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This is my first year in Reception. I've had to start everything from scratch because the previous teacher destroyed all her plans. I'd thought it wasn't too bad - i have lots of independent play based activities for the children to do while my TA and I pull children out to work on more focused activities. However, we had an external adviser come in the other day and she pretty much rubbished everything - the learning environment (not enough key words displayed and no examples of children recording numbers) and said that the work wasn't differentiated. I had thought that you planned experiences/learning opportunities for the children and that the differentiation came about through outcome. I was also under the impression that it wasn't necessary for the children to be recording numbers but rather developing their understanding of what numbers actually stand for etc. I am feeling very rubbish, tearful and sorry for myself. No-one at school has any real knowledge of the foundation stage so I am really floundering in the dark. Any advice would be extremely welcome!

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Hi Moose -

First of all, welcome to the Forum and thanks for your first post - I'm sorry you've obviously found us at such a low ebb!


I'm not a reception teacher myself, so I'll bow out quickly here in favour of many others, who I'm sure will be able to offer you some first class advice.


There are a number of discussions which contain downloadable plans, and I'm sure you'll benefit from these eventually, but I think in the first place you probably need some higher level assurance and advice as to how you should begin to develop the structure of your class.


It sounds like maybe your adviser should have attempted a little more encouragement and, um, advice? Rather than adopting what sounds like a very negative and destructive tone. I'm sure the experienced and clever reception folk here will be able to give you a lot of that!


Chin up - you'll bounce back wonderfully! :)

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Hi Moose

Welcome to the forum. Keep your chin up, we all have problems with advisors from time to time. Just be positive in what you are doing. I am not a reception teacher myself and will let others here give you the advice you need but just wanted to let you know that we are all here to support each other and you. Don't fell too down hearted.


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what an awful way for an advisor to behave.her job is to support ,not critisize in a way which lowers self esteem ,just imagine if we did that to our kids.I am a nursery teacher and ey coordinator for 2 reception classess,both of my teachers are new to reception but doing very well..independent play based learning is at the core of all our teaching and I would agree with you that at this stage much differentiation is through outcome.I also would argue that the concept of number is more important at this stage than writing numbers.You could record their counting on pictorial graphs and that sort of thing if that is the sort of recording she means but as for writing numbers I would say dont worry just yet..lots of print around the classroom is a good idea because in this way children can be encouraged to look at it in their play.Is this advisor Foundation stage trained =I think probably not.Advisors who are foundation stage trained usually have better people skills.Please dont get too disheartened.This is a very good place to get advice,ther are lots of reception people herewith very good ideas Hope things improve for you good luck.Reception is such a lovely place to be :)

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Hiya crestacat,

I am also teaching reception this year for the first time and its hard to get your head around the foundation stage.

If you want u can email me and we can swop ideas.

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Hi Moose,


Welcome to the forum! I agree with what Steve said in there are some really good experienced EY practitioners in Reception here who are a wealth of advice.


I am a similar boat to you at the moment as I am an NQT in a 3 form entry reception and am working alongside 2 trainee teachers with no foundation stage co-ordinator. I can really sympathise with how you must be feeling especially as you have had to start from scratch with planning and the like and feel like you have been trying your best.


Here are some things that I have found (you may already do them!)


- don't be scared to try out ideas that you have, if they don't work evaluate why they didn't (e.g. I had an interactive chocolate advent calendar at Christmas only to find that on the third day one little boy had eaten ALL the chocolate coins and hid the wrappers under some cushions!)


- as for 'key words' I think the advisor could have been more specific, I try to label everything - areas e.g. sand pit, and them equipment e.g. pencils. displays, have the key words (at the back of the Literacy Strategy) as some sort of interactive board for use each week.


-See if you can visist other schools which are known for having good fs units


-and lastly take what mentors, advisors etc with a pinch of salt - they will always look for points of development, they'd be out of a job if they didn't have their say!

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Its also my first year in reception as i am an NQT, and i have also found that external advisors are less than helpful, although i was lucky enough to be left the previous teachers planning she slated me for my displays etc. I basically went home and had a moan and cry, came on this website and got stuck into making things better. Took a while but i hope i'm getting there...

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You have come to the right place for words of wisdom and comfort! :D First of all, welcome and secondly (even though I'm not a teacher) it certainly sounds to me as if you know what you're trying to acheive. Rome wasn't built in a day and you're never going to get everything done all at once. Concentrate on getting the 'big' things right first and then you can start to put the icing on the cake. :o Some advisors seem to have a tendency to wade in in a very officious way, probably trying to make themselves feel big in the process, and forget that their role should be more supportive. Perhaps next time she can learn a few things from you xD - don't be afraid to justify what you're doing!


And if you've got any more questions then fire away! (Which is where I gracefully bow and shuffle away :D )

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Hi Moose and welcome! :D


Sounds to me that you've had a rough deal and that others have already come along to ressure you.

Reception is a lovely place to be but it can also be a very lonely place if you are the only reception teacher in your school. The children are so demanding and you will always be tired at the end if the day as you are forvever interacting, there never is that quiet moment that others get while the children get on on their own and I frequently came home with a sore throat from talking all day!

Your advisor should be supporting you not destroying you and she/he should have given you constructive advise. Has this happened? On what premise did this advisor visit? Do you have a good relationship with your coordinator, or head, or deputy? They should be dealing with this with you and you need to tell them how you feel.


You are correct when you say activities are differentiaited by outcome although it may also be that you can differentiate within your provision and expectation. You should by now have a good idea of the ability of your children and be able to offer work, that although the same is different in that you expect the children to be able to approach it differently ie writing unaided or copy writing or tracing.


Things like key words are easily sorted and it could be that they are only now begining to have relevance for your children anyway but do remember print in the environment is important and needs to be used!

The numeracy stategy itself does not suggest that children should be writing numbers until the summer term of the reception year and again you have time to do this.


Focus now on all the things that your children have learnt since September and remember that you can not teach it all at once and nor can they learn it. You could have been banging your head on a brick wall with key words, doing the children no favours so now capitalise on what they have learnt and dont feel too disheartened.


Good luck. Hope you have a better day tomorrow. :o

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Hi Moose


Sorry I'm not a teacher so cannot offer advice except to say, have a glass of wine, a chat with someone you love and get a good nights sleep and don't let the *******'s grind you down.


Hopefully the gang here will give some more valuable advice but welcome anyway. :D



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Hello and welcome from me too!


Don't panic - it sounds to me as if you're doing fine. Recording numbers first appears in the NLS for Reception in this half term xD My children have only done a little whiteboard work to practise writing numbers, but nothing too serious. As mentioned previously, it is far more important that the children have a good grasp of practical maths before they start worrying about recording. We are not supposed to be worksheet-based :o (even in Y1 the children should be doing lots of maths games balanced with some recorded work). I am sure you will find some spontaneous number writing occurring in your role play - especially if you provide a telephone and calculator.


I like to introduce the high frequency Reception words systematically from September and have them displayed on a "words we are learning to read" word wall. I find it really helpful because the children can refer to them when doing their writing. We also use them to make class sentences.


Initially I differentiate through level of support and outcome, but as the children start to make progress I find that I need to differentiate by task as well - particularly for the support group. I am sure you are doing this, but maybe the evidence wasn't obvious?


Keep up the good work, Moose, and follow your instincts :D

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Hey Moose - I can totally sympathise with what you are going through. Take solace in knowing that I'm in my second year of teaching (in Reception) and I still have days when I come home and want a moan and a cry - this Monday being one of them! Don't know how reassuring that is (!) but it gives you the idea that you're not alone.


Feel free to email me any time - I'm have strong shoulders!!!


Despite the Advisor's complete lack of people/social skills, try and take something positive away from the visit. Take it as guidance - use what you feel is appropriate for you. You can't do everything at once and you can't be expected to. You have too many other things going on. Don't try and juggle too many balls in the air at once. Get your feet before trying to perform miracles. I learnt the hard way and spent the first Christmas as a teacher bed ridden with flu and a very bad mood!!!!


Establish your planning. Establish a routine that works for you - if it needs developing, it's something that you decide you need to do - not someone who has probably just got out of the wrong side of the bed. It's alright some suit coming into your room and telling you the ideal way of running things, but I don't see them doing it do you? As far as your displays go - you will need to get them up and running - interactive is good for outsiders - oh and the children of course!!!! As far as key words, I did a huge peacock display this time with all the high frequency words on it. Don't ask why a peacock - it just hit me one evening! Looks good, and the kids seem to like it - although I'm not sure they can remember what the bird is called yet though and it's only been up since September!!! I've just put up an interactive number display - as far as the children's recording goes, I encouraged children to attempt to paint/write numbers and got a few examples stuck up - made a big fuss about it and all. That should do it!!!


Routines and timetables are always an issue. People complain FS is either too formal or doesn't seem to have a 'reason for play'. Judge your children's needs and go with them. You are the expert on your children - feel confident in your ability to support their learning.


Hope that helps some - feel free to take me up on the offer of an email anytime!!!


Good luck,


D xxx

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Hi Moose, and welcome from me too.


I wouldn't really worry too much about children recording numbers as such, but I was questioned about my lack of written numeracy by our numeracy consultant. We are supposed to have evidence (I think) of children's recording such as drawings etc. The problem with us is we tend to do lots of practical games - eg. knocking skittles and counting how many they have knocked down, how many are still standing. They can, of course, draw this, but often the children don't want to do this - they'd rather play the game and of course then get many more opportunity to do more counting! We also tend to have any of these jottings that they do on bits of paper, or a group recording on large sheets of paper, and these then become so tatty, or take up so much space it's a nightmare (I have to admit I'm the most untidy and least systematic person :o


As far as key words - I'd go with everyone else, make sure you have labels on all your equipment - we have baskets with a digital photo of the equipment they contain and then the word written. We do have the NLS high frequency words on cards and we add to these as children learn new words. These have tended to be words they are able to word build this year - whereas last year we introduced them as sight vocab. Not sure which is better. The children this year are better at decoding vc and cvc words than last year's class, but I do wonder whether we are a bit late learning other hf words.


Try not to get too downhearted - I often wish I could go along and see some of these 'advisors' working five days a week doing all the things we do - but of course they've opted out of teaching.



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Hi there moose. I think you have had some excellent advice from other

members already. And as they have said, it sounds like you are doing lost of

things right anyway. Don't be too disheartened, we have all had bad

experiences with heads or inspectors or advisors at some point in our

teaching careers. First, I'm not quite sure what the purpose of this visit

was, was that made clear to you at all? Second, were you given any written

feedback? I always ask for this now, so that I can refer back to it or query

it if I need to. I also take my own notes of any discussions that take place

so that I can have them for future reference. Is it possible for you to

talk to your head about the advisors comments and see what their take is on



In terms of differentiation I agree with what ASPK and Susan have said, that

you would differentiate by outcome but also by input, so you may extend

children's learning further by the support you give or by the questions you

ask or suggestions you make.


You do need to have a range of written words around the classroom, if you

haven't got these already, just take this as a learning point and develop

these in the coming weeks. You don't need to go overboard, Gater's peacock

idea is a good one, and I have used flowers or trains in the past. Labels of

equipment and on displays are a good idea but too much text can also be very

confusing to young children.


In terms of representing numbers I think we need to understand what is meant

by that. Writing numerals is a handwriting exercise and I don't think that's

what is meant by writing numbers. (At least that's not what I would mean by

that). Representing numerical information is included in the stepping stones

green band I think and can be done through drawing, or tallying in much the

same way that we encourage children to 'write'. I could go on for ever on

this subject (but wont). This can be in the form of writing shopping lists

by drawing say 3 apples rather than writing 3 apples, or by numbers on the

bus, or prices in the shop.


But what matters really is that as Gater said that you take something

positive away from this. If you feel on reflection that some of the points

are valid, ask for help, (which you have done on here) but ask the head if

you can go and visit 'good' practice elsewhere, or call in another advisor

to support you if there isn't anyone in school. But overall treat it as a

learning curve.


Please do come back to us and let us know how it's going

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Thank you very much everybody for all your words of kindness and advice - they are very much appreciated! I have put up the high frequency words, both in my writing area and dotted around the classroom. I have pointed these out to the children and some of them are starting to use them when they are writing, so thank you.


I know I probably sound completely dense but how many adult-directed activities do people differentiate a week? For example, this week I am doing a floating and sinking activity and have planned for 2 levels of differentiation - some children are just finding out and then recording what they have observed afterwards whilst others are going to have make predictions first and then compare this to what actually happened. I have differentiated my maths into 4 sections - some children still need to learn to recognise the Numicon plates, some need to work on a couple of numbers that they don't recognise yet and my other 2 groups are to be working on using Numicon plates to introduce/extend the idea of addition.


I always expect the outcome of my writing to be different i.e. some children to record using symbols/letter like formations, others to write initial sounds and some to use initial/end sounds and a growing knowledge of whole word structures (I have one child in my class who can write the word 'pineapple' without help!). The difference is that this week I have recorded this expected differentiation in my plans. Does this sound okay or is this way of track?


The advisor who came to observe me came in the afternoon and didn't like the structure then. Whilst my mornings are 'free flow' with me and my TA pulling children out, I tend to have the whole class doing the same thing for the 55 minutes or so after lunch. The last 3/4 of an hour is when I hear my readers and this is the children's 'free time' where they can choose to get out toys, talk with friends, make up their own games etc. Is this okay?


Once again, thank you very much for being so nice and helpful!

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Hi Moose. I am not going to put a long post as I can basically just agree with what everybody else has said.


I spent two years in recpetion when I qualified, and when OFSTED came we got excellent in every area, (mainly due to the fantastic FS co-ordinator!!).


I have now been in Nursery for 1 1/2 years, but if you want to PM or e.mail me about anything, please feel free!!!!



Welcome to the site BTW! :D

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Hi moose, glad to hear that after the initial shock of your visitors observations that you are beginning to sort things out and finding that the children are responding. So youre doing a good job then!


Personally I dont like all children doing the same thing, unless its part of a teacher led whole class activity focus. So I can imagine that your advisor may not have been too keen either, although if it wasnt mentioned maybe not?


What sort of things do they do all together?


Also in childrens free time or child initiated time, the idea really is that the teacher should be interacting with the childrenat their chosen activities, making observations, assessing learning and planning next steps accordingly. Of course, this is not always possible as we have a million and one othings to do---like hearing readers. Again, personally I have found Guided reading a much more effective way to manage the teaching of reading and had largely stopped hearing individual readers.

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Firstly I want to echo everyone else - it sounds like you are doing a good job in hard circumstances.

We have been having lots of advisory input recently and I thought I would share what we were told was a good idea in case it is helpful, so I have attached a copy of a day's planning ( I think!)

The system we run is that the children are in 4 groups, we have a short carpet session and then 2 groups plan their own activities with an adult scaffolding them while the other 2 groups do an adult-directed activity (one group with an adult and one group working independently). After a bit we all swop round.

Idon't think this is perfect by any means but I think that when you are starting out any ideas are useful!

Keep your chin up!


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Hi Swordfish -

If you scroll down past the dialogue box where you enter your post text, you'll come to a heading marked 'File Attachments'. Next to this is a box with a 'browse' button next to it.


Click the browse button and you'll be taken to the folders on your hard disk. Find and select the file you want to attach and then click 'ok'.


That should do it - and thanks for sharing! :)

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Sorry, I didn't make it very clear - in the afternoon it is always a whole class guided activity. The week she came in our focus was pirates. The activity for the afternoon was to invent a drink for a pirate, using some of the fruits they might have encountered on their travels. The books we had looked at had had the pirates drinking grog and we had decided that they might get fed up with this. They had 4 choices of juice and had to mix 2 at a time together, trying all the combinations and selecting their favourite one. They then had to record their 'recipe' in pictures and writing.


Am I ever going to get the hang of this? I am trying to be positive but the whole thing has really knocked my confidence. I have gone from feeling quite pleased at how the children were doing to feeling like I'm letting them down and I don't quite know what to do about that one.


How often should you plan for child-initiated play where you interact with them? I need more hours in my day!

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Yes, thanks for sharing, Swordfish. I haven't tried working with your system - I shall read your plans with interest and no doubt pick up a few tips... :D

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Hi swordfish, thanks for the planning.I'm always interested to see what works for others.


Moose, you should not, in fact you must not, feel so demoralised.

You are doing a good job. A good teacher is always reflective and looking for ways to improve their practise but you cant address it all at once. The child initiated bit is one that we all struggle with, we feel as if we are not doing our job if we are observing or playing alongside the children. So you need to observe to interact efficiently and effectively with them to progress their learning. But if you are the only adult in the room and you do not say whether you have full time support, it is difficult to get involved as you need to have a certain amount of supervision of the rest of your room and children. Try for one afternoon a week and see how it works and increase it from there.

Good luck.

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