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Differentiation in reception - what could we expect/hope for?

(20 Posts)
Bordersmummy Fri 26-Sep-14 21:09:10

DS just started in reception, was in the school nursery last year and was on a G&T list then although there was no discussion about what that meant. I didn't follow up as it seems a little meaningless to me at that age. He's an advanced and voracious reader for his age (turquoise band), and seems to have a good brain for numbers/patterns etc. He can count in 2s, 3s, 5s, 10s quite easily, enjoys doing sums etc. It's a state school in quite a deprived area. Many of the other children going in don't yet know all their sounds or numbers.

Teacher called me aside at collection time today. She noted that they will be sitting in ability groups from half term and he'll be in the top one but she is starting to think about how to best differentiate for him as he is some way ahead of the others, particularly for phonics and maths. She was honest in saying that right now she's not sure how to do this best - but is thinking about it.

I'm not really sure what to expect or - better - to hope for to ensure that he continues to progress. His writing / letter formation is not ahead of others, and he has huge amounts of other things to get out of his reception year, so I'm not concerned or worried, but it would be interesting to hear what others have experienced and whether there are any particularly good examples of how teachers have differentiated for reception children some way ahead in certain areas.


Snapespotions Fri 26-Sep-14 22:17:40

Reception is mostly about learning through play, and it's quite self-directed, so I wouldn't have thought differentiation is such an issue at that stage.

Hamstar19 Sat 27-Sep-14 22:55:37

My DD is in year one now. She was on a high ability group for reading and maths in reception and now in year 1.

With phonics she went to a year 1 group when she was in reception. The teacher. Said she could do this as she had the concentration and emotional maturity to cope in a year 1 group.

In maths she stayed in her class but was able to answer higher level questions within the group.

Your son should be working to his own targets and the teacher should be able to work those Into the work of the group/ class.

Galena Mon 29-Sep-14 07:50:19

DD is in year 1 now. Last year she did literacy and numeracy with y1 from Christmas till Easter until some of her peers had caught up a bit with her. She did phonics with y2 all year. I was keen for her to stay in the reception class to develop socially, but the teacher explained that while she could, it would be a pretty dry learning experience for her as there would be nobody to work with at her level.

She has thrived, and is loving y1.

AllFurCoat Mon 29-Sep-14 19:02:16

Whilst wary of saying my DD's are gifted, they're "right up at the top of the class" according to their teachers. DD2 has started reception way ahead of the rest of the class phonics wise as she learnt a lot off her sister last year. From what I've seen when I've been in helping, she does phonics with a group (there's 2 groups), but is then given additional work. She gets different words home and sounds home to practise. DD1 wasn't so far ahead of her peers last year, but I can see the gap widening now and am interested to see what they're going to do tbh! I really do feel for early years/infant teachers though, a year is such a big difference for kids that age!

LittleMissGreen Mon 29-Sep-14 22:11:27

Bear in mind we are in Wales so have learning through play right through to end of year 2, and also a small school - less than 15children per year. So dynamic a bit different to England/large school.

DS2 was identified as G&T in literacy in reception as he entered able to read and write well. He was taught with the top year 1 group. He was given an IEP (individual education plan) that detailed specific targets to achieve on a termly basis and which members of staff were responsible for tracking them.

LittleMissGreen Mon 29-Sep-14 22:13:46

Should also say, that children are in different groups for phonics/reading/writing to ensure that they are taught at the right level for all of them not a blanket 'you are good at one thing so you will be top group for everything'.

Bordersmummy Mon 29-Sep-14 22:26:04

This is all very helpful. Thank you.

Meita Fri 03-Oct-14 13:04:47

My DS is similar though a bit less advanced - but definitely has achieved the learning goals for reception in literacy and numeracy already.

I'm not really worried about him becoming bored, due to the self-directed, play based nature of reception. This may, or may not, become a problem in later years.

I'm not really worried about him not being challenged/stretched/ developing poor work skills. At his age (just 4) I think he should be spending his days having fun, playing, messing around, climbing trees - not being challenged. After all, that seems to be how he has learned what he has until now - seems to have worked ok!

So far we have heard nothing about differentiating, so I am not placing great hope on him actually learning/being taught much in those areas (literacy/numeracy). But again I'm not really worried. I don't mind him not actually being taught much, it is not a race, so as long as he has fun at school, we will be doing a few little things on the side but NOT pushing literacy and numeracy further forward. E.g. strengthening his other language, and learning to play chess; eventually, a musical instrument maybe.

As for advisable things that school could do (I have little hope that ours will) - in numeracy/maths, I'd suggest NOT differentiating forwards, but rather sidewards. The maths curriculum is rather narrow, so, instead of doing y1/y2 stuff now, and then being in the same situation again when DS goes to y1/y2 - you can do lots of stuff sideways, stuff that won't be covered in the curriculum anyway, so DS will have fun, be challenged and enriched, but won't be racing through the curriculum. NRich has good suggestions, you could point your DS' teacher to that website.
Literacy, I know less about.

Hillfog Fri 03-Oct-14 13:19:37

This is good to read. My DD has just started in reception too, not as far ahead as the OP's but over the last year in nursery she went up into reception twice a week to work on Phonics and stuff. They called it Fast Tracking. She was reading happily at yellow level and know all her tricky words etc up to stage 4 and was happy and enjoyed it.
Due to hubby's job change we have moved and shes started at a much smaller school. I explained to the teacher what she had been doing last year but its made no difference. She just seems to have started all over again. What's the best way to raise it with the teacher without sounding like a pushy mum!! I asked if DD's Early Years Profile had been given to the new teacher but she didn't know. Should it say in there what she was working on?
Thanks if anyone can help, sorry to hijack thread smile

Meita Sat 04-Oct-14 00:36:43

Hi Hillfog,
I put a note in DS' reading record (on a separate little piece of paper), explaining that we frequently read other books at home, and an example of which one we had just read. Asking if we should write something about those books too, and where/how. He was coming home with pink books. After that note they assessed him and two days later (and ever since) he came home with a book in the same band as the one I had mentioned in the note.

No guarantees that this will work - but might be worth a try!

But yes, DS is going through all the letter sounds with his class. I don't mind - he is learning the little songs and actions to go with them, and having fun. He still gets to read. It is giving him shedloads of confidence.

Our nursery school's EY profile mentioned that DS was doing well in the 'academic' subjects but nothing more, except that he knew 'at least 12 different kinds of dinosaurs'.

Hillfog Sat 04-Oct-14 08:57:11

Thanks Meita, I did put a note in her bag asking if the teacher could have a quick read with her and see if she thought she was on the right stage but the TA intercepted it and just told me she'd almost finished the book box she was on and would be moving on soon. Not helpful!
Good to know the EY profile isn't detailed. Think I'm definitely going to have to try a grab a quick word with with her.

NotChimpandZeeagain Thu 09-Oct-14 19:10:31

Having similar issues with my ds2, who has just started reception. He is able to read all his brother's ort stage 9 books, counts in 2s, 5s and 10s to as high as you like, knows one and ten more and less than given numbers etc. at the moment, he is being given very low level reading books, only heard read once a week, the same 6 red word flash cards as the other children etc. oh, and he doesn't think he has done any maths yet, as they are focusing on singing counting songs, and I can't persuade him that this does actually count as maths! It appears that at nursery the teachers told him he would have lots of sums to do in maths, so he feels a bit short changed!

MagratsHair Tue 21-Oct-14 11:42:50

My DS when in reception was put in the year 1 phonics group & the year 2 maths group. Now he's in year 5 he sits with the other boy at his level & they do separate maths work by themselves on their own table. I have never been sure though, that sending him to different groups & different years has done anything for his socialising & looking back it might have been better if he had continued working with his peers. (Not that I want him held back but I'm conscious that he flits across several friendship groups & doesn't have many close friends).

I know he's a bit older than your OP but my boy also enjoys doing crosswords, word searches & I taught him to play chess & now he beats me in earnest so its worth thinking about things he can do at home as well as school to support his interests smile

MagratsHair Tue 21-Oct-14 11:48:04

Hillfog my DCs started a new school back in June & the new teachers had no info from the old teachers at all. They went into the bottom groups at first but the new teacher said that this is standard & once they show competence they will moved up step by step until they're in the correct group.

I went in to see the new teacher (when DS told me as I knew it wasn't right) & just said that DS1 had said he was in the lowest group, & was he correct? & the teacher was more than happy to explain the procedure to me, I didn't mention he was G&T or anything like that, I just casually asked smile

So in my experience the new teacher has no info provided from the old school at all.

tess73 Tue 21-Oct-14 11:53:25

DD was similar in reception. The teacher didn't make her sit through all the phonics work as she could already read well (from age 2/3)
They did read-write-inc and so she was given the "ditty" books about each phonic sound, her and another boy sat and did those together instead.
She wasn't differentiated for anything else, although her maths was also good that was fine for her to sit through again (not too tedious vs letter sounds!) and i think it was the right thing.
The teacher also used to get DD to read to the class. I didn't think it was a good idea really but DD was ok with it - looking back i should have stopped it, they have to be classmates not pseudo-teachers. Right into year 2 her classmates were getting her to read to them in the reading corner.

by the way DD is now in yr6 and still doing well but the gap has narrowed enormously, with a significant high ability group in her class.

The best advice i got was to think enrichment rather than progression. Accept that the academic side of school will be fairly easy in the infants. Focus on his social skills, friendships, independence, organisation, teach him chess, a language club, an instrument. Find something he doesn't find too easy so he realises what it is like for most kids, to have to try and perservere, to be resilient. otherwise what you might find is come yr3, yr4 that things start to become less automatic for him and he doesn't actually have the ability to cope as he hasn't gone through the usual school journey. HTH.

tess73 Tue 21-Oct-14 11:54:26

Also get him to do a book review when he reads a book, ask him to tell you about it. make sure he isn't just speed reading through all the words.

Bordersmummy Thu 23-Oct-14 22:28:32

There's some great advice here thanks. DS's writing is nowhere near as far ahead as his reading, so we are focusing on that and thinking about spellings etc.

Wailywailywaaaiillly Fri 24-Oct-14 18:42:04

DS2 has also just started reception. I'm really surprised at how much the teacher has already done with him. It was parent teacher evening last night and she has laid out her plans for keeping him engaged. Again bearing in mind that we are in Wales and it may be different.

He is going to be put on the special educational needs register which sounds a bit alarming but its actually only so that he can have a individual learning plan made out.

I feel very torn about it as on the one hand I feel that he is only 5 and really should be playing for most of the time at school at this stage but on the other hand DS loves to learn. The teacher has made it very clear that he will never be singled out for extra activities, rather there will always be three or so in his group. I think he is lucky in that there are a couple of other very bright children in his class and the plan seems to be to work to that groups abilities and be led by all the children in the group. He will not go into yr 1 or 2 at this stage.

Betsy003 Mon 10-Nov-14 20:50:20

My boy was the same and was free reading by the end of reception. But actually there were quite a few bright sparks in the class. Mostly though they hadn't done any formal reading/writing/letters in preschool, so it took a short while for them to get going

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