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What are your Reception kids up to?

(32 Posts)
BlueDesmarais Tue 11-Feb-14 09:39:07

I've been volunteering in the classroom and I'm becoming concerned that the expectations for all the children are very low, despite them being bright and eager. Their handwriting is neat and their reading is good.

But the teachers and TAs continue to set eye-bleedingly easy work, the same day after day. They've been teaching basic CVC words - 'red', 'cat', 'dog', 'pot' - since September. Every day we all sit down and... do them again. Vet. Jet. Pet.

The children will eagerly point out things they can read around the classroom, words like 'dragon' and 'colours' and 'construct'. They can read the signs on the doors and are achieving great flow and fluency when they can grab a book (a normal, non-reader-ish one) from the reading corner, gleefully reading sentences like "What is behind the table?" by carefully blending and sounding out. But when it's official 'reading time', they are stuck with a simple pink book, told to read 'dog runs' and 'cat sits', or 'he is fast'. They read it. A box is ticked. Next kid. When I suggest maybe it's time to break open the Red books, the reaction was a cringe and "Oh, no, we wouldn't want to knock their confidence."

A new week, a new month, a new term. Nothing seems to be changing. Some kids were set aside to learn 'ng' and 'ck', which is progress, but they've been at it three weeks even though they are cheerily writing out 'tick' and 'duck' and 'king' when shown the images. They chant the little 'c and k holding hands' rhymes. They're doing so well, but yesterday? Sit down kids! Now - cat. Dog. Red. Bed.

The school has previously been criticised for poor reading results and low expectations of the children.

Or, am I wrong, and all Reception classes are taking is soooo verrryyy slooowly?

tellmeonasunday Tue 11-Feb-14 09:45:02

My daughter was being given books that were much too easy for her - I showed the teacher what she is reading at home and the next one that came home was several levels up from what she had before. But it's an independent school with small class sizes, I don't know if that's the difference. A reception class is going to clearly have a variety of readers and it makes sense that they should be on a variety of levels.

nonicknameseemsavailable Tue 11-Feb-14 09:48:55

well I personally would agree with you. I feel there are many schools which set low overall expectations of children and do them an injustice by not giving them a chance.

what you can do about it I don't know.

PERSONALLY I might be inclined to anonymously alert Ofsted with your concerns. If the school has previously been criticised by them then they may be able to look into it?

SapphireMoon Tue 11-Feb-14 10:30:32

Hope your child not in the class op.
I imagine many children do not read 'construct' and 'colours' at this stage of Reception.
Most Reception classes will have differentiated groups but probably at say carpet time there is a lot of refreshing, aiming at the middle ground and embedding the basics.
People are SO obsessed with reading in Reception. Yes it is important but not the most important thing in Reception schooling.

BlueDesmarais Tue 11-Feb-14 10:36:21

They do numbers and shapes as well, but far too much time spent making them write and read 'cat' to be honest. Oh, and TV. Raining? Put them in front of CBeebies. Snack time? More CBeebies. Read 'em a story and call it a day.

It's so frustrating. They could all be reading a page of a book to one another, or sharing their knowledge in some way, or doing SOMETHING other than just writing 'cat'!!

allyfe Tue 11-Feb-14 10:44:33

I wish I knew what was going on in my dd's reception class. I think it is a fine balance between encouraging their natural enthusiasm and passion for learning, and directing them so much that they loose their ability to explore and discover things by themselves. Our education does much too much rote learning and directing, but at the same time I dream of a state system which can support more easily individual difference. I'm having a bad day :p

choceyes Tue 11-Feb-14 10:56:16

I don't know what they do at school but I hope ours don't put on Cbeebies for them!
Our school have ability groups. DS in top ability group for phonics (and also for numeracy) and are nearly at the end of phase 3 phonics. He is on stage 2 books, but find them easy and could do with moving up to stage 3. However even he won't be able to read 'colours' and 'construct'.
I don't know what they do day to day though, apart from the phonic and numeracy time of 20mins each day. The other times are spend 'learning through play', which I haven't a clue about.

However, in a new initiative, they are making their progess reports online and what they do each day and photos of them doing stuff and recording any interesting things they say each day. We will be able to login and see a progress report on our child and it is updated daily I think.
The school, last summer, went from Outstanding to satisfactory and which was a huge blow to them (ofsted cited them not tailoring work to each childs ability and low expectations from Y2) so maybe this is one of their measures to improve things.

Judyandherdreamofhorses Tue 11-Feb-14 11:42:41

My DD is coming home every day with crafts she has made, tales of the role play they did that day, filthy hands and clothes from her outdoor 'exploring time', new ideas for what to play with her little brother, new songs for us all to learn.

She brings a reading book each week (which we read several times) and is getting better at blending. She spells words with fridge magnets. She has a lovely, fun and open ended homework each week which she is really keen to do.

I don't care a jot that she can't read 'dragon' and 'construct' yet. I'm delighted she can write 'cat' (with the letters the right way round sometimes). I hope any volunteers in her classroom are supportive of the teacher and the school.

Judyandherdreamofhorses Tue 11-Feb-14 11:43:47

Choc eyes, how on earth will the teachers have time to teach if they're uploading what the children do and say every five minutes?!

nonicknameseemsavailable Tue 11-Feb-14 12:01:00

how on earth can the school update a website every DAY? gosh. poor staff.

I agree there is an awful lot more to reception than just reading and writing BUT I do think that from what the OP has said there are at least SOME children in this class who could be doing more than they are and who really ought to be being given books with more words in so their their personal and individual reading can develop at their pace. surely this is what we all want, all children to be able to develop at their own pace, that includes the more advanced children as well as the ones who are struggling. My daughter's have both had reading books to do with their own level but sat through general literacy way below their level with the rest of the class. at least by doing this it was possible to ensure they didn't have any gaps in their knowledge and yet still allow them to progress at their own level. this is what seems to be lacking in the OPs school if I read it right.

Judyandherdreamofhorses Tue 11-Feb-14 12:07:43

OP, are you in there full time as a volunteer? Perhaps all the other stuff happens when you're not there.

lottieandmia Tue 11-Feb-14 12:12:36

When you say 'they' do you mean all the children in the class? My R dd goes to a prep school where the expectations are quite high but she and most of her peers are not at the level you describe. I find it hard to believe that 30 kids in one class are all at that level.

lottieandmia Tue 11-Feb-14 12:13:40

I think teachers tend to feel that there is a balance between challenging a child and pushing so that they then switch off. In reception the emphasis seems to be on making learning fun rather than academic achievement IME.

lottieandmia Tue 11-Feb-14 12:16:13

In terms of what she does at school, dd has a very varied week. She has forest school on Wednesday and swimming on Thursdays and they still do lots of play in the classroom to incorporate learning as well as lots of art/craft and sitting in front of the white board is a smaller part of the day I think.

BlueDesmarais Tue 11-Feb-14 13:32:52

See Judy, if my son were coming home with any of that I'd think everything was fine. He dislikes painting and glue (has Asperger's and sensory issues, won't get his hands sticky), but there isn't an area for pencil crayons, or crayons, as they 'kept getting lost' (I asked why we removed it), and felt pens were removed as 'too messy', so he doesn't do as much craft as the other kids. They can play outside but they are told not to go on the grass or near the mud. They did an Alphabet song last week which was the first song I've heard done outside of assembly (where they do a hymn, and the Reception kids just tag along with the words as best they can.)

Obviously not all of them are at such a level, but the majority (and most that I've worked with) are writing well (legible, clear letters, all done the correct way) and reading without pauses or spelling-outs. I think it's testament to good teaching of blending that they can handle a longer word like 'construct' or 'mismatch', but they never seem to get to roadtest their skills on anything more challenging than the next 3-words-per-page pink book.

Bumpsadaisie Tue 11-Feb-14 13:47:39

I don't really know what my DD gets up to only what I can glean

She has swimming each week, gym each week and PE each week. She is a nervous swimmer but is gaining confidence (just very slowly compared to all the others who seem to be able to swim without armbands and dive in already!). Forest schools twice a term.

I know they are doing something with maths because she has started to tell me that there are several ways you can make 10 e.g. 7 and 3 and 6 and 4. She seems to be quite good at doubling I think maybe they did that last term.

In writing I don't think anything formally is expected of them but my DD is coming home having done writing on her drawings etc. She got a certificate for "great writing in "big writing"", whatever that is.

Reading - she is bringing home a red band book every day and reading that easily. She needs to work a bit more on talking around the story and then she is going to go up to yellow after half term.

I think she is one of the more able of her year, i.e. bright, but nothing unusual or exceptional.

choceyes Tue 11-Feb-14 13:54:06

no I don't suppose they will be able to update daily on each child. I really don't know what it's all about, just got a briefing of it in a letter. At the parents meeting last year they did show me a small video of him playing with a friend and a couple of interesting discussions they'd had with him they had jotted down - this was for the whole term, so I expect it'll be like that, not update each child daily! Plus the phonics/numeracy groups he is in as they do change around a bit.

OP - the ability of these children in your class astound me. I can't see how even with the best of teaching of blending without any practise at all how these children can blend such words?! The teachers must be doing something right or are the parents quite involved with the learning perhaps and they are practising at home? And I also think that writing legibly, all done the correct way is also far above normal at reception age?

ReallyTired Tue 11-Feb-14 14:00:37

Reception is more about learning the rules of school and settling in than actual formal learning. I suspect that the children are learnng a lot through their play.

I think the OP has to differentiate between memorising a much loved book and actual reading. Reading a book that you have never seen before is a greater challenge than reciting the gruffalo for the twenteth time.

QueenQuinine Tue 11-Feb-14 17:08:27

I'm never quite sure why some people think 'learning the rules of school' can only happen in the context of playing, rather than at the same time as some 'actual, formal learning'

DDs reception class are all reading as far as I can tell from seeing people change books with levels from 2 to 10. I don't know much about maths but I know they use number lines and number bonds to 10 and counting on and things.

ReallyTired Tue 11-Feb-14 17:15:47

"I'm never quite sure why some people think 'learning the rules of school' can only happen in the context of playing, rather than at the same time as some 'actual, formal learning'"

Social skills are as important as phonics for being sucessful at school. It is easier to learn high quality social skills through play than formal book work. Children's language skill also develops in a well designed early years classroom.

There is more to reading than barking at print or racing through the Oxford Reading Tree. Children need to understand what they are reading. Well designed play enables children to learn about the world, improve fine motor skills, language and physical motor skills.

All the countries in the world with higher pisa scores than us allow their four year olds to play. Even the asian countries allow their littles to play.

BlueDesmarais Tue 11-Feb-14 17:22:23

ReallyTired, I choose the book so I can check they're really reading it, not just memorising smile Something at random. They will start at, say, "Be" then just sound out "a oo tifful" and then confirm "beautiful." They seem really good at longer words, so long as there's nothing unintuitive in it like 'flight'. I don't know what's normal.

There's a higher-than-average free-school-meal takeup (the teachers seem to bang on about it a lot, like it's an excuse - "well, there's a lot of FSM you know" as if that's a good reason not to give a boy who can read 'beautiful' a better reading book" - but I think the kids are still read to, and with, at home, with involved parents who value education.

lottieandmia Tue 11-Feb-14 18:59:21

The point in that reception is still part of EYFS. It is supposed to be more like how things are done in nursery, except it's more structured, the kids learn the routines and what is expected of them. That is why the jump to year 1 often seems like a leap for some.

ReallyTired Tue 11-Feb-14 20:17:26

Clearly my four year year old is a bit on the thick side as there is no way on earth she can sound out "beautiful". Its a tricky word with the "eau" making an "oo" sound as it borrows a bit of french phonics.

I think you should leave the teachers to their jobs. Its really sounds like they know what they are doing if a child can read well.

TheGreatHunt Tue 11-Feb-14 20:19:07

Cbeebies? seriously!!!!

What school? I'd have a word with a governor tbh.

TheGreatHunt Tue 11-Feb-14 20:21:28

Reception is more about learning the rules of school and settling in than actual formal learning. I suspect that the children are learnng a lot through their play

My 4 year old learns through okay at preschool which includes encouraging him when he shows an interest in reading etc.

If his school then takes him backwards, I will not be happy.

I will add, he's at a very child led setting.

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