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Features of early years pedagogies

In the early years, teachers use a range and balance of pedagogies, which share some common features, including:

The following resources provide information about three pedagogies that teachers can embed in their practice.

Information for teachers

Annotated resource list

  • Karen Wohlwend: Indiana University portal

    An early childhood expert on play-based learning, Wohlwend provides her articles and blog online.

  • Play and literacy

    Wohlwend situates play in the literacy classroom with strong connections to reading and writing.

    Wohlwend, K 2011 Playing Their Way into Literacies: Reading, writing, and belonging in the early childhood classroom, Teachers College Press, New York..

  • Play-based Learning in the Primary School

    Briggs and Hansen investigate practical ways play can be used in primary school settings to improve engagement, motivation and fun in learning. They also discuss the theoretical principles and planning that underpin play-based learning.

    Briggs, M and Hansen, A 2012, Play-based Learning in the Primary School, London, Sage Publications Ltd.

  • Pinterest: Play-based learning ideas

    Ideas for play-based learning.

  • Early Childhood Australia: Why play-based learning?

    Practical information and advice on implementing play-based learning.

    Lennie Barblett, L 2010 'Why play-based learning?', Every Child, vol. 16, no. 3. Available from:

  • Play and writing: Authentic ways to develop oral and written

    To motivate writing in the early years, Biordi and Gardner created 'Ten Minutes Play, Ten Minutes Write'. In the 'sewing project' children engaged with design, negotiation, problem-solving, fine-motor skills and writing procedural texts to construct a zebra.

    Biordi, L & Gardner, N 2014 'Play and write: An early literacy approach', Practically Primary, vol. 19, no. 1, pp 6–9. Buy at:

  • An early years teacher talks about challenges of curriculum

    Gaedtke shows how to create relevant and personally meaningful learning environments to introduce reading and writing through authentic play scenarios, including:

    • hospital — creating signs, props, a list of illnesses and waiting room magazines
    • cinema — making posters, tickets and program.

    Gaedtke, L 2010 'Playing" with the National Curriculum', Educating Young Children: Learning and Teaching in the Early Childhood Years, vol. 16, no. 2, pp. 12–14. Available from:

  • Play-based learning in content-rich environments

    Hirsh-Pasek and Golinkoff explore the compatibility of learning and play to develop language, literacy, academic skills and content knowledge.

    Hirsh-Pasek, K & Golinkoff, R 2011
    'The great balancing act: Optimizing core curricula through playful pedagogy'.
    In E Zigler, S Barnett & W Gilliam (eds) The Pre-K Debates: Current controversies and issues, Brookes Publishing, Baltimore, pp. 110­–115.

  • Play in the early years

    This book contains vignettes and real-world examples to help teachers connect theory to practice. Melbourne-based Professor Fleer presents and analyses the latest research and theories about early childhood pedagogy and play.

    Fleer, M 2013 Play in the Early Years, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
    Borrow or buy at:

Information for teachers

Annotated resource list

  • The benefits of inquiry-based learning

    A video demonstrating the use of inquiry-based learning. It is part of a suite of videos created for the Inspiring Science Education project.

  • Inquiry-based project: Cordova Bay Elementary

    Canadian teacher–librarian Jean Prevost and her Year 2/3 students describe their experiences and learning during an inquiry-based project.

  • Kath Murdoch, education consultant

    Videos and free materials about inquiry-based learning that teachers can use in their own settings.

  • Pinterest: Inquiry-based learning

    A collection of inquiry-based activities, resources and examples with strong links to project-based learning and the Reggio Emilia way of learning.

  • Inquiry-based learning

    One of a series of e-newsletters with discussion and examples of inquiry-based practice in early years classrooms. It is produced by the National Quality Standard Professional Learning Program.

    Touhill, L 2011 Inquiry-Based Learning: National Quality Standard Professional Learning Program. Available from:

  • Inquiry into representations of art

    This article emphasises that inquiry skills should not be taught in isolation and that young children need many opportunities to participate in generating ideas and brainstorming solutions and reflections.The article explores young children's responses to pictures of art through feelings and ideas.

    Michalopoulou, A 2014 'Inquiry-based learning through the creative thinking and expression in early years education'. Creative Education, vol.5, no. 6, pp. 377–385. Available from:

  • Starting inquiry-based science in the early years

    This practical book illustrates how to start inquiry-based science projects to support children's emerging scientific skills. It achieves this by providing a range of scientific activities that encourage children to think, talk and find solutions.

    Tunnicliffe, S 2015 Starting Inquiry-Based Science in the Early Years: Look, talk, think and do, Routledge, Abingdon.

  • The Early Childhood Curriculum

    Based on research that demonstrates the powerful advantages of integrating curriculum while providing inquiry-based opportunities, this book emphasises inquiry-based methods for whole-child learning. Real-life vignettes demonstrate inquiry and integration.

    Krogh, S & Morehouse, P 2014 The Early Childhood Curriculum: Inquiry learning through integration (2nd edn), Routledge, New York.

  • The Thinking Child

    Packed with information about brain-based learning, this book contains practical ideas and suggestions about facilitating inquiry-based learning. It also covers the theoretical connections to brain-based learning.

    Call, N & Featherstone, S 2010 The Thinking Child: Brain-based learning in the early years foundation stage (2nd edn), Continuum, New York.

Information for teachers

Event-based learning is also referred to as situated or project-based learning.

Annotated resource list

  • The Project Approach

    Resources and tools relating to the Project Approach, the site is managed by Sylvia Chard, Professor Emeritus of Early Childhood Education at the University of Alberta, Canada.

  • Pinterest: Project Approach

    Exciting project-based activities by Stephanie Smith.

  • New Learning: Transformational Designs for Pedagogy and Assessment

    Drs Mary Kalantzis and Bill Cope, University of Illinois, USA, provide information, tools and videos to support the design of multiliteracies learning experiences.

  • Projects and young children

    Helm and Katz (2011) highlight the importance of building brain/mind connections in the early years to support beginning teachers to develop projects linked to curriculum learning. In Chapter 1, they link to 21st century skills, e.g. critical and creative thinking.

    Helm, J & Katz, L 2011 Young Investigators: The project approach on the early years (2nd edn) Teachers College Press, New York. Chapter 1 available as a PDF from:

  • Using 'lifelike pedagogy' design for projects

    Wardle describes how lifelike project learning is developed using three phases and eight steps — a useful design platform for teachers who are unfamiliar with project-based learning in a classroom.

    Wardle, F 2014 'Lifelike pedagogy: The project approach with a Brasilian twist', Young Children, vol. 69, iss. 2, pp. 76–81. Available from:

  • Case studies of event-based work implementation

    A critical look at three event-based scenarios in the early years, investigating:

    • habitat
    • weather, with a literacy focus
    • garbage collection.

    Blank, J, Damjanovic, V, Peixoto da Silva, A & Weber, S 2014 'Authenticity and "standing out": Situating the project approach in contemporary early schooling', Early Childhood Education Journal, vol. 42, iss. 1, pp. 19–27. DOI:

  • Project-based inquiry units for children

    MacDonell identifies ways to use literature to promote independent learning in the early years. The practical, hands-on activities include sample lessons, content, learning goals, and strategies for teaching and assessing learning.

    MacDonell, C 2007 Project-based Inquiry Units for Young Children: First Steps to Research for Grades Pre–K–2, Linworth Pub, Ohio. View, borrow or buy at:

  • The 'Literacy Playshop'

    This framework supports children to engage in creating their own multimedia productions, positioning them as media makers rather than passive recipients of media messages. The book contains case studies, professional development, classroom activities, discussion questions, and technology try-it sections.

    Wohlwend, K 2013 Literacy Playshop: New literacies, popular media, and play in the early childhood classroom, Teachers College Press, New York. Borrow or buy at:

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