Early reader in reception - what to do in the classroom?

(53 Posts)
onesandwichshort Thu 22-Sep-11 11:28:26

DD has just started in reception. She's been reading for a year or so but we hadn't really realised quite how well. It turns out that in terms of decoding at least, she has a reading age of about 10. (No signs of being advanced in any other area fwiw).

The school are being fantastic about it - not only have they clocked this very quickly but they are also being very open and discussing with us what to do. But I could do with some suggestions from people who have been there before as they seem to be a little bit at sea too.

There are two main problems. One is finding books which are interesting for her but also emotionally and socially at the right level (in every other aspect she is a typical reception age child). School are struggling with this as most of the advanced books are either scary or too socially advanced - it doesn't help that the school only go up to Year 4 as well. Any thoughts on series/ways of going with this. Or do we/they just stop teaching her to read for now and concentrate on other things like comprehension and expression instead?

The second thing is what to do with her in the classroom during all the phonics etc. So far we're thinking of her doing some comprehension work with a TA during the sessions, and also doing a completely other, but challenging activity. (I, half-jokingly suggested teaching her to knit for a couple of years and they were actually quite receptive to this!). But she's quite a shy child, and so I am wary of isolating her from the group too much and making her 'different'.

We've got a full meeting with the teacher in a few weeks time, so before that I would really love to hear from anyone else who's been in a similar situation, and what's been helpful/has worked/was a complete waste of time.

chillikate Thu 22-Sep-11 12:43:34

Good luck!!!

My DS has just started Reception too. They have only just started assessing the kids.

If you go to the NAGC website they have some lists of books that might be suitable. There might be a lot of other useful information too.

Sorry I can't help directly.

mummytime Thu 22-Sep-11 12:56:09

Does the school have a school library? I would get her on to reading proper books, including non-fiction if she prefers stories. I was reading the Olive Fairy book etc. at that age. She might not understand it all but its not too adult. If she likes helping people maybe she could help a weaker reader?
A lot of reception is learning the social skills, so she should have a lot of the day with everyone else. Also others will be catching up fast, so don't panic.
Getting her to write her own books. Maybe musical instrument lessons?

Colleger Thu 22-Sep-11 13:15:54

Has she finished all the Oxford Reading levels? I think they go up to level 14 and I bought them from ebay. Lewis Carol books are good for age appropriateness as are fairytales. Just buy her fairytale books that an adult would read to a child rather than a child read for themselves.

As for phonics, does she know phonics or does she just know how to read. My boys were reading at three but it was not through phonics but through word recognition and if she is the same then it is still beneficial to do phonics.

LovetheHarp Thu 22-Sep-11 13:16:57

There are plenty of books she should find interesting and appropriate. For example the whole Roald Dahl collection - my 5 year old loves them - there is plenty of rich vocabulary and the stories are fantastic for any age...even I enjoy reading them!

NormalServiceWillResumeShortly Thu 22-Sep-11 13:21:48

agree with the comment re: phonics vs whole word recognition.

also, what is her writing like? my dd can read, and is in reception. she knows all her phonics and phonic blends. but her writing is not so good. so, while the class do phonics, she gets to practise writing that letter alongside. sort of phonics extension work, if you will.

as for books - here have been some good suggestions here. and I would look into teaching comprehension, yes. it is not enough to be able to decode. relating what you are decoding to actual events, or predicting storylines etc are useful skills.

piprabbit Thu 22-Sep-11 13:29:06

Perhaps she would enjoy looking at some of the non-fiction books, either in the ORT ranges or perhaps some of the Usborne reference books (I'm thinking of things like the Castles lift-the-flap book). She may find the material interesting because it is presented in a very different way and will perhaps stretch her understanding of the topics a little.

Or find a good compendium of children's poetry and enjoy reading that - again a different approach to reading and using words.

onesandwichshort Thu 22-Sep-11 14:12:59

Thanks for all of the help and suggestions, it is all much appreciated. There are some good suggestions for books here, and I'll pursue them.

I totally see your collective point about phonics but school seem to think that there is not much point teaching her phonics as she can sound out most words you throw at her. They sent her back with a Level 14/Ruby book earlier this week, and she had to ask for help with 5 or so words. I needed to explain the meaning of perhaps 10. But on a bigger level, she missed the point entirely - it was a detective story, and, being 4, she has no idea about detectives or mysteries or indeed vegetable growing competitions. So it's not reading experience she needs to understand it, just life experience from being a good 4+ years older. She reads lots of real books at home, so perhaps we will just take some of those in.

But I think comprehension work will be good, and she might do that with the TA some of the time, as well as joining in for some of the phonics. Is it good for her to help another reader though, or will it set her apart from the others too much? (I was the freaky swot at school and would rather avoid that fate for her if at all possible).

I completely agree that we want to keep her with the class as far as possible for social reasons, but it's a question of finding activities that will stretch her - and teach her that school is about trying as well as fun things.

Jazzy0310 Thu 22-Sep-11 14:31:05

Hi there, my son is now in Yr 2 but could read fluently before he started Reception. I was pleasantly surprised to find he enjoyed and benefitted from the Phonics work (e.g. learning signs and sounds to go with the letters) and there was relatively little 'wasted' time. His teachers have also been helpful in letting him jump ahead on the reading scheme and providing him with extension tasks, but I agree it's easy to overlook comprehension when they decode so well - definitely worth spending time discussing the stories as well as reading them. Re: book suggestions, have you tried the Mr Gum series by Andy Stanton? They are hilarious and there is lots of clever word play.

onesandwichshort Thu 22-Sep-11 15:00:13

They look hilarious - I've ordered one from the library!

What you said about phonics is what I expected the school to say too. I think she will do some, but perhaps not the full ration every day.

mrz Thu 22-Sep-11 19:32:41

I suggest the school looks at www.oup.com/oxed/primary/oxfordreadingtree/resources/allstars/ reading scheme books as they are intended for younger children who are able readers.

My son was a very early reader and never grasped phonics which has been a huge disadvantage for him so I firmly believe that all child benefit from good phonics instruction even if they can read fluently. I would want my child to have the "full ration" everyday if it were me.

iggly2 Thu 22-Sep-11 19:41:55

Ds also a fluent reader in reception. He did all the phonics sessions and enjoyed them and they were good for spelling. I certainly recommend it.

MirandaWest Thu 22-Sep-11 20:34:08

Those books look better than the (boring) ORT ones DD has at the moment. They are tie in ones from when Magic Key was on television and are dull. Was better in reception when she could choose from a box of banded books including non scheme ones but now in year 1 she is given books and that is that. She is reading lots of other books at home - I am not at all concerned about her reading but it would be lovely to have something slightly more interesting from school.

chillikate Thu 22-Sep-11 21:21:22

DS has just had one of these delivered:


What an amazing game!!! I think this is great for entertaining those busy little minds (and DH for a good hour!!)

MirandaWest Thu 22-Sep-11 21:33:07

That looks rather good <puts on watch list in preparation for Christmas>

clutteredup Thu 22-Sep-11 21:38:48

Agree that phonics are good for spelling - try rainbow fairies i think thet're ick but little girls like them how is her attention span for taking in stories as that is probably a problem - I should carry on with whatever she was reading at home as it seems to have been working OK and let her choose what she likes I'm sure the school won't insist on her having school books.

blackeyedsusan Thu 22-Sep-11 22:13:58

rainbow fairies are fairly innocuous stories, but seem to have some lovely rich language in them.

mr majeika, prrobably not 10 year old decoding, but my sensitive 5 year old has enjoyed the stories.

flat stanley(series) is fairly safe in terms of content too, and has got potential for some really good comprehension questions.

there are also lots of non fiction books to choose from.

reading lots of picture books will help to widen her understanding of language. some of them have rich language in them. try choosing at the library.

I am looking for a cheap set of secret seven by enid blyton, though my memorries are hazy as it is a long time since I read these, but do rremember that they were easier and less scary than famous 5.

some of the roald dahl stories are too scary for dd.

it sounds like you need to work on comprehension, talking about chaacters feelings and why things are happening. have school given you any guidance on the questions you could ask?

onesandwichshort Sat 24-Sep-11 20:11:10

Thanks everyone, lots of useful stuff here. Her attention span is OK if a book catches her attention, so that's not so much a problem as just understanding what the heck they are on about. She's also just found Mr Majeika, and yes that seems to hit the spot perfectly, so I might also try the secret seven too.

Despite my best effords, I think we may be about to move onto the Rainbow Fairies; DD picked up 'Kate the Royal Wedding Fairy' in the bookshop today and had to be prised off it, even though I informed her that I was never, ever, ever going to buy the book. I do feel a bit better knowing that they have at least been recommended....

Haberdashery Tue 27-Sep-11 21:34:06

Might she like some other Enid Blyton, onesandwich? My DD, also in reception, has been loving The Magic Faraway Tree and its sequels over the summer. I've had to explain some word meanings etc but she was absolutely glued to the whole thing. It's not really any scarier than, say, Octonauts or Numberjacks or similar. Sometimes a chapter ends with someone in trouble but it is always very swiftly sorted out. There is nothing inappropriate or complicated in the content for a bright five year old.

I think Rainbow Fairies are absolutely fine if they are reading them alone. It's when you have to read them that you want to scratch your own eyes out!

madwomanintheattic Tue 27-Sep-11 22:38:48

oh god, i assumed she'd been through them already!

if that's the sort of thing she likes, there are endless variations which will keep her going for the next year or two. blardy magic kittens/ puppies/ ponies <insert appropriate fluffy four legged animal>

but if she's missed the whole fairies saga, has she read all the horrid henry's etc? there loads of books on a similar level that she should be able to cope with if that's where she's at... (like flat stanley above)

madwomanintheattic Tue 27-Sep-11 22:39:21

then cressida cowell's dragon books - it's pretty much endless for yr 1 ish strong readers.

onesandwichshort Wed 28-Sep-11 18:46:42

Many thanks everyone, I now have enough recommendations to keep DD quiet for the rest of the school year and possibly beyond.

As you've all clearly been through the same thing, can I ask what your children did in the classroom, and with school reading books? School seem slightly at a loss as to whether she does comprehension with a TA, or indeed knitting while the others are sounding out letters. I know other children will catch up, but right now DD is a bit out on a limb.

And they are also sending back daft reading books; she can decode all the words but a sentence like 'The scrap metal tree was a left over prop from a film set' might as well be in Mandarin for all the sense it makes to her.

We're meeting the teacher in a couple of weeks, and it would be good to have some sensible suggestions up my sleeve, as they are slightly asking us what to do with her.

ps. Random fact, but I only discovered the other day that Cressida Cowell's two daughters are the voices of Lola in the Charlie and Lola cartoons.

madwomanintheattic Wed 28-Sep-11 19:30:17

our experience with dd2 was slightly different, as she was assessed as having matching comprehension and decoding skills (EP half way through yr r) and she had 1-1 TA time for a completely different reason (she also has cerebral palsy) so differentiating wasn't an issue.

dd1 had a similar thing though - tbh i let her carry on with the random stuff that she couldn't comprehend (lol at the scrap metal tree grin) as i figured it would eventually all sink in as she learnt more about the world in general... we talked through the random books at home of course, but no idea what they did with her in school. i used to go in as a reading buddy for the children that were struggling, but never got anywhere near dd1's group so couldn't really say! i drew the line at (what i considered to be) inappropriate content though. <picky>

at nursery they gave dd2 a 'riddles' book with a large percentage of stuff about ghosts and haunting. (like i needed less sleep and having to settle a terrified 3/4 yo) - i did ask them if they thought it was appropriate for the age group (particulalry for those with, er, more volatile imaginations!) and they removed it from their shelves. and until dd1 was yr 3 i asked them to go easy on the more teen/ young adultish jackie wilson stuff - i'm not particularly precious, but i figured 7 or 8 was early enough to be introduced to some of the harsher realities of life. as you say, it's more a social/ age thing rather than an ability to decode texts. that said, jw is hotly contested on here.

ds1 will only read what he wants (stubborn) anyway, so there wasn't really a question of what to provide. he read all the percy jackson series, a few more other things by rick riordan, and then went back to blardy beast quest (which i loathe). so sometimes it's best to let them be as long as you can grit your teeth whilst they read rainbow fairies beast quest. they branch out when they want to.

that said, i read some enormously inappropriate stuff grin from as early as i was able to pick up whatever trashy novel my mother had left around, and i'm reasonably unscathed. grin i do remember the town librarian guiding me carefully around the adult books when i was at primary. i ended up reading mystery/ detective stuff, none of which i'm remotely interested in now.

i love the random fact! how cool! i will have to tell the dcs - they will be very impressed.

that was a complete ramble, sorry! all i really meant was, in a few years it will all have sorted itself out. and you'll be forking out gazillions in scholastic book orders. and buying more and more bookshelves. and trying to prise kids out of book stores. grin

onesandwichshort Thu 29-Sep-11 09:19:57

Thank you - that's a really helpful post, mainly because it's a reminder not to take it all too seriously yet (I have a PFB in her first month of reception, getting a sense of perspective is proving a bit hard!)

But also (and this is probably a whole other thread) you've reminded me precisely how many unsuitable books I read as a child without having a clue about what was going on, and it doesn't seem to have harmed me too badly.  We didn't have that many classics in the house, so by the age of 7 or so I'd read the complete works of Georgette Heyer (my mum's favourite) and worked out a version of the facts of life from Jackie Collins' The Carpetbaggers well enough to tell everyone at Sunday school.  

But the one which always completely stumped me was The Private Eye Guide to London, from c1970.  I went back to it time after time to see if it had started to make sense, but was always completely flummoxed by it.  Probably more of a lesson for life than a million scheme readers.  

Can't go past a book shop with DD already though, do you mean it gets worse?

pyjamasinbananas Thu 29-Sep-11 09:27:19

Milly-molly-Mandy, naughty little sister, Amelia Jane

All good books I'm reading them to DSD (4) at the moment.

AnxiousElephant Thu 29-Sep-11 22:38:38

Definately Roald Dahl is a favourite in our house although dd1 isn't quite decoding at that level, we have the opposite problem of comprehension being much better than her decoding smile So she completely understands the stories but I sometimes ask her to give me another word for a longer one in the text i.e. descended - he went down, or ask her what it is. i.e. whats a brook - stream.
Enid Blyton famous five? I seem to remember she did some circus based books but can't think what they were called.
TBH I think if her comprehension isn't as good she will still enjoy reading books not at the 10yo level and it really is better that she enjoys and understands what she reads imo.

WideAwakeMum Fri 30-Sep-11 11:37:49

Thanks for this thread, it's really, really helpful! We also struggle finding books that have 'appropriate' content yet are at the right level so will follow up on some of these ideas.

We do find that factual books are really useful as they're not usually scary and don't showcase 'mean' words to our 5 year old! We have some random sciencey books from charity shops which have been a great hit (although some of the info is a bit dated...).

Good luck!

blackeyedsusan Sun 02-Oct-11 15:03:38
blackeyedsusan Sun 02-Oct-11 15:08:41

What does your daughter want to do during the phonics sessions? Does she want to sit in on them or go off and do something else?

mrz Sun 02-Oct-11 15:29:15

School shouldn't be wondering what she does while the other children are "sounding out letters" ! She needs to be there learning with the class and the staff should be differentiating questioning to include/challenge all abilities. My hyperlexic son was failed by a system that thought because he could read extremely well he didn't need to be taught phonics.

onesandwichshort Sun 02-Oct-11 18:50:04

blackeyedsusan - thanks for the recommendations, her birthday is soon so we will be investing in a couple of those sets!

As far as the phonics goes, she says that she wants to do some of the sessions (at the moment they are doing them daily) but then do something different as well.

mrz - I agree with you, but I can also see their problem, as she is reading Jeremy Strong (this week's favourite) and level 14 Big Cat Phonics while the classwork is revolving around learning a couple of new letters and the sounds they make each week. Ao I can see that for a while differentiation may involve her, and possibly one or two other children, doing some additional work with the TA. And it was the TA who was asking what we thought - we'll have a proper discussion with the teacher next week. (If you have any thoughts on what we should ask/expect, I'd really appreciate them)

They do 'whole school' phonics three times a week, where children go to the appropriate class for their reading level, and I can see this being good later on, but for the moment I think it would be a bit intimidating for her. I also agree with you that she does need the phonics teaching (she is spelling words by visualising them in her head), but just perhaps not all of the phonics teaching that is currently going on in reception.

I really am finding this quite hard; right now their idea of differentiation is trying to turn her rather idiosyncratic (i.e. self taught) handwriting into cursive. I am expected to do this at home with her, as there is no support in the classroom for this but it's really hard and it tends to make one or other of us cry. I have asked if we can do the easier letters first, but apparently we have to do them in the order they are being studied in class. S was not a good first choice for the writing. It is also completely putting her off writing and she will now only write in capitals or type on the computer. Not seeming like a good result to me. Do other schools handle this better?

mrz Sun 02-Oct-11 19:11:56

onesandwichshort my son (ASD) was reading the Financial Times when he was in nursery and his favourite reading was the NATO deployment data ... and has never grasped phonics. His reading is amazing but his writing/spelling is shocking.

A good phonics lesson should teach a new sound, (I believe 5 a week) how to write the grapheme representing the sound correctly (handwriting) how to decode words containing the sound (read) , how to encode words containing the sound (spell), how to apply in reading and writing - ~I would ask some children to say the sounds, some child to read the words, and some children to read sentences various levels of difficulty (your daughter) some children to write the sound, some to write single words and others (your daughter) to write sentence (dictation) all the above can take place in a mixed ability group in a 10 - 15 minute session and all levels are successfully differentiated.

If the class are only learning a couple of new sounds a week then I would suggest that this is too slow.

mrz Sun 02-Oct-11 19:14:17

Learning to write "s" should have taken place when the class were taught the phoneme.

mrz Sun 02-Oct-11 19:15:55

Children who have been taught capitals first tend to struggle when they start to learn lower case cursive.

blackeyedsusan Sun 02-Oct-11 19:53:01

if you arer teaching handwriting at home why on earth can't you goup the letters into handwriting families? home is home after all. look on the primary education board to find ways of making it fun.

mrz Sun 02-Oct-11 20:16:24


I also teach my children letter formation jingles which they recite to ensure they form letters correctly in a smooth single motion

Curly caterpillar family
Anticlockwise movements
c round

o round, round and join

a round, up, down and flick

d round, up, up, down, down and flick

g round, up, down, down and round

q round, up, down, down and tick

s round and round the other way

f round, down, down and round – across

e across and round
one armed robot family
down, up and over movements

r down, up and over a bit

n down, up, over, down and flick

m down, up, over and down, up, over, down and flick

h down, down, up a bit, over, down and flick

b down, down, up a bit, over and round

p down, down, up, up, over and round

k down, down, up a bit, over, round, out and flick

long ladder family
mainly down and round movements

l down, down and flick

i down and flick – dot

t down and flick – across

j down, down and round – dot

u down, round, up, down and flick

y down, round, up, down, down and round

zig zag monster
diagonal movements

v down, up

w down, up, down, up

x down, stop – down, stop

z across, down, across

for joined writing we add a "whoosh" to the beginning

iggly2 Sun 02-Oct-11 23:19:30

Another one who believes in the phonics. It really helps with spelling. Lots of precocious readers are whole word readers so do not think of how the word is made up (which helps with spelling). The child gets involved with the class whilst doing it. It sounds like it is when they teach writing as well in some schools as well. Ds was reading Roald Dahl in reception it was only towards the end etc he was really happy as he could group read with another child. Some enjoy the social side of learning.

iggly2 Sun 02-Oct-11 23:24:33

blackeyedsusan thanks for the link to bookpeople. I am a technophobe and normally do not buy anything on the internet , but see how cheap everything is ... I think I will have to .

iggly2 Sun 02-Oct-11 23:35:05

Sorry just realised I posted on page before this ! Threads do get a bit samey.........

blackeyedsusan Mon 03-Oct-11 11:18:16

iggly. there is a phone number or address if you are a technophobe like me.. wink

onesandwichshort Mon 03-Oct-11 14:12:15

mrz - thanks for all of that, I wish she were in your class!

blackeyedsusan - I wish, but she has a handwriting book for homework (although she does nothing in it in school time about which I am a bit hmm. I think I will ask that we just give up on this for now, and I will try only to get her to do proper letter formation for now.

And it's not that she learnt to write in capitals first, she'd got quite good at writing (in my slightly biased opinion) and was using caps at the start of sentences, and punctuation, but the pressure to write cursive has made her feel she can't do it, and so now she will only write in caps for fear of getting the lower case ones wrong sad

Evilclown Mon 03-Oct-11 14:17:24
WideAwakeMum Fri 07-Oct-11 23:11:58

'Usborne beginners' series are great - e.g. your body, ships, solar system, Antarctica etc (I buy on Amazon)

onesandwichshort Tue 11-Oct-11 14:43:50

Thanks for both of the suggestions, much appreciated.

We are meeting the teacher this week, so will know more about what they are planning to do after that. Although we are now getting slightly more sane reading books, which is a relief.

blackeyedsusan Thu 13-Oct-11 14:36:50

any news?

onesandwichshort Fri 14-Oct-11 14:09:20

Yes, there is, we've seen the teacher and are reassured, at least for now. She made the (entirely fair) point that all they've been trying to do for the first half term is allow everyone to settle well, and academically things will ramp up a bit from now on.

The plan for DD is that she'll carry on doing some of the phonics, so that she is still part of the class, but she'll also do some individual comprehension with the TA, and also a sewing project with her as well. I'm also going to get DD to do some short 'book reviews' at home which we'll bring into school, mainly as a way to get her to do some purposeful writing practice without either of us getting too stressed. grin.

They've also heard us about the reading books, and are just letting DD choose any book for the moment. Which I am completely fine about, as she's reading silently to herself, so I'd rather keep the school books short and let her get on with it. All of which was about all we could hope to achieve without turning into the pushy parents from hell at our very first parents meeting.

So for the moment it's fine, and DD isn't complaining she's bored. I suspect - in part from what I've read on here - that this may not come for a couple of years yet. But we are going to wander over to the local private school's open day next week, just to see what they might say...

Usuwi Mon 07-Nov-11 10:10:35

OneSandwichShort, my daughter loves the Anna Hibiscus books, which are from a series called "Racing Reads" by Walker Books - I haven't got the others yet but I'm guessing they are all in the same style - they are chapter books but the subject matter makes sense to a 3-4 year old.

learnandsay Sat 24-Nov-12 14:28:19

simpson, you might find this thread interesting.

simpson Sat 24-Nov-12 20:34:35

Thanks LandS smile

brighthair Sat 24-Nov-12 20:41:42

I was left to free read at school instead of sitting in on the classes. Sometimes I helped the other children. It's hard at that age for book content, I mainly read Roald Dahl, Enid blyton and saddle club series but had an adult library card age 10 so I could take what I liked. My reading has been nothing but an issue my entire life and I still won't read in public because people look at me
And I just typed this whole post and realised it was an old thread grin oh well!!!

learnandsay Mon 26-Nov-12 10:46:36

It may be an old thread, brighthair. But for some of us it's a new issue.

brighthair Mon 26-Nov-12 11:01:00

Very true, just noticed its been bumped a couple of times

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