Starting school is all about learning what’s expected, what to do and where – and the key to the first few weeks is familiarity. It’s the same for all of us with new experiences. Part of my week is spent working at Bristol University where I’m a counsellor for students. When students first arrive at University, they stick in groups, self-consciously holding maps, giggling nervously. Give it a week or two and they’re strutting around confidently, laughing loudly. They know where to go, what’s expected and where the toilets are, so to speak. They’ve also made friends – just like Reception class children. Reception class children have their own curriculum – called The Early Years Foundation Stage.This is great, all-round framework covering six important areas of learning:
- Personal, social and emotional development
- Communication, language and literacy
- Problem solving, reasoning and numeracy
- Knowledge and understanding of the world
- Physical development
- Creative development
There may be some small Government changes to this framework in the year ahead, but there will always be one non-negotiable: learning comes through play.
You’ll recognise a lot of Reception class activities from pre-school, and from what you do at home. Again, it’s all about familiarity. These activities will be developed further by skilled early years practitioners. They’ll build learning and skills on what each individual child can do. Most Reception classes have a top table full of activities to welcome children when they arrive. It’s great for children to choose an activity (sorting/building/puppets/cars) and feel involved in the class. If your child talks to you about what they did at school (and a lot don’t – my son claimed not to remember what he had for school dinners throughout primary school), then these are the words you might hear:
Circle time – children sit in a circle, often with puppets or dolls – and talk with the teacher about the day and how they feel. This way, children learn to express their needs, how to take turns, and think about the needs of others. It’s about social skills.
Book Bag – children will start bringing home books to share with you. Reception class teachers will tell you how best to do this.
Role play area – role play – pretending to be others – is hugely important for children’s learning and it’s how they play naturally. Reception classes often have an area set aside for this, and for the topic of the term. These topics could be an underwater world, a health clinic, a garage or a shop.
Project – or topic – This is a focus on a subject – for example mini-beasts – and seeing how much learning there is in as many aspects of this as possible. Children themselves develop the ideas for the topics.
Listening time – This is time spent listening really hard to different sounds and noises, getting children ready for the phonic approach to reading. It’s also great for children’s concentration.
Phonics – this is the approach to reading now taught in schools. It’s the approach that links sounds to letters and is taught in a structured, fun way.
More information can be found on the Ladybird Advice and Resources page
Geraldine Taylor, Ladybird Educational Consultant