So what should Literacy provision look like in Year 1? Like Reception? Like Year 2? Or something different?
There are many schools of thought on this. The ‘traditional’ view is formal – children sitting at tables, Literacy and Numeracy hours delivered, play saved for playtime, displays resemble those that the older children have. The ‘Foundation Stage’ view is entirely play based with some adult directed learning thrown in. Some schools try a mixture of the two; others run with the Foundation Stage approach initially, moving to the formal approach as the year progresses; and others don’t appear to have a view.
My view is that, each year, the school should look at the Reception cohort coming up. Asking themselves what the needs and interests of the children are; and looking at where the children are up to in their learning and preparation for learning. In addition to this, the Headteacher needs to form a guiding view of what the Y1 provision will look and feel like. The vision for Y1 needs great consideration and establishing in readiness for the start of the academic year. He or she then needs the Y1 team to ‘buy in’ to that vision (even better if the team have helped to shape it).
Often, we know what the needs and interests of the children are and what the FS profile data is telling us but are unable to turn that into a meaningful and successful Y1 provision. It is my belief that a topic based approach is where success lies in Year 1. The learning environment should reflect the topic, and there should be a blend of demonstrating what ‘we are learning about’ and learning prompts and support. The Literacy curriculum should initially concentrate on securing the significant profile points, whilst ensuring that NC Level 1 is provided for those children who are ready for it. Differentiation is an issue for every teacher in every year group; for help with work around securing the profile points Y1 teachers could pick the brains of their Reception colleagues.
Provision should also have motivation and engagement to write very high on the agenda. Active learning of new ideas/skills, with lots of opportunities for practise, application and consolidation throughout the day and week are vital. Children should be encouraged to remain independent (as they often leave FS with high levels of independence) whilst being challenged and guided to progress by the adults around them.
The reading curriculum is also absolutely vital. High quality phonics teaching underpins any good reading/spelling provision. Children unable to practise reading at home should be picked up early and given extra opportunities at school. Reading interventions should also be offered in order to resolve early reading issues quickly. Concepts about print and word recognition activities are important, as well as children having a developing repertoire and knowledge of good quality stories.
To summarise: Year 1 Literacy needs to take the best principles of Foundation Stage practice (what we know about how young children learn best); meet the needs of all our children; and excite and inspire them. Y1 should create happy, independent learners with a real love of reading and writing.
If you would like to attend a three day course on Year 1 Literacy, in preparation for September 2011, go to ‘courses’ on my website.