Cultural Capital in the Early Years
At Slaley, our Early Years children benefit from an enriched environment. In addition to cultural activities including music and PE, we also offer a unique curriculum tailored to the needs of our children and making use of the wonderful opportunities we have locally. We aim to inspire awe and wonder in our children by giving them a broad range experiences and opportunities both within school and in the wider community.
At Slaley we are lucky to have a generous and wonderful outdoor space where children can develop a relationship between themselves and the natural world. During outdoor education sessions in our garden, our early years children build resilience, confidence and independence. Through adult-planned and child-led experiences the children have opportunities to problem-solve, take managed risks and improve their creativity. When possible, we invite parents and carers to join us for an outdoor session, which reinforces these positive experiences for the children.
In addition to spending time playing and learning in our garden, the children also use this space to access opportunities to take responsibility for growing and caring for plants. Throughout the year this ranges from planting vegetables and sunflowers to pruning plants for the winter and harvesting blackcurrants and apples from our mature fruit plants. Children therefore gain first-hand experience in picking, chopping and cooking food that they have grown themselves, prompting discussions about healthy eating as well as developing a new skill.
Throughout school each class has a selection of core books and poems which are read frequently to children to promote a love of reading and a range of texts they are really familiar with. In addition to this, in our Early Years class, we theme our learning around focus texts such as stories and rhymes, giving children the opportunity to develop their communication and language skills. These texts are chosen by closely tuning in to children’s needs and interests, supporting them to develop their learning from their prior experiences. They are able to be exposed to new vocabulary, to learn to take turns in conversations, to form full sentences and to discuss a particular topic. This language is then reinforced through activities within provision and frequent opportunities for discussion such as our daily plan, do, review and weekly news sessions. Our role play areas provide opportunities for us to respond to children’s interests and experiences by giving them a space to re-enact and further explore these, using a range of language as they do so.
Our children visit our school library once weekly to share a story, paying particular attention to the features of the book itself such as the front cover, author and title. They then select a story from our range of books to take home for the week and share with their parents and carers, allowing them an opportunity to familiarise themselves with the way libraries work and further develop a positive attitude to reading.
Trips and Experiences
Throughout the year, trips and experiences are planned into the curriculum to help the children broaden their knowledge, sometimes exposing them to things they wouldn’t encounter in their daily lives. These experiences aim to provide and reinforce real life examples of what they have been learning, which enables the children to gain a deeper understanding of the topic, which increases their motivation to learn and retain the information. We focus heavily on our local environment, with trips and walks around the local community and partnership with services in the local area. For example, some experiences Early Years have enjoyed include a trip to see cows being milked at a local farm, a trip to an independent local bookshop and a visit from zoolab.
Opportunities to perform
Each child is given the opportunity to perform in our Nativity performances. They rehearse, make and wear costumes and props, learn lines and sing songs together in front of audiences. In addition to this, children are given opportunities to perform within and to smaller groups during our literacy sessions, for example by acting out a story we have been learning about, or during our music sessions by playing a piece of music.
In early years general hygiene is promoted on a daily basis through embedded routines such as handwashing. Throughout the year we enhance this with focused sessions on oral hygiene; teaching children why it is important and how to look after their teeth. We often link with relevant services such as a local dentist to access resources and information to help us deliver this.
People who help us
Throughout children’s time in early years we use topics about ourselves, our homes and people to introduce the idea of people in the community who help us for example Police, Doctors and Bus Drivers. The children have opportunities to learn more about these roles within society through stories, non-fiction texts and wherever possible, opportunities to meet and talk to someone who works in this role. We encourage the children to think about what they already know about keeping themselves safe and also teach sun and water safety in the summer term.
Throughout the year different cultural festivals and special events are planned in and the children spend time exploring the culture and the festival. These include festivals from a range of cultures such as Diwali, Hanukkah, St George’s Day and Eid. For example, during Diwali, the children learn about who celebrates this festival and why through stories and educational videos. They then become involved in creative activities linked to the festival such as making Diva lamps and Rangoli patterns. Children often partake in voting opportunities from choosing books to read at story time to voting for their pom-pom jar treat. All children are clear of the class expectations and actively promote these to their peers as well as understanding the difference between and a right and wrong choice.