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‘Tuning in’ with Learning Stories


Tuesday 10 April 2018

As the final countdown commences to Early Childhood Ireland's Awards night, the amazing stories from our sector continue to blow us away day by day. The hard work and dedication of the educators, who wholeheartedly devote their energies into providing the best care and education for the children in their setting, is oozing from each story we receive. These stories are first class examples of educators tuning in to rich play, where they are heartfully present in practice, awaiting the wonders of childhood to unfold before their eyes. It is then that the best stories are recognised and the excitement of the educators is felt as they progress the children’s learning through using their interests for planning.

Aistear and Síolta advocate for a play based, emergent curriculum and on the Department of Education Early Years focused inspections, the inspectors look for evidence of this emergent curriculum. The educators who are truly present, aware and eager to really get to know the children, are the educators who bring that emergent curriculum to a new level of effectiveness. These educators write learning stories of friendships, adventures, emotions, experiences, good and bad; they value the now and in turn, have the richest profiles of children to help them share their stories with their families and friends. Learning stories are a step deeper than assessment, they are more than a collection of observations, they are one of the most treasured ways of capturing the child/children’s stories as they progress through their time in a setting.

Learning stories can be a true testament to the work of educators in the early years sector. They can be a tool that explains play by focusing on the little moments, highlighting the monumental meaning behind it. They come in all shapes and sizes, but children are at the core of each. They have the power to demonstrate great practice, how it’s done and why it is valuable. Learning stories go beyond the paper they are written on – they have the unique ability to give an understanding to the many important moments that occur in child’s play. According to Margaret Carr (2001) learning stories are observations of children’s participation in everyday activities, in everyday settings, that demonstrate children’s growing identities, dispositions, thinking, exploring and communicating.

In the everyday running of daily practice, documentation can often become somewhat disconnected. Ask yourself; who am I doing this for? Each of the winning learning stories that we, in Early Childhood Ireland, see as some of our most treasured possessions, is what documentation should be: for the child, with the child, by the child. Documentation should always have the child at the centre and I believe these learning stories are true testaments to that goal.

We eagerly anticipate our National Early Childhood Ireland Awards that will take place this Friday, 13th of April in Clontarf Castle. We would love you to join in the celebrations for our leaders in practice:

To read some of our winning learning stories and for information on how to apply please see:



Catherine Quinn has been working as an Early Childhood Specialist for the last 3 years. She completed her Level 8 degree in Letterkenny IT and is currently engaged in the Masters of Education program in NUI Maynooth, specialising in the Early Years. She has a great passion for outdoor play as she has worked in forest schools in both Ireland and Norway. She also has a grá for documentation with her research focusing closely on tuning in to children’s play for richer documentation.  

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