EYFS Assessment

Three things to consider when assessing Communication and Language in the Early Years

Assessment in the Early Years has undergone somewhat of a transformation over the past few years and excessive assessment documentation for the sake of a certain *cough cough* official bodies are no longer (though arguably never was) advised within early years settings as it is recognised that it does not serve us (the practitioners), parents or children.  Having said that, with the end of Spring 2 creeping ever closer (bring on those chocolate eggs), it may be that you are beginning to consider whether children are on track to meet the Early Learning Goals and are looking forward in order to plan provision for the summer term to support and scaffold children’s next steps in learning.

With the release of the Foundation Stage Handbook earlier this year, and following my previous blog, I wanted to bring together some key points it is important to remember when considering the progress and assessment of ‘Communication and Language’ for your children.  As you know, communication and language is one of the prime areas of learning in EYFS, therefore an area which underpins much of our children’s understanding and development.  In the DfE’s ‘Statutory framework for the early years foundation stage’, it is stated that,

“Children’s back-and-forth interactions from an early age form the foundations for language and cognitive development. The number and quality of the conversations they have with adults and peers throughout the day in a language-rich environment is crucial.”

Within this prime area, oral language development and language comprehension is an important step in children being able to understand what they read and later on, their success with writing composition.  Language development links closely to listening and understanding as well as hearing and talking about new language in the context of books and children’s experiences helping them to better understand the world.

Below, I pick out 3 of (what I believe are) the most important considerations when we are assessing this prime area in particular, but of course apply to the other areas, also.

 Assessment against the ELGs is for the end of the year

As I’ve already alluded to, assessment in the early years has be clarified of late by the release of the Foundation Stage Handbook and reiterates the fact that summative assessment in the early years should be based on a holistic view of what the child can demonstrate against each ELG at the end of the reception year. When you do assess a child’s communication and language at this time, you should look at the ELG description as a whole and approach it with a ‘best fit’ mindset. Of course, that does not mean that formative assessment isn’t taking place all the time within your setting to allow you to shape children’s learning based on what they can and can’t do at that given time.  Famly has a great article on ‘The Do’s and Don’ts of Assessment in the EYFS’, here.

CL can include early writing skills

The two strands that are being assessed at the end of the reception year for communication and language are, Listening, Attention and Understanding and ‘Speaking.  Within these two areas, children will demonstrate an ability to listen and respond appropriately, make comments, hold conversations and express themselves using full sentences.

It is also important to remember that many children will also choose to express themselves using mark-making.  Many children in the early years, begin to give meaning to marks they make leading to many types of communication including drawing, writing and creating pictures or models. Additionally children communicate through the creative and expressive arts and through the ways they express their unique personalities.

When considering assessment for CL and next steps in learning, providing children with creative mark-making activities as part of their enhanced provision will give them the opportunity to communicate and demonstrate their Listening, Attention and Understanding in different ways.

Consider a holistic picture of the child

The Early Years Foundation Stage Handbook states,

“assessment is predominantly based on the teacher’s professional judgement but should also take account of contributions from a range of perspectives, including the child, their parents and other relevant adults.”

This reminds us that when we are considering the progress a child has made at any given time, parental voice and the child’s view of their own learning and understanding are important in gathering that holistic view of attainment alongside any observations you may have carried out within the setting.  In particular, relationships with caregivers and other significant adults at home can really help to inform that rounded view of a child’s development as well as give you an insight into things such as cultural backgrounds – which can help to explain the ways in which a child accesses their environment and social situations.

When considering communication and language, gathering that full picture of the ways in which a child communicates and interprets information is key. In order to access their environment, for example, children may need some additional scaffolds such as the help of technology to communicate their understanding.

Final thoughts…

Do you need to record that?

In the past (and perhaps still) assessment in some Early Years settings has been approached as a tick-box exercise, and despite guidance to support the opposite practice, external pressures from the OFSTED or internal pressures to measure progress and record attainment across the year, pushed practitioners into creating assessment systems with unmanageable amounts of unnecessary paperwork.

Of course that’s not to say that NO record keeping is best practice.  Afterall, it is helpful to look back on small stepping stones that children have taken in their learning journey over the year and reflect on this as a way to support our assessment and understanding of the whole child.

So, what is helpful?

In a nutshell, it is up to your individual setting to decide how much or little to record with written observation and assessment.

The Early Years Foundation Stage Handbooks states,

“(Teachers) should draw on this knowledge and their own expert professional judgement to make an accurate summative assessment at the end of the year. This is sufficient evidence to assess a child’s individual level of development in relation to each of the ELGs. Teachers are not expected to provide proof of the child’s level of development using physical evidence. Teachers should not record evidence.”

In addition to this, it goes on to say,

“Each ELG descriptor is written in bullet point form, but this is for presentational purposes only to aid clarity; teachers should not ‘tick off’ these bullet points one by one … each ELG in its totality best fits the child’s learning and development … the child’s overall embedded learning will come from a holistic view of the descriptor.”

Key take-aways

  • Any assessment activity that takes place should be useful to you (the practitioner), parents and ultimately support the children in their next steps.
  • Written evidence in any form is not something you have to do – so consider what helps you to do your job and ditch the unnecessary stuff
  • It is our job to keep parents and carers up to date with their child’s progress and development
  • When assessing communication and language, consider the whole child, their cultural backgrounds, their additional languages and any scaffolds they require to access the curriculum

What are the assessment systems you have in place within your setting?

Do you think they could be improved or streamlined? I’d love to hear from you at hello@isittimetoplay.co.uk

Want More Support?

  • Take a look at my previous blog, where I delve a little deeper into EYFS assessment
  • Interested in creating a more streamlined approach to assessment systems in your setting?  Take a look at my assessment resources to support this here.
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