The independent review of early reading conducted by Jim Rose (final report 2006) confirmed that ‘high quality phonic work’ should be the prime means for teaching children how to read and spell words. The review also highlighted the importance of developing from the earliest stages children’s speaking and listening skills, ensuring that beginner readers are ready to get off to a good start in phonic work by the age of five. Such work should happen discreetly within a broad and rich language curriculum.
The nursery has chosen to follow the Primary National Strategy’s new phonics resource Letters and Sounds, written in response to the review, as a tool to support staff with this area of the curriculum. As we are supporting children in the initial stages of phonics our main focus will be on phase one of the document which concentrates on the development of speaking and listening skills as being crucially important in their own right in paving the way for high quality phonic work. Most children will be ready, by the age of five, to begin on the more structured phonics programme, equipping them with the skills they need to become fluent readers by the age of seven.
Staff will plan weekly activities for the children which will promote areas such as general sound discrimination, rhythm and rhyme, alliteration, voice sounds and oral blending and segmenting. By using a multi-sensory approach, children are encouraged to learn from a variety of stimuli through visual, auditory and kinaesthetic activities, making the process easy and enjoyable for the children to understand and apply.
As the activities focus on speaking and listening, this also helps staff to strengthen the provision for children learning English as an additional language.
Children benefit hugely by being introduced to books from an early age. Lots of opportunities are provided for the children to engage with books that fire their imagination and interest. They are able to peruse books freely as well as sharing them with an adult. This motivates them to value reading and develop a life-long love of books. The children are welcome to borrow any of our books to share with parents at home. We also encourage parents to come into the nursery and share a favourite book of their child’s with all the children (if you feel brave enough!). This is especially valuable when read in a different home language as it values the child’s own language and the other children can listen to new sounds while still following a familiar story through the pictures.
Before a child can acquire the fine motor skills needed for pencil control, they need to develop their gross motor skills by having the opportunity for making large movements. Every time a child repeats these large movements, be it making circle patterns in the sand or up and down brush strokes with the paint brush, they are creating pathways in the brain which later help with the development of their pencil control.
Research has shown that it is very detrimental to encourage children to overwrite (e.g. joining the dots) before they have gained the necessary gross motor skills. This would be similar to an adult trying to write with their opposite hand, the muscles in the hand become strained and posture is tense. We would also be setting the children, who are not yet ready, up to fail. Children who have been encouraged to practice this too early have much poorer handwriting later on. We therefore favour the approach of letting the children do their own mark making (emergent writing) and allowing them to develop letter formations in a more relaxed way, at their own pace. We provide lots of opportunities for mark making throughout the nursery, not just at the writing table. We encourage and praise the children’s efforts, whatever their ‘name’ or words look like, which spurs them on to try again.
This policy was reviewed in May 2018.