Wow! What a busy start to the year! We have welcomed lots of new children into Nursery and we spent the first few weeks of September learning the class rules and getting used to our classroom routines. We are so proud of ALL our little superstars, they have come a long way since they first walked through our doors. They are now really good at listening to instructions and following the rules. They work as a team at tidy time and everyone knows exactly where to put all the toys and how to sort them into the correct boxes. All visitors into Nursery have commented on how amazing they are! We think they are amazing too!
Our days are very busy, and although the children are only with us for a short period of time, we manage to learn and do lots of new and exciting things. Here is an overview of what a typical week looks like. It is just the same in the afternoon, but with different timings!
Learning to write is a complex process and can be very demanding for our youngsters. Many times we forget how complex the task of manoeuvring a pencil across a page can be. Holding a pencil, pen or any other mark making tool, puts a great deal of strain on the thumb and first two fingers of the writing hand and can prove quite tricky when you are 3 or 4, especially if the muscles in your hand, wrist, forearm, upper arm, shoulder and back lack the strength required.
Funky Finger activities are aimed at strengthening these important muscle groups, so that our little ones develop the gross and fine motor control needed to hold a pencil with the correct grip - enabling them to form their letters correctly, once they have the strength and co-ordination in their backs, shoulders, arms, wrists, hands and fingers to do so.
We run the Funky Finger sessions three times a week, and children complete the activities to music. We choose four activities per half term, and children complete each activity for a whole week before moving on to the next activity.
The first step in the phonics journey is to teach our little ones to listen carefully to the sounds around them in their environment and support them as they learn to discriminate between the different sounds that they hear. Children need lots of opportunities to listen to these sounds and to develop their listening skills to identify and match them. This ability to listen carefully and identify the different sounds is crucial for their phonic progress. These are the prerequisite skills to being able to blend words for reading later on.
During our phonics sessions we have worked hard at identifying and matching environmental sounds in the home and outside. We have been on a listening walk around the school building and out on the playground, as well as matching environmental sounds on a CD to picture cards. We are really good at identifying police cars, helicopters and aeroplanes! We are getting better at identifying trickier sounds, such as someone brushing their teeth, pouring milk into a cup and drinking through a straw. We have also been practising identifying sounds associated with the weather, for example thunder, rain and wind. Over the past few days we have started to look at the sounds that different instruments make. We have been looking and talking about the sounds that a drum, a maraca, a tambourine and a triangle make. The children are really enjoying these sessions and they often use the instruments to make their own music outside of our taught phonics sessions.
ECAT stands for Every Child A Talker and our ECAT sessions are aimed at developing speaking and listening skills and widening children's vocabulary. Good speaking and listening skills are at the heart of the learning process, and are vital for children's success as they move through school. Sessions so far have involved designing a home for Kofi (our ECAT monkey), putting our hand into a feely box filled with cold, wet, slimy, sticky jelly (the children's words not mine!), describing objects hidden in a feely bag (hard, flat, soft, round, spiky, pointy, tall), reading Monkey Goes on Holiday and taking Monkey and the book home to read with our grown ups, as well as naming and talking about the food we like to eat and why.
Last week, Kofi brought in an unusual object to show us. We discovered it was a letter press and now we have it on our writing table and the children are enjoying writing their letters and using the letter press to stamp their address onto the envelopes, which they then post in the Nursery post box - ready for the postman to collect!
During our number time sessions we have been focusing on knowing and saying our number names, knowing our number names in order and recognising numerals 1 to 5. Some of our little ones are now starting to recognise numerals beyond five and are beginning to count beyond 10, using their knowledge of one-to-one correspondence. We have also been practising sky writing our numerals, as we begin to learn how to form our numerals so that we can record them correctly when we are ready to write them.
We are beginning to describe the shapes of things we find in our environment. We have sorted sticks into long sticks and short sticks and pine cones and conkers into things that are round and things that are spiky (not round). We are just about to start looking at what 2D shapes we can see around us, and we will be going on a shape hunt in the playground and trying to identify circles, squares, rectangles and triangles in pictures.
Every week we learn a new Nursery Rhyme/Song, which we have fun singing before the children go home. We have learnt the following Nursery Rhymes so far:
Jack and Jill
Miss Polly had a Dolly
Twinkle Twinkle Little Star
John Brown's Baby
The Days of the Week Song
5 Little Ducks
5 Little Men in a Flying Saucer
Row Row Row your boat
Why not have a go at singing some of these with your little ones at home? Singing nursery rhymes like these helps children develop: their knowledge of stories, their communication and language skills, their social skills and it also creates a sense of community. Furthermore, it is an invaluable way of building our children's vocabulary and knowledge of correct sentence structure - all without them even realising that that is what we are doing. They just think it is fun, especially when we add instruments and actions!
Research has shown that children who sing nursery rhymes and have a wide repertoire of songs, are better equipped to become good readers and creative writers later on in their school journey.
In between our adult led sessions, children are able to choose their own activities and they are encouraged to independently access the resources on the shelves. This is the best part of the day, because this is when we get to 'play' with the children in order to facilitate their learning using their ideas and becoming involved in their imaginative play!