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Handwriting in Reception- please help!


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Hi all,

 

So I have sat down with SMT at the end of half term and they have said that handwriting is not present enough in my Reception timetable and that children should be having daily focused teaching time of forming letters correctly, correct posture at a table etc...

At the moment my Reception class is laid out well (in my opinion!) I have small tables dotted about for different areas and use them for tabletop displays, small group work, independent mark making, craft and design etc, but I also have a large-ish carpet space where children can play with small world characters, perform dances, act in character, and lately they have been LOVING using huge sheets of paper to mark make- some boys have been sat there for a whole session drawing and writing away completely independently!!

I have now been told that more tables have been ordered for my reception classroom...enough so that all 30 children can have a seat at any one time. At the moment I do daily 5-10min small group fine motor skill activities, and practise handwriting with my more able children. I now have to (been told it's non-negotiable..I have to prepare the children for Year 1!!) sit all 30 children down at a table with a handwriting book with lines and a pencil...I have to stand in front of the class and teach letter formation with the children copying like robots. I am so frustrated by this and know my class will detest it...they are 4 and 5 years old...majority are summer birthdays so are just not developmentally ready for this...it's breaking my heart knowing I will be inflicting this on them after half term.

I wanted to know people's opinions and thoughts on this?! Being the only reception class I feel very isolated and constantly have to fight a losing battle in terms of implementing good eyfs practice. Tearing my hair out!

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Oh dear, I am feeling your pain.

No, this is not how it should be done at all, you are right. You also sound to have your classroom spot on only to have a shipment of tables arriving to turn it into year 1!

Are there any outstanding settings near you that you can take the head teacher to see, to show them what an eyfs should look like?

I do handwriting in my daily phonic sessions. I also do an adult led each week on handwriting, differentiated by ability, so some do a guided write handwriting session, some do basic letter formation and others do write dance, this is in groups of 5.

The most I have done at once for handwriting was half the class, using large novelty pencils and air writing to music.

Whole class is tough on the children. However I have helped a school adapt whole class handwriting to make it more informal, as their SMT made them do it too. We changed it so they all began on carpet drawing on each other's backs etc, the. They spent 25 mins rotating round 4 activities, 2 led by an adult and 2 independent. The activities were...

1. Water painting on sugar paper

2. Rolling play dough letters

3. Letter formation on whiteboards.

4. Trays of sand to form letters.

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Oh dear, I am feeling your pain.

No, this is not how it should be done at all, you are right. You also sound to have your classroom spot on only to have a shipment of tables arriving to turn it into year 1!

Are there any outstanding settings near you that you can take the head teacher to see, to show them what an eyfs should look like?

I do handwriting in my daily phonic sessions. I also do an adult led each week on handwriting, differentiated by ability, so some do a guided write handwriting session, some do basic letter formation and others do write dance, this is in groups of 5.

The most I have done at once for handwriting was half the class, using large novelty pencils and air writing to music.

Whole class is tough on the children. However I have helped a school adapt whole class handwriting to make it more informal, as their SMT made them do it too. We changed it so they all began on carpet drawing on each other's backs etc, the. They spent 25 mins rotating round 4 activities, 2 led by an adult and 2 independent. The activities were...

1. Water painting on sugar paper

2. Rolling play dough letters

3. Letter formation on whiteboards.

4. Trays of sand to form letters.

 

Hi Rufus,

 

Thank you for the reply. I currently don't do any handwriting during phonic sessions ( I did do this at the start of the year using whiteboards but was told this is wrong and so don't do it anymore?). I do small group adult led sessions every day with a group a day. Is this what you also do? Or do you manage to get round the whole class in one day? I was told it wasn't enough having 1 adult led session a week for each group and they must get a daily adult led input.

I like the idea of rotating round activities as an alternative way to teach whole class- will pitch this to SMT when I return to school.

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Who told you that letter formation within phonics is wrong? Every phonics session, we practise forming the phoneme we are learning. If the application part of the phonics session is writing then we practise formation on whiteboards before we write a sentence/word. If we are 'reading' in our phonics session, then we will do a brief formation practise in the air, on carpet or on each other's backs. So the class get a little formation practise every day. Sometimes I even fit a bit extra in as we are gathering on the carpet...I just put the letter up on iwb on a automated handwriting program and the children come onto the carpet and practise the letter whilst we wait for everyone to arrive.

I do handwriting adult led one day each week and manage to teach all children within that one day.

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Please also show your SLT that the handwriting element of the statutory curriculum for EYFS sits in PD:

Physical development involves providing opportunities for young children to be active and interactive; and to develop their co-ordination, control, and movement. Children must also be helped to understand the importance of physical activity, and to make healthy choices in relation to food.

It should therefore be planned as part of the wider PD curriculum which will be assessed through the ELG:

Moving and handling: children show good control and co-ordination in large and small movements. They move confidently in a range of ways, safely negotiating space. They handle equipment and tools effectively, including pencils for writing.

There is a lot more to the PD curriculum that needs to be accounted for than they may realise!! For example, children still demonstrating a palmar grip will need lots of opportunities to inhibit that reflex through e.g. malleable activities and pushing up on their hands rather than more handwriting.

Cx

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I agree with the above - stand firm if you can (easier said than done I know!) Do you have an alliance of schools in your area where you could discuss how others tackle this?

I did not have enough tables or chairs for all my class to sit down at once for a long time, but with a change of Head I had a few extra's appear! However, apart from the start and end of the day, purely for organisation and a calm exit from the class, you will very rarely see the whole class sat at the same time - and definitely not all doing the same thing.

At the start of the day, the children have writing patterns or letter formation sheets to do for a few minutes while everyone comes in - differentiated for their needs - this ranges from key words, sand tray formation, copying their name cards or mark making.

During our phonic input in the morning we look at how to form the letters and do it in the air, on our hands, backs of the children in front and occasionally on whiteboards. Look up 'Writing in the air' and Russian writing - both made a big difference to pencil control and fms in my area. Write Dance is also great fun and a big hit with the boys.

Writing and letter formation then becomes part of the literacy activity and can be gauged to the children's ability and interest. Child initiated opportunities through role plays such as police/ fire engine/ builders yard/ garage/ take aways - the list is endless and it sounds like this is working really well for your boys, can be enhanced by sensitive adult involvement, scaffolding and extending play by getting them to write messages/ lists etc.

 

Good luck!.

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I did a teaching practice in an outstanding setting where the children would have whiteboards during phonics to practise letter formation. But at my current setting I was told this is bad practise because children will have bad posture etc??? So now we do a bare minimum of letter formation during phonics- when we learn a new sound we write it on our hands, on the carpet, on a partner's back and in the air. It's over in about 60 seconds! I think I will suggest perhaps having a day to focus on handwriting and fine motor skills a week so I manage to get through all 30 children. Trying to do all 30 children on a daily basis means I am barely getting ANY time to do all important observations and facilitate learning, adult modelling, scaffolding etc...

 

I really am at my wits end...have shown development matters PD ELG to SMT.... have shown numerous documents and evidence for good practise in terms of fine motor skills and handwriting etc...still the dreaded tables are due to arrive any day and handwriting books have been allocated to each child. Will just have to keep persisting, being the only reception class I do feel very isolated and like I'm fighting a losing battle! Thank you for all responses, think I needed to prove that I wasn't going insane and that I'm not alone in thinking it's not appropriate. :blink:

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I did a teaching practice in an outstanding setting where the children would have whiteboards during phonics to practise letter formation. But at my current setting I was told this is bad practise because children will have bad posture etc???

 

I wonder if this is where the advice I got from an LA advisor came from. After watching my class for part of the morning last year, she told me Ofsted would be unhappy with my small group bring a clipboard to the activity (their own extension of the activity) to practice writing down the numbers we had been working with. I couldn't get any clarification of this comment, but I was just pleased this particular group had thought of it for themselves and were genuinely trying to advance their skills.

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Have to say that I do agree with daily handwriting in a 'proper' handwriting book for Reception age children. I did the "let's write in the sand, shaving foam" etc. for a year but ended up with children who had no confidence when it came to the physical aspect of writing. When they wanted to do CI writing, they just gave up because they were physically finding it difficult.

For the past 3 years we have included handwriting as an aspect of our daily phonics session- we write the phoneme that we have learnt in a handwriting book that has slightly larger spaces than the ones made for KS1/2. We also join from the beginning to help the children to remember that some sounds go together e.g. 'ee'. On Friday's we learn hfw's and so we write one of those. It is a set 5 minute time where everyone does it together- we have success criteria & reward children with team points for achieving these. They know that once the 5 minute timer beeps, it's time to stop.

It works really well for us. You can see excellent progress from when they started in September, they are confident about writing and it helps with their phonics too. When having a go at writing words as part of a game just last week, my lowest ability children were able to segment the word feet with no problem and automatically joined the 'ee' when writing it.

I fully agree that you should stick to your guns if you can but don't knock it if you haven't tried it. I've now got to the point where I would argue the case the opposite way if someone came and told me that I wasn't meant to be sitting down in a structured way every day!

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(Re. Vikkip) Five minutes to get over the threshold and have a go and gain experience in controlling a pencil, whilst reinforcing what the sounds and digraphs look like and learn how they are formed, both visually and kinaesthetically, may not be harmful for those who are developmentally not ready and possibly beneficial to all, if ensuring somehow that no one feels they are failing.

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