In our Early Years Foundation Stage unit, which uniquely incorporates the Nursery and Reception classes, we provide many opportunities for children to learn through adult led focus sessions and child initiated activities.
At St John’s School we understand the importance of learning through play. We provide the children with an enriching environment to support them in all areas of their development, taking account of the children’s interests and the way they learn. The children have the opportunity to independently learn, explore, develop and enhance their skills within an exciting setting.
The nursery and reception children follow the Early Years Foundation Stage Curriculum (EYFS). This is organised into prime and specific areas of learning and is supported by the child’s individual characteristics of learning which move through all the areas.
Prime Areas of Learning
Communication and Language
We provide the children with a rich language environment in all areas. We give lots of opportunities for speaking and listening activities which may be a child explaining to a group how they have made a model or sharing news from home, this supports the children’s developing understanding by connecting ideas and events. The children are encouraged to follow instructions and to ask and answer questions about their own experiences. We also understand the importance of giving a child their ‘thinking time’ to decide what they want to say and how to say it.
We understand the importance of physical activity and use our outdoor space to provide opportunities for all children to be active. They are able to practise and develop their movement skills by using large and small equipment, this also supports the children in moving confidently in a range of ways. We encourage the children to handle tools, including pencils for writing, effectively and safely. Children learn and understand the importance of being safe and making healthy choices. We support healthy eating by having a ‘rolling snack’ of healthy food which the children help to prepare. We aim for the children to manage their own personal needs independently, offering support and encouragement if needed.
Personal and Social Development
We understand that a child’s personal and social development is fundamental in supporting all other areas of learning. We want children to be confident, feel good about themselves and be proud of their achievements. We have regular circle times when each child has an opportunity to have a ‘voice’; to share their opinions, ideas, thoughts and achievements which are valued by their friends and adults. We encourage children to form positive relationships and develop respect for others; to develop social skills and learn how to manage their feelings, showing sensitivity to the needs of other children. We develop co-operative play by playing turn taking games, listening to each other’s ideas and following the rules. The children are encouraged to use a timer independently to support turn taking within child initiated activities. As adults we listen to the children respectfully and praise positive behaviour whilst highlighting the expectations of behaviour within the classroom.
Specific Areas of Learning
We encourage the children to mark make in all areas using a range of resources which are often linked to our role play areas e.g. shopping lists, doctor’s notes, menu orders, tally charts etc. We also ensure that we provide opportunities for the children to mark make on a large scale to develop the muscle strength which is essential in building the stamina and control to write. We aim that the nursery children are able to write their own name when they move into reception and encourage this by using different media to support e.g. salt, sand, finger painting etc. We have regular phonic sessions for the nursery children with the focus on speaking, listening and beginning to hear and recognise initial sounds in words. In Reception, daily phonic sessions support the children’s growing skills for reading and writing. We want to encourage a love of books in the children and have a wide range of fiction and non-fiction books in the classroom for the children to access either independently or with their friends. We have a daily story telling session and also write and tell our own stories, sharing them with our friends and adults.
All the children are given opportunities to explore mathematics both inside and outside the classroom. The children are encouraged to use numbers and mathematical vocabulary in their independent activities. For the Reception children we have a weekly focus on a different strand of mathematics and the activities are designed for the children to embed their knowledge in a practical and fun way, encouraging the children to talk through their ideas with their friends and sharing the resources to demonstrate their understanding. The adults within the setting observe and support the children to secure their knowledge and also to extend and challenge them.
Understanding of the World
This involves children learning about the world around them, including their local community through exploring, observing, visiting and finding out about people, places and technology. We support this by celebrating festivals from different cultures and faiths such as Chinese New year, Diwali, Christmas etc., looking at similarities and sharing experiences. People from different professions are invited to come and talk to the children about their work which is always really exciting. We investigate why things happen and look at changes over time including plants, chicks, butterflies and ourselves. We look at different countries in the world often linking this to the children’s own experiences and families. The children also discuss how we can look after our environment, both within the classroom and the wider world. Technology within Early Years is used in different ways; we provide a range of programmable toys and ICT equipment such as computers and tablets. We also use cameras, mobile phones, walkie talkies and remote controls within the role play areas to support children’s knowledge that technology is used in different places.
Expressive Arts and Design
This area of learning supports activities in art, music, movement, dance, role-play and design and technology. The children are encouraged to talk through their activity, adapting and modifying to achieve their desired result. Our aim is to give the children the skills of safely using tools, fixings, fastenings and paint mixing to enable them to independently explore, develop, adapt and use a wide range of media and materials. This also provides opportunities for sharing their thoughts and ideas. We value singing, music and role play in supporting other areas of the curriculum and also have designated music sessions where the children are able to explore the different sounds of instruments and create their own music and dance.
The Characteristics of Effective Learning
At St John’s School we acknowledge that each child is a unique child and has their own interests and individual learning styles - characteristics of learning. We aim to encourage the children to develop these characteristics which will support them within all areas of their learning.
The three characteristics of effective learning are:
Playing and exploring – children have the opportunity to investigate and experience a range of activities and are encouraged to ‘have a go’
Active learning – children concentrate and develop resilience when they encounter difficulties, and enjoy their achievements
Creating and thinking critically – children have and develop their own ideas, make links between ideas, and develop strategies for completing tasks