Twinkl Product Review by Andi Turner

16th August 2017

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The first thing you notice when you log into your Twinkl account is the inspirational quotes eg “be proud of what you do” which really is a nice touch and right up my street. From the outset, I’m feeling this is going to be a positive experience. I’m then struck with the vast range of resources available and how well organised the site is. Within the EYFS category alone, there are 11 pages of resources for the birth to 2 age range alone with everything from “I can” statements that can be used to annotate photographs to a summative assessment of prime areas of learning (2-year-old progress check). Then there’s everything from phase 1 phonics sensory bottles to recipe cards for edible sensory activities such as water and oat mash.

As a new Platinum Plus member, it would be remiss of me not to check out the Twinkl Foundation Planning and Assessment in the EYFS section since it’s the least favourite aspect of my work and I thought I’d best get it out of the way. As a practitioner who has an actual intolerance to paperwork (hatusadministratis I call it), I was surprised to find that there are elements I actually quite like. Take the Early Years Outcomes in speech bubbles pack for instance which make for brilliant observation focus prompts. Then there are those assessment flowers that Childminders, in particular, seem to love: there’s even one for Characteristics of Effective Learning in addition to the 7 individual areas of learning and development. And I’m no fan of forward planning but the Editable Continuous Provision Plan and Challenge Cards Packs for the different areas of a setting are excellent because not only do they inspire us to offer opportunities that encourage children to think critically but they provide open-ended questions that we all struggle with sometimes. And then there are the Leuven scales posters which again help practitioners to really focus on the quality of interactions and the characteristics of effective learning.

Despite being more of a spontaneous planning practitioner, what I do love are the resources with the capacity to enable us to become more skilled observers and those are the lanyard card packs for the early years outcomes; the characteristics of effective learning; and the Leuven scales, all of which are extremely useful for helping us to reflect-on-action (ie writing observations or talking with our team about what has taken place and then using this information to plan for the next learning experiences) and to reflect-in-action (ie during the experience thinking on our feet about what to do next and acting straight away). Anna Ephgrave aficionados would call this “in the moment planning”.

As I clicked around the site I was delighted to land on resources that promote learning at home – great for extending children’s learning and demonstrating effective working in partnership with parents & carers. They are called ‘home learning challenges’. Coinciding with Twinkl fiction, there’s a huge range of activity ideas that complement the ‘Ronald the Rhino’ e-book which is being launched this September. It’s a gorgeous tale about coming to appreciate how unique and special and loved we are. If you love The Gruffalo then you’re going to adore this. I can’t wait to get my hands on a hard copy! There are several home learning challenges in the EYFS section which I’ll be sharing with my families via our secret Facebook group and encouraging them to upload their own photographs of their children engaged in the challenges. We’ll use these in group displays and to share experiences in circle time. More home learning challenges, please!

I love that many of the resources have super eco and black & white print options, especially the admin stuff. Somehow I don’t think the visual displays would be quite so nice without colour. My favourite resources for display purposes are Twinkl’s photographic packs which are essential when you’re miles from a farm or a mosque or a bridge. Let’s face it, you’re not going to be taking the kids on a day trip to the leaning tower of Pisa or the great pyramid of Giza anytime soon are you? And they’re brilliant for capturing children’s imaginations. Stuck for inspiration in the outdoor block or water area? Stick some pictures up.  I’ve been using A4 perspex display stands all these years but they’re so expensive: instead, use an IKEA Tolsby frame. Twinkl actually has a whole range of printables that fit inside them – I especially like the Rangoli photos prompts in our transient art space.

Now, I couldn’t resist tinkering with the “create” option available to create my own personalised resources. Even without reading any instructions this was super easy to do. I’d uploaded my own image from a recent trip to the family woods, added my own annotation in my preferred font, chose my own border then downloaded it and saved it till later in less than 5 minutes. I’m ready to use it in a parent newsletter, as part of a display or to share it on social media – maybe all three. You can even save the things you want and download them another time. I actually copied some links and shared them with my team in our secret facebook group so we could collaborate on tasks. Then following up on how tricky it can be sometimes to ask challenging questions, I also used a speech bubble template to write down some open-ended questions as prompts for practitioners. This will also form the basis of our next in-house CPD session.

Finally, before I logged out for the day I spent some time comparing Twinkl with similar sites and although some have the facility to print, laminate and post your preferred resources out to you (whereas Twinkl has digital downloads only), they are pretty pricey to buy –afterall – you’re paying for somebody’s time. And if I’m being completely honest, visually they’re just not as appealing as Twinkl’s fayre. Another drawback to the free resources sites is having to put up with a combination of pop-up ads; having to download apps for different services; no create-your-own facility; and no eco or super eco versions all in one download. Plus, Twinkl not only has a range of online forums to share ideas with but also a facility to share or not share resources you’ve created yourself. This means that even if the Twinkl team haven’t thought of something, somebody somewhere most likely will have and – if not – then your next creation could well be something everybody’s been waiting for.

Have you got a product you would like Andi to review for you? Get in touch with her today. 

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