At Venture, opportunities to develop literacy skills are many and varied and include lots of real life chances to use skills in reading and writing and interesting play activities. We do not drill the children in phonics, reading and writing as we are confident that as each child is ready to learn these new skills they will, through a well planned environment and enthusiastic support from the adults.
Books, including some made by and about the staff and children, are always available for the children to look at independently and there are several moments during the day that are set aside for group story times which the children always eagerly anticipate.
The children love to listen and join in with favourite tales and new adventures. Group story times are also a time for lots of discussion about characters and events in stories and also for our older children to have a go at recognising some letters and key words. Another favourite group activity is reading and joining in with poetry and song. Through poetry and song, the children begin to develop an awareness of rhythm, rhyme and alliteration, important early literacy skills.
We often have occasion to use non-fiction texts with the children, for example in order to identify a new bird or plant that we have spotted, or to follow instructions for baking or safely lighting our fire. The children also love to stop at signs and any other writing that they find in the local environment to find out what they say or have a go at reading themselves.
We use a variety of methods to support the children to recognise their own name and other key words. Each morning the children find their own special named rock and put it in a crate with their belongings to keep them safe. Their name is also written on their spot on the rope bus, on their own notebook and tuff bag which are used throughout the day, ensuring that the way that their name is written becomes very familiar.
Early phonics skills are taught throughout the day whenever the opportunity arises, using the Letters and Sounds Phonics Framework and other sound games. We play with rhymes and sounds in words, make woodland music, listen to sounds in the natural environment, enabling the children to gently build up an understanding of how phonics works.
Early writing skills beginning with mark making and developing into emergent writing for our older children are also facilitated throughout the day. The children each have their own notebook and pencil which they take with them. Younger children will scribble away happily in their notebook. Older children will begin to form identifiable letters or letter-like marks to record for example information about an interesting beach find and then ‘read’ their writing to us. Mark making and emergent writing at Venture happens everywhere. The children use sticks in the sand, muddy fingers on a gate, chalks and paints to mark make wherever they are.
As with all learning at Venture the main emphasis is on fostering the children’s love of literature and sparking imaginations, whilst picking up early key skills in a non-pressured environment.