Back in 2015 when I first started the Facebook page Keeping Early Years Unique (KEYU), it was out of sheer frustration. As an experienced Early Years practitioner I was finding myself caught up in discussions on social media about what I referred to as "fancy pants pedagogy". This was all singing all dancing provision which whilst perhaps looking very attractive to the eye upon a first glance, held very little pedagogical substance below the surface. Social media is full of examples of beautiful tuff trays, carefully written challenges and learning prompts that the intended learner is unable to read. Ironically with the mission of extending and challenging learning- these set ups often hinder it, perhaps asking a child "Can you make a tower of 10 blocks?" Meanwhile the child has plans to build something much more intricate and complex- using perhaps 100 blocks! Or more.
Picture from this great article: Froebel’s gifts and block play today (communityplaythings.co.uk)
So this morning, when I saw this article from the TES "How teachers can steer clear of education gimmicks", it seemed the perfect time to get blogging again! Especially in light of EYFS reforms and the never ending discussions about what OFSTED do/don't want to see...
Although Holme's article was not aimed at Early Years, it just highlighted how fads and gimmicks run throughout our entire system. "Pedagimmikry" (which I thought was a perfect phrase for pedagogy built on gimmicks) is alive and well in the sector. This type of practice will often look good, perhaps even exciting- however, dig a little deeper and it’s based on complete and utter... fluff.
Pedagimmickry or Fancy Pants Provision, often requires educators spending lots of time/money/energy preparing and setting up. It’s the type of thing you will find all over the social media channels with lists of tagged names below, as readers tag in friends and colleagues or comments like “let’s do this next week”. Before we tag a colleague or plan to adopt something we need to ask ourself one pivotal question. It is a favourite of my good friend Dr Sue Allingham and it is simply "Why". If it is because it looks good, or the children will like it- is that really good enough?
Now let me be clear. I am not crticising our wonderful sector. We get sucked in to the perfect pedagogy vortex. Perhaps we’ve been on a course, we’ve seen a photo, it looks good, we think the children will love it. Perhaps they will- for five minutes. Or even a week. But then it’s over. It’s done. It was a fad. It has taken our time. Our energy and perhaps our money too.
Ultimately we fall for pedagimmickry and fancy pants because we want to do the best for children, give them the best experience, improve our practice. But there are things we forget in all our striving.
We forget that for our children, the world itself is fascinating. They do not need the gimmicks and fads. A large cardboard box will do very nicely thank you! Or a hill to roll down. Or a spot to lay and look up at the clouds. Or a puddle to jump in. Or a snail to race.
Neither do they need a new England style mud kitchen made from some pallets in a gorgeous shade of pale green complete with running water and matching pans and dinner service. A board across some crates, some old pans, spoons and mud will do the job just as well. If not better.
Image from this fabulous free guide: Making_a_mud_kitchen_LowResAW.pdf (muddyfaces.co.uk)
Children don’t need pedagimmickry or fancy pants pedagogy.
Children need what makes the difference.
Reflective, skilled fascinated, tuned in adults.
Adults who know what matters.
Children: Unique, complex and fascinating.
Ditch the pedagimmickry. Ditch the fancy pants.
No one needs it. Not you. Not the children.
Save your time and energy. Invest it where it matters most- in every interaction you have with those lucky children.
Spent it reflecting, evaluating, discussing and ensuring your environment is responsive, open ended and enabling.
Let's Keep the Early Years Unique.
Anyone with me?