Enhanced Provision Planning

Should enhanced and focused tasks in the early years be linked to a theme?

The short answer is no, focused tasks and enhanced provision planning should not always be linked to a theme.  But if I was to stop there that wouldn’t be very useful to you and it certainly wouldn’t make much of a blog post, so I’ll give you some reasoning why I believe that to be the case below.

Firstly, let’s touch on what enhanced and focused tasks actually are.

Enhanced provision or focused tasks are learning opportunities, activities or resources you have provided for the children in your setting as a response to their specific needs, interests or schemes at that particular time.

For example, you may have a group of children within the cohort who are interested in the way things connect together; you have observed this during their time in continuous provision.  As a way of enhancing this understanding and supporting them to develop this knowledge, understanding and skill further, you have chosen to provide an enhanced or focused task related to connecting objects together.

You are one of the resources available to the children during this task to support the children to develop new skills and understanding about connecting objects together by providing them with a scaffold and act as a guide to support them in progressing through the stages of the chosen task or activity. 

Enhancements are a way to build in key knowledge alongside the development and practice of skills: they’re really tailored to build specific learning and they link to learning objectives outlined in your long term curriculum planning.

So what’s wrong with linking focused tasks and enhanced provision planning to a theme?

In short, nothing is wrong with it. 

In fact, linking enhanced and focused tasks in the early years to a theme can actually support children’s learning.

For example, it can help create a more coherent and engaging learning experience for children, as well as support their development of key skills and knowledge.  Themes may provide a context for learning, making it easier for children to understand and remember new information. They could also help children make connections between different concepts and ideas, promoting deeper learning and understanding.

Using a theme can also help you to plan and deliver activities that are developmentally appropriate and tailored to the needs and interests of the children in your care. For example, if the theme is “under the sea,” you might plan activities that involve learning about sea creatures, creating artwork inspired by the ocean, and engaging in sensory play with sand and water.

However, whilst these are great reasons to use thematic planning in our practice, if you are creating focused tasks or planning enhancements to fit with a theme just because you’re doing minibeasts, or superheroes, or farm or… – well you get the picture – then you are not going to get the desired learning outcome from your children.

So here are 3 questions you need to ask yourself whenever you plan enhancements or focused tasks that will help you to decide if it will support moving on learning or if it is simply because it fits in with a theme you have planned for.

Is it aligned with the long term curriculum outcomes?

Go back to your setting’s long term planning.  This should have outlined the specific learning outcomes you want children to work towards throughout the year.

If the enhanced provision or focused task has nothing to do with any of those learning outcomes, go back to the drawing board and consider why you wanted to include that provision in your short term planning.  Did it fit the needs of the children, meeting them where they are in their learning journey, or was it because it looked like something nice to do that was linked to dinosaurs?

Is the provision suitable for my children?

Use observations and your extensive knowledge of the children in your setting to consider if the provision you are planning is suitable for them.

Will it provide enough challenge?
Is it aligned with their current interests?
Does it represent the culture of the setting?
Does it meet the cohort where they are in their current learning journey?

Does using a theme SUPPORT the understanding of the learning in this situation or could it possibly LIMIT the learning that might happen?

Sometimes themes can be too broad or even limiting when it comes to learning.

A theme that is too broad can make it difficult to focus on specific learning objectives, while a theme that is too limiting can prevent children from exploring different ideas and concepts. In these cases, it may be more beneficial to focus on specific learning objectives or to use a more open-ended approach.

In summary, there are many instances where thematic planning can support our children’s learning, engage their interests, introduce them to new knowledge, concepts, ideas and cultures and provide us a structure with which to plan. 

However, it is important to always put learning outcomes at the centre of what we do and question ourselves when it comes to enhanced provision and focused tasks if thematic short term planning is ALWAYS the best course of action or if there is a better way to present something to our children that will result in a better learning outcome.

How could this look when I am doing my enhanced provision planning?

Below is an example of one of my ‘​​Planning Enhancements within Continuous Provision’ available to download on the website.

This particular example is under the umbrella theme of ‘seaside’.  Notice how each planned enhancement, although linked to the seaside theme – sand, sea, water etc – is clearly and deliberately matched to a learning outcome.

Planning Enhancements within Continuous Provision Plan

Are you looking for more support with short term planning and enhanced provision?

By joining my subscription for only £5.50 per month, you will have access to download plans just like this to help you structure your planning, take away the overwhelm and support you in creating enhancement opportunities for your children.

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