Elmore Row, Walsall, West Midlands, WS3 2HR

01922 710 132



Sandbank Nursery School

A special place to play and learn

Annie Clews

Observations and Sustained shared thinking 


Annie works along staff to observe, support and engage children in their learning.           

     A little bit about Sustained Shared Thinking......

 How do we support children’s sustained shared thinking?

    Sustained shared thinking is strongly associated with high-quality teaching and learning for young children. Children who engage in sustained shared conversations are more likely to do well in school and life. Sustained shared conversation is about engaging in extra talk, rather than just responding to directions such as ‘put your jacket on’, ‘pick up’, ‘clean up’, ‘do this’, ‘don’t do that’ etc. Professor Iram Siraj-Blatchford defines it as an episode in which two or more individuals (children together, or adults and children) ‘work together’ in an intellectual way to solve a problem, clarify a concept, evaluate activities or extend a narrative etc. Both parties must contribute to the thinking, and it must develop and extend. Some strategies staff in services could use when they are engaging in sustained shared conversations with children include:


  •     Tuning in: listening carefully to what is being said, observing body language and what the child is doing.
  •     Showing genuine interest: giving their whole attention to the child, maintaining eye contact, affirming, smiling, nodding.
  •     Respecting children’s own decisions and choices by inviting children to elaborate: saying things like ‘I really want to know more about this’ and listening and engaging in the response.
  •     Re-capping: ‘So you think that … ’
  •     Offering the adult’s own experience: ‘I like to listen to music when I cook at home.’
  •     Clarifying ideas: ‘Right Darren, so you think that this stone will melt if I boil it in water?’
  •     Suggesting: ‘You might like to try doing it this way.’
  •      Reminding: ‘Don’t forget that you said that this stone will melt if I boil it.’
  •     Using encouragement to further thinking: ‘You have really thought hard about where to put this door in the palace – where will you put the windows?’
  •     Offering an alternative viewpoint: ‘Maybe Goldilocks wasn’t naughty when she ate the porridge?’
  •     Speculating: ‘Do you think the three bears would have liked Goldilocks to come to live with them as their friend?’
  •     Reciprocating: ‘Thank goodness that you were wearing wellington boots when you jumped in those puddles George. Look at my feet, they are soaking wet!’
  •     Asking open questions: ‘How did you … ?’ ‘Why does this ... ?’ ‘What happens next?’ ‘What do you think?’ ‘I wonder what would happen if … ?’
  •     Modelling thinking: ‘I have to think hard about what I do this evening. I need take my library books back to the library and stop off at the supermarket to get some food for tomorrow, but I just won’t have time to do all of these things.’

Hayley  4-3-09

In the Family area at welcome time, she was playing with the pegs and pegboards. She had placed four white pegs in the middle of the board and was placing white ones in a line along one edge. She continued around the corner with red ones. When she reached the end I asked her what colour pegs she was going to use this time for the next edge.


Orange ones. She looked in the tray and collected all the orange ones she could find. I need lots. Then she placed them in the line. There were not enough to finish the line so she did it with red ones and continued till she had a line all around the edge of the board. Then she started to put another line inside the first one, using one colour.

Are you going to use any blue ones?

No I don’t like blue or green.

Why not?

She did not answer but continued placing pegs.

Leah asked her if she liked pink.


Libby asked her if she liked yellow

I do like yellow.

Leah  - You don’t love her – indicating Libby.

I love everybody. I’m gonna make a rainbow.

Well rainbows have blue and green in them.

I don’t want blue and green in my rainbow. She continued placing pegs one line inside the other till she had filled all the spaces, using just red, yellow and white pegs.

I’m gonna put it in the oven. She picked up the tray and carried it over to the light table. I shut the oven now. She turned her back on the table.

How long will it take to cook?

That many. She held her hand with all fingers spread.

Five minutes?

She nodded and began to arrange and re arrange the red objects on the light table. She took the blocks off the cupboard and added them to the arrangements. She placed the semi circular one above the square one.

That’s a house look! She added another square one. The windows. Yellow, blue! She piled up the blocks and the tray of pegs and the pegs fell out. She replaced some of them but then went off to play with the Interstar pieces in the Dabble Pool area. When I joined her she had put a red and yellow and pink star shape together in a line.

You’ve made another pattern Hayley!

She held it up to show me and smiled. Then she carried it to the light table and placed it next to the peg board.

I make another pattern now. You help me. We went back to the dabble pool and she selected some different pieces. We looked together for the colours she wanted – red, pink and yellow. She joined them in a line and the put this one with the others on the light table.


Hayley has used Problem solving, Reasoning and Numeracy –using familiar objects and common shapes to recreate patterns.