Welcome to Early Years!
At St Mary's Catholic Primary School, we take a holistic approach to education and encompasses all areas of learning and development. We believe that all children are entitled to the best possible start in their school life, intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually to enable them to develop their full potential. Children develop quickly in these early years, so we look to ensure that all children are provided with the highest quality early learning experiences, as we understand that during their first years of education, children form attitudes about learning that will last a lifetime. Children who receive the right sort of support and encouragement during these years will be creative and adventurous learners throughout their lives.
Meet the Staff
Miss Viggars Early Years Leader
Nursery and Reception Class Teacher
Nursery and Reception Teaching Assistant
At St Mary's Catholic Primary School, we follow the Read Write Inc. scheme for phonics lessons. In time, Read Write, Inc. Phonics teaches children to read accurately and fluently with good comprehension. They learn to form each letter, spell correctly, and compose their ideas step-by-step.
In Nursery, children begin their phonics journey by working through interactive games and activities planned to develop their speaking and listening skills. This lays the foundations for the phonic work which begin learning Read, Write Inc. later on in the year. The emphasis during this time is to get children attuned to the sounds around them and ready to begin developing oral blending and segmenting skills. We focus on: General sound discrimination, environmental sounds, instrumental sounds, body percussion, rhythm and rhyme, alliteration, voice sounds and finally oral blending and segmenting. After covering all these areas, most children will begin learning their set one sounds.
In Reception, during our morning phonics lesson, we are learning the set one sounds. In afternoon sessions, we also revisit phonics games and activities that develop speaking and listening skills to fill any gaps in learning.
Watch our Youtube videos for help with pronunciation and practising set one sounds at home.
Check out or phonics resources bank by clicking the icon below.
On the Road to Writing
Handwriting develops as children develop increased control over their bodies and a desire to communicate through mark-making. In order to eventually acquire a legible, fluent and fast handwriting style, children need to develop skills including good gross and fine motor control, recognition of pattern, a language to talk about shapes and movements, the main handwriting movements involved in the three basic letter shapes as exemplified by l, c, r.
What is the difference between gross and fine motor control?
Fine motor control is the term used to describe smaller movements, usually of the hand and fingers. Fine motor control is best developed through activities which involve small-scale movements. Gross motor control is the term used to describe the development of controlled movements of the whole body, or limbs (arms or legs). Of particular importance in relation to handwriting is the development of good posture and balance. Activities such as dance, football, use of small apparatus, cycling, gripping climbing frames and building with large-scale construction kits all develop gross motor control.
Why is pencil grip important?
A good pencil grip facilitates legibility, letter formation, speed and endurance. An efficient pencil grip is one in which the writing tool is controlled only through finger movements. This occurs when the pinky side of the hand supports the whole hand against the writing surface, allowing the other fingers to hold and move the pencil/pen/crayon. Holding a pencil or pen correctly requires strong finger and hand muscles and dexterity. A correct pencil grip will enable the writer to move the fingers, controlling the pencil or pen with efficient finger movements. The ability to hold a pencil correctly can affect a child’s attitude to learning and schoolwork, their academic achievement as well as their motor/joint development. Incorrect pencil grip is painful and causes the child’s hand and arm to fatigue quickly.
Why is good posture important?
Developing a good posture is as important as developing a good pencil grip. Over the years, children spend a great deal of time writing, and sitting in an awkward position can cause headaches, fatigue and pain in the shoulder, arm or hand. It can also slow down a child’s writing. Children will be able to sustain writing for longer if they become used to sitting comfortably.
Ideas for developing gross motor control
-Consolidate the vocabulary of movement by talking about the movements children make, such as going round and round, making curves, springing up and sliding down, making long, slow movements or quick, jumpy movements.
-Show children how to make large movements in the air with their arms, hands and shoulders. For example, fix ribbons on to the end of sticks for the children to swirl in the air. Encourage the use of both sides of the body.
-Let the children make different body shapes/actions in response to music to help them to remember the shapes.
Ideas for developing fine motor control
- Let the children make patterns using pegboards.
- Provide sewing and weaving activities.
- Involve the children in chopping and peeling in cooking activities.
- Provide woodworking tools – pliers, screwdrivers, hammers.
- Use finger rhymes, counting fingers, playing with words and sounds, etc.
- Provide small construction toys.
-Structure sand and water play to include sieving, pouring, picking up toys using tools, etc.
- Develop the pincer movement: show the children how to use tweezers to pick up and sort sequins, small beads, etc., sprinkle coloured sand, glitter, salt, etc. on pictures.
- Provide the children with paints, finger paints, etc. for making big patterns on differently shaped paper, for example, fish, balloons, kites. Talk about the patterns they make. Focus on developing the curly caterpillar, long ladder and one-armed robot.
- Encourage the children to strengthen their fingers by using clay, play dough, Plasticine, etc., for modelling. They can make letter shapes and patterns using the modelling media.
- Encourage dexterity by asking the children to cut out large letter shapes or patterns. They can use different coloured marker pens for tracing along inside the shapes. Emphasise that circles and curly caterpillars need to be traced from the top and anti-clockwise.
- Give the children thick paintbrushes and water to paint patterns on walls, fences, etc.
Reading in EYFS
The early reading skills your child will learn whilst in Early Years are an essential foundation for starting school. The focus of reading is on sharing stories, songs, and rhymes together and building talking and listening skills.
We learn our topic through stories, this topic we are reading:
What I like about me!
We All Go Travelling by!
Magic Train Ride.
Mr Gumpy's Outing
Up! Up! Up!
Key reading skills:
Linking sounds and letters
Children will be getting used to letter sounds by playing lots of fun activities. They may also be beginning to learn how the speech sounds (known as phonemes) in the words we say are represented in written form by a letter or letters (known as graphemes).
Helping tell a story
Storytime is an important part of any day at Nursery! Children have plenty of opportunities to hear and enjoy stories together. They are also encouraged to retell stories in their own words. This all helps build talking and listening skills, which are essential for early reading.
Singing songs and rhymes.
Hearing and learning songs and nursery rhymes is an important part of early reading. It helps children to explore sounds and to begin learning story language and story structures.
Getting ready for reading at home
There are lots of fun and easy ways to help your child get ready to read. Here are some ideas.
1. Talk about books, words, and pictures
Before you start reading a book, talk about the title and the pictures on the cover (front and back). Ask your child what they think the story might be about. After reading, ask your child what they liked about the story.
Try asking ‘how’ and ‘why’ questions about the story and the pictures. For example: ‘How did the bear get across the river?’ ‘Why was the fox cross?’
2. Listen to (and sing!) songs and rhymes
Singing songs and nursery rhymes helps your child to hear the sounds in words and build up a bank of favourites they know well. Play with words and sounds and make up nonsense rhymes too. Encourage them to join in. See if they can do the actions in time with the rhymes.
3. All join in
When you are reading to your child, ask them to join in with bits that are repeated. For example, ‘Run, run, as fast as you can! You can’t catch me, I’m the gingerbread man!’. Traditional stories, like The Gingerbread Man, often have repeated phrases, and children will love doing the voices!
4. Play rhyming games
Rhyming games are fun and will help your child start to hear and understand speech sounds. Try ‘I spy’ when you are out and about. Have fun with rhyming words – for example, can your child think of a word that rhymes with ‘cat’?
In all games and activities, make sure you pronounce speech sounds clearly. Try to make them as short as possible – for example, the letter m has a short /m/ sound, not a continuous /mmmmmmm/ sound. Try not to add an extra sound onto the speech sound either (for example, the sound is /m/ and not /m-uh/).
Ready to Read?
In Autumn Term Two, children in Reception will begin to bring reading books home. Which they will practice reading both in school and at home.
When helping your child with their reading, make sure you choose a time when they’re not too tired. Remember that learning to read will take time – be sure to stay patient as your child acquires this new skill!
As well as your child reading to you, it’s important that you read stories, rhymes, and non-fiction books to your child. This will increase their vocabulary, develop their comprehension, and encourage the habit of reading – which is a great habit to have!
In Early Years our maths learning is split into 'number' and 'shape, space and measure'. Check out these fun maths activities you can practice at home.
Number Hunt in Jelly
You will need- jelly, bowl, plastic numbers, tweezers/tongs. First, spread out some plastic numbers in jelly layers. When it’s all set, give out some tongs to children and show them how to pick up the numbers from the wiggly substance (and practice their fine motor skills along the way!). This sensory play is a great way of sneaking in number recognition to something fun and engaging for the children.
Good, old LEGO. Useful – in so many different ways, here it comes to the rescue yet again. Prepare some cards with colourful blocks on them and let kids discover colour patterns and reproduce them with LEGO blocks. Consider leaving the colouring part to your little learners.
You will need craft sticks, sharpies, clothespins. Write number sequences on craft sticks and remember to leave some blanks in between. Next, you write the missing numbers on a bunch of clothespins and give them out to your class. Now you’re ready to let the kids use their fine motor skills and clip the pins on sticks. The best thing about this inexpensive early year's maths activity is that you only create the props once and they’re ready to be used as many times as you like.
Dot to Dots
Tape some paper to the wall and write several numbers, each decorated with as many dots as the number. Now, kids can touch each dot with a do-a-dot marker and see the number and the quantity all together! You can also put the paper on the floor but holding a marker up and out makes this not only an activity for early years maths but also a good way to strengthen those little arm muscles.
Crack the egg
Create ‘eggs’ by cutting out oval shapes from cardboard and write different numbers on them. Let the kids identify the numbers and crack the eggs by punching the corresponding number of holes in them. This exercise can also help develop hand muscles.
Simply cut out some hearts and cut each in half using different zigzags, squiggles and so on. Then write a number on one side and draw a corresponding number of hearts on the other. Well done, you’ve just created puzzles! Now it’s time for the little ones to find matching parts of the broken hearts.
Young children are all about the physical - they love to jump, skip, run, climb and dance. Anything new and that won't require them to sit still for too long is what they love to do. But they're like puppies - running full steam until they entirely run out of energy, at which point they'll collapse somewhere utterly exhausted.
All children are at levels of development, and we all develop at different rates, so don't be overly concerned if your child is acquiring new skills at a different rate to their peers. But if you are worried about their development, or it seems to have stalled or are going backwards, reach out and raise your concern.
Take part in one or more of these activities every day. Websites and links have been provided for useful videos online.
1: Dance along to a song that makes you happy
2: Walk up and down the stairs five times
3: Sing and hop along to the sleeping bunny song
5: Shake break
7: Go noodle
8: Dance along with The Learning Station''
The Importance of Play!
Play is an integral part of a child’s early development. Playing helps young children’s brains to develop and for their language and communication skills to mature. It is important to ensure children have enough time to play. Play not only does it allows children to release extra energy, but it also lets them find out who they are and opens their minds by looking at their environment and taking in their surroundings. Through play, children learn and develop different skills they will need in life, such as:
There are 16 different play types. These are: Communication Play, Creative Play, Deep Play, Dramatic Play, Exploratory Play,
Fantasy and Imaginary Play, Locomotor Play, Mastery Play, Object Play, Recapitulative Play, Role Play, Rough and Tumble Play,
Social Play, Socio-Dramatic Play, and Symbolic Play. Check out the attached document to read more about these types of play and how they fit into our learning.
What is it?
Development Matters was produced by Early Education with support from the Department for Education. It is non-statutory guidance which supports all those working in early childhood education settings to implement the requirements of the Statutory Framework for the EYFS.
Development Matters demonstrates how the four themes of the EYFS Framework and the principles that inform them work together to support the development of babies, toddlers and young children within the context of the EYFS framework. The document also illustrates how the ‘Characteristics of Effective Learning’ may be supported and extended by adults as well as how they underpin the ‘Prime’ and ‘Specific’ areas of learning and development. The age/stage bands overlap because these are not fixed age boundaries but suggest a typical range of development. When using Development Matters it is, however, important to remember that babies, toddlers and young children develop at their own rates and in their own ways. The development statements and their order are not necessary steps for every child and should not be used as checklists.
50 things to do before you're 5
50 Things To Do started with the objective of helping to solve the problem of children reaching their first school experience with low literacy levels, language skills, or just a lack of life experiences. This immediately puts them at a disadvantage against the rest of the class, and research shows that most children never recover from this early disadvantage, affecting not just their attainment, but also their confidence and aspirations.
There is a huge amount of research from the DfE, the Education Foundation and Public Health England expressing that early intervention to support the development of language, literacy and communication skills in the under-fives has a profound impact on achievement in primary and secondary age phases. This is particularly the case for disadvantaged learners. 50 Things is based on the simple notion that access to life-changing, fun, low-cost or no-cost experiences with your family is a great way to support and develop young children’s oracy skills and confidence so that they enter primary school much more ready to learn.
The 50 Things project is about getting parents involved in a range of activities with their children, along with appropriate guidance that will make an impact. These have been carefully developed by education experts, early years practitioners.
Mental health problems affect about 1 in 10 children and young people. They include depression, anxiety and conduct disorder, and are often a direct response to what is happening in their lives.
The emotional wellbeing of children is just as important as their physical health. Good mental health allows children and young people to develop the resilience to cope with whatever life throws at them and grow into well-rounded, healthy adults.
Things that can help keep children and young people mentally well include:
Other factors are also important, including:
Help for Children
Help for Parents
Samaritans Call: 116 123
Mind Call: 0300 123 33 93 Text: 86463
Mindfulness has been described as “the awareness that emerges through paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally to the unfolding of experience moment by moment” (Kabat-Zinn 2003, p.144). Mindfulness is a fundamental part of human consciousness. Our mental capacity can be strengthened through a variety of training methods.
1: Draw a picture of how you feel
2: Listen to relaxing music and close your eyes
3: Talk about something that made you happy at the end of each day
4: Spidey senses: Sit still, what can you see, hear, smell taste, touch
5: Make a mindful jar: Fill an empty jar or bottle with water and glitter. Fasten the lid on and watch the glitter swirl and fall
Help at home
The following links will lead you to useful resources put together by the NSPCC.
'Parenting can be rewarding, but it can also be challenging. We've got parenting tips for all stages of your child's life, as well as advice on how to deal with difficult situations.' -NSPCC