Early Years Curriculum
Your child will be following the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) curriculum throughout the Reception year. The structure of the day will be very similar to your child’s pre-school experience, particularly in the first term, with lots of play and practical activities. The amount of time spent in adult-directed activities increases gradually as the school year goes on.
The EYFS curriculum is broken down into seven areas of learning:
Personal, Social and Emotional Development
Communication and Language
Understanding of the World
Expressive Arts and Design
There are three ‘Prime’ curriculum areas in the EYFS curriculum; Personal, Social and Emotional Development; Physical Development and Communication and Language. These three areas underpin the learning in all other areas, laying the foundations for more ‘academic’ learning. If a child can’t share, take turns, follow instructions or listen attentively it makes learning to read and write much more difficult.
At the start of each term you will receive a curriculum letter outlining the kinds of activities your child will be experiencing at school and suggesting ways you can give support. It can be difficult to be specific about this as we plan from the children’s ever-changing interests. The diaries give you a flavour of what has been covered in class during the week and may include questions to use as a prompt when talking about school with your child.
Early Learning Goals
The Early Learning Goals (ELGs) outline the expected level your child should reach by the end of the Reception year. A sheet with all the ELGs (and the Characteristics of Effective Learning) is stuck into the back of your child’s diary. These ELGs show you roughly what will be covered in class throughout the school year.
This 4 Children booklet has ideas for ways to support your child at home across the curriculum:
The most relevant sections are 30-50 months from page 20 onwards, and 40-60 months from page 26 onwards.
In the summer term of the Reception year we complete an assessment known as the EYFS Profile. This assessment is based on what the staff teaching and caring for your child have observed over a period of time.
An important part of the EYFS Profile is your knowledge about your child’s learning and development, so do share your ‘wow’ moments via the Post-Its in the diaries, for example;
“When out shopping, Tom said ‘look, that’s a w!’”
“Jane learned how to ride her bike without stabilisers this weekend.”
This may be quoting things your child has said, things you’ve noticed, photos or drawings.
All of the information collected is used to judge how your child is doing in the seven areas against the ELGs; whether your child is working at the expected level (meeting the ELGs), beyond the expected level (exceeding) or towards the expected level (emerging). These judgements are based on what we’ve seen your child doing consistently, independently, in a range of situations and without the need for overt adult support.
There are formal opportunities to discuss your child’s progress at the Parents Evenings in November and March. However, if you have any concerns or worries, we would rather you come and speak to us rather than wait until Parents Evening. Teaching staff are available most days after school – appointments not always necessary.
We will give you a written report of your child’s progress, including the EYFS Profile assessment, in July.
PERSONAL, SOCIAL and EMOTIONAL DEVELOPMENT
This is the main focus of learning at the start of the school year as children adapt to their new surroundings, learn class rules and routines, make new friends and learn classmates’ names.
Mrs. Driver and Mrs DeCleyn lead the class for Circle Time on Wednesday mornings, where Personal, Social and Emotional Development issues are explored through stories, discussions, games and activities along with Lizzie and David, our class mascots.
We encourage pupils to resolve disputes and conflicts verbally, never physically. You can give support by encouraging your child to say no if someone does something that he/she doesn’t like (rather than hitting out), then seek an adult’s help if the problem persists.
The Diary Showing sessions are key for teaching these skills; learning to listen to what others are saying, understand what they have been saying and, when showing their own diary, how to speak clearly.
This includes development of both gross motor skills (running, jumping, climbing etc.) and fine motor skills (for example, holding and using scissors, pencils and paintbrushes correctly and efficiently).
Physical Education (P.E.)
Our main P.E. sessions are usually on Wednesdays or Thursdays (this varies from term to term). In the summer term our P.E. sessions are outdoors, weather depending.
The children are encouraged to dress and undress by themselves as much as possible, so it is a very good idea to practice putting on and taking off P.E. kit, coats and school uniform. Obviously help is given with difficult buttons and buckles, although Velcro fastening shoes are extremely practical and promote your child’s independence.
All P.E. kit, as with all uniform, must be clearly labelled with your child’s name. This can prevent a child becoming upset if things go missing and saves a great deal of our time. P.E. kit will be sent home every half-term to be washed.
If your child wears earrings or a cross and chain, please make sure these are removed for P.E. days.
In addition to our weekly P.E. sessions, all children participate in daily Movement for Learning sessions (exercises) to develop the core muscles.
In Term 5 (after Easter) the children will go to the swimming pool at the Leisure Centre to develop their water confidence. This is in preparation for swimming lessons in Year 1.
Before we begin teaching letters (graphemes) and their sounds (phonemes), we begin by playing games and activities to build phonic awareness.
Games like “I went to the market and I bought…” (…a sausage, a spider, some soap, six spoons etc.), Silly Soup (“I’m making ‘c’ soup and putting in… a cat… a kite… a car… etc.) and I-Spy (with letter sounds rather than letter names) are good for helping your child to hear and identify sounds in words.
Each letter has a name (a=‘ay’, b=‘bee’ and so on) and a sound (a=‘ah’ b=‘buh’). Letter sounds are taught first because these are more useful for learning to read and spell.
Try not to add too much ‘uh’ to the end of letter sounds; sounds blend more easily into words without it. Here you can listen to how the sounds should be made:
https://www.oxfordowl.co.uk/for-home/reading-owl/expert-help/phonics-made-easy (scroll down to Phonics audio guide: how to say the sounds)
The BBC Alphablocks Guide to Letters and Sounds:
We use the Jolly Phonics scheme along with the Department for Education’s Letters and Sounds guidance as a basis for our phonics teaching. Jolly Phonics’ multi-sensory approach is an interactive way for the children to learn letter sounds. Each letter has an action (for kinaesthetic learners), a song (for auditory learners) and a picture (for visual learners) tied together with a short story.
Your child will be given a sounds book to bring home at the start of Term 2. Please keep this in the book bag and ensure it comes to school every day. If possible, go through the sounds book once a day to see if your child can remember the actions and associated letter sound. Don’t spend too long on this, a minute or two at the most. Celebrate your child’s successes rather than dwelling on any sounds not yet known.
Once your child knows a few letters we can begin making words by blending. Blending, or sounding-out is the process of pushing sounds together to read words:
c–a–t = cat m–a–n = man
This is why learning the pure letter sounds is much more valuable than learning letter names and essential for sounding-out. Letter names will be taught towards the end of Reception.
Not all words can be sounded-out. These are tricky words and just have to be memorised – for example: I, to, the, no, go, into.
Not all words can be sounded at this stage. For example, the word shop, because although your child may know s and h, they have not yet learned the digraph sh.
Digraphs are a sound made up of two letters (such as ch, sh, th, ng, ai, ar, ee, or, er, oa, oi, oo, ou) where the individual letter sounds cannot be heard separately. Some digraphs and trigraphs (igh, ear, air, ure) will be taught later in the Reception year and continue into Years 1 and 2.
The Twinkl Phonics Suite is a really good all-round phonics app. The free version gives a flavour of the activities in the full version.
Each phase has links to the DfES (what is now the Department for Education) Letters and Sounds guidance, with example lesson videos.
Your child has already started bringing home a class library book for you to share together. This book is of your child’s choosing and there is a daily opportunity to change it. Your child is not expected to be able to read these self-chosen books independently, but can be encouraged to predict what might happen next, or discuss what is happening in the pictures.
Your child will be given a reading scheme book (we use the Oxford Reading Tree scheme) from Term 2 onwards, when we feel he or she is ready.
More detailed information on helping your child with reading will be sent home when your child starts on the reading scheme.
Please avoid the temptation to buy reading scheme books. The reading scheme is the bread and water of learning to read, real books are the nutritious, balanced meals.
Try to read with your child daily, either the class library book, reading scheme book or perhaps a favourite book from home. This time should be a pleasurable experience for you both! Between five and ten minutes is fine, make yourselves comfortable and turn off the television or radio. Enjoy reading to your child and looking at books together. Talk about what you have read; can your child remember the story or recall the sequence of events? Let your child see you read and that you need to read.
If your child is reluctant to read, don’t push them. Read to them, help foster a love of books and stories. Buy comics or magazines which tap into your child’s interests to help motivate them to want to read.
Children learn a lot about writing simply by seeing language around them. They are surrounded by print on road signs, food packets, in books, magazines and catalogues.
We learn to talk by joining in with words as we hear them used. In the same way, especially in homes where people write things down, children learn a lot about writing through joining in and having a go.
Writing might seem easy to us as adults, but there are lots of elements to it beyond handwriting, spelling and punctuation.
First attempts at writing will probably take the form of squiggles and marks before moving on to any recognisable letter shapes.
Scribbling, drawing, tracing and colouring-in all help to develop the hand control skills needed to develop good handwriting. Bad handwriting habits easily become ingrained and difficult to change, so encourage your child to hold writing and colouring implements using the tripod grip.
If your child is reluctant to draw or colour, try printing out pictures of characters from your child’s favourite films and television programmes for them to colour. If they are reluctant to hold a pencil, anything fiddly will help to contribute to the muscle development necessary for good handwriting; squeezing and rolling playdough, Lego, doing up buttons and zips, holding a knife and fork, screwing lids on and off containers, cutting and sticking. Large movements also help; sweeping, climbing and balancing. We do lots of ‘moving from the shoulder’ exercises in class for this reason.
Your child will learn to write their name in lower case with a capital letter at the beginning. Only when your child can independently write their name with the correct pre-cursive formation do we teach them how to join.
We teach a pre-cursive script, with lead-ins and flicks out. As a general rule, all lower case or small letters begin on the line and start with an upward movement (a whoosh!); all capitals begin at the top and start with a downward movement.
Your child will have an Alphabet Sheet in class to help learn the correct sequence of movements to form each letter:
Unfortunately, it can be easy to spot mistakes in writing, so parents often worry when spellings are ‘wrong’, work appears untidy or a full stop is missing. Your child, particularly in the early stages, will find it difficult to focus on everything at once. Remember to praise all attempts.
There’s more information in the front of your child’s diary about how to support the writing process.
Maths activities in Reception are entirely practical and game-based. We want your child to develop a good understanding of number on which to base future learning. The CBeebies series Numberblocks does a great job of developing a strong understanding of number, and complements our teaching in Reception. https://www.bbc.co.uk/cbeebies/shows/numberblocks
This is not just reciting the sequence of numbers, but organising their counting to say one number for each object counted and understanding that the last number they say gives the number in the set.
Developing the knowledge that numerals stand for a set of objects, some numbers are bigger/smaller than others (which has nothing to do with the physical size of the numeral) and sequencing numbers.
Addition and subtraction
In Reception this is entirely practical and game-based. We start by introducing the language used (add, and, plus, take-away, subtract, makes, equals, more, less) and leave more formal teaching of sums and + – = symbols until later in the school year. We also cover doubling, halving and sharing, all in practical or play-based contexts.
This includes making repeating patterns with colour and shape, number patterns (for example, recognising the number of dots on a die without counting), patterns involving three or more repeating elements and some simple reflective symmetry.
Knowing the names of simple 2D shapes (circle, square, triangle, rectangle) and, later in the school year, names of some 3D shapes (sphere, prism, cube, cuboid, pyramid) and some simple properties, for example, which shapes would roll, which would slide.
This includes measuring the length or height of objects using non-standard measures, simple capacity (full and empty) and weight (heavier, lighter) and being able to recognise and use money. This is not as easy as it once was – the new coins have their value written on them in words, not numerals!
Soon we will begin paying for our daily fruit. By the end of the year, Special Person decides how much the fruit will cost and writes a price label. The children select the coins required to pay. Special Person is the shopkeeper and checks all the payments. Children often find money difficult; a 2p coin is one object, yet represents two pennies.
UNDERSTANDING THE WORLD
This forms the basis for work in Science, History, Geography and Computing. Your child will explore and find out about the world around us, learn more about families and cultures, know about everyday technology and what it is used for.
We have an interactive whiteboard in the classroom, two stand-alone PCs with various educational games available for child-initiated activities, plus a class iPad.
It is useful if your child knows how to hold and operate a mouse correctly.
The children are taught to only play on the apps and games which they have been shown how to play in class.
Apps by Busythings are all fantastic and some of them are free. We have lots of Busythings games in class and the children enjoy them all.
Please do let us know if you’ve found any great apps. It’s not as easy as you’d imagine to find good-quality educational apps!
EXPRESSIVE ARTS and DESIGN
This includes art, music, role play and imaginative play. All Reception children have Music for half an hour each week, currently with Mrs. Myburgh to cover Mrs. Carlton’s maternity leave.
When painting, children are encouraged to choose an appropriate brush (small brushes for detail, large brushes for larger areas), prepare and mix their own paints.
We teach safe use of tools such as scissors, punches, hacksaws and bradawls – and simple joining techniques using glue, tape and split-pins.
We provide plenty of opportunities for drama, role-play and imaginative play across the curriculum.
In addition to daily collective worship and assemblies, we follow the Catholic Primary Religious Education programme Come and See. Nine topics are covered per year, details of which you will receive in the class teacher’s letters.
Along with the sounds book and the diaries, the main homework in Reception is shared reading. We may occasionally send a practical Maths activity home or simple research (i.e. looking for patterns or shapes around the home, things that use electricity, objects beginning with ‘m’). Offer encouragement and help if needed, but allow your child to achieve as much as possible independently.
Diaries are used to document your child’s learning journey in Reception. They are a valuable tool to teach writing skills and develop speaking and listening skills. Please be mindful of how many pages are used each week; diary showing can take a long time if lots of children have several pages to show.
The photos we take are to show you some of the activities we have done at school, but also to document significant steps in your child’s learning.
WAYS TO HELP AT HOME
Read books and tell stories. ‘Real’ books have more lasting value than scheme books. Bedtime stories also have critical impact, particularly on writing ability in later years.
Read and write for a purpose; shopping lists, birthday cards, emails.
Use mathematics for a purpose; cooking and baking, telling the time, shopping and counting money.
Have conversations with your child about what they’ve done. Talk about the numbers, words and letters you see as you’re out and about together. Einstein’s mother apparently asked her son, “What questions did you ask your teacher today?”
A study shows that talking to your child matters more for your child’s education than their schooling:
Talking about school with your child:
If your child is hesitant to talk about their day, try talking about your own day first.
Ensure your child has a daily routine of set bedtimes and mealtimes:
Breakfast also has critical impact on educational attainment.
Primary school pupils need to have at least nine hours’ sleep each night:
Most importantly, we hope your child will be happy and confident in coming to school. Without this, children cannot learn effectively.
Please do come and ask if anything is unclear or you’d like to know more.
The EYFS Team
Mrs K. Coleman, Mrs V. DeCleyn and Mrs K. Driver