Child-led planning: Starting the Floorbook Approach

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.




ECA Recommends

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.

Claire Warden

Dr Claire Warden is one of the world’s leading consultants and writers on the use of consultative methods in education. Her approach to nature kindergartens has earned her international recognition as a pioneer in educational thinking. Her respect for children and families runs through the Floorbooks Approach that she developed. It is often used within Nature Pedagogy to incorporate children’s voices into intentional teaching.

5 thoughts on “Child-led planning: Starting the Floorbook Approach”

    Sarndra Harvey says:

    Hi, I’m new to using the floorbook approach and work in the Toddler room. I really dont know how to actually start a floorbook as there is limited vocal language with the exception of a few 2 year olds who can make conversation. I have read to observe the children and follow there interests. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.
    Thank you

    Michelle says:

    A simple idea could be to observe the children doing different activities or exploring their environment and interests and take photos of this happening (use floor book like a photo journal) print these out and put them in the book or around the classroom or laminate and pop outside( even in the areas that the children were exploring) this can be a point of reference for communication as the children will recognise and identify themselves, their friends etc , engaging in their environment and favourite activities or exploring new experiences. It’s a good jump off point when children have limited verbal skills. You can have little conversations with the children about the pictures…

    marion donaghy says:

    Loved the ideas we have used floor book for years. We are just settling into our new bubbles and have been away from the normal for a while. Revisiting ideas to restart has been good its a super link to what the children are interested in and how they are learning. Definately try the talking box we used a similar idea bringing items of interest in and hiding them inside interesting containers to encouraged conversation about their interest

    Zaizai Zhang says:

    Thank you so much Claire! I will hold onto the Floorbook to provoke conversation. Then writing down, the language and the communication of the child in whichever way they communicate with me. Sometimes it could be actions only which we often missed. I would love to remind myself ‘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 which I forget about it easily during a busy day.

    Zaizai Zhang says:

    I love the idea of the gap between “interests faded and re-emerges”. I will work on going back to the original Floorbook, date the page to show the gap, then write and carry on the learning journey as it develops.

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