Extending learning—more than activities

Element 1.2.2 Educators respond to children’s ideas and play and use intentional teaching to scaffold and extend each child’s learning. (National Quality Standard)

This Element reminds educators to do more than simply notice children’s learning and congratulate them on it.

When you think about extending children’s learning, what do you think about?

My experience is that many educators think about ways to enrich or complicate what used to be called ‘activities’. These ways may be adding materials, suggesting new possibilities, making the experience more challenging, asking questions or planning a new related experience.

Typically educators focus on content—extending learning about something—soccer, babies, dinosaurs or the weather for example. In the ‘olden days’ (that is, before the EYLF, FSAC and the NQS) these would have been activities listed under program areas.

Extending children’s learning is about so much more than facts. It covers wellbeing, identity, connection and contribution to world and being a learner. Extending learning encompasses areas such as leadership skills, independence, negotiating, teamwork and ability to work with others. In other words, it includes learning dispositions.

Is there a tendency in planning to extend learning to think first about the content of an activity—in other words, is it more about extending activities rather than learning?

The definition of curriculum as ‘the child’s whole experience’ is recognition that significant learning is occurring throughout the day, not only in planned experiences. Learning occurs at arrivals, when children are making the transition from home and family, and again when they reunite with families and leave the service. Significant learning occurs at meal and snack times, rest and sleep times and in all the daily living experiences that occur in education and care services.

The quality of that learning is pretty much determined by the extent to which educators recognise the potential in those opportunities and capitalise on them. Recognising that there are many opportunities to extend children’s learning in all the areas outlined in the Learning Outcomes might mean that an educator, for example:

  • plans for opportunities for children to show leadership
  • changes the arrival routine to help a child separate more easily
  • asks a child to befriend a child who is new and helps him to do that
  • talks with two children in conflict about what is fair and helps them to resolve the conflict constructively
  • changes the environment so that children can access their personal belongings
  • introduces new foods and allows children to choose among several possibilities for morning or afternoon tea
  • encourages a child to remove her socks and shoes by herself.

These practices would be familiar to most educators. However, are they viewed as valuable and legitimate ways to extend learning?

There’s a related risk, by the way, in over-attending to extending learning. Children need time to consolidate learning and to enjoy being able to do something that’s new or that they have worked hard to learn.

Is extending children’s learning sometimes confused with building on children’s interests?


Anne Stonehouse

Anne Stonehouse AM lives in Victoria and works as a consultant, writer and facilitator of professional learning in early childhood. She has published many books, articles and other resources for educators and parents. Her main professional interests are the nature of good quality curriculum for babies and toddlers and family-educator relationships in early learning settings. She was a member of the writing team in the Charles Sturt University-based consortium that developed the national Early Years Learning Framework. She is currently engaged in a number of projects related to the national and Victorian Frameworks.

9 thoughts on “Extending learning—more than activities”

    Sarah says:

    I love this article – looking at the whole child and focusing on extending the whole child’s learning though everyday tasks and routines. Too often these mundane asks are forgotten and overlooked in the program to make way for activities.
    Learning takes place throughout the whole day in all aspects of the environment and through each interaction.

    Anastasia Paris says:

    I enjoyed reading this article easy to understand about extending learning .

    Kylie Moore says:

    Thankyou so much Anne, when talking with my students about planning and programming, I try to impress on them that it is so much more than ‘experiences’ and that there are many ways to extend learning. Our goals should be based on so much more!

    Yvonne Blair says:

    “Significant learning is occuring through out the day” (quote). Yes! Thankyou for giving examples as it places ideas and more extensions for thoughtful planning and interactions. Lovely to read an article giving examples that we can actually implement in our education and care services. You are the best doing this. xo

    Jade Jamieson says:

    Really practical and thoughtful article Anne one that allows us to reflect on our practice in a very meaningful way. I for one appreciate your insights and reflection on practices that can become all too easy to adopt – time for a rethink about the way we see our role as educators.

    Emma Coles says:

    A classroom is where students spend most of their daytime. Therefore it is important that classrooms should be active in order to generate energy among children.

    This is a good post, and I completely agree with you. Having children participate actively in all that they do can teach them the value of what it is they’re doing, and can be effective enough to teach them important values they will need later on in life. Thanks for sharing this post! Good read!

    Anne Muffet says:

    Loved the article Anne. As a relative newcomer to the sector, but an old hand at motherhood I just wondered why we wouldn’t still use the term ‘activities. Is it just a word fad thing? I am attempting to use language parents understand and ‘activities’ needs no explanation. What suggestions for other words are current please? Thanks

    Sonia says:

    I love your article. Thank you!

    Significant learning throughout the day 🙂

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