Literacy in the Early Years

Literacy is one of the seven areas of the early years foundation stage and is used to develop a child's ability read and write. Children show this in range of ways including understanding simple sentences, familiarity with phonics, demonstrating understanding of what they have read, the ability to write spoken sounds and words and even simple sentences. The term "literacy" is used by some to simply describe reading and writing, but in fact literacy covers a much wider range of learning. Literacy in the early years includes talking about books, print in the environment, early mark making and writing, as well as sharing books and reading.

At St Chad's, communication, language and literacy sit at the heart of our curriculum design throughout our Early Years. We are committed to engaging our children with stories and rhymes from a very young age. A key aspect to our provision is to help children to build up a bank of tales, developing their imaginative and linguistic repertoire. The foundation if this work is fundamental to our Early Years, establishing the very roots of imaginative play and early language development through daily stories and rhymes.

Research shows the importance of children being read to at a young are to develop their early language development. Children experience quality reading, story, rhyme, talk and play on a daily basis. This is carefully planned within directed teacher led sessions and in continuous provision.

Children are supported to develop their early transcriptional skills (handwriting and spelling) as well as their language skills and writing development (for example, how to write a shopping list).

An overview map of our Early Years literacy progression for this academic year can be found below.

Planning is underpinned by a key text and key song. We then make cross curricular links across all areas of learning within the Early Years Foundation Stage curriculum. Each key text chosen has a story sack, which contains story stones, story spoons, levelled word aware cards, books, singing props, small world resources, masks and puppets. A role-play area is provided within the classroom for each new book and song. All resources are used during each shared reading (adult led) sessions to support our children to then go into their child initiated play.

FS2 (Reception)
  • Autumn Term: Nursery rhymes and linked texts
  • Spring Term: Traditional stories
  • Summer Term: Longer narratives

“The classroom has all the elements of theatre, and the observant, self-examining teacher will not need a drama critic to uncover character and plot, and meaning. We are, all of us, the actors trying to find the meaning of the scenes in which we find ourselves. The scripts are not yet fully written, so we must listen with curiosity and great care to the main characters who are, of course, the children.”  (Vivian Gussin Paley)

We have recently introduced the Helicopter Stories Approach of Storytelling and Story Acting across our Early Years. The Helicopter Stories Approach is based on the the work of the childhood educational researcher, Vivian Gussin Paley, Patron to MakeBelieve Arts. MakeBelieve Arts has been pioneering this work in the UK since its conception in 2002.

Helicopter Stories forms part of our storytelling curriculum. In its simplest form, the approach lets children dictate their stories which are written down verbatim, exactly as they are told. by a staff member. The children then gather around a taped out stage and the stories are acted out.

Alongside the simplicity of this approach is an ethos that is child-centred, creating a culture of curiosity and wonder at the dexterity of children's imagination during both the telling and the acting out of their stories. This holistic approach uses the power of storytelling to develop key curriculum areas such as creativity, communication and language and personal, social and emotional skills.

The Helicopter Approach has strong links with the EYFS and …

  • Provides children with a safe space to voice stories.
  • Develops confidence, curiosity, concentration and communication skills in all children regardless of ability.
  • Increases turn taking, attention span and speaking and listening skills.
  • Demonstrates spectacular and measurable gains in spoken narrative and language development skills
  • Enables children to see their stories acted out, and gain reinforcement of the meanings of the word through their total engagement with the process.
  • Provides practitioners with evidence of children’s progress in language and communication.
Further information about Helicopter Stories can be found here.