Starting School – I just played all day



Starting school, what do they do all day? Play?

After your child’s first day at school no doubt you will be asking them “So what did you do today?,” in a hope that their answer will give you a glimpse into what they did without you, where they looked after, did they have fun?

The answers will be one of two

  • I dunno
  • I just played.


Dont Panic!

This is probably what your child will say about everyday at school about their first year at school.  Don’t panic they are learning all day long. I know from experience that what looks like play is actually carefully crafted learning by the teachers in the class.

Many teachers are sat agonising over the best way to plan their precious 6 hours with your children in their care. The best way to get a to get the most enjoyment. The best way to get the most engagement. Ultimately a day with learning crammed into it.

It is just that it has happened without the need of a desk , pencil and workbook each, when everyone all faces the teacher at the front. It has happened through short bursts of carpet time. Learning occurred when adults made sensitive interactions alongside children as they play. Learning happened with a adult guiding them towards the next step and skill they need to acquire.

It is a magic trick! By the end of the year all teachers aim for every child in their class to be well on their  journey in learning to read, write, count and use numbers. To be most importantly be a part of their school and class.

How your child will learn? 

Your child may be the one who goes home looking slightly dishevelled, the one with paint in their hair or the clean one. However there is no doubt that your child will have had an array of play opportunities all carefully presented to encourage them to think and discover for their selves.

It might be that they chose to make these discoveries inside or outside. In the first year at school the outside classroom is an important learning tool with many classes allowing children to choose to be in or out. Your child may have chosen to access the creative messy area, or role play areas, or construction toys and small world or more investigative science areas. All are equally valid and all offer a wealth of learning opportunities.

For young children all play is work and all work is play, there is no distinction so a day spent playing is a day spent working and a day spent learning.

I just played is the best answer, you know that they will have had an amazing day full of adventures. Just watch they will share them with you when you least expect it.

You can read more about starting school

What really happens in the classroom? 

Phonics – A parents game 

3 fun quick phonic games

Starting School – 3 quick fun phonic games

Here are my top 3 phonic games, that are easy to set up and play at home or on holiday. If it helps I use the time when Meemoo is napping to play with Pook without 18 month old destruction!

  • Object sort

This is really very simple to set up and make use of all those odd bits of toys that you accumulate all the time.  I used our box of odd toys.  P1030437Have a quick scan at the selection of toys and pick the ones that have the clearest initial phoneme. They are taught in a specific order at school, focusing on the most prevalent first. Write the phonemes each on a separate piece of paper. Sort the toys to match. I would start off with no more than 3 phonemes. Play the game together a couple of times and then leave out for your child to play by themselves. In a few days add more toys and new phonemes to recognise.

  • Word building

This is a great game once your child has begun to recognise a at least 3 letters. You can use the phonemes cards you made for the previous game. Use them to build a simple cvc word like sat. Say the phonemes as you make the word and then say the whole word. Repeat a couple of times with different words and then invite your child to make a word. Don’t panic if they make a non word, just read it together and have a giggle. In a few days you can add more phonemes to play with.

  • Grab and go

This a great game for those who like to be on the move. Place some of the phoneme cards you have made previously, around the garden or inside. Say the name of the phoneme and ask your child to run to that phoneme and grab the flashcard. There are hundreds of variations of this, vary your voice, whisper, squeak or how your child has to move tip toe, jump, hop.

Have fun!

You can read more from starting school series

What really happens in the classroom? 

I just played all day – What this really means?

Phonics – A parents game 

Starting School Phonics – A parents guide

book_words01Phonics may be new to you as a parent, something that I do not remember from my school days.  Phonics is the system which teaches children the sounds that make up the English language and how they are then used to build words. Kinda fundamental really when you are learning how to read and write.


Three Fun Phonic Facts 

There are 44 separate sounds in the English language.

You subconsciously use phonics to read all the time. You brain processes the information so quick as a fluent reader you do not know that you are doing so.

On average the human brain can remember 100 words by sight alone. These are taught as the tricky words.


Phonic Dictionary 

Your children will come home talking about phonemes, graphemes , digraph and trigraphs. No they have not eaten a dictionary, they are taught to use the correct words.

Phoneme – this is the smallest unit of sound.

Grapheme – this is the sound written down either, a letter or letter group.

Digraph – a group of two letters making one phoneme

Trigraph – a group of three letters making one phoneme


How is phonics taught in school? 


It is taught daily in a 10 – 20 minute sessions in which children recap sounds previously learnt, leant new sounds, practice using the new sounds to read and write words, learn to read tricky words.

During the first term typically children will learn 4 new phoneme-grapheme (sound- letter) correspondences a week.

The phonemes are taught as soft sounds. There is no ‘uh’ on the end of each sound. So the phoneme ‘s’ is taught as ‘ssssss’ not ‘suh’

It is normally taught in a particular order using the phonemes that are most common, not in alphabetical order. Typically the order for the phonemes is

s a t p

i m n d

g o c k

ck e u r

h b f,ff l ,ll ss

Children are not taught the letter names to start with.


How can I help my child?

Playing I spy is a great way to get children to identify the initial phoneme in words.

Saying silly sentences and really emphasising the initial phonemes.

Come back and read about more simple phonic games to play, plus free download games and flashcards.


So there you have it, a quick account of what phonics is all about. A little secret…it is one of my favourite things to teach, I know odd. It is incredible to see first hand how proud children are when they start to read for themselves. Phonics, it is giving them the key to unlock the written world which is all around us.

You can read more about starting school series

What really happens in the classroom? 

I just played all day – What this really means?

3 fun quick phonic games

Starting School – What really happens in the classroom?

animated-20clipart-20free-11949861182029597463an_apple_01.svg.medThis year I am in a unique place, lots of Pook’s friends are off to school in September and I am going back to work in Foundation stage so I am seeing starting school from both sides.  So I thought to help explain what really happens once the doors close and you say goodbye I would write a series about starting school.

However before all the detail here are a few thoughts I would like to share with you.

    • Don’t forget you are and always will be their first teacher, we are just glad to be part of their journey.
    • On the first day I am just as nervous as you and the children.
    • I promise I won’t forget to remind them to put their coats on when its cold, put an apron on when doing something messy because it does get messy!
    • I will wipe away their tears and snotty noses, find the all-important wet paper towel for those scraps and bumps.
    • I will share with them the very best of me and what a journey we shall have full of fun and adventure, with surprises at every corner.
    • I will teach them how to read and count and write, joining you along the road you have already begun to walk down.
    • I will share all the good days, the mad days and sometimes sad days.
    • You little one may come home all about how Miss does this and that but at school all we hear about is you.
    • Be proud because I know they will amaze us all.
    • Enjoy your cup of hot coffee, it’s your turn for a rest!


You can read more in the starting school series here

I just played all day – What this really means?

Phonics – A parents game 

3 fun quick phonic games