Shonette Bason shares her suggestions for fun ways of encouraging trust and literacy among Early Years' pupils.
Shonette is an outstanding primary teacher, published author and consultant trainer for Early Years Education, she is also a proud mother of four. You can see Shonette in action in our series Inspirational CPD Training or visit her website to find out more about her work and methods of working with the Early Years' pupils and practioners.
How I feel about literacy
When I was five, I could read and articulate well, admittedly I have never been great at hand writing, but I am now a published author. Literacy to me as a child was exciting and encorporated reading, writing and play.
The word literacy can often bring great sighs of despair from both teachers and pupils. The challenge every Early Years teacher faces is how to excite children about reading, writing and phonics. I feel a good place to start is to make their learning experience fun. You can find some ideas of how I have done this below.
Change your themes!
So often, I hear teachers say they are covering the same themes in September as they have done before in previous years...WHY? September is a tough month for teachers and pupils. Teachers have spent six weeks in recovery from the previous year and pupils are perhaps starting full-time education for the first time. So why not use this opportunity to excite them and you, by thinking of a theme you love.
My favourite theme is pirates, I once started the school year dressed as a pirate captain, with my TA as my second. Together, we welcomed pupils on 'board the good ship Lollipop and set sail.' Open-mouthed the pupils 'boarded' and not a tear was shed – from a child at least!
Their first day at school was memorable and got the year off to a positive start. Think about different way in which, you can encourage a positive start to their Early Years and literacy journey.
A good idea is to try and support your planned themes through books. I find this easier to do on a half-termly basis. Look at your theme and select books and songs around it. If your theme is 'what would you ask an astronaut?' you might for example look at the books: Bob The Man on The Moon and Aliens Love Underpants, as well as the nursery rhyme - Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.
Use the books and music to explore your six areas of learning and development in the Early Years, and get creative. Your outdoors or carpet area could become a remote planet with spaceships made from cardboard boxes, or telescopes can be made using carpet inner tubes or empty kitchen rolls.
For fun ways of encouraging literacy in your themes, try these ideas:
For reading: Pupils often find learning key words difficult as they have no nouns to play with. To help them learn key words for learning select nine nouns to do with your theme e.g. planet, ship, moon, suit, boots, rocket, star, alien and door. Use the nine nouns to label your play and do it daily.
For writing: Use the 'review model' to recall their play based learning. After the children have played get them to 'review' their play, and tell you what they did. Younger children verbalise and ready writers write down their experiences. Key persons input into the writing setting challenges and giving directions for their future writing.
For phonics: Do I really need to give you ideas? My phonic strategy (below) 'Batty Basics uses r for rrrrrrocket' and you know the rest!
To me handwriting wasn't the most exciting part of literacy to teach, until I learnt about the importance of movement and the Early Years child.
Since that day I have 'boogied' out my handwriting sessions with great success. I use dancing to create a positive atmosphere in the room. My "Batty basics boogie" creates a real joy and energy amongst the pupils. The key is for you and your class to 'dance out' the letters in the air, on the carpet and anywhere else you can decide, all while dancing. Finally ask them to write out the letters on their wipe boards or paper, while you dance waiting for them!