Top Tips for The New School Year
Welcome back. It is the start of a new school year which can bring excitement and trepidation for both pupils and teachers. Whether you are new to year group or have just forgotten what the start of the year can be like, we have put together some of our top tips for you. We’d love to hear some of your top tips as well and are keen to build a supportive community for teachers. Post your #toptips on our Twitter page @The LCUK
• Train them up! Set high expectations from the start as they don't know any different. For those new to Early Years, you will have to show them how to do the simple things such as lining up and walking down the corridor as well as using the paints correctly!
• Don't forget how important the prime areas are. As you begin to introduce more adult led learning and phonics/reading takes over, ensure that children's speech and language is developing well. Also focus on their fine motor control skills to support writing and develop their confidence to have a go.
• Do what is right for your class. Reception classes vary between settings and cohorts as each group comes from a range of backgrounds with different experiences. When you attend courses, choose a couple of things that have inspired you to take back to school. You will develop your own style with each year in Reception and find what works for your school and children.
• Pupils will need support for the transition from EYFS. Ideally this will have started in the summer term but needs to be planned for throughout autumn as well.
• Slow down your curriculum coverage to allow for time to be spent on the basic skills needed for reading and writing.
• Incorporate as much practical learning and experiences as you can into the classroom. Role-play is a great way of doing this and creates a great stimulus for writing.
• Consider which areas of continuous provision from EYFS you can incorporate into your classroom – you don’t need everything! Look at the areas of need from EYFS data and how you can use the space creatively. Make use of work tops and create boxes of resources which can be moved around as necessary and can be used flexibly.
• Don’t forget that pupils will still need to develop their fine/gross motor skills for writing. Focus on developing these through handwriting activities and not just letter formation.
• Work closely with Y2 teachers in terms of transition – do you have a good understanding of the end of year expectations for KS1 and what it looks like in practice?
• Expect to see some gaps in skills, particularly around sentence structure and grammar so don’t assume you are working with the KS2 curriculum in isolation. Work on consolidation of sentence structure from KS1 first before building in new features.
• Build phonics into your English and spelling lessons where appropriate. A lot of the work you will be doing will be underpinned by phonics knowledge pupils have acquired so use this as a basis for new content.
• Ensure time is spent with dictionaries and thesauri early on so pupils understand the basics. Build in games and activities to help familiarise them with the features and how to use them as for many, this will be the first time of accessing them.
• Work closely with Y3 colleagues to understand the progression between the two year groups – what were pupils doing well in Y3 and how can that now be built upon?
• Make sure you explicitly teach pupils how to edit their writing. It will take time but by modelling this process and your expectations early on, pupils will get faster and better at it throughout the year.
• Work on refining pupils’ vocabulary and how it is used for effect. After many years of adding more to a sentence, they now need to learn how to strip it back a bit for clarity.
• Ensure that you foster a love of reading from the beginning: share the books that you are reading, consider which texts pupils are being exposed to, establish a strong reading environment, get excited about books.
• Work closely with Y6 to ensure that you have a clear ‘end of phase expectation’ – what needs to be secure in Y5 in order to ensure success in Y6?
• Ensure a focus on spelling, punctuation and grammar continues – train pupils to answer short quizzes in preparation for statutory assessments as well as ensuring they use them in context through writing opportunities.
• Think about your planning and start off easy – don’t plan a tricky genre for the first writing outcome. Instead use what pupils are familiar with e.g. narrative, recount, information.
• Reteach the basics – paragraphing, sentence structure, punctuation, cohesive devices. Get these in place for the majority of the class and then layer on the trickier skills.
• Don’t worry about statutory assessment until at least February - help your pupils with spelling errors, support them with editing in small groups, teach them strategies to develop editing and proof-reading skills. Don’t worry about producing ‘Independent writing’ just yet.
Hopefully this has given you a few things to think about and will help structure and calm this first term back for you. You can’t do everything all at once so just look at the priorities and map it all out over the year. We will be here every step of the way to answer your questions and provide support where needed.
Here we have some final general messages:
• Keep your pupils at the heart of everything you do, every decision you make, every lesson you plan – what is best for them?
• Build relationships – with children, with staff, with parents.
• Start with a clear overview of the year so that you know which book/genre/skill you are teaching where. This will ensure coverage and let you know what you are aiming for by the end of each half-term.
• Plan in those ‘extra bits’ – 1:1 reads, vocabulary games, time to read for pleasure, visits to the library. Don’t assume they will just happen. Think about who will oversee them too, making the best use of the adults available to you.
• Keep your working wall exciting and inspirational but also a work in progress. Don’t over-crowd it at the start of the year. Let it grow.
We wish you a successful 2021-2022!
The Literacy Company Team