Reading in EYFS
Enjoyment of reading is first and foremost in EYFS. Our children love to listen to funny and engaging books from their very first days (we always end our first afternoon session with the Book With No Pictures!) and this sets the tone. Story time is the best time of the day for many of our children. We tell stories all day: children vote for their favourite book to read at the end of the day; we tell lining up stories; children use puppets and small world toys to tell their own stories and we listen to and watch each other’s Helicopter Stories each day.
In terms of direct teaching of reading, we spend the first half term really focusing on Phase One Phonics which are all about tuning into individual sounds, rhythm, rhyme, changing sounds etc. We do this because we can have twenty plus feeder nurseries and children who have never attended a formal learning setting, so our children have very differing experiences and skills in these areas. We need all children to be able to hear sounds before they can blend them to read and segment them to write. After half term we begin Phase Two (single letter sounds) and begin Phase Three around or just after Christmas, which introduces more complicated digraphs and trigraphs. Phase Four begins towards the end of Spring/start of Summer and this includes CVCC/CCVC words with adjacent consonants.
Children take home a reading book closely matched to the Phonics sounds they have been taught (one book per week) and they begin taking home picture books to share with family from the home visit we make in September. They can self-access these each day and are encouraged to do so regularly.
Reading isn’t just decoding and we also spend a lot of time working on books from Power of Pictures. Our children get really good at reading body language, predicting what happened next and suggesting reasons for what has happened.
Writing in EYFS
Writing in EYFS begins with mark making. We provide lots of opportunities for children to mark make in ways that engage their whole bodies, because we know that it isn’t just the hand and arm involved in writing. Physical development is crucial so most things in Reception help to support vital writing skills: sweeping with brooms; painting the fence with water and a roller or large brush; carrying heavy large blocks to build and balance; climbing on the frame and hanging upside down; threading large and small beads; rolling and squeezing play dough; playing with foam and bubbles; digging and scooping sand; pouring water… all of this may look to outsiders like ‘just play’ but it is all building towards the physical skills and hand/eye coordination for writing.
We begin to teach the letter shapes in Phase Two after half term and generally teach a new sound each day, and how to form the shapes correctly. We revisit these regularly as part of revision each day and as morning work as the children come in. We work really hard to support the correct physical formation of the letter shapes because being able to do this freely and easily takes away cognitive strain and allows children to focus on the many other things they need to think about as they learn to write.
Once children are settled at school we have them write each morning on entry: their name; practising a particular letter; a high frequency word; building up to completing sentence starters and then writing a short sentence (or two!)
As well as writing as part of daily Phonics sessions, children are encouraged to write as they play: labels; maps; directions; lists; invitations; letters; signs etc.
In the first few weeks of school, we ask all children to write their names to go on their special wall space in their classroom. We repeat this in Spring and Summer terms and it is a simple and fast way to identify the children who need support with pencil grip, who still needs to copy their name card, who does not recognise their own name etc. This is a great visual tracker of part of the writing progress and the children love to see how much better they have got at this.
Helicopter Stories also help towards the writing process: the children are relieved of the cognitive and physical load of actually writing long stories early on and this allows them the freedom and confidence to tell (and have acted out by their peers) elaborate and creative stories. Once they have become more fluent and physically ready to write longer pieces, they take great pride in writing their own stories.
By the end of Reception we aim for all children to be able to write a sentence (or more) that they and adults they know can read clearly. Although there is no requirement for this sentence to be punctuated, have capital letters etc, we teach this and many children leave Reception using them.
Maths in EYFS
Maths is part of our play at Foulds and the children routinely use numbers to keep score, compare groups, share quantities equally, work out how many more of something they need, etc. Our focus is on getting children to know numbers up to ten ‘inside out’: subitising numbers; knowing number bonds to five and then ten; looking at patterns in numbers, doubling and halving, sharing into groups etc. We use White Rose to help plan our sessions and each unit is studied for around three weeks, but we can extend this if needed as time is built in for consolidation.
Maths happens after lunch usually, with direct teaching happening as a whole class carpet session. We will follow these up in provision through play, or sometimes with more focused guided work. Maths is all around us and part of our daily lives and as such it forms part of our play, interactions and daily routines: counting children in class each day and calculating how many are there if for example two are away; counting candles on play dough cakes and talking about how old we will be on our next birthdays; sharing toys out equally; cooking and counting spoonfuls of ingredients etc.
Although there is no Early Learning Goal assessment for Shape Space and Measure in the new framework, it is still taught through direct teaching and reinforced through play: block play; junk modelling; cooking; halving slices of toast into triangles or rectangles; even simple tasks like fitting paper into bookbags needs mathematical thought to work out that it fits if it’s landscape but not if it’s portrait!
We don’t have formal Maths books or even much in the way of paper evidence. Much of our teaching is practical but we do begin to record in informal ways. The children are all exposed to number sentences, tally marks etc, although there are no expectations in the framework for the children to use them.