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Pen Green Centre

Pen Green Teaching School

Using Schemas to Understand Children's Intentions

What is a Schema?


‘A schema  is a pattern of  repeated actions. Clusters of schemas develop into later concepts’ (Athey, 2003)


‘Children may try out the same action on a variety of different objects’ (Parent Workbook, Pen Green Centre, 2003)


‘schemas of action (are) co-ordinated systems of movements and perceptions, which constitute any elementary behaviour capable of being repeated and applied to new situations, e.g. grasping, moving, shaking an object’ (Piaget, 1962)

Using Schemas to Understand Children’s Intentions


Aimed at: Early childhood workers working in a range of settings and from a range of backgrounds.


Purposes and outcomes: This is a 3 day professional development opportunity. Participants attend two days then undertake some project work in their own settings before returning for a third day. The course is intended to assist each participant to;

  • Recognise young children’s innate drivers to learn

  • Work with children’s passions rather than thwarting them

  • Work with parents by sharing theory and hearing what children become engaged with at home and in the setting

  • Identify ‘what children are doing’ rather than ‘what they are doing it with’ (‘form’ as well as ‘content’)

  • Use schematic analysis of children’s play to regularly plan possible next steps and to better understand the links with maths, science, stories and language


By the end of the course the participants will:

• Have a basic understanding of children’s schemas

• Have an understanding of how identifying children’s schemas can help them to interpret children’s intentions more easily

• Have an understanding of how to respond to children’s intentions and plan appropriate ‘next steps’


What difference will it make:

• Participants will have a deeper understanding of how children learn

• Participants will be able to recognise children’s repeated patterns of behaviour (schemas)

• Participants will respond more appropriately to children, and plan appropriate ‘next steps’

The University of the Integrated Early Years Workforce. Supporting professionals to develop high quality practice and best outcomes for all children.