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Can anyone offer me ideas as to how they structure/ timetable the day in the Reception class. I find it very hard to detail on my weekly plans how the activities- adult and child led- will be covered.

I have divided a class of 30 into 6 groups of 5. For the first few weeks they will all do morning only. Then until a few weeks before Xmas the oldest 20 will stay full time, so then planning becomes even harder. :o

I feel very lost as the only Reception teacher in a school that changes it's mind like the wind as to what it wants me to do in regards to classroom set up and planning and a headteacher who isn't very supportive and is eroding any confidence I once had! xD

Would love to hear from others who teach the same age as me and can offer advice- PLEASE!

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Hi Karen

Welcome to the forum and thanks for your first post. I'm afraid that a lot of people are on holiday at the moment so you may not get many replies for a while. I'm sure that once they all get back you will get lots of advice.

I'm sorry I can't help you on this one-just wanted to welcome you in.


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Hi Karen -

Another welcome without any useful advice I'm afraid - but hold on and I'm sure that will start to roll in! :)


The start of the summer holidays is always really quiet as people deservedly go off to recharge their batteries. Give it a week or so and you'll find some good advice starting to appear. In the meantime, why not try to relax and forget your unsupportive head teacher (the only constructive advice I can offer...)?

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Hi Karen,


Firstly, as far as I can tell there are as many ways to structure your day as there are Reception teachers, & you'll need to try things out & change things until you find what suits you and your school timetable. E.g. I'm unable to get away from having my morning playtime at the same time as the rest of the school, even though it doesn't really suit me, so I've had to work round it to find a solution!! I'm sure lots of other teachers will be posting stuff totally different to my routine, but you can pick & choose what interests you really!


I read an interesting article in the TES a few weeks ago about a school in Camborne, Cornwall, where the YR class is going to base their timetable around the nursery timetable next term. I had a go at using this as a basis for my own timetable (unfortunately I can't find the original article, or I'd just post what they are doing!). It has a heavy emphasis on opportunities to develop early literacy skills but is not too heavy on the teacher directed aspects, I think...


8.50-9.05 Arrival and 'quiet' choosing activities (with parents as required)

9.05-9.20 Whole class 'literacy' session songs, steady beat activities and phonics/listening games

9.20-10.10 Focussed activities - small group tasks, observations (10.05 tidy-up)

10.10-10.25 movement and mime/handwriting/write dance

10.25-10.30 Drink and snack

10.30-10.45 Break

10.45-11.00 Whole class 'numeracy' session - song, numeracy activity

11.00-11.40 Focussed activities - small group tasks, observations (11.35 tidy-up)

11.40-11.55 Circle time

11.55-12.00 Wash hands for lunch

12.00-1.10 lunch

1.10-1.25 quiet reading time

1.25-1.35 Topic work input/planning for Child initiated activities

1.35-2.20 Child Initiated Activities (& opportunities for topic work folow up), observations

2.20-2.35 Review time (2.30 tidy-up)

2.35-2.45 Outdoor break

2.45-2.50 Song time

2.50-3.10 Story & news time, getting ready for home

3.10-3.15 Home time - song, then quiet reading and individual exits


Most of the large chunks of time can be used flexibly as required for observations, group or individual work so you can keep an overall routine but cover what needs to be done when you need to do it! Formal PE times will be introduced later in the term, to start with one of the above sessions can be devoted to developing physical skills in our outdoor area or the hall if it's wet.


Still, having written it all, I'm now thinking about other ways I could do it!! I'd love to see what other people are thinking of doing as I have a nagging feeling there are some things I'm forgetting!


Sorry this post is so long, hope it's some help!


Dianne xxx

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Hi Karen and welcome in,

Dianne what a busy day you have but as you say there are probably as many answers to this as there are Reception teachers, but you've come to the right place Karen.

I'm supposed to be packing to go away right now but I will get back to you on my return, meanwhile have a good break, thats important for you sanity too! :D

By the way Karen what do you do at the moment and what is it that you want to change?

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I feel very lost as the only Reception teacher in a school that changes it's mind like the wind as to what it wants me to do in regards to classroom set up and planning and a headteacher who isn't very supportive and is eroding any confidence I once had! :o

Would love to hear from others who teach the same age as me and can offer advice- PLEASE!


Welcome! :D You've come to the right place. Everyone on here is really friendly and supportive and you'll find your confidence in what you're doing returning. :) I'm in a playgroup so can't help with your query but wanted to say believe in yourself! :D

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I am also looking to change our reception timetable. I inheritted literacy and numeracy hours :o ... but they are not going to happen next year with me as FS co-ord.


I am planning to have 10 minute circle times for input followed up by activities... some child and some adult led. I have been to a schhol in Buckingham and seem their activity board which I am going yo try later on next year.


But for the first few weeks of school my emphasis will be on personal and social skills and games... ensuring the children know where things are and get to know routines etc... I will then begin to have a short literacy and numeracyu sessions. The children in our school come in a few at a time. Them after the fist three weeks the older/ autumn born children are full time and then after the autumn half term the summer born children are full time as well.

At present I am planning to use the afternoons for more observation and guides play work... But will have to see.. :)

The added complication I have is 5 year 1 children who for the first month will be with me all day and then after the fist month will be only with me in the afternoons.


Have a good break everyone



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Fundamentally it was my planning that drove the timetable and not the other way round. I aimed to keep it routine enough so that the children knew where they were and to meet the needs and requirements of school policy and organisation (NNS/NLS/Playtimes/dinner times etc) but flexible enough to meet their needs as I saw fit. As the others have said it is the individual needs of a setting that drive some things, we had no outside area so PE activities were essential to timetable but if we had outdoor equipment we could have been less prescriptive about that.


I tinkered with my timetables/nursery schedules endlessly, mainly to make sure that the children were not spending valuable time doing nothing because of organisational stuff, waiting on mats/queueing up etc etc.


Hope that is of some use, i think I have attached the summer versionof the timetable I last used for R in 03(and have corrected a couple of errors I noticed after posting it the first time)




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Hi Karen

Please don't worry. I started out last year with nothing left from the previous incumbent - who had walked out - apart from a filing cabinet full of unhelpful worksheets. I survived, loved it and am looking forward to another year.

I'll send you a copy of our timetable - if it helps. We are a Jewish school - hence the religious/secular mix. We have a play based curriculum and lots of freeflow activities. Break, lunch times etc. depend upon the children as the staff are very flexible but you may not be able to do that. I'm sorry the Head is unsupportive - find out what bothers him. I find that most haven't a clue about Foundation stage and are just worried that somehow we won't perform, the LEA or OFSTED will complain, they won't get the profile done, the Foundation stage curriculum won't work and they worry about numeracy and literacy. Well mine were all fine by the end of the year. LEA moderators approved, they could write a sentence, reading and numeracy was where it should be. Just remember that in the summer term the children are much older and easily take in what they have to do. You catch up loads of the literacy and numeracy in the last few weeks quite painlessly and the children love it. I suggest you try to find out what is worrying the head. I know it sounds odd as he should be supporting you but when you understand his worries and priorities it should be much easier.

Enjoy a relaxing summer and don't worry. You're going to be wonderful and enjoy every second of the class!

Ruthanne :)


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Sorry everybody,

Just realised the timetable must be incomprehensible!! Kodesh is religious studies, chol is secular studies and benching is Grace after meals, davenning is prayers.

Sorry!! OFSTED found us baffling too!

Enjoy the holidays,

Ruthanne :o

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Many thanks for all the replies- especially during the summer hols! I will study your suggestions and look forward to hearing from those who will reply when they are back off holiday- (lucky people).

With regards to my head there just seems to be some clash. She used to be a reception teacher and I think she finds it hard to let go. Also as an NQT she was keeping a very close eye on me. I can only help it will change next year, I doubt it though- she is of the opinion that she knows the children and the classroom better than me and whilst she may have lots of experience it was over 5 yrs ago since she taught and I'm the one with the children daily. :o

I'm really glad I joined the forum already. The school I'm in is small and I am the only Foundation Stage teacher; no links with other schools either, so it's great to be in contact with others in the same sort of positions.

Keep the advice coming..... It's great to hear ways I can be a better teacher and booast my confidence! :)

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Hello everyone - I stumbled upon this forum yesterday and hope that it may be the answer to my prayers! I too am wallowing in the great planning mire. After many years of teaching in KS1 I have been asked to transfer to our 2 class Reception Base. The school is in Special Measures and the Foundation Stage has been highlighted as an area that still needs improvement. After initial misgivings, I am now excited by the challenge, especially as I thought this could be my passport out of the Literacy and Numeracy hour straight jacket. I have been getting all fired up about a Topic approach to the day with literacy and numeracy slotted in along with the other 4 areas of learning, only to find that the existing teacher is eager to hang on to the current way of planning - i.e. Literacy and Numeracy in the morning and KUW in the afternoon. As HMI have at last OK'd the planning I can understand her reluctance to change - even if she does think the Topic approach sounds more stimulating. We will have 36 4 year olds starting on the 1st September - full time after 2 weeks as HMI will be in before the end of the month. None of the children will be 5 before November. To me it seems wrong to be planning a day along Literacy and Numeracy lines so early in these children's school life, no matter how stimulating and exciting the activities may be. The children come from backgrounds where few receive stimulation - I suppose I just feel that we could be laying the world at their feet, instead of which we are saying in so many words 'here are the 3 R's' with a bit more thrown in when we have time.

Am I living in a dream world or I my ideas possible/desirable?

I look forward to hearing from fellow practitioners whosw experience might help my new colleague and I sleep at night!

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We've just had OFSTED in school, 2nd last week of term and we didn't do numeracy and literacy in an hour even then and they were quite happy with that. We were able to prove that this was the best approach for our children due to the fact that they entered school below expected standards.


Even the numeracy and literacy strategies don't recommend doing the hours straight away as long as you are covering the elements at some point in the day it is fine.

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I still wasn't doing full lit/num hour at the end of the summer term - nearly, but not quite, and the Y1 teachers know this and will introduce it at about autumn half term!


And I work in a school where children do come in with quite a high 'baseline'. It still doesn't mean they could sit and concentrate for 30 minutes every day in literacy time - that's just not good for them physically (in my opinion!!)


The school didn't like me & my ideas at first but have got used to me, i think, by now, and didn't have a problem with this. I'd encourage anyone to try their best to get away with lit/num all morning as I don't think it's best for 4 & 5 year olds. I think you agree Sue S, so stand by your guns!!!


Dianne xxx

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Hi Sue,

Glad to have you on board. :) I am not a teacher but as a mother of a 5 yr old I would say that children of this age need stimulating activities and plenty of free play - not numeracy/literacy hours. Its great that you have such enthusiasm and after reading many of the posts that YR teachers have made on here I'm sure you'll start to gain confidence in your vision. Good luck and let us know how you get on. :)

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I've done special measures twice now, both times in the foundation stage and my advice is - Get to know your HMI; they can be your best friend! They will want to see pace, rigour, progress and raised attainment but they want to see you doing this in the way that best suits your children. The value of HMI is that they come back and get to know you and the children which is invaluable in the school improvement environment. If you get a chance to talk to them about your ideas about how to develop the FS practice I bet they will be interested and give you feedback and support. They will want to know that you have based your reasons for your provision on clear assessment, "assessment for learning" being the new buzz phrase but will be positive I am sure if you can show them why you are doing what you are doing.


Maybe you could still do Literacy/numeracy focus times in the a.m. slots but make the timings into smaller slots etc. Your colleague is probably anxious to change things as you say, so a period of watching what does work Ok and what might need tinkering with could be time well spent. That way you will have real evidence to talk to her about. Also look at the specifics of the action plan and the key issues. Is there anything to give you leverage here? Can you add anything to the document? what is the LEA input if FS is a key issue? Can you get them on board?


Special Measures isn't easy but hang in there!!



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Dear All,


Thanks for your replies to my 'cry for help'! It's good to know that there are so many other people out there who are willing and able to share their ideas and expertise. Thanks for your very specific tips Catma - how many Special Measures do you have to survive before you get a medal?! I have also received a favourable reply from the LEA advisor, so hope that together with your words of encouragement my colleague will feel more confident about changing the way that things have been done. I look forward to posing more of the hundreds of questions that spring to my mind everyday. Meanwhile, I will try to remember that this is still the summer holiday!


Thanks again



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  • 3 weeks later...

I am only in my 2nd year of teaching and therefore do not have a wealth of experience behind me however I feel compelled to add my experiences to this topic! I teach in Jersey and am lucky that we are not governed by the UK's legislation, so we do not have to teach literacy & numeracy hours and we do not have SATs for Y2 or Y6 (only TAs - 2nd year piloting Y6).


A significant amount of funding and support has been given to an integrated maths and literacy curriculum as well as assessment for learning.

I am using the Early Reading Research method of teaching literacy, which is 3 lots of 15min sessions per day, plus group/individual reading & writing. I have found this approach to be very effective, leaving plenty of time for free play. This echoes what most of you have said about the effectiveness of short, sharp bursts. Maths is also taught in a similar way, with a shorter session (20 mins ish) and dipping in throughout the day, as well as maths experiences through play.

I have changed my timetable this year to incorporate both programs fully and it is leaving plenty of opportunities for play and topic related activities.

In my mind, I feel that even if you have to implement the NNS and NLS, you could perhaps split them out like this throughout the day, even if it is only for the first two terms?

I do feel for you all and I feel sure that it will change in the future.

Hope you are all able to succeed in fighting your corner!!

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  • 1 year later...

I am trying to make some changes to our timetable. I work alone with 12 international children from age 4 to 5½. Two are starting to learn English and most of the rest have English as a Foreign Language.


08.15 Pupils arrive to school and the Early Years children go into the Assembly Room; then they go out to the playground.


08:30 Line-up, come to the classroom, bag+coat on peg, snack/lunch in own tray, communication booklet on my desk... then they sit to enjoy a book in the Reading Corner.


08:45 Registration


08:50 Calendar/Weather


09:05 Transition active song/activity + Numeracy (whole group)


09:25 Toilets/wash hands


09:35 Morning snack


09:45 Outside play


10:00 Line-up


10:05 Toilets


10:15 Free play (M.D. small groups)


10:35 Tidy-up


11:45 Jolly Phonics + Handwriting skills (Amazingly they are so exited about this that they don't get tired :D !)


11:10 Toilets/wash hands


11:20 Coats


11:25 Lunch


11:55 Outside Play


12:25 Line-up


12:30 Toilets


12:40 Registration


12:45 Whole group activity of any other area


13:00 Free-play (meanwhile I can work with small groups in areas that are needed)


13:30 Tidy-up


13:40 Coats


13:45 Outside play


14:00 Line-up


14:05 Toilets/wash hands


14:15 Afternoon snack


14:30 Whole group activity of any other area


14:45 Free-play (meanwhile I can work with small groups in areas that are needed)


15:05 Tidy-up


15:15 Self-evaluation (smiley faces)


15:20 Coats and bags


15:30 Home-time


*** (Wed. is ½ day) Gym: Thursdays from 12:25 to 13:25 + Library: Fridays from 14:30 to 14:50


I find that the first part (between morning registration and morning snacktime) is long without free play... but they would only have 10 minutes for that and to tidy-up :o . I have been asked to work hard with Phonics/pre-handwriting and PSE during this first term... Maths as well, somehow...


Suggestions will be greatly appreciated.

Edited by SmileyPR
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