Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Helping children with their early reading and writing in the EYFS: shared and modelled approaches

In the nursery school where I'm headteacher, we've spent several months debating and then summarising our approach to supporting young children's early literacy development. You can read our full document here.

We wanted to think in particular about the role of direct teaching, as well as all the opportunities which children need us to plan for. I think that much of the debate about early literacy gets too polarised - between those who are absolutely set against any kind of direct teaching on the one hand, and those who want a kind of regimented approach to early education where children are drilled in a small number of key skills. We have tried to make sense of shared and modelled approaches to teaching, without just watering down the curriculum for older children.

I'm posting this now because I think schools should share their work, so that we are not constantly having to start from scratch, and because I value open-ness, critical feedback, challenge and dialogue. So, please share, reuse, and remix in any way that's useful.


  1. Hello Julian

    I think a discussion needs to be started! This will help me and hopefully others will chip in (pretty please everyone).

    Firstly, this is an incredibly thoughtful piece of work. Thank you and all your staff. And also thanks for posting it for all to view. I wish more people would also understand that knowledge is only truly powerful if it is shared. I also value discussions and having my work critically evaluated, challenged and questioned.

    Living in Scotland and mainly having worked there in the education sector there's perhaps a slightly different angle. Also I'm interested in how being outside makes a difference to the acquisition of literacy skills. So a number of queries spring to mind.

    1) Whilst you have clearly recognised that talking is a vital part of learning to read and write, I feel this and listening skills have been given less prominence and wondered if this was because you have covered this elsewhere.

    2) The approaches outline on p4/5 come across to me as having a heavy bias towards experiences inside or perhaps that's my narrow interpretation of the word "classroom" rather than Margaret McMillan's! (The best classroom is roofed only by sky... etc)

    3) The outdoor mark making is beautifully illustrated yet I feel less acknowledgement is made in your reading section about reading outside beyond an occasional mention of environmental print. Years ago I had several children with hearing impairments in a couple of classes I taught. They taught me a lot about the need for real, concrete experiences. For example, one child had no concept of the word "river" so even the illustration in a book just was a line of blue. Until she saw a river, she had no idea what it was. So I'm wondering how much of a link there is between children's wider experiences, their vocabulary development and subsequent impact on the ability to learn to read.

    4) Oral story telling - this is another strength of being outside - generally outdoor spaces work well for this activity. As we know, pictures tell a thousand words. But a story told can give us a thousand pictures. Do you feel there is a role for oral story telling (did I miss this in your work, which I really skim-read)?

    Thanks again and I hope others chip in...

    Best wishes

    1. Hi Juliet, I'm really grateful for your thoughts and detailed comments, exactly why I think it's good to do things on line. A kind of educational crowdsourcing ... Will think about what you've said and I'm sure this will lead to some changes and additions.

  2. Thanks for sharing this informative document on early literacy. I know that a love of books and stories is a great start to reading, and as a childminder I aim to share the enjoyment of reading with all my children from the earliest ages. I am much less sure about how to give children the best start in writing, apart from providing the resources for mark making. I found the guidance in this article about encouraging the development of early writing really helpful and will certainly be looking for ways to implement these ideas.

  3. Thanks for your comment - glad this has been useful to you