Demonstrating Responsive Programming Using LIFT


Important Preface:

A brief note about 'cycles'

Before showing you how to link your observations to planned learning experiences in LIFT, we first need to explain how LIFT sorts and records learning experiences into 'cycles'. In LIFT, we use the term 'cycles' as the majority of teachers plan cyclically:  daily, weekly or monthly.   However,  it is important to note that we also understand that flexibility is paramount, therefore in LIFT you do not need to stick to any particular programming cycle and can vary the start and finish date of any 'cycle' to suit your individual teaching needs and curriculum. If you do not plan cyclically, it is probably more helpful for you to think of a cycle in LIFT as a grouping date against which you will record a number of experiences.  It is probably also helpful to note at this point that LIFT also allows further flexibility for you to only run certain experiences on certain days within a planning cycle.  These can be recorded against the day provided and/or in the instructions and notes of the experience. 

Understanding the meaning of being 'responsive'

Too often teachers confuse the requirement of providing a 'responsive curriculum' with 'emergent on the day' planning.  There is nothing wrong with 'planning in the now' provided it is implemented well, however equally there is nothing wrong (or less responsive)  with planning follow up experiences next week or even next month.  We believe that teachers should focus more strongly on being timely.  That is,  teachers need to respond to children's learning cues/needs and follow them up in such a way that is: 

- still effective (the original objective is still valid and the follow up learning is still meaningful); and

- is practical and allows teachers sufficient time to plan and prepare resources and activities that support that learning.

More often that not a timely 'follow up' will be to 'follow up' the learning immediately or in the next program.  However, there are times when a timely response might be linking a current observation to a future cycle weeks if not months in advance.  Here are some great examples of reasons why a teacher may wish to program weeks or even months in advance:

- it's winter (football season) and a father tells you that his son loves watching the one day cricket matches with him.  A great immediate response to this might be to put cricket on the current program but what about linking this up to the cycle in summer that corresponds with the first one day cricket match.  How amazing would it be to prompt sharing of this activity at this time. 

- it's currently March and a child who recently immigrated from India has just joined your centre.  You discuss with the child's family cultural issues.  The child's mother tells you that the child loves to make friendship bracelets from the 'Friendship Festival' celebrated in India in August each year.  Yes you could put friendship bracelets on the next program but creating a whole follow up experience in August would also be very special to both the child and their family.  

Retrospective documentation

While LIFT supports 'forward planning', there will be many times where you will observe and respond to children's learning with experiences on the spot.  In such circumstances you will be entering your planned experiences after you have already ran them.  While this always is challenging for teachers to keep their documentation as current as is practicable, this practice is not discouraged and we advise that teachers use complementary methods, such as brief hand written notes on their plans, to communicate modifications to their daily learning offerings.   Later you can use LIFT to describe in more detail reasons and reflections for changes and additions to your programs. 

Auditing & Review

LIFT allows educators to audit and review their work using a number of tools.  One tool is our observation auditing tool which counts the number of observations and how many were linked/followed up by a 'follow up' planned experience.  There are no hard and fast rules for how often this should be done, but as a general rule there should be evidence that it occurs regularly for all children.  An example of this might be to see at least half of the observations over the last 3 months have been followed up with planned experiences. 



Planning an experience following an observation

Step one: When entering your observation....

In the "Future Opportunities and Possibilities" make a quick note about an experience and if required and objective that you want to achieve.  Select the cycle you wish to follow up in.  You don't need to note this elsewhere to remind you to follow up this, these are automatically listed/ 'ready to use' when you open the cycle you have link to.

Step two: Use prompts from step one ("Linked Observations") to guide your planned experiences. 

After opening your program cycle. Click on the "Linked Observations' tab.  This will show all the observations and any prompts/objectives you noted that you wanted to follow up in your program.  We recommend that you review all the observations carefully first as it may be helpful for you to combine the needs of more than one child with the one experience.  

For example:
You wanted to do more "counting" activities for Mark, another dramatic role play activity for Sarah and do some more writing experiences with Tabitha.  A great follow up experience for all these children might be a shop play area where you could offer:
- writing of signs, orders and receipts
- labeling of pretend sales items
- pretend money
- dress ups and props such as aprons, baskets etc. 


LIFT is designed to be flexible.  We believe strongly that documentation should support the demonstration of linkage however also not to be too onerous on the teacher. Sometimes teachers may wish to explicitly link a child/child's observation to an experience, other times you may wish to provide a general note.  Here are two ways you can show linkage in LIFT.

1. Add an activity that directly correlates to a prompt/objective.  

For example in your 'future opportunities and possibilities' your write:   Provide a sand experience for Paul to extend on Paul's current enjoyment of this activity. If you were then to provide a Sand experience, no detailed explanation is required.  Another teacher or a validator can readily see the correlation.  

It is important to note that the connection should be obvious, hence had the teacher written "provide a sensory/construction experience for Paul" then it might be a stretch for another person to be able to readily make the connection/link to a 'sand play experience' and we would recommend using the methods described below.

2. Add an activity and link to a observation/child or multiple observation/children

LIFT prompts you to describe why you linked to an activity ("Reasons for this experience").  When creating activities you can choose to manual describe your links or to use the drop down menus to link to one or more observations/children.  

Before doing this it is important to note that linking to observations/children in LIFT takes time.  Normal LIFT forms take 4-5 seconds to load, however when linking to observations it takes approximately 20 seconds for each linked observation.  It is for this reason we recommend that you take a moment to think about how you wish to write up your 'reasons' to save any unnecessary wait time.  

1. Add activity with 'No linked observation' - use this as the fastest and quickest way to add an activity without linking an ob (4-5 second load time).  Write up links in the notes under "Reasons for this experience".
2. Linking to one observation: Add activity with with a linked observation (20 second load time)
3. Linking to more than one observation: Add activity as per point 1 and then "View and Edit" the observation to add multiple 

Step four: Evaluating a follow up experience

Sometimes we are prompted to provide a learning experience without individual learning objectives and hence in such circumstances a follow up to an individual observation is probably not required.  In this way, our general reflections provide sufficient opportunity to reflect on how an experience went.

However, sometimes we may wish to record how our learning experience went.  We can do this two ways.
1. Record a "Post Program Reflection' notes against the original observation.  
This provides the educator with an opportunity to quickly note how an experience went, particular useful if no further learning activities or follow up are required.  
2. Create an observation from a program reflection.  
We recommend this method as it provides opportunities for you to further extend learning which is documented in the children observation portfolio timeline. 
Through a click of a button in the Activities tab, you can select the activity you wish to create an observation from.  All the activity reflections and observations will automatically be added, including notes about the program.  You can then edit the reflection and customise for the child's observation you are adding.  You then edit the observation as you would normally, potentially providing another follow up learning experience.  In theory you could iterate a continuous loop of observe - plan - reflect to observation - plan ...etc...etc...

Extending a program or creating a follow up experience from a previous learning experience

Following up and extending experiences based on group needs, prompts and cues is also something teachers can easily do at anytime.  In LIFT you can link LIFT to previous experiences through the "Reasons for choosing the experience" notes area of LIFT.  LIFT allows whole experiences to be easily duplicated (Goto Activities tab to duplicate experiences).  

Using Google Drive with LIFT

LIFT Quality portal helps early childhood services easily manage communication, collaboration and linking to the EYLF.  Users can upload their policies, procedures, completed forms etc. and share them with other educators at their service and with families. 

Simply upload your document, categorise it against the NQS. 


LIFT also allows you to upload electronic web links to online document management services like Dropbox and Google Drive. The advantage of using these services is that they give users the additional flexibility to control sharing and editing of the documents.  For example, you can give permission to anyone to download and view a document as well as given certain persons additional privileges to edit a document. 

Here's an example of how you can use Google Documents to manage sharing of a Policy in LIFT. 

If you don't already have one, you'll need to create a google account.  Click here to learn more. 

Once you have set up your account, open google drive and upload a document.  Select the arrow to upload an existing document or create to make a new one from scratch!


Once you have uploaded the document, you can edit the sharing restrictions you have on your document by clicking the share button on the top right hand side of your screen. 






You can then allow the document to anyone who can access the link (it will not be published in any shared forums).








Once you have done this, then all you need to do is add other persons you wish to have editing rights to your document. 


When you are done, copy your link into LIFT by pasting into the weblink box instead of uploading a document.



















Top tips for 'educational leaders' using LIFT

Being an educational leader in an early childhood service is a hugely challenging role, particularly in light of changes to curriculum that have occurred over the last two years with implementation of the new National Quality Standard and the Early Years Learning Framework. 

National Quality Standard Professional Learning Program describes the educational leader as someone who not only posses great knowledge of early childhood theory, practice and research, but also who is observant of individual children and team member needs, backgrounds, strengths and weakness and is able to deliver a collaborative and mentored approach to managing issues.

So at the coal face what does that mean to you as an early childhood leader?  Below we have outlined some key tasks LIFT can help you to develop yourself as an early childhood leader while also helping you collaborate and mentor. 


Goal setting

Always on a path of continuous improvement, you need to work with your team to set the vision for your service and breakdown that vision into simple target and goals. Typically your vision statement will be your philosophy statement and you will want to continuously review and revise this.  In LIFT upload your philosophy statement into your service set up page. Click Setup, Service & insert your philosophy statement.

Now take out the key aspects of vision/philosophy statement and break them down into goals.  You will use these to link to your observations & programs.  In LIFT click setup, Add goals (or Goals if you want to edit and existing goals).  Make sure you goals are simple and easily measurable against.  Later you can review your progress against certain goals by doing an audit/search of observations that link to that goal.



Audit & Review

Take stock of current practice?  What are you actually doing?  What are you achieving?  This requires the educational leader to step back and take careful observations of practice. We recommend you document these observations in the Quality area of LIFT.  They can later be used to reflect or create actions from. Goto Quality, Add document.  You can link your audit, review, observation ‘Document’ to a particular quality element which you can later search for when reflecting overall about a particular quality standard or element.
We have also created an ‘Auditing’ page in LIFT where educational leaders can take stock of key ‘overview’ aspects of planning including:

  • Counts/Types of observation methods used;

  • Counts of observations with a follow up experience (demonstrating responsiveness)
  • Links to the EYLF (a broad look at what individuals, teams or even the whole service are focused on)
  • Links to various EYLF outcomes;
  • Participation of families (comments on observations).
  • Reflections against programs, including the type and content of critical reflection;
  • Reviews against different NQS practices or principles.


Take time to think about what you do, why you do it and what you could do differently?  Reflecting allows us to collect our thoughts and also allows us to share our thoughts with others. There are a number of ways you can reflect in LIFT:
- Include reflections about learning in observations (generally written by the person making the observation)
- Reflect against a planned experience (again generally written by the program leader)
- Write a general reflection in the Quality Area of LIFT.  In LIFT goto Quality, Add Document.  You can link your reflection to a particular quality element which you can later search for when reflecting overall about a particular quality standard or element. These can also be shared with families if you don’t hide them and they can also collaborate and comment on your reflections.
- Write an educational leader reflection against a planned experience.  This reflection, while created in the plans section of LIFT, creates a ‘Document’ in the quality area of LIFT.  This way you can always go back and search for those reflections and see any responses and further comments that might be made against them.  These are processed as ‘comments’ against those documents. These reflections are also emailed to a particular educator.  LIFT uses the email address that they registered with (eg. their username).

Take Action

After reflecting, you are likely to identify opportunities to improve.  In LIFT these actions are recorded as 'Tasks'.  You can raise an action/task from a document (eg. audit, reflection etc.) in LIFT by viewing that document.  Click Quality, Search documents, enter the criteria of your search, click Search, click on the right hand side of your chosen document “Raise task”).  Don’t forget that you also have the option of including that task in your Quality Improvement Plan.  When editing a task (Click Quality, Search tasks, Click right hand side “Details” of task to edit) you can choose “Include in your QIP” and this will post this action to your QIP.  



National Quality Standard Professional Learning Program - Newsletter 33: The educational leader  

Create learning stories using LIFT

A very popular observation technique: learning stories are illustrative narratives about children's learning which involves all the stakeholder who are involved and/or support children's learning, including children, educators & families. "Learning stories shows a child’s progress over time and tend to be a more engaging form of reporting. The stories also provide valuable information which can be used to establish strong links between home and the care environment, and provide parents with an insight into what happens when the child is in care" (Ryan, K. nd). 


Learning stories evolved from New Zealand's Te Whariki curriculum and over time have been simplified into three key questions:

1. Describe the learning
2. Review the learning
3. What's next (what will the stakeholders do to further support or enhance the learning)
Another technique typically used in learning stories is the recording of 'voices' of each stakeholder including:
- the child's voice
- the educator's voice
- the families voice
The LIFT observation method principally follows this pathway, allow users to flexibly report using language and style unique to the teacher.  Here is an example of a learning story that has been created in LIFT.  This learning story also has links to the EYLF, NQS & a program follow up!
It is important to note that learning stories are just that "a story" and the level of detail of it is entirely individual.  You could simply or add more detail to your learning story, depending on the focus of your story and the readability of the narrative. For your reference, here are some great online samples of learning stories I have found include: - some of the best early childhood examples I have seen in this format. - some more great early childhood examples

Learning Through Routines

Key links to Early Years Learning Framework (EYLF)
- EYLF Principle 1. Secure, Respectful and Reciprocal Relationships
- EYLF Principle 2. Partnerships
- EYLF Practice 1. Holistic Approaches
- EYLF Practice 2. Learning through Play
- EYLF Practice 3. Intentional Teaching
- EYLF Practice 5. Learning Environments
- EYLF Practice 7. Continuity of Learning & Transitions
- Linked to all five EYLF learning outcomes 

What is a routine?

A routine can be thought of as any procedure, process, or pattern of action that is used repeatedly to manage and facilitate the accomplishment of specific goals or tasks” - (Visible Thinking, n.d)

Importance of Routines

Uncertainty and change is innately stressful for all human beings (Cooperative Extension Service, 1989).  Routines are important to everybody, but they are especially for young children as it allows children to navigate the continuous challenge of learning new things from the safe and comforting boundaries that are created by routines.  Gan Discovery (2002) outlines the importance of routines/patterns as emotional regulators to decrease stress, anxiety and conflict.  Gil (2010) extends on this further  and outlines how routines help integrate learning with an ‘organized connection’.  

Educator guiding toddler through clean up routine

Routines are important because they give children a sense of security and control over their environment. Children learn what to expect at various times in the day and as they begin to participate in these routines, they will experience a sense of control and satisfaction at being able to perform part of or all of the tasks associated with the routine.

Routines are also effective in managing negative behaviour particularly when it comes to dealing with transitions into new tasks. Routines allow children to emotionally prepare for changes that are to come.  For example, a child will know that certain things happen as he gets ready for bed and as he progresses through the routine, he will also know what is expected of him when the task is completed.

Some of the important skills children learn through routines include: self control, positive behaviour and social skills. Routines can even help strengthen the relationship between you and your child as power struggles are significantly reduced (Zero to Three, n.d.).

Learning Through Routines

Routines provide a two pronged approach to fostering learning:

1.       they provide learning within the routine itself and the specific tasks associated with the routine;

2.       through the process of generalization (i.e., establishing a frame of reference that can be used to learn other skills and concepts (Gil, 2010).

Routines provide a context for learning to take place. Routines help children learn how their world is organized and what they need to do in order to interact successfully in that world (Sussmen, 2011). For example, after they wake up they need to get dressed and have breakfast before getting ready to go to daycare. At daycare, they need to hang up their jacket, say good morning to the teacher and then they will have time for some free play for a while before they may later sit down together as a group. Routines will give each child a sense of continuity throughout the day as well as letting them know what to expect next.  Within routines children also learn methods associated with math and sequencing: used to follow an ordered sequence of activities, determine relationships between elements, count, and make simple calculations

Routines not only help children learn about their day, they can also help develop motor skills as they begin to practice the tasks involved with the routine. A child’s confidence level will also begin to increase as they become more and more successful at performing those tasks. Children may initially not be able to get dressed by themselves but they will slowly develop the skills necessary and will soon be able to accomplish the task on their own.

Getting parents involved not only in passing on key routines from home, but also sharing in key routines for your early childhood service, will strengthen the security and comfort children take from routines. 

Routines can also provide opportunities for little children to slowly increase their responsibility and care of self and it is important that families and educators work patiently together to strengthen children’s confidence to do this.

Social skills can also be taught through routines such as welcoming, saying goodbye, turn taking and group times.  Gill (2010) refer to this as ‘tactile and/ or visual modeling’: used when learning a new action in the routine or repeating an action that has not yet been mastered.    By teaching children what behaviours are appropriate and at what times, it can teach them how to start conversations and interact with other people (Sussmen, 2011).  Routines can give educators and parents a chance to practice conversations with their child as well as providing an opportunity for the child to initiate conversation. Children can inform educators and parents when it’s time for a routine to take place as well as what comes next in the routine.

Routines also teach children specific skills involved in the routine as well as skills that can be used in other circumstances (Rodriguez-Gil, 2010).  For example, a routine that is learned in a pre-school will be brought home and practiced there. If the expectation at the pre-school is that children arrive and immediately put their school bag away, this routine can be imported into the family home so that children will put their school bag away when they get home as well.

Routines can also have a powerful effect on language learning because of all the opportunities they provide excellent prompts for discussion. As educators and parents progress through the various daily routines, they can name the items that are being used in the routine, they can discuss each action as it is being done and they can discuss what comes next. Their child will begin to understand the vocabulary that is associated with the routine. Gill (2010) refers to this as ‘adapted communication’: used by the child and the communication partner as needed in the routine to anticipate, to name, to make choices and to have a conversation about actions, people, objects, places, physical sensations and emotions.

Making Routines effective

In order for routines to be a practical source for learning you need to make sure that you have enough time to take each task within the routine slowly and you need to be sure that you discuss each individual task with your child (Linden, 2000). You need to try and do the same thing the same way each time you do a routine and you should also try to use the same language to help reinforce language learning.  Take time out to write your routines down and discuss them which your colleagues, children and their families (Linden 2000).

You shouldn’t think of routines as tasks that need to be performed but instead as opportunities to interact in a meaningful way with your child. By talking, touching and interacting in other ways with your child, you can actually use daily routines to help develop and strengthen the bond with your child as well as providing the opportunity to learn a number of different skills.

Think of ways you can continue or leverage learning from a routine.  Here are some examples:

-          implement written literacy elements into a routine, by including words to label/describe routines, children can use the predictive understanding of their routines to learn new words;

-          use routine and maintenance times as opportunities to explore conversation and interaction with children such as during nappy change and meal times.

-          discuss routines with children and ask them how their routines could be changed, extended or improved;

-          look for opportunities to extend or challenge children in the routine, such as ways to take on more responsibility or complete more difficult tasks. 

-          Look for new routine opportunities which children and educators can use on a daily basis to explore, discuss question and investigate (Here is a link to some amazing classroom ideas for doing this).

Authors: Natalie Higgins and David Gregory

About Raise Learning

This article has been written by Raise Learning,  providers of LIFT (Learning Involving Families & Teachers - an online programming and documentation tool) and other early childhood management tools.  If you would like to know more about Raise Learning or LIFT please visit our home page.   


Cooperative Extension Service (1989)  Michigan State University ”Stress and Change” Extension bulletin E-2201, Home Economics Program retrieved 19/03/2012 from Stress and Change 

Gan Discovery (2002) “Child Care Routines - The Value and Importance” retrived 19/03/2012 from Child Care Routines

Linden, J., 200, Good Habits – Learning Through Routines, viewed March 14, 2012, from Good Habits Learning Through Routines

Rodriguez-Gil, G., 2010. Routine-Based Learning, reSources, vol. 15 no. 2, viewed March 14, 2012,   Routine Based Learning

Sussmen, F., 2011, The Power of Using Everyday Routines to Promote Young Children's Language and Social Skills. The Hanen Centre, viewed March 14, 2012, The Power of Using Everyday Routines to Promote Young Children's Language and Social Skills

Visible Thinking (no date) "Thinking Routines" retrieved 19 March 2012 from  Thinking Routines

Zero to Three, n.d., Love, Learning and Routines, viewed March 14, 2012, Love Learning and Routines

Promoting Diversity, Equity and Cultural Competence in the Early Years

One of the contemporary issues facing educators and families today is raising children to become culturally competent and sensitive from a young age.  When interacting with people whose culture and background are different from their own, children need to learn how to respect and accept these differences, else they risk growing up into adults who contribute to problems brought about by discrimination.  Only by teaching children cultural competence can we hope to have a society based on mutual respect and acceptance

Read entire article.

Exploring Holistic Approaches for Early Childhood Educators

With a growing body of world research emphasizing the importance of holistic approaches to education, early childhood educators are being challenged to incorporate a teaching practice that focuses less on the traditional milestones of academic development, and more on the complete physical, emotional and psychological wellbeing of a child (UNESCO, 2002).  The research is compelling and studies show that over time,  even persons with average IQ (Intellectual Intelligence) but with high EI (Emotional Intelligence) are significantly more successful than those with much higher IQs but low EI (Goleman, 1995).

So what does this mean for an early childhood educator?  The Australian Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations (DEEWR) as part of the Early Years Learning Framework (EYLF) describes:

Holistic approaches to teaching and learning recognize the connectedness of mind, body and spirit. When early childhood educators take a holistic approach they pay attention to children’s physical, personal, social, emotional and spiritual wellbeing as well as cognitive aspects of learning.  While educators may plan or assess with a focus on a particular outcome or component of learning, they see children’s learning as integrated and interconnected. They recognize the connections between children, families and communities and the importance of reciprocal relationships and partnerships for learning. They see learning as a social activity and value collaborative learning and community participation.  An integrated, holistic approach to teaching and learning also focuses on connections to the natural world. Educators foster children’s capacity to understand and respect the natural environment and the interdependence between people, plants, animals and the land (DEEWR, 2009).

Teaching Philosophies that Embrace Holistic Approaches

Over the last few decades many varied holistic education philosophies have emerged.  Montessori prescribed a “prepared environment” containing specific materials that children use, independently for the most part, to learn at their own pace, responding to particular readiness for specific sensory and intellectual stimuli.  Rudolf Steiner‘s ‘Waldorf’ approach is based on intuitive (his followers claim clairvoyant) understanding of the needs of the evolving soul at each level of development: children in Waldorf schools are divided into grades according to age and spend most of their time learning through group activities carefully planned and led by the teacher (who is also supposed to have intuitive insight into children’s personalities and immediate needs) (Miller, n.d). Some holistic approaches (for example, Quaker schools, or “neo-humanist” education based on the teachings of Tantric guru P.R. Sarkar) have adopted meditation, periods of silent reflection or journaling, yoga and other centering practices (Kesson, 2002). Other holistic approaches (the Reggio Emilia system of early childhood education comes to mind) place great emphasis on artistic self-expression and engaged creativity. Krishnamurti, on the other hand, advised against methods as such and suggested that a caring, open, non-authoritarian relationship between people leads to genuine learning (Forbes, 2002)(Miller,n.d).

Methods for Implementing Holistic Approaches

While there is clearly no one method, Miller (2006) after review of a number of different holistic teaching methodologies, describes four key aspects of holistic approach based teaching:

1.       Learning is organic, emergent, experimental and based on cooperation.   Pre-planned teaching is facilitated only so far as to initiate open ended questioning and inquiry;

2.       There is a strong sense of community and engagement between children, parents and educators where those members feel strongly to care for one another

3.       There is a great respect for children’s interior life,  with methods ranging from environmental spaces that facilitate time out of competitive nosier environments, to time to ask deeper questions about the meaning of life and spirituality.

4.       There are strong connections to nature,  with the care and connection to the environment incorporated throughout the curriculum.

In another interesting article by Ron Miller he describes the aspirations of the holistic educator:

Holistic education aims to call forth from people an intrinsic reverence for life and a passionate love of learning. This is done, not through an academic "curriculum" that condenses the world into instructional packages, but through direct engagement with the environment. Holistic education nurtures a sense of wonder. Montessori, for example, spoke of "cosmic" education: Help the person feel part of the wholeness of the universe, and learning will naturally be enchanted and inviting. There is no one best way to accomplish this goal, there are many paths of learning and the holistic educator values them all; what is appropriate for some children and adults, in some situations, in some historical and social contexts, may not be best for others. The art of holistic education lies in its responsiveness to the diverse learning styles and needs of evolving human beings (Miller, n.d).

What Do Holistic Approaches Look Like in Practice?

Taking responsibility for development of a “whole child” however is a significant endeavor for any early childhood educator:  guiding students to finds identity, meaning, and purpose in life through connections to the community, to the natural world, and to spiritual values such as compassion and peace.  Rather than be overwhelmed by the many varied ideals of holistic education, it is recommended teachers find opportunities (approaches) to implement the various elements of holistic education into their practice.   

An helpful example of this could be further exploration and extension of child’s interests, taking a small idea and unpacking it into many opportunities for learning: an interest in cars could be expanded into: where cars came from; the first wheel;  what types of cars are used around the world; what type of people use cars; understanding if and why their family uses a car; why other people use cars; how over use of cars can affect our health; what cars are doing to our environment;  alternatives to cars; new designs to overcome environmental impact etc.  This example shows us how an early childhood teacher can expand learning into all aspects of a child’s life including family, the environment, history, empathy and understanding. 

Another example could be offering art with pastels, exploring different artists in history, colours, how light makes colour, rainbows, how pastels are made, the earliest pastels made by indigenous people, their drawings and what they tell us about them, what other materials to draw on, people who use pastels from architects to street art, using pastels to explore our feelings and express our moods etc.

Finally another very important example is working with families.  Engaging families by inviting them to visit, speak, bring in cultural or work artefacts to share and participate in children’s programs fosters enormous sense of pride and connectiveness for children.   


Holistic approaches encompass, as the names suggests, a broad range of teaching goals and aspirations for children’s learning that extends well beyond academic learning into fields of social and emotional wellbeing.  While this can at first seem overwhelming, teachers can find the small opportunities in their day to day practice to incorporate and extend ideas that promote connection, community and wellbeing.


Find out more about LIFT and other early childhood management tools

This article has been written by Raise Learning,  providers of LIFT (Learning Involving Families & Teachers - an online programming and documentation tool) and other early childhood management tools.  If you would like to know more about Raise Learning or LIFT please visit our home page.   



Australian Government Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations for the Council of Australian Governments (2009) retrieved 5/3/2012 

Department of education, Michgan (2001) “WHAT RESEARCH SAYS ABOUT PARENT INVOLVEMENT IN CHILDREN’S EDUCATION In Relation to Academic Achievement” retrieved 5/3/2012

Miller, Ron (n.d) “A brief introduction to holistic education” retrieved 4/3/2012 

Miller, Ron (2006) “ Path of Learning - Educating the Child’s “Inner Power”” retrieved 5/3/2012 

UNESCO (2002), “An Integrated Approach to Early Childhood Education and Care - Early Childhood and Family Policy Series n°3”, retrieved 4/3/2002

Why wholly paper based documentation systems are just too hard!

Drowning in EYLF paperwork

Less time but more to do!

Today with rising professional education standards, increasing regulation and expectations from parents, early childhood education has significantly changed.  For the most part educators have carried the burden of producing more work with very often less time and are adapting to the increasing pressure by implementing methods that streamline repetitive, duplicating or arduous tasks. More recently, many early childhood educators are taking streamlining processes to the digital arena, developing systems and adapting new methods in communication, like LIFT, Facebook and Google tools to further simplify the growing demand on their diminishing time. 

So what is required of early childhood educators and why would a teacher want to use digital tools to simply this process. 



Just the tracking tools alone in paper based systems can make you groan!

Educators have to observe all children, (and document these observations), identify and evaluate learning both developmentally and against approved curriculum criteria (EYLF outcomes), extend upon that learning, link that learning to future programs (and be able to show that link).  Educators have to document what experiences they have offered, have documentation readily available for families and regulators, and reflect on their practice both qualitatively and quantitatively against approved curriculum (EYLF teaching principles and practices).  How does an educator do this with a paper based system?  Arguably they don't really ever document all of these requirements or even if they do make a noble attempt to try, they spend significantly more time than is available to do administrative tasks.  Take a look at some links to some recent paper based examples of documentation systems.  Many are painfully repetitive or don't meet all of the requirements. 

It is clear that none of these provide a solution that meets all requirements and all require unnecessary duplication and are very difficult to cross reference ‘tracking’ of tools used and work done.

Databases can organise the complex documentation required for early childhood educators into searchable, reportable systems with easily created and track-able links between key tasks such as the link between observations - to "followed up" activities - parent involvement - to new observation.  LIFT provides a comprehensive documentation solution for educators to share, easily link and show links to plans and curriculum criteria and principles.  Other helpful tools we recommend to further extend and connect teachers and families are: 

  • Google Documents (great way to create free shared documents & surveys)
  • Facebook - create an open public page and private community pages where you can share so much information with families in a way that is effective and engaging

Paper based systems tie down managers

Even if individual teachers can navigate paper-based systems, how do managers of educators easily supervise and audit without overly administrative double handling and checking?  In my opinion you just can't.  Too often I have heard horror stories of fantastic services failing validation because of one individual falling behind on their documentation.  Early childhood managers are also time poor, particularly at present when the early childhood industry is going through radical reform and re-regulation, and need to find easier ways to connect, sample, supervise and review.  Electronic tools can make reporting, sampling and general supervision of the program far more streamlined and free up managers time to spend more time building, training and supporting their teams. 



Job flexibility is hard outside of secure online tools - It's heavy and full of risk to take your paperwork home! 

It is just too difficult with paper based systems that make it impossible for families and staff to access and/or review children's files outside of the physical service or at a time more suitable to them.  Removing a child's ONLY record from a service could be disastrous if those records are lost, damaged or not transported securely. The only way around this is duplication or at least photocopying which is also nevertheless time draining.  Online tools like LIFT completely remove these barriers, allowing staff to work more flexible hours, at home and for parents to access their children's information at any time that works for them!

Communicate at a time that suits you!


And what about sharing of information?  How can teachers collaborate ideas and work effectively with parents, when communication is strained by time, family and work pressures also.  Drop off and pick up time is always strained, even on the best of days with many families vying for educators' time. Educators and families need to find ways to communicate outside of these peak demand times, at a time that suits them, but facilitating this communication is extremely difficult using paper based systems as basic information about the day needs to be duplicated for each family.  
Technology opens opportunities to extend collaboration in ways never dreamed of possible using paper based systems

The opportunities to share and collaborate amongst the wider community of educators are greatly improved by online tools.  For example, LIFT has a growing database of thousands of ideas which educators are collaboratively building on a day by day basis.  Online tools like LIFT make sharing easy and break down barriers between educators such as distance and field of teaching (preschool, family day care, long day care etc.).



With increasing pressures to do more with less, educators need to find ways to remove duplication, easily show linkages and connect better with families.  Stop lugging those folders around, work and communicate at a time that suits your busy lives by adapting and implementing some of the many new electronic tools available.  
Like to find out more about LIFT?  Sign up for a free 30 day trial today.

Do you document for the sake of documenting?

Questions surrounding quality and quantity in early childhood documentation is not new 

After doing training with a number of services one of the questions that is most often asked is "How many observations should we be doing?"..."How do I know I am doing enough?".  I believe the fear of not having enough documentation is not a new one. Ever since the National Accreditation System came into place and emphasis on documentation of learning and auditing of this process began educators have questioned themselves as to whether they are doing enough. 

Currently there still is no specific guides on what the 'minimum requirement' for documentation and assessment, rather assessment guidance is qualitative and left to individual judgement assessing a wide range of variables such as:

- the type of care; 

- use (when and how often each child used care);

- demographic and language factors;

- service philosophy and education methods etc.

As educators there is a fear of failing due to lack of documentation. We are all looking for a book that will tell us if we do this many per child, per week, month, year we will meet the standard. However, minimum requirements for 'early childhood programming', outlining what is passable and not passable is very difficult to articulate with 'one simple catch all rule'.  Furthermore in addition to individual service factors , and it cannot be understated, is that not all observations are made equally. Detailed observations often contain significantly more information about a child, whereas quick jottings and anecdotes provide only one or two elements from which a teacher can use to assess and/or extend learning upon. 

So my answer of course to the question of 'how much is enough' is normally answered by reframing the question into: 1. 'Are your observations providing you with enough quality/valuable opportunities to follow through or follow up on learning for all aspects of your program?' and 'have you observed enough to communicate to all stakeholders confidence that each child is enjoying and progressing well using your program?'.  Answering these questions while also challenging, are more meaningful and I will explore the ideas and issues surrounding these two questions below.   

Quality observations should always be meaningful

Quality early childhood education is based on rich (detailed) and meaningful observations that encompass many things. Let's just take a moment to explore what makes up a meaningful and rich observation observation.

Meaningful? I believe the first thought in your mind when you are taking an observation should be "What is the child learning in this moment?" I am not saying that this always means that it has to be measurable such as; writing their name, taking a first step or using a pincer grip. These are all aspects of learning but as we evolve as educators we realise that many of the learning steps children take are not always able to be seen by the naked eye. We as educators should be looking for and recognising these moments; which is what differentiates us as quality teaching professionals. It requires time, thought and continuous reflection to master and often involves picking up "the little things" often overlooked by the unqualified observer. The observation below will show an example of this.

Sarah you were playing in the home corner today with Jenny and Marie. You all took turns in pouring each other cups of tea and using your manners to say please and thank you to one another. When Barbara called you all to come to the mat you put the tea set down and called out to Jenny and Marie that it was time to come  to the mat. This was lovely to see that you are gaining confidence within your friendship group to communicate with them and also your sense of belonging in the larger group that you were happy to shout out this instruction to your friends in front of others.

This observation does not explicitly demonstrate an obvious significant traditional learning milestone, however we as qualified early childhood educators understand its importance and that if a child feels confident and part of the group,  they will learn and grow. The observation clearly shows that Sarah is confident and comfortable in the group which is one of the first steps to engaging in the learning environment that is being provided. It also shows that she is an active participant in this program.

Furthermore, the observation can be defined as rich as it also subtlety illustrates many other important pieces of information about Sarah that we can use to create future learning opportunities with. Her enjoyment in role play and small group social interaction, her ability to follow simple instructions, her ability to take on a leadership role when she finds it necessary and her ability to communicate clearly with others. Any of these learning attributes are able to be readily built upon and/or extended. I will explore this further below. 

An example of an observation, while still valid but far less rich, which misses many opportunities to observe and/or follow up on learning:  

Milly picked up the paint brush with a palmer grip and did three big brush strokes 

This observation does not show whether Milly enjoyed painting, how long she was at the activity, whether anyone else interacted with Milly at the time  etc. This leaves the reader of the observation wondering why the observation was taken in the first place. Possibly at a stretch you could state the learning taking place was that Milly is able to manipulate a paint brush. When you could have watched Milly for another 2 minutes and documented in a way that was meaningful a plethora of learning may have been discovered.

Quality observations should be written considerate of all stakeholders

Readers of Sarah's observation (above) will get many different things, for example:  

- Sarah's parents will see that she is happy when she is attending the service and that she is making friends; 

- Colleagues, carers and other educators may be provided with insight or learning about Sarah, they may not yet have observed;

- The child Sarah (with help) will see that her play and progress is being celebrated and acknowledged even when she didn't realise it was occurring, giving her the confidence to continue playing this way;

- Regulators will be able to see that the program is engaging children with and that the educator knows the child and is following up on opportunities observed. 

When taking an observation you should be aware of what you are communicating to the people that are  reading it and that the message that you are sending is the one you a meaning to send.

Follow through is vital - quality observations should always provide the foundation for future learning opportunity

In saying all of this the above observation means significantly less if you as the educator don't follow through. Yes parents may feel comforted seeing evidence of the child involvement,  but if it is not followed through with assessment of learning and/or a programmed activity, the observation does not meet the needs of other stakeholders yourself, your service and the regulatory authorities.  

This is where the true beauty of effective programming comes into play. A well written observation should lead to either confirmation that your existing teaching program is meeting the child's need and/or an assessment that leads to a new a programmed activity.  The observation process should then cycle again: to review whether or not this programmed activity worked as you expected it to you need to observe the child engaging with the activity, you then take an observation of this engagement which leads to another programmed activity and so on and so forth so that before you know it the programming cycle is practically doing itself. All from your original observation you have now created a rich tapestry of a child's learning.


In summary the question of quantity should not be the focus, rather educators should take time to step back and really reflect on whether they can answer the following questions for each child in their care:

- Do my observations communicate the important things I have learnt about that child, providing opportunities to collaborate with families and colleagues;

- Do my observations show the child's engagement/enjoyment of my program?; and

- Have I followed up on what I have observed to further engage and/or extend learning for that child. 

If quantity really still concerns you, step back again and look at your programs. Can you say that the majority of your practice and experiences offered are always guided or initiated by the children you are observing?  

Assessment for learning in early childhood

Assessment "for learning"

Assessment For Learning

Traditionally assessment is often associated with the "end of learning" or a final measure of what we achieved/did not achieve.  'Assessment for Learning' shifts the focus away from the concept of assessment as final, to a continuous improvement model where assessment is iterative, ongoing and each assessment informs the next stage of learning.  It is for this reason that a key principle of 'Assessment for Learning' requires teachers to reflect on the purpose of assessment and their assessment strategies to ensure assessment:

- is measured against learning outcomes/objectives;

- is comprehensive, using a variety of methods,  and demonstrates what children can already do; and

- is embedded within the learning activities & informs future learning activities. 

'Assessment for Learning' also goes further to embed a value of seeking feedback and involvement from all stakeholders in learning, which includes children and their families.  While direct feedback from very young children can often be challenging, educators are encouraged to creatively assess many other key indicators of learning success such as engagement/participation and enjoyment of an activity.   
EYLF Guide 
Principles of Assessment for Learning