The Miniature Mice

Questions from the Phonics Meeting

 How can I find more information about phonics?

Please use this video for information about how we teach Phonics at Barlborough Primary School.

Why do we teach pre-cursive handwriting in Reception?

In Year 1 and 2 it is in the curriculum that children join their handwriting and they are assessed on this throughout the year, as well as in the Year 2 SATS tests. With this in mind we teach pre-cursive handwriting in Reception as it is the beginning of the joined up handwriting process. It is also a more assessable handwriting style for children with additional needs- such as dyslexia, as there is always the same starting point (on the line) and the same end point (on the line) for every letter.  It is very important this is practiced with your child at home as well as school or this will actually result in very messy handwriting due to inconsistent muscle memory and your child will become very confused.

Do we send home sound button cards to help with reading?

We have done this in the past, however only 2 or 3 children would actually use these, which resulted in a huge waste of paper. We will trial this in the next few weeks and see how many children use these at home and make a decision on if it will be something that will be used.

You can add your own sound buttons on words you are trying to encourage your child to read, simply by adding dots under single sound graphemes and a line under digraphs/trigraphs.

If we go into self-isolation/ lockdown will we be expected to teach Phonics at home?

Yes you will have Phonics included in the daily plans, however I am very mindful that it is like another language, so will point you in the direction of videos to help you with correct pronunciation and letter formation so you can practice at home. If we go into full lockdown again, I will make ‘lesson’ videos that you and your child can follow along with together to take that pressure off you. I have some examples of such videos on my YouTube channel from the previous lockdown if you wanted to see how these would work. Unfortunately I am unable to do this for children isolating as creating the videos is very time consuming when I am also teaching full time.

What are the expectations for writing at the end of Reception?

At the end of Reception children will be expected to write full sentences with 5 or more words in it and include capital letters and full stops. These words will be phonetically spelt- broken into their sounds, apart from the common exception words (tricky words) which cannot be segmented (eg the/to/she) which we will expect to be mostly spelt accurately. These will be sent home on bookmarks, along with the Phase 2 sounds so you can practice them at home with your child, as the key to sight reading and spelling these accurately is practice, practice, practice! Some parents choose to display some of these words by the toilet, in bedrooms or place them on stairs before bed for children to read daily. I also have some ideas of how to make practicing reading these in fun ways in this video here:

Please note although the below examples are what we aim for, we do recognise that some children will not achieve this by the end of Reception. We will work at every child’s level and get them to achieve their very best. We aim for the Early Learning Goal however, as this puts them in a good position to continue to meet their Year groups targets when progressing through the school, as if gaps are formed from an early age, it can be very hard to fill these and continue to try and achieve new, trickier goals.

Are these any tips to motivate children to complete tasks at home?

You could have a ‘home learning’ box which has resources in it like a special writing pencil that only comes out for homework tasks and a toy that they get to play with for 10 minutes upon completing this. For reading- using finger torches can be a fun way to entice children or having a ‘reading buddy’ to use is also a great way to engage children. This is simply a soft toy that only comes out if children are going to read to them. Sometimes asking children to read to pets or family on face time is also a nice idea.

How do you teach the children to hold a pencil?

We use a ‘crocodile snap’ method which is a step up from the tripod grip learnt in nursery. Please see the video here which shows this

Are there any helpful websites and apps we can use at home?

We use Phonics Play at school which is fantastic.
Reading Eggs is also very good.
Teach your monster to read is a fun and engaging app too.
Jolly phonics songs on YouTube is also something we use in class to help the children memorise the sounds. (This is not the scheme we follow- Letters and Sounds is)
Although there are lots of free apps available, many of these are not pre-cursive or American which can be very confusing for your child.
Oxford reading owl is very good for free e-books and also parental guides for ideas for reading and writing at home. They also have sound clips for pronunciation of every sound if you get fed up of hearing my voice in my videos!

When will the homework start?

This will be started next week and expected to be sent in via Dojo Every Monday so you have a full week and a weekend to complete it. You may choose to do one sound a day or all 4 at the weekend. See what works best for your child.

Will my child be assessed in Phonics?

We will do a half termly informal assessment in Reception to ensure your child is retaining the sounds and tricky words, and if there is anything we need to recap or send home to help your child with things they may be finding difficult. There is no official test in Reception, however there is a statutory test in Year 1. This is called The Phonics Screening Test. If they fail this, they will have to repeat it in Year 2.


Phonics Information

Please find the video presentation that I would normally go through with you at the Phonics Workshop ready for the question and answer session which is on Wednesday 16th September at 4pm. 

You can also find some of the letter formation and sound pronunciation videos I have made here:

Autumn 1 Newsletter

 Dear Parents/Carers,

It is a pleasure to welcome you and your children into Reception, with a special welcome to the new children and families joining the Barlborough Primary School family. I am very much looking forward to getting to your little ones over the coming weeks and have already had a delightful couple of days with them. The main priority during these first few weeks is to support the children as they transition into school life and make them feel comfortable and safe as they settle in to their new environment and become accustomed to all of the new rules and routines.

This newsletter gives you some insight into your child’s day and what to expect from this half term to help ease you into the routines and structures of the school, but if anything is still unclear, please do not hesitate to ask. Also, due to the current situation, we may be changing things on a regular basis to suit the class and their needs- but I will keep you updated with this.  

Morning Routine

Children are expected to be dropped off at 9.00,

In order to help your children settle down quickly in the morning, as well as begin to gain independence, there are a number of tasks we ask your child to do every morning with as little support as possible due to the current situation, so any practice at home will make these mornings a little easier for your child and the class. 

◾When entering the cloak room your child will find and recognise their name, this will help them learn the letters that make it up and therefore distinguish it from others in other contexts such as on book bags, PE bags and cardigans/ jumper.

◾ Your child will then put their coat on their peg. Again any practice with taking coats off and putting them on (including doing the zip/buttons) will help them do this by themselves.

The children will then go and wash their hands with soap and water in the toilets before entering the classroom.

◾Once all of the above are complete the children will then enter the classroom. The children have been spilt into two groups as recommended by current guidance, to minimise the risk of cross contamination if there happens to be Covid-19  cases at school. Each groups seating place will change weekly, allowing both groups the opportunity to take part in morning work to develop their skills in certain areas. Some will be at tables, others on the carpet. The activities set up on the tables in the classroom alter daily to allow children to explore activities they may not necessarily choose to conduct throughout the day and also consolidate vital skills needed to enhance their learning.  The themes for these activities are as followed;

Monday- Name Writing/ Handwriting (When phonics starts)
Tuesday- Jigsaws and group games
Wednesday- Maths and number
Thursday- Rainbow reading
Friday- Cutting skills

These groups will then alternate throughout the day having time in the classroom, the outside area, the garden or the learning spaces in the hallway.  The children will come together at playtimes, assembly times and lunch times to enable relationships to build. The groups will also change at half terms so once again, the children make friendship groups with lots of different children.


Our topic for this half term is ‘Marvellous Me’ where the children will explore lots of different and unique ways which make them special. Here we will explore their original features, their interests and unique characteristics. This will then lead onto learning about families and how they differ from one another. Finally we will explore the amazing human body and why it is important to stay healthy. To make the topic more appealing, we will be using books by Lisa Bullard which explore the similarities and differences between ourselves, our families and our homes. They offer a great insight into cultural diversity also.


We will begin Phase 2 of letters and sounds the week commencing Monday 21st September depending on how the children are settling in.  Here the children will be introduced to a different sound each day and learn the necessary skills needed to begin to blend to read and segment to spell. I usually conduct a Phonics Home Learning Support Workshop for you to attend to help you understand how to apply similar techniques we use at school at home, however this is not viable at the moment due to limiting the number of visitors in school. With this in mind I will upload a video presentation with information about this onto Class dojo and the school website next week. I will then hold a Microsoft Teams question and answer session on Wednesday 16th September at 4.00pm if you would like to discuss anything in regard to this.  Phonics is a little hard to understand at first, especially initial sounds, as you are used to saying letter names, however Oxford Owl have a fantastic section on their website which demonstrates the pronunciation of each.  I have also put together some videos which are available on the school website or Youtube. These demonstrate the pronunciation and formation of each sound. They are child friendly but also a vital tool to your own understanding of phonics. These can be found under the ‘parents information’ tab, with the heading ‘phonics and handwriting information.’

As phonics begins I will be sending home handwriting practice sheets. These will be sent out on Fridays and should be returned the following Monday in book bags.  Please note that we teach the children to write with a pre-cursive formation and this should be continued at home as going between writing styles could confuse your children as well as delay their development in writing. It can be a little confusing at first and may make your child’s handwriting appear messy, however it is essential that you continue to practice it this way. Please refer to the videos above or the handwriting booklet sent home in the next few weeks.


As we begin Phonics it is important that your child discovers the sounds they hear and see at school in various contexts, we will therefore be sending home a school reading scheme book that you can share with your child. At this age, reading is a crucial part of children’s learning so it would be helpful if you could hear your child read at home as often as possible and ask them questions about the story to develop their comprehension skills. I will send home an information leaflet about this along with your child’s first book for some guidance. Your child will also have a Reading Diary for you to date and sign each time you hear them read. You can also use the diary for any informal messages you have to pass on. Please be aware every child is different and they all progress at different rates. However, if you have any concerns over your child’s reading development, please see one of us. In the meantime, please continue to read to your child as much as possible.

At first Lilac books will be sent home which have no words in. This is an opportunity for you to ask your child to look at the pictures and create their own narratives. Here you can use questioning to help them predict what will happen next, name the characters and think about the emotions of the characters. I would recommend that you start by making up the story on one page to guide your children, then encourage them to have a turn with the next few pages. After this pink books will be sent home. The children may still not be at the blending to read words stage, but it would be beneficial for your child to look at sounds they have learnt and have a go at orally blending these.

We will be sending home two books home on Friday 25th September which you can share together and do the above with and these can be returned to school on Monday 5th October so you have a full week reading them. We will then change these on the Friday and you will keep them for the following week.

We also have a virtual book library called Rising Stars which I will set reading books on as well so you can chop and change between hard copies and these online ones. I will send login details home for this over the next few weeks.


During this half term, we will be focusing on number recognition with numerals to 10 and beyond and counting objects and actions. With number recognition we encourage children to explore the shapes of numbers and the different lines which make each up. This allows them to distinguish them from one another and will encourage them to begin to record numerals with their own representations. When you are out and about see how many different numbers you can see on doors, shop windows, price tickets or number plates. This will help children with their development with this. Counting underpins all operations and the more we practise, the better we get.  If possible, count with your child as much as possible at home. Children can count anything and everything, shoes, claps, carrots or jumps!  – encourage them to count things wherever they are and if possible begin to integrate matching the total counted to a numeral for development of number sense and understanding.  Some great games can be found on this website;

Boys Learning

It is common knowledge that boys often have a completely different approach to learning than girls. Although this comes with it many positives, it has also created a global problem where girls can be seen out performing boys throughout their whole school life. With this in mind it is absolutely crucial that we work together to try and engage both the girls and boys in the class and create that love of learning from the outset. It appears that independence is key when it comes to boys learning and I will be sending home some activities to all students which are designed to encourage independence in thought processes as well as when involved in tasks. I will also be sending home information by Gary Wilson who has published many books to help practitioners and parents nurture boys and build them to be successful learners. I have a fantastic book by him for parents called ‘help your boys succeed-The essential guide for parents.’  I would strongly recommend for parents to purchase this, or am happy to lend my copy out if you are interested in reading it. I have included an information sheet at the end of this newsletter about your child’s independence and ideas on how to build on this as well as some early literacy ideas to help both girls and boys discretely with essential skills needed to write successfully. 

Separation Anxiety

It is completely normal for children to get upset when you first start dropping them off at school, especially when they are not used to the new routine and structure that they are experiencing and having spent a lot of time at home these last few months. In order to help upset children it is vital that we work together and make the goodbye in the morning positive and not sound so final. Using phrases such as ‘see you this afternoon’ or ‘ I can’t wait to see you when I pick you up later’ will help with this. It is best in these situations that you leave the playground quickly as this makes the anticipation of you leaving less intense. In some circumstances children will latch on to you, making it difficult for you to leave, in these cases I will always ask your permission before I intervene.   Next I will ask that you give them a kiss and a cuddle before you leave. I will then take your child from you calmly and gently and comfort them until they calm down. Often they take very little time to settle and we will always contact you to assure you that they are ok, likewise you are welcome to ring the office if you are concerned as I understand that it can be very upsetting for you too. If your child isn’t clingy, yet still upset, allowing you to leave easily, please make a member of staff aware as some children will then try and follow you.

Passport to learning
At Barlborough we use a ‘Passport system’ to encourage children to work towards targets which encourage and promote good citizenship skills as well as link to British Values. The first passport they will start on is an Orange one. We will be concentrating on saying please and thank you and helping keep the classroom tidy this half term.

 A few further bits of information:

  • We will have PE twice a week on Wednesday and Thursday afternoons. As stated in a previous letter we will ask your child to come into school in their outdoor sports kit on these days. Please try to encourage your child to practice getting dressed on these days, as they will be expected to do this at school when things return to normal in the future. Also please try to provide shoes that do not have laces on them.
  • Please look out for First Aid letters which children will be given at home time if they have had an accident at school. This gives you information about what minor injury your child received and how/when. These will be on red paper if it is a head injury. Please be assured that if any accidents happen which we deem of a more serious nature we will contact you immediately.
  • Each term, our class newsletter is available to read on the school website.
  • It is important that your child begins to develop their independence in order to undergo day to day school life confidently- particularly when we are fairly limited at what we can help them with under the current guidelines for example limiting contact with the children and their belongings as much as possible. With this in mind we ask you to support your child in practicing certain skills at home such as getting dressed and undressed, taking their jumper off and putting it on, recognising their name, putting their coat on, using a knife and fork and tidying away what they have been using before moving on to something else! Another great skill to try and develop which may have been delayed slightly from spending lots of time at home is recall of and following instructions. This is part of the Early Years curriculum so it would be great if you practice asking your child to do something once and letting them try and remember this and follow it up without reminders. This can then be increased to two and then three things within the sequence. An example of this would be “go and wash your hands, put your coat on and then sit down.”
  • Miss Wilson will lead the class on Tuesday afternoons as it is my allocated planning time. Here they will take part in activities in the garden where they will take part in natural learning games.
  • Please ensure all clothes (including PE kits/water bottles etc) are named as things will go missing and we are always eager to reunite it with its owner.
  • Book bags and mice will now be expected to be brought to school on a Monday. We will then keep these at school for the full week and return these on Friday as we are unable to touch them for 72 hours once in school. We are trying to limit what comes into school and what is sent home- again to limit cross contamination. Any letters or important information will be put on Class dojo or the website so please check these regularly.

If you have any questions about any of the above or any other queries please do not hesitate in speaking to Mrs Gilbert or I, we are always happy to help and understand there is lots of new information to try and process.  I hope the first few days in Reception have been as stress free as possible and I look forward to starting a full week with your little ones on Monday.
Kind Regards,

Miss Jolly

Curriculum Web Autumn 1: Marvellous Me