Early Years Curriculum
Shining Together, We Reach for the Stars
Our Values (seen as learning behaviours and drivers, enabling us to Reach for the Stars):
Respect, Motivation, Perseverance, Kindness, Pride, Cooperation
Children start their learning journey with us at Bromesberrow at age 3 in preschool and they are integrated and part of the school. Our expectation from the off is that children live out our vision: Shining Together, We Reach for the Stars. With a journey in mind, we see learning as cumulative, in the sense that this is built on over the years of children’s lives. In Early Years, we value the journey that has come before and know that children have been developing and learning from birth e.g. in regards to communication:
- Baby- communicates through crying and reaction/response
- Toddler- communicates through single words, gestures and pointing
- Preschooler- begins to initiate conversation and express views
- Reception- confident to articulate ideas and thinking
We then build upon this and enable children to become the confident communicators seen in year 6, ready to take on the next chapter of learning in secondary school.
This is our approach throughout our school and across the curriculum, we aim to build on knowledge so that children’s understanding of learning deepens and broadens as they grow.
Our Golden Threads in Early Years (what our children need)
1) Improving children's vocabulary and early language through:
* Quality adult-child interactions e.g. it is not just a stick! It is a twisted, bumpy stick!
* A quality text environment e.g. a curriculum which exposes children to different texts, language and storytelling, to develop enjoyment, vocabulary, recall, retelling and innovation.
* Supporting our most vulnerable children through addition support e.g. through TalkBoost language intervention to improve vocabulary, speaking and listening, so that children are able to keep up with their peers.
2) Improving children's cultural capital in regards to:
*Difference and diversity, supporting acceptance, appreciation and understanding.
* Experience, by providing enrichment through our curriculum, trips and visitors, being particularly mindful to those children who need those extra, explicitly planned provocations to broaden their knowledge of the world.
3) Supporting children (as soon as they join us) to become readers, as we recognise that this is what enables them to access the rest of the school curriculum through:
* Daily phonics and additional catch up for those who need it
* Regular reading opportunities in school in partnership with daily reading at home to build fluency.
* Daily storytelling, with adults modelling ‘joyful and expressive’ reading.
* Weekly guided reading to support reading comprehension.
Four Guiding Principles
Our Early Years Curriculum is based around 4 guiding principles:
The Unique Child: We recognise that every child is an individual and aim to meet their individual learning and development needs. We want to see children engaged and moving forward with their learning, supported and guided by knowledgeable and skilled practitioners. It is our aim that every child within our early years learns to be resilient, capable, confident and self-assured. We see every child as an active learner with an innate desire to learn and become more competent.
Positive Relationships: We believe in a nurturing environment! An environment whereby children form positive and secure relationships with all adults; adults who are sensitive and responsive to the children’s individual needs, feelings and interests. As early years practitioners we recognise that parents know their children best and as such we aim to work closely with families, through transition into the setting and beyond. We also value the input from other practitioners (as significant people in a child’s life). We communicate effectively with different feeder settings and with other professionals to build a picture of a child’s needs
Enabling Environments: We have a generous, play based learning classroom, both indoors and outdoors; where children can make choices, learn together with and from others and have a range of open ended experiences and resources on which to build their learning experiences, with playfulness and joyfulness. Provocations (different stimuli, such as objects or experiences) may be added throughout the year to build on the children’s cultural capital through different experiences e.g. festivals and celebrations at a local, national and global level.
Learning and Development: there are seven areas of learning in the EYFS, with communication and language, physical development and personal, social and emotional development forming the backbone of the children’s development and learning.
The Characteristics of Effective Teaching and Learning
When supporting children in their play and development, we recognise that there are stages to this development, which are described as:
Play and Explore: children investigate and experience things, and ‘have a go’
Active Learning: children concentrate and keep on trying if they encounter difficulties, and enjoy achievements
Think Critically: children have and develop their own ideas, make links between ideas, and develop strategies for doing things
The role of the adult is to support and positively enable this development through observation and interaction, ‘planning in the moment’ and responding appropriately and helpfully to said moment e.g. to support children’s independence in ‘tidying away’ and sorting, adults provide accessible boxes, which are labelled with a picture. Adults will have modelled the use of these. They may have a conversation with a child about how best to decide what goes where.
The 3 Prime Areas
Communication and language:
We focus on quality back and forth interactions with children, conversation; and development and extension of language. We provide a language rich environment through storytelling, role play, modelling from adults and sensitive questioning. We want the children to develop a rich range of vocabulary and a strong understanding of language structures. If we spot that children are falling behind in their communication we intervene quickly, tailoring an approach that best meets their needs (e.g. using Talkboost or targeted quality adult interactions) so that children are able to thrive in this fundamental area of learning. We recognise that good communication and language skills are the key to successful engagement across the curriculum and we prioritise this.
Personal, social and emotional development:
We pride ourselves on the nurturing environment we offer to children and the secure relationships fostered with adults. The children are supported to manage their own emotions (self-regulation), to build a positive sense of self, to have confidence in their own abilities (self-advocacy), to develop perseverance and patience. This is developed through adult modelling and positive interactions with other children, focusing on building friendships, cooperation and the ability to resolve conflicts. We use Zippy’s Friends as a therapeutic approach to support this.
We invest in our environment and provision, providing a range of opportunities to develop children’s gross and fine motor skills in both the indoor and outdoor environment. It is through this and careful adult intervention that our curriculum enables children to make strong progress physically, developing core strength, stability, balance, awareness, co-ordination and agility. Through repeated and varied opportunities we see children develop their hand/eye coordination, precision and fine motor movements. Using Squiggle and Wiggle, yoga and/or Dough Disco enables children to build core strength and in turn arm strength in preparation for writing.
The Four Specific Areas
There are three elements within literacy that the children will develop through Preschool and Reception:
Language comprehension is achieved through adult talk, books, rhymes, poems and songs. All children in Early Years takes part in a short guided reading session, using quality (planned) texts, alongside intentional questioning based on our DERIC whole school reading approach. Provocations (deliberate and thoughtful decisions made by the teacher to extend the ideas of the children) are often set from this and from the children’s interests to enable early comprehension skills to develop. Our environment is language rich and children in Preschool and Reception are exposed to this. We use our continuous provision to provide text enrichment, engagement and immersion.
Word Reading (including phonics): Children in Preschool are supported through adult directed activities and early phonics sessions to hear and begin to recognise sounds. Formal word teaching and learning happens in Reception through the decoding system in phonics. As a school we use Bug Club Phonics which teaches phonics from Preschool. Our focus in Preschool is for children to develop their sound discrimination e.g. hearing rhymes in words, recognising syllables, hearing the initial sound in a word and comparing different sounds. In Reception, children are taught to recognise individual letters and sounds, then they move onto digraphs (2/ 3 letters, 1 sound e.g. ‘or’ and ‘igh’. Children are also taught common exception words (words that follow no phonic pattern) e.g. ‘the’ and ‘go’. They are taught the skill of blending and segmenting, whereby they are able to segment the sounds e.g. c, a, t and then blend them back together to read e.g. cat.
Writing starts at the earliest age too, with mark making and emergent writing being seen in preschool. Formal transcription (handwriting and spelling) and composition (articulating ideas and structuring them in speech before writing) happens in Reception. We use a quality text approach, which ensures children are exposed to a range of different texts, providing them with excellent models and 'frames' for writing, so that they are able to develop their own storytelling/writing throughout early years. Our approach involves using rhymes, actions and pictures, small world provocations and linked activities to support memory, recall, vocabulary, retelling and innovation. The environment is set up so that children are encouraged and motivated to write by the things that interest them e.g. if they are running a role play café they will have materials to write down menus, lists of ingredients and order sheets.
By the end of Reception, we want children to be able to count confidently. We aim for them to have a deep understanding of numbers to 10; and have an understanding of subitising (the ability to instantly recognise the number of objects in a group) and numerical pattern. As soon as they start with us in Preschool, we encourage children to develop positive attitudes towards maths, helping them to spot connections and to look for patterns and relationships through a play based approach. We ensure that there are regular mathematical opportunities throughout the children’s play and see the role of the adult to look to challenge, deepen and broaden the learning by spotting and responding carefully to those ‘teachable moments’. The children develop strong mathematical language alongside being able to play and use manipulatives (practical maths apparatus and objects e.g. cubes, counters or pebbles and beads).
From Reception, we as teachers adopt the same maths language we use throughout the school: Skill it, Apply it and Deepen it and link these in the early years to the Characteristics of Effective Teaching and Learning: Play and Explore for ‘Skill it’, Active Learning for ‘Apply it’ and Thinking Critically for ‘Deepen it’. This underpins the Bromesberrow maths mastery approach followed through the school. Children in Reception have blue ‘maths’ workbooks
Understanding the world
We guide the children towards making sense of their physical world and the community in which they live. We aim to offer experiences to support this, from a visit to the local shop or visitors into school. We recognise that our children's cultural capital is very varied and that cultural diversity is an area that we need to work hard at. We use quality books and resources that celebrate diversity to support the children’s cultural, social, technological and ecological understanding, as well as providing challenge through our provision and interactions. We believe in providing a depth of knowledge and experience of the natural world, being outside is a major part of the early year’s day, in our classroom garden or in Forest School. It is through spending time in nature that we are able to support children through interaction, observation and effective communication e.g. it is not just a bird, it is a robin, with a red breast.
Expressive art and design
Through the environment, children are able to access and have numerous opportunities to explore and play with a wide range of media and materials. Children, with support and modelling from adults, are able to develop self-expression, a rich vocabulary; and a deeper understanding and ability to communicate through the arts. We provide a range of media and resources, which we encourage children to interact with and be creative with. Through adult scaffolding, modelling and support children learn how to join materials in junk modelling, they know how to mix colours to make a different colour, and they learn how to cut accurately using scissors. Some of our children do not have opportunity to pens and art resources at home. This is something we recognise and support, through opportunity in setting and/or resources sent home.
Observation and Planning (Implementation)
Whole School Planning
Children in the Early Years at Bromesberrow have a unique curriculum, however we feel it is important that these foundations in learning are given priority and recognised as the essential beginnings of learning within each curriculum area. As such, you will see that Preschool and Reception’s developmental learning milestones are included in all our curriculum plans for English, maths, science, history, art etc…
Adult Directed Activities
We plan for adult directed activities (activities that are planned by the teacher) to purposefully introduce children to new ideas and ways of doing things. We think carefully about these to ensure that they are meaningful and ‘make a difference’, based on the practitioners knowledge of the children and their needs. An adult directed activity could provide a child with an opportunity to learn and practise a new skill e.g. if a child has never had any experience of scissor use then they are not going to automatically know how to cut. By teaching this skill directly, the child can then have opportunity to apply this skill in different contexts, through the environment and provision.
Planning ‘in the moment’
Adults observe children at play and during adult directed activities, as well as at other key times throughout the day e.g. lunch and snack time. When they are observing, they are scanning and they are looking for ‘teachable moments’, moments when it may be helpful for an adult to intervene and ‘add something’. We think carefully about how we can best respond and assess carefully ‘next steps’. It is our approach to keep things ‘open’ and to avoid direct, closed questions. Using ‘pondering language’ such as ‘I wonder if’ ensures a non-judgemental, encouraging approach. We then gently support a child to progress in their learning and play by exploring ideas, modelling, introducing new language and encouraging. An Example of ‘In the Moment’ planning:
Name/s of child/ren
Observation and assessment (watch, wait and think)
Plan and Teach (respond)
Children wanting to build a ‘hiding’ den for Jack (from Jack and the Beanstalk) so that he could hide from the giant. They were using fabric but couldn’t get it to ‘hold together’. Children were unaware of how pegs could help in this
Teacher shows the children a box of pegs and models how to use them to join the material.
Underline=new language taught
The group built a den
Children scooting on the back of trikes in reception. Not being challenged
Children encouraged to try something more challenging: using the balance bikes weaving in and out of cones.
Child is able to improve balance in readiness for riding a bike. By negotiating around objects children improve their balance and perception skills
When children first attend our setting (in preschool and then in Reception), we undertake a baseline assessment to establish where each child is at developmentally in each area of learning. Children in Reception also complete a statutory baseline assessment during the first term of starting school. This is a 30 minute one to one assessment with their class teacher.
Throughout the year we focus on getting to know the children and supporting them in their learning. This is our priority as practitioners and as such we keep paperwork to a minimum. We do however, communicate really well as a school team and meet to talk about the children, their needs, learning and development.
At the end of Reception a final assessment is made, looking at where children are in terms of the prime and specific areas of learning.
Working in Partnership with parents
We know that children learn in and out of school and we want to hear about it! We work closely with our parents, respecting and valuing their home learning experiences. We support our parents in a 'bespoke' way e.g. if they would like a 'how to listen to your child read' session we provide this. We have found this individualised approach has the biggest impact. We also have regular Celebration Events, where we invite parents in to the classrooms to learn and share in their child's school journey. Sometimes we send home 'wow' moments to parents so that they are able to celebrate successes with their child or we share Stars of the Week certificates..
Children who are ready for the next stage of the curriculum, who are confident and thriving in our curriculum. We will see that the areas of weakness identified at Baseline have been targeted and ‘reduced’, so that the barriers are reduced and children are able to access the curriculum and learn. We will see children who are excited by learning, love stories, new words, storytelling, being creative, learning about their world and the world of others, being problem solvers, early mathematicians, adventurers and movers.