So no early phonics and no laminated word cards

……….. so how are the children being supported in the use of words and those important early literacy skills?

Are the children making good or even excellent progress in the prime area of Communication and Language and the specific area of Literacy?
Are there any concerns that the environment and curriculum provided at Penny’s Place is not meeting the children’s needs or providing opportunities for the children to reach their full potential?

These are actually typical of my self reflection questions – which I do in my head all the time – but rarely do on paper – the reason being that unless my in my head reflection says that something could be improved or changed – I see no reason to self congratulate myself.

However as I have written a blog about my decision to stop using laminated words – it seems a natural next step to reflect in writing through my blog about why I am sure that not doing early phonics and not using laminated words will not disadvantage the children in my care – and also why my environment and ‘curriculum’ do promote communication and language and early literacy skills.

My Environment / Curriculum
Regular readers will know that I do not do any written planning – and so therefore I do not have any formal plans to include any aspects of the EYFS 2012 – I do not say; for example on Tuesday we are going to play a lotto game about initial sounds or on Wednesday we will have circle time and all talk about the object that I decide we are talking about or even that the children should bring something in for ‘show and tell’. I do not have a long term plan that shows how I am working my way through letters and sounds or a list of topics for the year and that within those topics I will cover x,y and z.

Yet despite this I know that I do offer opportunities in all areas – some more than others on occasion – but this is because I go with the interests of the children and sometimes – they are just not interested in certain areas of the curriculum. I am not in the least bit bothered about that – because it is within my ethos, value and principles documentation that I believe children do not have to have experienced a full curriculum (as set by EYFS 12) before the age of 5.

I will go further on this statement – in fact I believe that children don’t need to have acquired specific knowledge about x,y and z before the age of 5 – but what they do need is the opportunity to develop the skills that they will need in the future – both for their formal education and for life

In fact I am going to take a statement from EYFS 12 – one of those Early Learning Goals – and through changing the wording to fit all areas rather than the specific one refered to – demonstrate just what it is that I want children leaving my setting – whether at 3, 4, 5 or older to have achieved.

The actual goal (for Expressive arts and design: Being imaginative)

Children use what they have learnt about media and materials in original ways, thinking about uses and purposes. They represent their own ideas, thoughts and feelings through design and technology, art, music, dance, role play and stories.

My version
Children use what they have learnt during their time at Penny’s Place in original ways, thinking about uses and purposes. They represent their own ideas, thoughts and feelings through everything they do.

With the skills they have learnt, they will be be able to apply them to to every situation and therefore achieve their full potential.

I could now write pages and pages about the academic reading I have done, the brain research that shows how children learn and more importantly the optimum time for developing certain skills. I could use big words and references to those who are much better at explaining things than I am – but I am not going to – I prefer to use every day words and to try to explain in ways that make sense not only to me but hopefully to those that read my blog.

So what do I mean by skills?
Knowledge is something you know – as a very simple example – if you know (have knowledge) that pressing a door bell will result in the door being opened – you expect that to happen. If the door is not answered you may press the door bell again and again. If it is not answered you may well eventually give up and go home.

However if you have the right skills – you would think – maybe the door bell is not working – (and apply your knowledge of batteries), you would think how else can you let the person know you are waiting to be let in – you might knock on the door or even the window, you might shout very loud – you might even shout through the letterbox, or if with someone who has a phone ask them to phone the person in the house, you might look to see if the there is a back door or a gate to the garden, you might think the car is not on the drive they may have gone out and so go home – but before doing so leave a note or maybe call the person on the phone later on.

In other words you would THINK about it – you would apply knowledge that you have learnt in one situation to another situation

Applying this principle to the areas of communication and language, – and literacy.

In everyday terms – and in my opinion – thinking skills are essential to being able to communicate effectively both out loud and in your own head. You need to know words and what those words mean, you need to be able to express those words and if people don’t understand what you are trying to say – to use different words. You need to know about sentence structure, you need to know about turn taking in conversations – and yes you do need to be able to hear sounds, and rhyme and to differentiate between similar sounds – and so much more.

And how do children learn all these things?
Through early phonics? – well some might – but many won’t – just look at the governments own results from the phonics test on year one pupils – those children who have been taking part in the letters and sounds initiative – it is not working for huge numbers of children. I need say no more really as the results are there for all to see.

Through laminated words? Until they can read, the words themselves mean nothing – pictures are what the children relate to – but each child will ‘read’ something different from the picture – which is good – but therefore does not relate to the words by the cards. As an example – I could have a display of the 3 Billy goats Gruff to go with our current story – in fact I do have such a display, just no words.

But lets imagine that I have put up words (and I admit in the past I have) so picture of Big Billy Goat Gruff and word card ‘Big Billy Goat Gruff’- Shona might think it is the Big goat – no mention in her thinking of the words Billy or Gruff – so does she think the words displayed say ‘ Big Goat’. Archie may think it is ‘Daddy goat’ so again do the words say that? Erin might think ‘ He got big horns?’ Alex ‘No like it big goat’, Mia ‘ Trip Trap the goat goes Trip Trap?’ and so on – they will each think something different about the pictures and therefore could come to the conclusion that the words displayed say what they are thinking – what they are thinking at that moment in time – because of course next time they look at the picture they may well think something different!

Of course I could point to the words and I could say the words out loud and demand that the children chant them back parrot fashion after me – but what are they learning? My guess is nothing much – only how to copy (and maybe how to switch off and not pay any attention to what Penny is saying – because lets be honest – repeating words is hardly inspiring or fun)! And if that happened I would be devastated – turning a child off learning even before they got to school.

Oh and out of interest I have carried out a small experiment recently. The children have self registration cards – with their photo and their name – they all not only recognise and select their own name card – but can find the cards for each of their friends. About 2 months ago I started including just their name on the back of their place mats (they have new ones to go with each story) and not one child can identify from sight their own name. Don’t get me wrong the can work the names out with support but the fact is despite using their picture / word name cards for a year and a half they do not recognise their name without the picture of themselves.

The answer to how I support the children is of course;
Through talking, through questioning, through explaining, through offering children choices, through rhymes and stories and songs, through play – and all the things that children do naturally, want to do and indeed are ‘programmed’ to do.

This is what we do at Penny’s Place – all the time, day in, day out – not timetabled, not in a long term plan but through our everyday experiences and routines.

So are the children making good progress? Am I meeting the requirements of EYFS 12?

Need to check the guidance document ‘Development Matters’ – it might be guidance but I like it – as gives suggestions and ideas and some wide band development norms – roughly what a child should be doing – not a test, not targets – and I think the same needs to be remembered for the ELG’s.

Anyway as I have recently completed the two year check on all the two year olds in my care – and a progress check on all 7 areas for the three years olds – and stated that all of them are within the 30 – 50 month band (with the youngest just moving into it and the eldest moving out of it) – I shall reference to the 30 -50 development band statements for Communication and Language – and Literacy. As is my way I am not going to bother to write down all the things that the children are secure in or all the things mentioned within Positive Relationship or Enabling environments that I provide / do – BUT I will honestly list the things I think need developing or including (will be a good reflective exercise for me)

Please remember the oldest child in my care is 41 m and the youngest 29 m

Communication and Language:Listening and attention

  • A Unique Child – All in place – a little more development needed with point 4 (Focussing Attention)
  • Positive Relationships -Point 4 (Rhymes etc, from other cultures) only partly in place because I do not speak any other languages. Point 6 not in place – but I wonder who does do this? And remember only a suggestion not a must.
  • Enabling Environments – All in place although I don’t have ‘areas’ for example ‘set up a listening area’ I have a music system in the lounge and a portable children’s tape / CD player

Communication and Language: Understanding

  • A Unique Child –All in place
  • Positive Relationships – All in place
  • Enabling Environments – All in place

Communication and Language: Speaking

  • A Unique Child – All in place
  • Positive Relationships – All in place
  • Enabling Environments – All in place – although children choose to not use home language in the setting

Literacy: Reading

  • A Unique Child – Only one not yet in place – suggesting how a story might end.
  • Positive Relationships – Only one not in place I don’t involve bilingual adults in story time (personally as I have 2 bilingual children in my setting who speak different languages – I can not see the point in this as only one child would understand the story. Parents of the bilingual children speak and read to their child in their home language at home. They have brought books from home to show us – but I can’t read them – we have duel language books in the setting and picture books in different langauges.
  • Enabling Environment – As don’t have ‘areas’ I don’t have books in areas – I have books – lots of them. At the moment we don’t have any child made books – but have in the past , and will in the near future. In case wondering – yes my environment is ‘rich in print’

Literacy: Writing

  • A Unique child – In place
  • Positive Relationships – In place – although the books of children is in fact the setting photo evidence book – the photos taken just about every day – and referred to just about every day!
  • Enabling Environments – Only one not in place – is encouraging children to use their phonic knowledge – and I won’t be doing this until the children ask me to help them spell words.

So there we are – after my refection on the areas of Communication and Language – and Literacy, I am very happy not only with the children’s development but also with the environment that I provide.

The lack of early phonics (as in formal stuff rather than as and when a child is ready and wants to) and the lack of laminated words are not disadvantaging the children at all. Furthermore the environment that I provide is meeting the requirements of EYFS 12.

If anyone is interested I found doing the self audit in these areas very useful – and may now repeat in my head – for the other areas of learning.

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