Sunday, 27 January 2013

Chinese New Year

Display and Resources

This year (2013), Chinese New Year is Sunday 10th February, although celebrations will take place for the entire weekend. I will be teaching the children about Chinese New Year the week commencing 11th February.

I do enjoy sharing Chinese New Year with the children in school. They have already explored Christmas and New Year a month before so are open to understanding that in China they celebrate New Year at a different time.

Chinese New Year is an excellent way to explore new cultures and talk about different ways of life. There are so many different resources and learning opportunities, there is even a story!

cny display

This is the Chinese New Year display in my classroom, it’s almost taking over one wall!

I am very fortunate to have a mother-in-law who can send me beautiful Chinese artefacts to show the children but there are a number of shops in my area which can supply easy to find resources.

You can also find resources for Chinese New Year from learning libraries.

I bought a number of the resources I use in my classroom from the China town in Birmingham.

I’m going to talk about the resources I have in my classroom based on the best of my ability, however if I say anything wrong, please leave a comment and let me know!

Friday, 25 January 2013

ICT in the Early Years

Providing Learning Opportunities

Providing learning through ICT is extremely important in the Early Years. The children we are teaching will have jobs in the future which haven’t been invented yet, using technology that currently exists in science fiction and they will be performing services that we currently don’t know we need. It is our job to provide ICT opportunities to provide children with the skills they can build on to prepare themselves for the future.

Saying that, we don’t want to have them sat in front of a screen for hours on end. The trick is balance.

My ICT Area

It’s important to remember that ICT means Information and Communication Technology.

ict table

I am very lucky in my classroom that I have space for an ICT area on which I have two computers. The PC was donated as an old computer from anther school. It is perfect for our purposes as the children don’t do anything difficult on the computer.

The netbook on the left is a Fizz Book. I cannot recommend the Fizz Books enough! They are fantastic! Every Early Years classroom should have at least 6 Fizz Books for the children to use independently.

fizz book

They work as laptops, tablets and they have an in-built camera. They are fantastic! The children really love using the Fizz Book and are engaged and excited to learn when the activity involves using the Fizz Book. Also, they are not indestructible but they are more sturdy for use by young children. Highly recommend them and hope your setting can get some!

Other ICT Activities

While computer use is the obvious place to look for an ICT lesson, there are other ICT devices you can use with the children in your class.

Saturday, 19 January 2013

Maths is Everywhere!

Not Just in Maths Lessons

When children struggle with recognising numbers in the classroom I always ask parents to do number walks with their children because maths is everywhere!

maths is everywhere

This is the Maths is Everywhere display I have at school. I use it to illustrate that there are lots of everyday items that have numbers on them. There are always opportunities to share counting and number recognition with children.

maths is everywhere collage

It is incredible how prevalent numbers are in our every day environment.

As the collage shows, there are numbers on our every day objects such as house phones and mobile phones, computer keyboards, street signs, television remote controls and even television channels.

Watches and clocks obviously have numbers on them, but also car number plates and microwave controls.

Receipts, train and bus tickets, measuring tapes, bathroom scales and kitchen scales all use numbers, as well as the labels in clothes. I didn’t include house numbers on my collage but they are an easy one to spot as children walk to school, as well as bus numbers!

You could ask the children to do a number walk and see what numbers they can spot! The higher the numbers they can see, the more points they get! The children can count up the points and find out who is the winner!

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Fine Motor Skills

Pre-Writing Activities

As you know, Reception is where Britain's youngest learn how to write.

There are a number of steps that precede learning to write:

Reading Writing
1, Looking at books and words 1, Making marks on paper
2, Hearing and recognising noises, linking those noises to pictures 2, Telling an adult that the marks mean something
3, Picking up the first phonic sounds 3, Beginning to write the letters in their own name

Before even making marks on paper, children need to be able to hold a pencil. This is where the fine motor skills come into their own. these are exercises that strengthen the muscles in hands, wrists, arms and shoulders.

In our Reception, we spend most of the Autumn term focusing on fine motor activities for those children who need it. Many high attainers can begin Reception with excellent fine motor skills and are ready for writing, sometimes lower attainers are physically ready to write, but all children can benefit from Fine Motor activities.

Here follows a list of Fine Motor activates which will hopefully give you some inspiration:

Pennies in a Jar

piggy jarimage from

Picking up small objects and putting them into small holes actually requires a lot of co-ordination. If funds are a bit tight, you can cut out pieces of card in different shapes and use a small Pringles tin as a pot, simply cut a hole in the plastic lid. Children could have fun decorating the tins.

Alternatively, you could pick up a cheap piggy bank from a car boot sale.

This activity improves children’s pincer movements and builds up strength in the muscles in their hands.


A lot of fine motor activities are putting small objects into small holes, like coins in a penny jar. Threading is much along the same lines, children push any type of thread through holes in card or wood.

image from apartment

There’s also the threading beads onto a cord which follows the same principle.

image from ot mum learning

Children really like making necklaces for adults so they can be quite motivated to thread beads, you can also encourage them to make patterns out of the beads using different colours or shapes and you can encourage the children to count how many beads they have threaded, so that’s maths in there too!

Pegs in a Peg Board

There are thousands of pegs and boards you can use for children to practice with. All of them work on children’s fine motor skills to some degree.

2444_Tall-Stacker Pegboard Setimage from toys are

The little children do enjoy the challenge of filling the board and like creating a repeating pattern. You can also encourage children to count how many pegs they’ve done and ask them to see who can put the most pegs in the boards.


The action of using tweezers exercises key muscles in the hand. Encouraging the children to pick up small objects and place them in small containers encourages increased coordination and improves those all important fine motor skills.

image from learning

These are the exact tweezers that we use in our setting and the children really enjoy using them. I used Activia yoghurt pots for the children to take small objects out and put others in.

The objects you could use are small toys, dried peas, pasta shapes or anything small you have in your classroom.

Play Dough

Whether shop bought or salt dough, children love playing with play dough!

edible-play-doughimage from sure

Sure have a recipe for edible play dough! Amazing!

With play dough, children can roll, squeeze, poke, push, flatten, squish, mush, bang, pinch and stretch. They can use small movements to make something specific and big movements to explore shape. Using play dough tools also encourages fine motor skills as children shape and cut the play dough.

Tracing Lines

This might seem a little like worksheets, but pages where the children can follow lines not only improves fine motor skills but also gives children the chance to practice concentration.

image from

I’ve noticed that the children do find these sheets difficult initially but it is important to repeat activities in the Early Years so that children can really get to grips with them.

Write Dance

Or something similar. Write Dance is fantastic and really improves fine motor skills. I have used Write Dance in three separate settings and implemented it in my own, it really improves the fine motor skills in those children who are really struggling.

You don’t have to use the words with the CD, there are instrumental tracks which are much better. Read the dance instructions as they will tell you what to do and have a cheat sheet beside you as you’re doing the dance with the children.

Write Dance takes five minutes out of your school day and could be used as a brain break between sessions.

More Coming Soon!

There are some ideas to get you started. I’ll post more later but if you have any other ideas please get in touch!

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

It’s Finished!

The Reception Space Station

My role play area is finished and I absolutely love it! It was made entirely by my teaching assistant and it looks amazing! I can’t thank her enough!

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The role play area for this half term is a space station. We have used a mixture between pictures and images from Twinkl and things that the children have made themselves. There are lots of speaking and listening opportunities as well as fine motor and construction.

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The planets and the rockets hanging from the ceiling were all made by the children themselves. As you can see, the wall is interspersed with images of space from the internet.

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We blacked out the windows to allow the children the feeling of being in space. Space images were placed on top to give the children the space experience.

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An alien one of the children created, hanging from the ceiling. I want the children to know that if they create something amazing then it will be displayed.

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The children have been very creative using their construction and fine motor skills to make some amazing aliens to show us.

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Using some boxes we had left over from Christmas gifts, and some kitchen foil, we made this amazing computer for the children to use in the role play area. I saw some children using this computer, they were planning their trip on the space station. Very cute!

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I made these badges for the children and I was recently handed one so that I knew I would be allowed into the space station to join the children for a Space Party! Very exciting!

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The box for our space shuttle here was almost thrown away! I managed to nab it and it has become the space shuttle. Painted grey and with shapes put on the outside (to encourage shape language) has inspired some wonderful pretend play!

Space is one of my favourite topics so we obviously have some role play costumes and resources already in th classroom. The children have really enjoyed the topic and are even giving me some topic based writing examples!

Sunday, 13 January 2013

Assessment in the Early Years

The 2012-13 Curriculum

Showing progress in the Early Years has always been difficult. The previous system of using profile points allowed practitioners to show numerical progress for all children from Nursery to end of Reception.

Many children would start in Reception at level 2 or 3, and would progress through the levels until they finished Reception.

Unfortunately, there is no current numerical method for showing progress nationally.

For our own records, in our Reception class we are trying to make sure we keep meticulous records of phonics, literacy and mathematics. I thought I would share some of my assessment sheets to help out other practitioners.

writing Writing Assessment Record Sheet

We have split up the basic statements for the writing targets from 30-50 months all the way to a 2c on curriculum targets. We looked at the main process the children go through to be able to write independently and put it into a table that we can use to help us guide our planning and to track pupil progress.

phonics Phonics Assessment Record Sheet

This sheet is one in which you can input the children’s total scores for the term. So, if they know 12/20 phase 2 phonemes and so on, and tracks the progress they have made from the previous term. Obviously leave the progress columns empty if those areas haven’t been tested yet.

reading ass Reading Assessment Record

As the children begin to use their phonemes to decode words for reading and also begin to recognise more words, this assessment sheet allows the user to track progress through terms and also see where the children are currently.

num rec Number Writing and Reading Assessment Record

I do like to keep specific records to help with my planning. I find it’s easy to waste time teaching children things they already know. This sheet allows me to target specific children with specific number recognition which I can jot down in my planning. It doesn’t actually take that long, either.

cayc Catch as You Can Observation Sheets

These sheets could be completed by your Learning Through Play Manager, as they are working with children. However, we don’t want to be filling in sheets when we should be moving children’s learning on so I recommend targetting specific children, perhaps children who need more help or children who are gifted and talented to use these sheets as effectively as possible.

magic moments cards Magic Moments

We keep Learning Journey scrap books at our setting, where maths, literacy and topic work, photographs and magic moments are collected and displayed to show children’s progress through the year.

The magic moments cards capture special moments the children share with you. For example, today I was invited to a space party so I asked the child what happened at a space party and wrote down what he said on the magic moment card. This will later be stuck into his Learning Journey

The magic moments cards are fantastic ways of capturing sweet things the children say and making notes about their progress through snapshots.

If you have any ideas on assessment in the Early Years, please share!

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Saturday, 12 January 2013


Yes, We Do Them In Reception!

Not all schools have a cohort that are ready for spellings in Reception. Some children are just not at the stage where they can sit and do sustained work. This could be due to life style, home background or personal development.

We do assess the children individually before giving out spellings, which is important. While you want to give the children all the same opportunities, pushing children who are not ready for writing will only be detrimental to their learning attitude.

When the children have reached a good level of fine motor skills and have learnt many of their phase 2 phonemes, we will start giving spellings to take home.

sp1 We use the Letters and Sounds High Frequency Words, and base our high frequency words on those.

The spellings follow the order of the words as they appear in letters and sounds, making use of the phonemes children have learnt.

There are only 3 or 4 words per week as we don’t want to overload the children. Those adults learning languages will know how difficult it is to learn a lot of new words in one go, so we drip feed the words to the children throughout the year.

writing 3 box We have been printing these sheets out A5 size, double sided so that the writing page is on the back, parents literally have to look, cover, write, check to complete the spellings.

The document you can download has the pages all set up to be printed double sided.

We assess the children’s reading and writing skills for their spellings in summative phonics assessment.

If you would like to download the spellings document, please click on the links.

icon Spelling pages 1
icon Spelling pages 2
icon Spelling pages 3
icon Spelling pages 4
icon Spelling pages 5 - 10
icon Spelling pages 11 – end

We have noticed a distinct difference between the children who complete their spellings and those who don’t. Homework, in Reception, is encouraged but is not compulsory. We noticed an increased improvement in both the reading and writing skills of the children doing their spellings.

There is a lot of controversy in the Early Years community about children learning through rote.

Friday, 11 January 2013

Letter Formation

Is it Important?

I’m not sure if letter formation is important. I think it is essential that children are able to use letters that are recognisable and convey meaning, but I’m not sure it’s important to use the rounded k or the kicking k.

But I am working on helping the children to improve their fine motor skills.

We have squeezed in weekly fine motor skill sessions into our already packed time table, and this term I will be focusing on letter formation.

I’ve produced some sheets. To be honest with you, I don’t know if they are appropriate. I know that the head teacher has asked me to focus on letter formation so I have made these sheets for focused letter formation.

Each session lasts 20 minutes. letter formation

As always, you are more than welcome to help yourselves to a copy of this worksheet. Download it here.

What I sometimes do, when I feel bad about giving the children worksheets to do, I will leave them out for the children to access independently.

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Space Journal

A Bit of Everything

We use Learning Journeys in our Reception. Instead of using maths and literacy books, we collect key pieces of work to appear in scrap books to show how the children’s learning has progressed over time.

The Space Journal is going to be the feature piece of work in the Learning Journey for this term.

1 copy The title page

It’s important for children to individualise their work. This black and white page is emblazoned with the title however the space badge in the middle is available for children to stamp their own mark.
2 copy Astronaut Passport

This page explores the development of how children have improved on writing their names since the beginning of term and
3 copy Non-Fiction Page

In this page we can talk about facts to do with space, for example that there is air and gravity in space just not a lot of it. Children are invited to draw a picture of waht they intend to write about, and then write a sentence about that picture.

Lower attainers could state, quite rightly, that Mars is red. Higher attainers could write about gravity or the order of the planets.

4 copy Phonics Page

This page encourages children to explore phonics. Obviously, aliens do not speak English. Children on this page are encouaged to make up words using the phonic sounds they know, and of course draw a picture of an alien in the middle box.

Drawing topic based pictures encourages children to use topic based creativity, develops fine motor skills and drawing skills.

5 copy Labelling and Creative Design

A mixture between fiction and non-fiction, children are able to create their own space ship design. However, as they need to label their diagram, their images need to have a lot of thought put into them. This encourages thinking skills as well as fine motor and letter formation skills.

6 copy Maths

The alien friend that we are doing in school will be made out of clay, but you could use salt dough or modelling clay.

We have free flow/creative time in the afternoons (as the little ones are so tired and losing concentration by the afternoon, especially after a big lunch) and our aliens will be made the previous week in our afternoon sessions. We will then use the morning maths lessons to measure, weigh and thoroughly assess our aliens.

Their vital statistics will then be input into this sheet along with a small photo of their friend. 

space journal

If you would like to use the the space journal, you are more than welcome to download the file, for free.

The Space Journal is intended to be done across the entire half term, one page a week. The children will be taking part in other activities and will produce other pieces of appropriate work and written work, however this would be their special topic work to appear in their Learning Journeys.

Monday, 7 January 2013

New Role Play Area

The Space Station

I think role play areas are my favourite! I do like creating these lovely spaces for the children to work in.

This term, it’s a space station!

photo (39) copy

It’s not quite finished yet,  but I think my TA has done such a fantastic job building it that I wanted to show you what it looks like already!

I have more photos of the details!