Should I be concerned about the lack of writing?

(43 Posts)
Annanon Wed 22-May-13 14:37:16

Dd is 5.8yrs and in reception. I recently had the chance to look through her work in class. She has written a total of 10 sentences all year. One sentence this month. Two last month. This is typical of her class, and more to do with the pace of work for the class than Dd herself. There is no written work by any of the children on display. Each child has a writing book, where they occasionally (maybe once a week) draw a picture then label it underneath. E.g, 'I went to my friend's party' written by the teacher, then copied by the child underneath.

They do have another book where they practice writing individual letters and some basic digraphs (sh, ch) but that's it. Nothing in relation to any phonics they may (or may not) be learning that week. No emphasis on writing whole words or constructing sentences.

Is this normal? Reading through some of the other threads on here it seems as though the pace in Dd's class is incredibly slow. Should I be seeing more evidence of being taught to how to write / construct sentences by now? Dd has great pen control and very neat writing. She loves practicing individual letters, or familiar names in cursive (has done for nearly two years now). I feel she is definitely ready for more at school, but I am repeatedly being told that they learn through play.

It is similar pace with numeracy. Literally two pages of basic addition (to ten) all year. Just lots of writing numbers to 20, or counting the dots and writing the number in the box. I know they do practical numeracy work, counting one more, one less etc. How much written numeracy work is typical at this stage in the year.

Several other parents were also equally shocked when we saw the children's work. We are concerned about the pace when it comes to basic literacy and numeracy, but it is so hard to know what to expect. Lots of us feel that there has been barely any progression all year.

redskyatnight Wed 22-May-13 15:09:36

Reception is all about learning through play (yes I know your school has told you that).

That meant for DS that he was free to go off and play with the cars and building bricks and be encouraged to do free play activities that improved fine motor skills.
And in more formal sessions learn to write most of his letters to a mostly recognisable standard, write his own name and start to write the very odd simple word.

In DD's case it meant that she spent every day writing notes to her friends or writing play scripts for them to act out. And was encouraged in free play to look at improving her writing.
And in more formal sessions she was working on improving her hand writing and writing and correctly punctuating simple sentences and then stringing them together.

Same school, same approach, different children.

(Y1 is more formal and you'll likely see more structured progress).

freetrait Wed 22-May-13 16:00:20

I would expect to see some sentences using phonics they are covering. Well that's what DS did but all schools are different as are all children as pp said. IME they do a lot LOT more writing in Y1.

Periwinkle007 Wed 22-May-13 19:44:57

lots of reception classes do a lot of practice writing on small white boards, do they do this and just do very little on proper paper?

MyLittleDiva Wed 22-May-13 19:52:45

They are 5 years old and in reception. Chill the hell out!

mrz Wed 22-May-13 19:53:18

Learning through play shouldn't mean that children don't do any writing unless they choose to in their free play.

BabiesAreLikeBuses Wed 22-May-13 20:57:24

You don't know how much is being done on whiteboards, i also don't think you should stress about writng in reception. My dt1 in reception doesn't do much writing but will happily do it in directed activities, my dt2 writes lots loves making cards and notes for friends, what you describe doesn't sound like a major cause for concern and as pp said y1 more structured...

Annanon Wed 22-May-13 21:44:15

Thank you for the responses. I know she is 5 & in reception - I told you that wink. I hadn't factored in writing on whiteboards - very plausible.

Periwinkle007 Wed 22-May-13 21:49:53

I think many schools now use the whiteboards because lots of children lack confidence committing to paper and for most of the initial work they do it is messy and it means they know they can rub it out and try it again etc. They then have books as part of their learning journey (is that what they call them in EYFS?) and perhaps then another book of their best work. sometimes teachers get them to write in them and sometimes they stick work into them. (and sometimes the kids just get the pen all over their school uniform so their mothers spend a fortune on vanish stain remover!)

Pozzled Wed 22-May-13 22:24:43

Annanon I thought my DD's class were working at a slow pace, but they have done a lot more writing than yours has. I would be quite concerned actually at this point in the year. I think it's fine to be very laid back about writing in reception in the autumn term, but they should now be laying the foundations for Y1.

It is possible that they are doing a lot on whiteboards, but if they were I'd have thought they'd still be keeping the evidence- for instance a photocopy of the board. I would be asking the teacher about how they teach writing, what progress your child is making and how they will assess her level for the ELGs.

mrz Thu 23-May-13 07:05:11

I think there is a place for whiteboards but as a reception teacher I saw a huge improvement in writing standards when I gave out lined books for the children to use independently in addition to the books they used for teacher led writing.

evertonmint Thu 23-May-13 07:25:21

My DS is in reception. His 'best' writing book is very similar but it appears that is only one element of the writing they do - everything in class is labelled (e.g. Scissor drawer), clearly by different children, all drawings on display now seem to have some sort of written explanation by the children etc. One morning at drop off they were randomly showing parents the stories they had written - separate from their books, and not sure where they have ended up, but clearly more writing is happening than just in the books and learning journeys.

Also there has been a big increase in emphasis on writing this past half term as they prepare for Y1.

Ask the teacher about it as you may be missing something without realising it.

Also if you're worried, may be worth encouraging at home to see what she can do - my DS loves writing shopping lists, letters to Santa, labelling drawings etc so I can see huge progress in letter formation and proper sentence construction.

tiredbutnotweary Thu 23-May-13 09:52:38

From what you say, I would be concerned too.

The range of writing ability in my DDs class is large, so some children are only filling in gaps in typed sentences, whilst others can fill a page or more. But the point is that they are encouraged to do as much as they can, and they are encouraged by teacher led activities (i.e. it's not just left to those that want to write during play). There is some grouping for this, I know that guided reading is followed by a writing activity, so that is at least once a week.

In addition there's been a Christmas card, Easter card, Mother's Day card and there will be a Father's day card, which children will write more, or less depending on their ability. The most recent activity was to write a well know fairytale in their own words - how much each child writes depends very much on their ability (and speed) in DDs school.

Having said all that, you need more information about what's happening in your school. But I think you have enough reason to go and have a friendly enquiring chat - to help you understand the schools approach. You will either feel reassured ... or not - good luck smile

greenformica Thu 23-May-13 13:21:54

Reception is all about play and learning through play. I would personally be horrified if they put too much into writing. In fact I really wouldn't worry too much about writing till juniors.

The best thing you can do for your DD is read, read, read to her lots and then for DD to read to you 10 mins a day. The rest (including writing) will just fall into place with little effort.

greenformica Thu 23-May-13 13:30:56

I think often many PFB parents can be very pushy in the reception year. More to do with the parents ego maybe?

It really doesn't matter how heavily they are pushed in reception, they will find their natural level by juniors regardless. In my sons R class half the top table ended up on the bottom table by year 6. The naturally more academic kids and prolific readers ended up on the top table by year 6.

mrz Thu 23-May-13 17:06:07

are you a teacher greenformica?

learnandsay Thu 23-May-13 18:03:33

How does a parent so accurately track the complete performance of all her child's classmates throughout their school lives, broken down by table? An impressive feat! Can it be continued to degree level?

Annanon Thu 23-May-13 22:53:41

Thanks for the replies. It's interesting to see the spread of opinion.

I had similar concerns (started a similar thread) in January, regarding the lack of pace or differentiation in my Dds class. I then convinced myself that it was early in the school year and that things would surely pick up a bit soon. I am starting to see that this isn't going to happen. Also, a growing number of other parents are starting to voice similar concerns.

My gut instinct and lots of what I see on here tell me that things are going unnecessarily slowly, and that my Dd could happily be learning a bit more, without seeing it as a chore. According to Dds teacher, she is enthusiastic and completes any work that is set for her at school - there just isn't much being set. I am worried that year 1 will be a complete culture shock.

We have had cards written by Dd sent home for Christmas & mothers day etc, which have alway's been beautifully written and have indicated to me that she is ready to move on a bit. I have casually asked the teacher if there was any written work I hadn't seen and there isn't. The children have access to whiteboards, but not for teacher led writing, as such, except for individual letter formation. The whiteboards are mainly for child led use. Dd says she likes using the whiteboards to draw on and that she writes her name on her pictures.

Having read through the feedback here I am going to ask for a meeting with Dds teacher, to explain my concerns and to find out any individual learning targets for my Dd. Should all children have their own EYFS goals or is it a general aim for the class that they either meet or don't?

crazeelaydee Thu 23-May-13 23:05:18

Hi, I think that after class room assessments are done at regular intervals the CT's concentrate on the areas that a child may be lacking in. Not sure if that is the same for reception class, I was under the impression that reception class was to ease a Dc into the transition to yr 1 when the learning becomes more structured.

mrz Fri 24-May-13 06:30:57

Assessment in reception is continuous (as it should be in all year groups) and the reason it is called the foundation stage is because it is where children learn the skills from which future learning can be built ... not because it eases children into Y1 hmm

MrRected Fri 24-May-13 06:51:54

IMO they make a natural leap in Y1. My DD hardly did any structured writing pieces in prep/reception. Of course, they labelled their pictures and did the odd assessment piece but they were never required to sit at a table and write for the sake of it.

FFWD to Year 1 (mid term 2 in Australia) and they are all coming on in leaps and bounds in their writing. Now that they have moved away from play-based learning and into a more structured style of learning it seems to be a natural progression. My DD is currently writing a book for her friends' birthday present (she's 6y0m) - she's written a gorgeous story (three pages of legible writing, which is well punctuated, it does have some spelling mistakes but she spells words like princess/house/castle correctly).

My honest opinion is that reception/prep is the introductory year to school. There should be no pressure on a child wrt literacy and numeracy targets. The ongoing assessment will be more than enough for a teacher to flag any remedial or extension requirements in Y1. If you are really, really worried, then talk to the teacher.

mrz Fri 24-May-13 06:53:46

Why do people assume that writing equals pressure on the child hmm

MrRected Fri 24-May-13 06:56:21

I don't assume that at all mrz. Not at all.

I said there should be no pressure wrt to targets. Who cares if a four year old attains an A/B/C and what does it really mean? There are so many variables on the day - is the child in the mood? Are they feeling anxious because Mum just left them in the classroom.

I made it very clear that this is my opinion. You are perfectly entitled to yours but give over with the sarcastic smileys. Please!

Orangesarenottheonlyfruit Fri 24-May-13 07:02:26

I would be concerned. My Dd is 5.7 and yesterday her teacher showed me her story that she had made up and written in cursive writing. The teacher was showing it to me because it was neat not that the amount of writing was unusual.
I would be hugely worried if they were faffing around for an entire year, what a waste of time!

mrz Fri 24-May-13 07:05:34

My post wasn't directed to you MrRected but people in general (or I would have said why do YOU assume...)

There aren't any A/B/Cs for 4 year olds just very general development statements which a child will partly meet, fully meet or exceed ... no test on any day but a continuous assessment over the whole of the school year in which they turn five.

mrz Fri 24-May-13 07:07:28

oh and in the main the assessment is based on what children do in their independent play ...

Oh let the children be children!!

We are one of the few countries that send our babes off to mainstream school at such an early age, reception should be seen as a stepping stone towards formal schooling which really starts in Y1.

Learning through play is vital for their general development, motor skills, social skills etc so that they are ready to move on to the more focused activities later, its not just letting them run riot they absorb SO much.

Am I the only one who gets chills talking about "targets" for such young children?

MrRected Fri 24-May-13 07:17:35

Sorry mrz. I thought you were directing it at me.

Our school also follows continuous assessment approach you refer to. I think this is more meaningful in a very young child and it allows the teacher some leeway in the reporting.

I am curious, do you think children should do more structured writing/arithmetic in the reception year of school?

MrRected Fri 24-May-13 07:18:23

No Bossy - you definitely aren't the only one. I am very much with you.

mrz Fri 24-May-13 07:44:45

and if you read threads on MN from parents living in some of those countries or speak to teachers working there you will notice they are envious of the gentle start our children have to education in comparison.

I know if you give children the tools (skills) they will use them.

Annanon Fri 24-May-13 10:36:13

My Dd will be 6 later this year. She also learns easily. Learning to write her name, or Mummy & Daddy didn't stop her from being a child. She enjoyed it. She also likes writing thank you cards and birthday cards at home. She was delighted to write a letter to Father Christmas. I haven't done any other writing with her at home, as I have been waiting for the school to take the lead (definitely not overly pushy). I assumed the fact that whatever she does write is done effortlessly and incredibly neatly, would be a cue to her teacher that she could easily learn new writing without being overstretched. That hasn't happened.

I'm sure my Dd will continue on as a happy carefree child if she learns how to / is encouraged to write (not just copy) a few sentences during school time. In fact, I am sure she would enjoy it and be very proud of herself. In the same way that she is proud of her individual letter formation, or how she beautifully writes her name in cursive. Given that my Dd is very capable and has responded well to what she has been taught / asked to do, so far, I cannot see any logical reason for her not to be encouraged to do something within the EYFS, more than once every few weeks.

I was prompted to start this thread, by reading other threads about reception age children. For example, I have no stories to tell about adorable and perfectly age appropriate phonetic spellings, as Dd and the rest of her class have not been encouraged to try independent writing yet confused [sceptical]. Dd is not a reluctant writer, she just isn't encouraged to write anything down very often at all.

Reading what I have written above makes me feel very guilty for not teaching my Dd more myself, or being more pushy on her behalf earlier.

daftdame Fri 24-May-13 11:07:55

I think there can be conflict between 'learning through play' and assessment. Even in 'structured' learning through play type activities children can usually 'choose' to play with the equipment put out for them in any way they want, which may not demonstrate the skills the teacher is ready to assess.

If they really want to play in a particular way, this could be a distraction, when they are gently encouraged to demonstrate a particular skill. Also how much time is actually spent assessing? I think it is very possible that some skills are missed.

I actually think these early assessments are taken a bit too seriously. I do not really believe assessing through play is reliable enough without absolutely hundred and hundreds of observations over a lengthy period of time. I also think parents often 'know' their children better at this stage because if they have been the primary carer the child will have spent the majority of their time with them.

There are so many changes in the early years, many children's performance seems to 'pick up' later on when there is more a more structured approach purely because the children are required to do the activities they are assessed in.

Not that I disagree with learning through play, more that I think that the assessment is problematic.

lljkk Fri 24-May-13 13:28:59

Think you'll have to speak to your own child's teacher to address your concerns, OP. If she were mine I would try to persuade to do little bits of writing at home as long as she enjoys it, and that would be enough for me. If I did ask teacher, I would go in with a kind of "What can I do to help my child along more?" type attitude, "Would some writing exercises at home be good, what kind of writing is she already doing in class?"

If anecdotal comparisons are any help, (DS3 is my 4th child going thru reception in last 8 yrs, an Ofsted-rated "Good" school):

DS brings home 1-2 sheets with phonics and short sentences most weekends, he copies down sentences like "I am a red fat cat" because he loves writing, we would just read them otherwise. He is probably the keenest writer of my 4, although his other academic skills are all weaker than older siblings were.

The idea of him regularly constructing sentences on his own is laughable; after half term he will start learning to spell common, often less phonetic words like "the" and "me".

Most Fridays we get a list of suggested exercises we can do at home to encourage numeracy, no worksheets, instead online games and little mental math things we could try.

The numeracy work you describe sounds very similar to what DS is doing, I think they have to gently bed the skills in before moving on. DS is not ready for anything much more challenging, for sure.

mrz Fri 24-May-13 17:43:31

"I think there can be conflict between 'learning through play' and assessment. Even in 'structured' learning through play type activities children can usually 'choose' to play with the equipment put out for them in any way they want, which may not demonstrate the skills the teacher is ready to assess."

but it isn't a case of demonstrating what the teacher is ready to assess it is the teacher's role to assess what the child demonstrates in their daily activities.

daftdame Fri 24-May-13 19:04:54

It does depend on how 'ready' the teacher is to assess though mrz...sorry I'm just being a bitter, cynical, old cow.grin I have read just too many threads on TES forums about teachers making up their APP data.

However a teacher must be ready to recognise and assess the whole of the early years profile (and beyond) though, not just the outcomes that were planned when planning the activity (and not only when they have the child's profile with them / at hand.) But I expect I don't need to tell you that. wink

daftdame Fri 24-May-13 19:12:40

Also if a child has a preference for a particular kind of activity, the thought of that can distract them from another, even if they possess skills they are not demonstrating in the activity they particularly like.

daftdame Fri 24-May-13 19:15:00

^ that should be 'even if they are not demonstrating other skills they possess, because the activity they like does not encourage said demonstration'.

mrz Fri 24-May-13 19:27:40

The teacher should always be ready to assess ... it's what teachers do naturally.
They are continually making "judgements" about what a child can do and what they need to do next to make progress and what they are struggling with ... most of the time the assessment is informal and formative. The teacher should always be aware so they can plan to provide the right input/resources/support to allow the child to progress.
Rarely is assessment of the sit down and test type.

daftdame Fri 24-May-13 19:51:53

I agree with you mrz, it is what teachers should be able to do. They also do make judgements...continually. The 'naturally' may be somewhat debatable.

My point is the methodology isn't completely irrefutable (as I appreciate formal tests aren't). I don't think the differences in attainment when children move schools later on would occur quite so often if it were. There is certainly a political element. It is pertinent that the Early Years data often is tied up with future funding for primary schools.

However this really is a digression. I appreciate there are good and bad schools, as there are good and bad teachers and most have strengths and weaknesses.

In relation to the OP, she knows her daughter has 'good' pen control and neat writing and is keen - so that at least should stand her in good stead for Yr1. Whether her writing could have been encouraged more is a different matter.

mrz Fri 24-May-13 20:15:51

It is pertinent that the Early Years data often is tied up with future funding for primary schools.

I agree some ill informed schools and LEAs attempt to do this despite the QCA making it clear this is not possible

"it is NOT a mechanism for agencies such as LAs, SIPs and Ofsted to use as a marker for future achievement, and should therefore play no part in the target setting procedure, or relate directly to KS1 and KS2 outcomes."

"Good, holistic EYFS practice tends to manifest itself at ages 11 to 14 in terms of confidence, creativity and self esteem, not at KS1 or KS2 SATs level."

daftdame Fri 24-May-13 20:38:43

Interesting mrz...Our LA uses prior attainment (Early Years) as one of the determining factors for funding. I thought this was part of the new funding arrangements as part of Gove's funding reform.

mrz Fri 24-May-13 20:41:09

They will have received countless letters telling them it isn't good practice.

freetrait Fri 24-May-13 23:13:03

OP, it's a shame your DD hasn't been encouraged, but there is still lots of time. DS did some writing in YR, but a lot less than I think he was capable of. His progress in Y1 has been fab.

In contrast, DD starts YR in September. Having gone through YR and Y1 with older sibling, I know how it works re how they teach them so I have been able to encourage her at home. DD has enjoyed learning to blend cvc words already and can write and does write simple cvc words herself. It's the most natural thing in the world for her to say "How do you write hen, oh, h-e-n". She likes to imitate her older brother and can take her phonic knowledge from blending to writing very easily. It's very simple stuff, but she will draw a picture then label it. DS at this age (4.5) wrote in capitals and only his name. I don't think she is any more bright, just had a different experience. I don't expect her to be any better at writing than DS in Y1 just because she's started earlier. I think it will even out.

So, perhaps you can start the ball rolling with your DD at home if she wants to write. Perhaps the school are stuck in the dark ages. My Mum tells me we learnt to write by copying out/writing over the top of a teacher's sentence- not sure they were into independent thought so much in those days! grin.

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