Floor Books: A teacher's guide

Paul Main

How can Floor Books be used to develop and assess children's understanding?

What are Floor Books?

Floor books are the scrapbooks that organise and collate children's thinking, focusing on what children find valuable, meaningful and interesting. Floor books are used for any age group to showcase children's conceptual understanding, their questions and comments to inform their learning journey.

The book is named a ‘floor book’ because it is kept on the floor so that the children can easily access it.

A class floor book follows a child-centred strategy and records the evidence of the learning and planning process of play that comes from it.

While writing in a floor book children perform shared thinking in a more formal way, which enables them to develop reasoning skills and recall other children's ideas and record them in the form of photographs, drawing and writing.

Some children revisit the class floor books and take advantage of a different group's learning, or their own experience from previous learning.

Why is it important to update the floor book after consultation with children?

It is important to update the floor book after children's consultation because:

  • It establishes a closer link between the individual child and the curriculum they are studying;
  • When the children are involved in the process of making important decisions about children, they build positive attitudes and self-esteem;
  • It improves intrinsic motivation, that remains with a child all through his life; and
  • Every child has a right to get due respect while others value their opinions and thoughts.

Being creative with floor books
Being creative with floor books

What the most important features of a floor book?

Some of the most important features of a floor book are that it includes:

  • Children’s thoughts and ideas;
  • Open-ended questions - questions are considered as a regular component of a conversation and are asked to motivate the thinking process and not to carry out assessments about children knowledge;
  • Depth Of Learning - collecting children’s ideas in a book form assures that the group shows continuity and progression over a longer period of time;
  • Higher-order thinking;
  • Collaborative learning - Class floor books have a large size to enable children to sit around them and engage in a learning conversation about the content of the floor books;

Hence, a class floor book represents students' thinking, adults' observations, questions and conversations, and children's photos and drawings. The floor book serves as a significant part of the planning process that collates children centred ideas that are carried forward by the class teacher. They serve as a great way to share thoughts, ideas, actions, desires, observations, plans, solutions, failures, reflections and challenges. The floor books serve as a crucial component of the planning process; a book accessible to children at all times.

Examples of floor books
Examples of floor books

What is the role of a teacher in the class floor book?

A classroom assistant needs to carefully listen to, note down and guide dialogue (when appropriate). The educator needs to mediate as pupils share their ideas and perspectives, and tell them the educational experiences to inspire every pupil’s desires and interests, depending upon their learnings.

The Floorbooks approach maintains a balance between child autonomy and intentional teaching. The planning cycle must take into consideration both these aspects of a teacher’s role in education to ensure that children must stay engaged in learning and develop the layers for lifelong learning. Explanation of floor books enables educators to demonstrate a deep consultation with children during the documentation and planning process.

Floor books for assessing learning
Floor books for assessing learning

What are the benefits of using floor books for developing Mathematical skills in children?

A floor book documents exactly what is said by the children that inform their learning. Recording the children’s voices highlights the importance of dialogue with children in mathematical thinking. The focus is not the mathematical knowledge acquisition but rather the mathematical thinking supported by the floor book approach.

For example, in conversation with children about which animals, the child mentioned that ‘only small things are light in weight.' This provoked a discussion with children leading to a search to find a small thing to assess this idea. During this discussion, children were able to find different things and they considered what is the meaning of the words small and light-weight with each other.

The teacher may ask possibility questions or repeat children’s responses to extend and develop a deeper understanding of the concept

– ‘Micheal says his brother is very small and it is very heavy for him. How do people know if something is light or heavy?’ These queries of classroom assistant prompt exploration and raise more concerns to be solved, leading to authentic experiences that both children’s understanding and involvement.

These type of conversations with children during a floor book journey helps to gain a deeper understanding of age and weight, and continued their analyses while playing, providing their own exams to verify or disprove the theory. The floor book • notes hold the children’s differentiated questions, comments about children, their misconceptions, and the direction of their learning.

When children are fascinated, they mostly circle and come back to a topic of interest. One may note down the discussion with children in blank books and allows teachers to design activities for children on basis of children’s involvement and engagement. Whenever a topic of particular interest is revisited, children improve their understanding, begin to master reasoning skills and build on their previous knowledge.

For example, if any specific group of children have a particular interest in food, it can provide children with a wide range of learning opportunities. Regular cooking and baking sessions allow development for children towards a deeper understanding of measures and cooking and baking ingredients within different scenarios. This sets the direction of their future learning and play, and the children start to contextualize their mathematical skills using a large variety of resources.

Floor books provide a curriculum that give children the opportunity to deepen their understanding and expand their mathematical thinking by tapping into what encourages them as learners.

  1. Metacognition: Metacognition is the understanding and awareness of a person's thought processes. Children must get the opportunity to reflect on their critical thinking skills to truly embed and master their learning. Floor books allow both struggling and confident children to go back to their past learning and reflect on their experiences and thinking.
  2. Schematic thinking and learning: Close observation of children’s floor book activities uncovers children's patterns in behaviour and reveals them using similar enquiry skills and ideas. The floor books make children's learning process visible, and their patterns of behaviour the role of schema in their learning as well as development of children's fascinations and interests towards classroom materials at a deeper level. For instance, the amazing children in nursery had a prolonged fascination with filling wheelbarrows and bags that showed most of the children to be pursuing a transporting schema, with a fondness for the moving objects.