I can really help children to explore and develop?’ There is a progression in thinking, and that is what makes the difference between a Floorbook, a learning journal and a scrapbook.
Talking and thinking floorbooks: An apprach to consultation, observation, planning and assessment in children’s learning (3rd ed.)
by Claire Warden
This book will tell you how to plan with children. It has been comprehensively revised to provide greater insight into child centred planning in the now well established Floorbooks approach. The strategies that are set out in this revised edition are supported by diagrams and case studies which enable them to plan effective child centred experiences. This revised edition contains a FREE pull out wall poster on “The Planning Cycle and Floorbooks” (Warden 2006) which will assist any adult working with children as partners in learning. You can purchase your copy on the ECA Shop here.