Talk for writing in Reception

I am hoping that at this stage in the term, some or all parents and families of children in Reception may have been lucky enough to have your children telling them about the stories we have been learning about in Reception class. Have you become the audience for a retelling of the three bears or perhaps the three little pigs? If so, I am thrilled, because this term I have embarked on a new approach to teaching traditional tales, inspired by the fantastic Pie Corbett (he is worth a google for anyone that is interested.)

‘What is talk for writing?’ I hear you ask. Well the best way for me to explain is to use a quote the book written by Pie Corbett and Julia Strong. Here they are explaining about the basis children need to be able to write successfully,

“Children cannot create out of nothing. They need both rich experience as well as a language bank inside the mind to draw upon. Where the reading of stories and poems is a regular part of daily life, children are helped to internalise a living library of poems and stories, like templates that can be used for their own imaginative flights of fancy.”

In their Reception year it is more important than ever to expose children to a wonderful range of stories, poems, songs and rhymes, in order to give them a firm foundation to begin their literary life at school. The ‘talk for writing’ approach helps to ensure these stories remain in their mental bank of resources by teaching them stories in a more dynamic, interactive way. I have begun telling the children the traditional tales using props, puppets and lots of visuals as I normally would. We then move on to the children becoming the story tellers, joining in with a choral rendition of the story, adding actions to certain words or phrases. This then means the children eventually should be able to verbally recite the story using the modeled story language, that they will later be able to use in their own writing. I have been absolutely blown away by how quickly the children have picked up on the actions and their confidence in performing the stories has been inspiring!

We also use story mapping as a tool to help children retell and process the story, turning words into images. This means that even before children are able to ‘write’ a story they can map a story from beginning to end independently. Above are some of our three little pigs maps we created. I hope this is just the beginning of your children’s venture into talk for writing and over the next few weeks you will see and hear more performances of a range of stories. I would love you to share any of these moments that happen at home with me in the children’s home learning books or with photos?


It’s the most wonderful time of the year!

What an incredible term we have had in Reception! It is fantastic to see the progress the children have made since they started school in September.

Since our ‘Story evening’ and ‘Phonics/Reading’ talk I hope you have felt more confident to support your children with their reading and writing at home. In the classroom we have enjoyed reading to our reading buddies. This is a lovely way of encouraging children that may be reluctant to read. If they have a favorite toy, doll or even a pet that they could read to, they instantly become the part of an adult reading a bedtime story and the roles are reversed! Perhaps you could give it a try over the holidays and see if it gives your children a new energy?

We have also been experimenting with lots of different ways of creating, building, sounding out and writing cvc words (consonant, vowel, consonant). The children have great fun deciding whether the words they make are real words or ‘alien’ words. This is a great skill to practice as the phonics screening in year one features a mixture of words for the children to read.

In maths we have been counting, sorting, ordering and working on our number recognition. It is incredible how much using our advent stockings in the classroom has helped with numbers beyond ten! I’m sure at home as well the lure of wanting to know whats hidden behind the door of their calendar has helped with their numbers! I have also been using certain episodes of the cbeebies programme number blocks to demonstrate mathematical concepts and ideas. Although I know its important to limit screens and technology, if you ever have a ten minute window on a rainy day I do recommend it as a wonderful, educational tool.

I would like to finish up by saying how incredibly proud I was of all the children for their performances in the Nativity. Every child played their part, whether it be singing, acting or dancing, and I hope you agree that they were brilliant. For ninety children aged between four and seven to all be on stage at the same time performing together is no easy task but it was certainly worth it to see all their smiling faces singing away! I hope you all have a wonderful break over Christmas and a Happy New Year!

A buzz for writing

Bearing in mind our topic for this term is mini-beasts, can you guess which little creature we have been learning about this week? Yes it is indeed the small but mighty bee! The children have been fascinated with the wonderful variety of bee’s, how to tell them apart and learning all the different jobs they do within a hive. I am sure we have a few budding entomologists in Reception! Not only have they loved trying to spot them in our outside area they have also bee, crafting, counting, sorting and reading about our striped little friends.


This ‘buzz’ of excitement lead to some brilliant examples of the children’s independent writing as they created fact books about bees, bee themed stories and posters galore. Which leads me on to a question parents often ask, “How do I encourage my child to write?”

I know I have spoken top many of you at parents evening about ‘writing for a purpose ‘ as this is something I am passionate about. I believe this is the key to inspiring a love of writing from a young age, making writing real and worthwhile for children. Of course, every now and then a little bit of writing practise doesn’t do any harm, but to nurture that desire to write is crucial. Thinking about those real life situations when writing is useful if not essential. Menus, sign posts, shopping lists, cards, letters, recipes, anything you can think of! Especially if it is related to your children’s interests. For example I often “forget” things in the classroom, and the children then love to write me note or list to help me remember! Writing signs or labels for large and small scale models is another great example of when previously reluctant writers will happily spend time writing. Whether it be to say, ‘Please don’t touch’ or ‘Tom’s dinosaur cage’ it is a real reason for them to write! Here are a couple of lovely examples of signs children wrote in child initiated time this term to warn others about mini-beasts (one was a real spider the other was for some fantasy dangerous bugs, just in case you were worried!)

The first sign reads “Stop, web, spider!” and the second “deadly, do not touch!”


These are both great examples of children seeing an opportunity to write for a purpose that meant something to them and whatever activity they were engaged in. It came from their own interests therefore half the battle of encouragement is already won. Then the technical side of writing comes into play, however I often find where there is a will they find a way to access all that they have learnt so far. So maybe see if your children can surprise you with their independent writing? What will give them the urge to pick up a pencil?

Spring is here!

What a brilliant term we have had in Reception class. Not only have we very much enjoyed the arrival of Spring and some long awaited sunshine but it is also at this time of year when I really begin to notice the progress children are making in their learning. All the children have been working so hard improving their writing and the introduction of the ‘Super Sentence Challenge’ has brought with it a surge of keen writers! I have also been setting various challenges during their child initiated learning time which has spurred on lots of independent writing. The latest writing challenge was a colour hunt, where the children had to search for things inside or outside that matched their colour chart. It was fabulous to see so many of the class using their phonics knowledge and choosing to write!!


Our topic ‘Farms and Growing’ has been very popular with the children and has inspired many of our green fingered members of the class. We have used seeds to help us practice one to one correspondence in our maths, we have done some observational drawings of plants and flowers as well as combining technology with our writing skills by taking photos in our garden and making the pictures into or own plant fact books.


We have been working on adding two groups of objects together this term. Whether it be Easter eggs or apples, this is great activity to practice at home as it naturally comes into so many aspects of everyday life. We have worked on the method of ‘counting on’ to find the total. For example, “We have 6 cakes and I’ve made 3 more, can we count on from 6 to find how many we have?” Board games are a fantastic way to practice this skill of counting on from a given number. This Easter see if you can dust off your snakes and ladders and any other board games and have a go!


I hope you all have a wonderful break over Easter and I look forward to seeing you next term!

Sumdog competition – Get playing!

Welcome Maths Enthusiasts. I have entered the whole school into a Sumdog competition against other schools.

All you need to do is log onto Sumdog with your usual username and password then enter the school code sjs3 to help us gain as many points as possible. The competition started today and ends next Friday 14th February at 8am.

How do you earn St John’s some points? Simply play! The more you play the more we earn.


Good Luck children!


Mrs Gillhouley

Fairy Tale mystery!

We have had all sorts of drama and excitement in our fairy tale cottage this term! Anyone that thought that fairy tale’s might be dull or boring have been proved wrong! It all began one chilly Monday morning when the children came in to find our role play cottage had been ransacked!! There were broken chairs and tea cups and porridge all over the floor! Thank goodness some keen eyed Reception children spotted the footprints in the porridge which was a vital clue.


We had lots of wonderful discussions about who might have done it and why, before writing lists of what things we needed to help our investigation. I particularly liked the idea of getting police sniffer dogs in to explore the crime scene! After a few days a very apologetic letter arrived in class from Goldilocks, and order was restored. In traditional style, the bears went back to sipping cups of tea from their china cups and all was forgiven!


In other news we designed and made new chairs and beds for the bears to replace what Goldilocks had broken, using a range of resources from Lego to recycling materials. The comfort of the bears has really been thought about here with this bed even having arm rests!


This term we have already covered a number of fairy tales from ‘The three little pigs’ to ‘Rapunzel’ and it has been wonderful to see how many of the children have been able to use and retell these stories in their play. These traditional tales will hopefully now be securely cemented in their bank of stories so they can draw on the language and ideas as they become imaginative writers.


5,4,3,2,1,Blast Off!

We have hit the ground running this term with our topic, ‘Space and Light’ inspired by the fabulous book Whatever Next by Jill Murphy. In class we have loved retelling the story, and then began thinking about what other adventures baby bear might go on. It was great to hear all the children’s imaginative ideas and now that their writing is improving so much many children were able to write about their adventure ideas as well.

The weather this term has brought with it some wonderful learning opportunities. I have always loved the colours of Autumn and in Reception we are lucky enough to have our outside area, with a range of trees nearby giving us an endless supply of beautiful autumn leaves! We have explored every possibility, counting and sorting leaves, creating autumnal art using leaves we have collected, using charts to categorize leaves and reading autumn poems. Children never cease to amaze me with their creativity!

I hope everyone is looking forward to our Reception bedtime story evening on Wednesday 21st November. I hope it will be a lovely evening for your children as well as a good opportunity for parents and carers to find out a little more about phonics and reading at St.John’s. I look forward to seeing you then.

A warm welcome!

A very warm welcome to all the Reception class and your families, particularly if you are new to St. John’s. We have had a busy start to the academic year with my new class getting used to their classroom, friends, staff and of course buddies!

This term, as our topic is: ‘People who help us’ our role play area in the classroom is a veterinary surgery. The children have instantly been demonstrating their caring nature, bandaging many a poorly rabbit, cat or dog. In fact as an adult in the classroom I have had to be careful not to stand still for too long as I would have ended up with a bandage too!

The children have quickly been getting used to our routine in class and exploring the range of resources and activities. It has been lovely seeing them getting to know one another and even beginning to gain the confidence to chat a little and ask new friend’s what their name is!

It has been great to get to know you and your children better during my afternoons home visiting. As of next week Reception are staying all day so just to let you know you will be collecting your children from the main playground (where you drop them in the morning) at 3:15 rather than the side gate.