Blog: Misconceptions and Planning in the Moment

“Planning in the moment is nothing new. It is exactly what skilful practitioners have always done. Every time an adult looks at, and listens to, a child, they are “assessing” and “planning” how to respond. These assessments and plans are based on the adult’s observations of the child in that moment and draw on (all their) previous knowledge of the child.”

Anna Ephgrave, Planning in the Moment with Young Children (2016)

How often as teachers do we concentrate on supporting pupils while learning by focussing and supporting them during their misconceptions, whether individually, in groups or as a whole class? We often get some of our greatest affirmation and fulfilment during our teaching when we are involved in these question-and-answer situations in our classrooms. The skills we use are varied, involving our observation of pupils as both learners and as people.

The theme this month is to focus on the commonality and relevance of the ‘in the moment planning’ suggestions and ideas for all teachers. So, please read the quote above and replace the word ‘child’ with ‘pupil’ or ‘student’. If you can also do this as you read the quotes below, I hope you will have had a useful interactive experience that allows you a few minutes to think about pedagogy and practice, rather than finance and budgets, at the beginning of this Autumn term.

No attempt will be made here to describe ‘planning in the moment’ in detail because Anna’s work is best understood by reading any of her inspirational books or seeing it in action, as I have been fortunate to do at Cooper Perry Primary School. I hope that sharing some of the key quotes from Anna’s own work below, can stimulate a review of our best practice, as the adults in all our different learning environments. The best teachers are always learners, with so many skills to share.

Please continue reading our interactive newsletter by replacing the word ‘child’ as above and ‘play’ with ‘learning’.

  • Deep involvement will not occur unless a child has good levels of wellbeing and therefore this must be the priority. This means a focus on building relationships and meticulous planning of transitions and induction.
  • Children will be deeply engaged in their learning because they are with adults who know and understand them in an enabling environment that meets their needs and interests.
  • Every child wants to be deeply involved and each will achieve this in their own unique way. The hugely complex task for practitioners is to ensure that this is possible and to clarify the role of the adult within this play.
  • Any praise you do give should be around the process, rather than the end result – so praise perseverance, good ideas, initiative, etc. The work around growth mindset is relevant here.
  • My message is that in the early years your setting is the intervention. A child should not be removed from one group and put into another in order that their needs can be met. In the best setting, the provision will meet the needs of all the children. Any extra funding (or extra adults) should be used within the main provision to bring the intervention to the child.
  • Environments need to be suitable for the age of the children, with resources that are well organised and that the children can access independently and many of which are open-ended (versatile).
  • Children display the highest levels of involvement when they have autonomy in an environment that allows them to be creative, take risks and challenge themselves in their endeavours.
  • Indeed, some of the most powerful learning happens when the children are working things out for themselves, struggling to master a new skill, co–operating in a group or consolidating previous learning by practising something over and over.
  • The best practitioner will be observing the children and thinking about what they see and hear. This means they are assessing. From this they will decide how to proceed – this is planning.
  • The best practitioner will be answering questions, rather than asking them.


“Planning in the moment has transformed both our practice and us here at Gunter. It has taken us from interferers to interacters, privileged to play with the children in our setting.”

Chris Dingley, Early Years Lead, Gunter Primary School, Birmingham, UK

I hope all practitioners can now think of their approach to misconceptions across all phases and ages in a new light, while celebrating and appreciating the wide variety of skills, knowledge and understanding of pupils shared by so many of our teaching profession.

The final thought should be left to Anna:

Together we need to take back ownership of our profession and operate from a position of confidence in our pedagogy, rather than from a position of fear and top – down pressure.  Let us keep the paperwork minimised and our knowledge maximised, because this is what will most benefit the children.

Anna Ephgrave, Planning in the Moment with Young Children (2016)

John Croghan M.Ed. BA. Cert.Ed.

If you would like to speak to John please email john.croghan@evaluate-ed.com.

Content Development and Monitoring

John Croghan M.Ed. BA. CertEd. has over 50 years of experience in education, as a teacher, leading learning in classrooms from EYFS to Y11, as well as a leader and primary headteacher.  He enjoyed his role supporting Every Child Matters in schools and has advised and supported schools across the West Midlands, as well as leading OFSTED inspections.   He is currently a school consultant, mentor, and governor. 

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