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Developing Practice: Reception Class

Read about how this Reception Class set up a Movement Mat and the benefits it created for learning. Perhaps in these particular times it is worth noting that the teacher says, ’All children’s … ‘Wellbeing and Involvement is extremely high’.

Reception Class Teacher, Peterborough

We are a one-and-a-half form entry school and therefore, have two registration groups in Reception. However, we operate as a unit in an area combining the size of two small classrooms. I work alongside another teacher and two experienced Nursery Nurses. We are fully committed to learning through play and our children experience free flow play both indoors and in the outdoor area, which is always open, come rain or shine. 

I began the JABADAO DMP 5-day course as I was really interested in learning more about children’s movement and why it is so important in the foundations for their future development. The course absolutely inspired me and I immediately knew that it was something that I wanted to introduce permanently in my classroom practice. I returned to my team, newly motivated, and fed back to them on the basic principles of JABADAO and the whole team agreed that we should be fully supporting children’s free movement. I suddenly became much more sensitive to, and aware of, different ways that children move and my insight went much deeper than trying to categorise their movements into the Physical Development area of learning from the Foundation Stage Profile. 

In the interim period between the first two days of the course and the next stage, I concentrated on standing back and observing children moving in a variety of different areas of the classroom. I decided against setting anything up formally, but wanted to get a real feel for the children’s individuality; their movement ‘fiddles and diddles’. I took video footage of the children involved in their play indoors and outdoors. The footage opened my eyes and made me realise how strong the biological drive was in these children to move and the freedom they needed to move in a huge range of ways.

Furthermore, the children were keeping safe and constantly re-assessing the risk posed to themselves and others around them. 

After Day 4 of the course, I once again went back to my team and discussed how we could introduce DMP into our everyday practice and current provision. I wanted to make JABADAO part of our continuous provision, so came up with a plan to introduce a ‘movement mat’ into a corner of our area. This consisted of two gym mats (which were half-inched from the PE cupboard under cover of darkness!), a piece of Lycra and a piece of fleecy material, both bought from the local market, and a semi-deflated gym ball. Our budget was already a bit stretched! 

‘After we established the safety guidelines they needed no further direction from us grown-ups – after all, they are the masters of their own bodies.’

We involved the children in deciding on the rules for the movement mat and they, very sensibly, chose the following: 1. We must always keep our- selves safe. 2. We must always keep each other safe. 3. Only three people are allowed on the movement mat at the same time. Once these guidelines were in place, the children were away! What I think is most important to add is that they needed no further direction from us grown-ups – after all, they are the masters of their own bodies. 

Our parents were obviously very interested in the new addition to our classroom and asked lots of probing questions. We had already organised a parent workshop on Early Literacy, as a result of our involvement in the DfES Early Reading Development Pilot, so decided this would be the best forum through which to introduce DMP; after all, anything that will develop children’s later reading and writing is always dear to parents’ hearts! The parents were very supportive of the movement mat and many offered comments about how much their children raved about it at home! 

Before long, the movement mat was well-established and firmly embedded within our continuous provision. We do not feel we have to have an adult supervising, because the children manage their own safety very well.

The mat is rarely empty; more often we have a queue of children waiting patiently for their turn! 

As reflective practitioners, we have considered areas in which we feel the movement mat has had a positive impact on the children’s learning and development and our understanding: 

  • Increased skills in negotiation, sharing ideas and collaborative thinking 

  • All children’s ‘Wellbeing and Involvement’ is extremely high 

  • Observations have informed our work on schemas

  • Children have increased awareness of rhythm and willingness to explore music-making

  • Improved team work and turn-taking skills

  • Provided an arena for lots and lots of imaginative role play

  • Improved use of language skills and vocabulary

  • Children have a great deal of independence and initiative

  • Children are extremely creative and expressive

  • Children are independent thinkers

  • Builds on confidence and self-esteem

I still feel that the movement mat itself could be improved upon and we could benefit from raising awareness of the DMP principles with our other colleagues and parents. I aim to deliver a parent workshop solely on the principles of DMP and give my parents some first-hand practical experience of the movement activities. After Christmas, I am going to run an after-school DMP club, open to the older children in the school along with a colleague from Year 1 who is interested in getting involved. And finally I would like to build on our current resources by asking the children for their suggestions about what they would like to facilitate their movements. 

In ensuring that DMP is a permanent feature in our provision, I really feel that we have given the children an outlet to express their own individual creativity, in a much less obvious way than giving them art and craft materials. We are learning about who these children really are and celebrating their movement by giving them the freedom to do something which comes a lot more naturally to them than painting a picture. 

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