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Reception Group Work Advice - Please!


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Hi,

 

I'm an NQT who commenced a PPA position in Jan. Once a week I have a morning in reception and despite trying various different strategies I don't seem to be very good at managing the group work activities. Unfortunately my PGCE focused on KS1/2 so I've got very little experience of this stage to help me.

 

I have 26 ch which are split into 5 groups based upon ability. After I've done my input on the carpet, I send them off to do their respective jobs/free play and they have about 30 mins before I have to get them to tidy up. However, during the 30 mins, the ch are either messing around, not focused on their work or are very loud! I seem to go from solving one problem to be struck by 2 more! HELP!!

 

If you had five groups in the class and 30 mins time what kind of balance would you have between free choice, indep work, teacher supported and teacher led activities? Also, how long would you expect them to remain focused on a task for? I've asked for some advice from the teacher but I've not got to the bottom of what she is suggesting. Any thoughts are welcome.

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Do you plan for this yourself or does the teacher have some input?

 

Do you get any PPA time or NQT when you could go and observe what she does?

 

30 mins is not very long, why is this so short? I would suggest that this is why you are having problems but if you are doing something vastly different to the class teacher that might not help either.

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Hi there, mcrobinson

 

I work in pre-school so any thoughts I have would be utterly useless!

 

I just wanted to welcome you to the Forum, and congratulate you on your first post. I'm sure the Forum will come up trumps for you though! :o

 

Maz

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hi - I work in Reception but cant really help because i dont tend to split my class into groups to work - I work with small groups of children - i try to grab them when they show an interest in what I am doing(!!) throughout the day - i agree with Susan that 30 minutes is not very long for the children to get involved in anything before they have to stop and tidy up. Could you possibly talk to the class teacher again and explain your worries and ask for her advise. Do you have a TA working with you in Reception - if you do have you asked their advise?

Sorry cant be more help - good luck. x

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Hi

Can I just ask, when in the day is the session and how long is your carpet input? Are there already activities out in the room, or do the children get out new ones for this session?

 

In the class I am in now, PPA time was after milk and fruit, so the children were on the carpet too long for it to work, so we changed snack time and now things work well.

 

Our PPA team have an hours slot in each FS class from 11 - 12am which consists of 10 -15 mins intro on the carpet which leaves 45 mins for them to continue the learning opportunities started in the morning. During this time our PPA person gathers children to share a task with based on the carpet input. It works quite well but she uses the same strategies as I do for behaviour management and knows our golden rules, sharing them with the children to remind them that she and I have the same expectations. Their usual TA is also in the class for continuity and support.

She is a HLTA and the children always ask me when Mrs A****** is coming in with them, they love her sessions.

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Hi

Can I just ask, when in the day is the session and how long is your carpet input? Are there already activities out in the room, or do the children get out new ones for this session?

 

In the class I am in now, PPA time was after milk and fruit, so the children were on the carpet too long for it to work, so we changed snack time and now things work well.

 

Our PPA team have an hours slot in each FS class from 11 - 12am which consists of 10 -15 mins intro on the carpet which leaves 45 mins for them to continue the learning opportunities started in the morning. During this time our PPA person gathers children to share a task with based on the carpet input. It works quite well but she uses the same strategies as I do for behaviour management and knows our golden rules, sharing them with the children to remind them that she and I have the same expectations. Their usual TA is also in the class for continuity and support.

She is a HLTA and the children always ask me when Mrs A****** is coming in with them, they love her sessions.

After carpet sessions I would tend to work with a group throughout the day. The rest of the children would be working on other acitivities e.g. sand or other workshop area but would have chosen this area themselves! reception classes are encouraged to have free flow in and out also and this would cut down considerably on squabbles! Difficult to offer free flow though!!

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Hi - sorry for being so vague. I usually structure my session as follows...

 

9:00 - 9:10 - Ch filter into the classroom and I take the register. There are two reception classes which are registered together (about 58 kids) so this can take a while.

9:10 - 9:30 - KUW input on carpet with whole class.

9:30 - 10:00 - Group activities / Free choice etc

10:00 - 10:10 - Tidy up time

10:10 Assembly

 

I am responsible for planning and assessing the children during these sessions. Unfortunately, I don't get PPA or NQT time, otherwise I would spend my NQT observing practice in reception. The school argue that it is too difficult with part-time staff - not sure that this is strictly fair but I don't want to rock the boat. There has been a change around of staff within the school so I have one TA working with me but she has only just started in the FS so it's a bit like the blind leading the blind! As for the group work, this is an example of something I've tried to do in the past... (unfortunately with little success!)

 

Group 1 - Focused teacher led activity that relates to input on carpet e.g. floating and sinking

Group 2 - Focused TA led activity that relates to input on carpet e.g. floating and sinking

Group 3 - Free choice

Group 4 - Tracing activity

Group 5 - Indep group activity in water area testing out objects that float and sink

 

The difficulty I'm facing is that groups 3, 4 and 5 seem to be quite unfocused - a few ended up rather wet in this session! Would it be better if the TA was in a floating role? I am also finding that the end of the session gets a bit chaotic as ch start to finish their activities and choose areas to play. For example, group 4 who start by doing a tracing activity might complete their activity in 15 mins and then they can get rowdy when they start to choose things in other areas. Any advice welcome to stop me chasing my tail - thanks...

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Hi - sorry for being so vague. I usually structure my session as follows...

 

9:00 - 9:10 - Ch filter into the classroom and I take the register. There are two reception classes which are registered together (about 58 kids) so this can take a while.

9:10 - 9:30 - KUW input on carpet with whole class.

9:30 - 10:00 - Group activities / Free choice etc

10:00 - 10:10 - Tidy up time

10:10 Assembly

 

I am responsible for planning and assessing the children during these sessions. Unfortunately, I don't get PPA or NQT time, otherwise I would spend my NQT observing practice in reception. The school argue that it is too difficult with part-time staff - not sure that this is strictly fair but I don't want to rock the boat. There has been a change around of staff within the school so I have one TA working with me but she has only just started in the FS so it's a bit like the blind leading the blind! As for the group work, this is an example of something I've tried to do in the past... (unfortunately with little success!)

 

Group 1 - Focused teacher led activity that relates to input on carpet e.g. floating and sinking

Group 2 - Focused TA led activity that relates to input on carpet e.g. floating and sinking

Group 3 - Free choice

Group 4 - Tracing activity

Group 5 - Indep group activity in water area testing out objects that float and sink

 

The difficulty I'm facing is that groups 3, 4 and 5 seem to be quite unfocused - a few ended up rather wet in this session! Would it be better if the TA was in a floating role? I am also finding that the end of the session gets a bit chaotic as ch start to finish their activities and choose areas to play. For example, group 4 who start by doing a tracing activity might complete their activity in 15 mins and then they can get rowdy when they start to choose things in other areas. Any advice welcome to stop me chasing my tail - thanks...

 

 

Hi mcrobinson

 

I teach Reception and I am by no means an expert, it's only my 2nd year! However it does seem that maybe you are trying to do too much in a short space of time. I try and have an adult floating if possible to help the to children access CI opportunities. Initially I found it really difficult to get away from the idea that they were not just playing but actually learning! But 've learned the hard way that trying to focus all 30 kids on tasks at the same time is very difficult. So maybe your TA could float while you do a group activity one week, then let her do the activity and you float the following week so you don't spend all of your time just on adult directed activities. As I said I'm not an expert and I'm sure other people wil have great ideas, hopefully ones that I can learn from too :o

 

With regards to PPA & NQT time, it's statutory so the school doesn't have a choice whether you get it, regardless of how dificult it is to organise!. However I agree that it's difficult to get your point across about this. When I was an NQT I got 1 afternoon non contact time which accounted for PPA & NQT time. I accepted it as it was my first job, however looking back I wish I'd been more insistent as I spent it all on PPA type work and didn't get the chance to observe in any other classes.

 

Good luck and I hope you find some solutions

 

xD

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Hi again.

 

If you are expected to plan for this session, you must have PPA time of your own or be paid for an extra 10% to cover this as it sounds as if you do not have a full time position? If you do not get any PPA time, your teacher should be planning the activity for you to deliver.

 

On another track, are you in a union? If not please join one and take some advice. Will this count towards your induction? If so you should be getting NQT time too, I think. Again your union will advise you.

 

It does sound as if it would be better if your TA was floating and supporting the children more. I would tend to have one focused activity with you and lots of free choice (CI) activities at which the children can become more involved, its difficult for them to settle in such a short time after working at a directed activity especially if they are working in a way that is not very familiar to them. That does not mean that I think that you are doing this wrong but rather that it is a difficult situation for all of you.

 

What has the teacher suggested to you, when you have asked for help?

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Hi can I make some suggestions?

 

I assume your focus has to KUW so how about this

 

9:00 - 9:10 - Ch filter into the classroom and self register using pictture of children and they stick it on a chart you have no need to then sit them down to do this.

 

9:10 - 9:30 - KUW input on carpet with whole class. ( I am assuming it is not all 58!!!) Split the class into two for this input and you take half and the TA takes half to do the input.

 

9:30 - 10:00 - Child Initiated time - and if the KUW interested them then they will plan to carry this on if not look to see what KUW they are doing in their own play. You can both play with the children and make observations. this

 

10:00 - 10:10 - Tidy up time

 

10:10 Assembly

 

 

This should give you some breathing space and enable the children to follow their interests and if you can resource you environment they will work on KUW and you will get information for the class teacher.

 

Good luck

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Exactly Horsechestnut

 

We just pick up some of the things off the floor if they are in the way and push chairs in..... then they can continue when they come back.

 

Is it a Church School as they are going to assembly?

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Thanks for these suggestions. I am getting the impression that I'm trying to squash too much into a short period of time. I'm definitely going to try the floating TA role as I think this has got to help with managing the session and it should take the pressure off. I'm not sure that I can avoid the tidying up as the usual classroom teacher might not be keen on the chaos I leave behind. However, if I had the class for the whole day then this approach would make a lot of sense.

 

I'm sure that this is a really dumb question but what does the term free choice actually mean? Does it mean that all of the ch who aren't working with an adult can choose what they want to do? I'm putting out some table top activities e.g. threading, peg boards etc and there are other areas that the ch can play in e.g. sand/water etc and I'm starting to understand that their play doesn't have to be related to the KUW input on the carpet. However, I am reluctant to give them complete free reign (it must be the control freak in me), as I think this might get a bit chaotic? Should I be providing the children who are playing independently with some form of direction e.g. 'I want all of the ch in green group to make a playdough gingerbread man at some point during the session...'

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Thanks for these suggestions. I am getting the impression that I'm trying to squash too much into a short period of time. I'm definitely going to try the floating TA role as I think this has got to help with managing the session and it should take the pressure off. I'm not sure that I can avoid the tidying up as the usual classroom teacher might not be keen on the chaos I leave behind. However, if I had the class for the whole day then this approach would make a lot of sense.

 

I'm sure that this is a really dumb question but what does the term free choice actually mean? Does it mean that all of the ch who aren't working with an adult can choose what they want to do? I'm putting out some table top activities e.g. threading, peg boards etc and there are other areas that the ch can play in e.g. sand/water etc and I'm starting to understand that their play doesn't have to be related to the KUW input on the carpet. However, I am reluctant to give them complete free reign (it must be the control freak in me), as I think this might get a bit chaotic? Should I be providing the children who are playing independently with some form of direction e.g. 'I want all of the ch in green group to make a playdough gingerbread man at some point during the session...'

 

Hi mcrobinson,

 

Free choice really means child initiated learning, meaning that the children are completely independent in what they choose to do and this is the basis of assessment in the FS. Assessment should be 80% from pure child initiated activities. So although clearly the children need to be taught, setting up activities that they can approach independently and initiate themselves, using and displaying knowledge that you have taught them is key to the teaching and assessing approach in Reception.

 

I definitely think you've hit the nail on the head when you say that not all activities need to be related to the input. Presumably the class teacher sets up continuous provision in the classroom (so this is the role play, sand, water, small world, construction, music, writing table etc.) So there should be a wealth of opportunities within the environment for the children to choose from during 'free choice' or child initiated learning. You could just try putting additions into these during your session with the children.

 

Different people work in different ways but I really wouldn't worry (in that amount of time) about having a check list that you think every child should complete. Personally, after input I would set up one adult led activity related to the input but only encourage children who are interested to take part and then set up several related things in the environment. For example encourage children to draw and label minibeasts at the writing table or hide insects in the sand etc.

 

I know it's really hard at first but I wouldn't worry about giving them a specific focused task to go to but just 'sell' what is available in the enviroment for example, 'we can go and have some 'free choice' now, Mrs X is going to be exploring the minibeasts would anyone like to go and work with her? or you could draw and label ladybirds tat he writing table' etc. Then you can complete some child initiated observations so you can then build on the observations in your session the following week.

 

I really feel for you as it sounds like you've been thrown into the deep end without much support. Could you not go to the class teacher after school and chat to her about how she organises the classroom? If the children are doing something similar with you that they are with her, i'm sure they will be much more on task. Also, I find that often if the children have chosen what they are doing themselves they are much more focused and quieter!

 

I hope some of my rambling helps you :)

Qx

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Thanks for this. I am starting to realise that I have got to be much more flexible about my approach and much more willing to follow the interests of the ch rather than trying to squash them into predefined boxes. It sounds obvious but it's taken a while to sink in.

 

The 80:20 ratio is really interesting as I'd assumed activities had to be much more adult led. Hopefully if I make the activities enticing enough then the ch will choose to get involved. I also agree that this should mean they are more focused and interested in what they are doing.

 

Once again thanks for all your comments. I feel inspired already! There are clearly a lot of helpful teachers out there who want to share best practice and really make a difference. Hopefully, as I gain more experience, I'll be in a position to offer some advice in the future!

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Hi there i am too am an nqt in rec and recently i have been having an ast come in to help and one her great but soo simple ideas is dont have all areas of provision open at once, so while i am planned to do some group work i set up activities in just a few areas of provision and put a green tick in those and a closed sign in the others, the result is it channels them into being more focused and calms the room down and tidy up time is sooo much nicer because we arnt trying to organise the whole classroom.

 

just a thought

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Hi, I too have a reception class and work to 30 min time slots for activities. I spend prob the 1st 10 mins of that time with them on the carpet doing some oral work and then explaining the 4 activities that are open to them(I have 4 groups) I find that this focuses them. They get 15 mins at their activities and then tidy up for a quick plenary session.

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Hi there,

All settings are very different aren't they?

I work in a reception class and our morning goes something like this:

 

We have three classes (28 in each) which are registered by their own class teacher- the PPA person does this instead of the class teacher but she follows the same rules, routines etc as the class teacher would. There is also a TA to support this time as well as during the 10 minute input following registration. During the morning this is usually phonics- we teach Jolly Phonics and have a daily session at this time- short and snappy using the flash cards and actions.( This session is also carried out in exactly the same way as the class teacher)

 

Following this the children are allowed to 'freeflow' within the unit- consisting of the three classroom bases and the outdoor area. All of which are set up using continuous provision. Free choice does actually mean just that!

 

The PPA person provides them with a focus activity in the classroom or area in which she is covering. Children can choose to take part in if they wish and she usually does a music activity as this is her specialist area. Tidying up is only done at the end of the morning- this is done by the children themselves who know the rules and expectations regarding this - the adults really just supervise and encourage.

Milk and fruit are on offer for the children to access as and when they like and there is a self registration snack table.

 

We do not have playtimes so the children have from 9.20 until 11.50 to freeflow and pursue their own CI Activities. We have a short plenary before lunch when the children return to their own classroom. We too work on a ratio of 80:20 CI time and do not direct children to specific activities but encourage them to be independant learners. Adults are positioned in each of the bases to observe and scaffold the children's learning and to deal and support any PSED issues.

 

You say that you are more familiar with YR1/2 but I am right in thinking that you have a working knowledge of the EYFS and the PIP?

 

Some of our areas do have restricted numbers- we have a coloured peg system in place but I have to say that the children are very happy and we have very few behavioural issues.

 

 

I would also suggest that you have a further chat with the class teacher - you are only covering for one morning and I would have thought that you would be better off just floating and scaffolding the children within the classroom or just doing a focus activity for the children to come and have a go if they wish. Certainly our PPA staff would not do much more than this.

 

Sometimes its just good to hear how other settings offer their provision- above all I think that the best advice is to enjoy just being with the children and "chillax!!!

 

Hope that this helps a little!! :o

 

Betty Boo

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Hi

 

I am back in reception after four years in year 2. We have had a big overhaul to develop best (or better) practice. We have reorganised our rooms so that there is a specific area for each part of the foundation stage. When it comes to 'free choice' we have installed some rules in that there is only one construction box out at a time. We have three places for small world and so they can have one box in each place etc... We have found this still gives them free choice but with parameters otherwise tidying up could be ridiculous. The children are involved in 'free choice' when they are not taking part in an adult directed activity. We still have a few disagreements but on the whole the classroom is a much happier and purposeful place than it was when I was more structured 4 years a go. The only time we put out things in each area, is first thing in the morning so that they have things out to settle to when they first come in. However I think you are in the hard situation that it is not your class or classroom so you cannot make major changes. I would echo what others have said about your NQT time- you should have 10% of whatever your working week is. It does sound like your school aren't being as supportive as they could be which is unfortunate for you :o We have always done the planning for our PPA teacher so she just comes in first thing and we let her know the plans. As for the register issue, if you can't get them to self register with it not being your class, could you not register on class and the TA take the other class for the register. My TA quite often takes my register when I get held up for one reason or another. I really feel for you and I hope things improve for you. Don't get despondent - you sound like you are trying to do the best job possible, that's all any of us can!

 

Good luck!

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Hey - Thanks everyone. I'm back in reception tomorrow morning so I'm feeling enthused and ready to go now that I've got my revised action plan which focuses on CI learning. I am going to have a further chat with the classroom teacher to clarify exactly what she does but there is nothing quite like observing it for yourself which is difficult without NQT time. Having said that, it's been really helpful to find out how other teachers structure their day - I'm definitely going to heed the suggestions and advice (in other words - pinch your tried and tested ideas!). I'm actually feeling more confident already and sometimes that is half the battle.

 

Thanks once again. Mel

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Yes, thanks for asking. This week has been better. Mon and Fri are my days off, so I get a bit of time to reflect about how things went this week - that is between nappy changing my own kids, bottles and the school run!

 

Generally speaking, I'm feeling more positive than in previous weeks. The usual teacher swopped things around which has helped me to structure the time a bit better. The two classes (about 58 kids) have been split into 3 groups and we are working on a carousel system. I've now got a smaller group of ch (better!) but I've got no support (worse!). I'm now in reception all morning and I repeat the same 40 min session, 3 times over. It has been easier for me and I'm hoping that is because I've utilised some different strategies BUT I am also conscious that the indep play for each group is now shorter which is what I've been struggling to manage! I suppose it is a case of 'whatever works' until I get more experience and confidence. Cheers.

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I have had a stressful week in my reception class and I feel like I am banging my head against a wall, I will try to explain and I apologise now if I rattle on too much. I am an NQT but have been on the RTP teacher training so have therefore had the Reception class for 3 years now. I have worked in early years for ten years (I have worked in nursery, pre school and as a teaching in reception in that time). My head teacher came in to observe me this week and his overall comment was that he felt there had to be a defined focus for all activities that the children go on to!!!! He does not understand what child led learning means as he implied I should be initiating what they do when they go on to the activites. How can I do this if the children are suppose to be choosing what they want to access. I need to observe their play in the way they initiate it so I can truly see what they have understood. Perhaps it is me and I need more training?

This is how I set out my day

8:50 Children in and they self register showing what they are having for lunch then on to table activities while I talk with parents and complete the two registers. TA checks book bags and we both also deal with settling some children.

9:05 Children tidy up and we come on to the carpet for the calender pn inetractive board and adult input for the theme activity. Choose children to go and put activity pictures on the choosing board and then the chn go off and choose one of the activities on this board.

9:20 Teacher or TA do focus activity and the other adult observes the children and supports them where neccessary. Children have free flow to outdoor area under adult supervision of course.

10:15 Playtime Snack is now eaten outside (in the first term we have snack altogther) water is available at all times.

10:30 Story and children chosen to put activites on the choosing board again off they all go as before and then..

11:30 Phonics and handwriting (handwriting is whole school focus this year).

....lunch

Afternoon consists of short guided reading session three times a week and then free choice one adult inside one out as before and inside adult listens to readers.

I am sorry to rattle on but any feedback would be very welcome

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Hi, I too have a reception class and work to 30 min time slots for activities. I spend prob the 1st 10 mins of that time with them on the carpet doing some oral work and then explaining the 4 activities that are open to them(I have 4 groups) I find that this focuses them. They get 15 mins at their activities and then tidy up for a quick plenary session.

 

 

So what happens if a child is really involved in an activity - really learning and developing his thinking - does he have to stop because his 15 minutes are up?

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What an interesting thread.

 

I'm not as experienced as many but would say to anyone moving into Early Years: please. please, please remember how old these children are!!!!

 

Yes, they will be "going into YEAR ONE NEXT" , but they are not in year one now. As a reception teacher I have come across so much pressure to prepare my children for Year One from September. It makes me really sad!!! :o

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