A GOOD move or BAD to mix curriculums? What are the pros? And the cons too?
It’s such an interesting mix! One that I originally frowned upon due to the different curriculums and expectations. How do you cater for those who need support in Reception whilst also teaching those who are flying high in Year 1. I must admit, I was thinking it would be a year of blood, sweat & tears (my own) ….but it turned out to be one of the best years in my teaching career!
Yes, ok September is a BIT of a grind. You need eyes everywhere, 21 Teaching Assistants and a large supply of Malbec (at home – it wasn’t that bad). But by the Spring, if you time everything right and work at the children’s own pace, to ensure all the foundations have been laid, the hard work in those first three terms really pays off. They evolve into one class before your very eyes – one set of keen little learners eager to be grown up role models teaching the others and another younger group loving the attention and thriving with all the support readily available! The more able Reception children are SO keen to be like their Year 1 heroes! They copy, mimic, learn alongside the Year 1 children, they take great interest in the challenges throughout the provision and listen with interest to the Year 1 expectations – almost seeing them as a dare…. go on see if you can do it!
The Year 1 children are the big bods, the dudes, the mini teachers who already know your routines and ‘ways’! They have a sound understanding of what it is to be expected in your classroom – they know the ropes! They have been taught to WANT to improve for themselves! And wow don’t they flourish with praise! They WANT to show their work, to demonstrate and model to the others. They LOVE IT! And yes they thrive too!
I teach whole class – within reason. I know that this seems hard and it bloomin is in September – let me assure you! But it’s worth it! Don’t get me wrong, if Year 1 children don’t need to be sat on the carpet because they ready know something , then let them go and get on with it! They can earn their independence awards for cracking on! And on the flip side; those that need interventions or daily support will be with the TA – as that is a better use of their time. YOU are the professional! YOU know your children. YOU should be the one who plans your day using your own formats and methods. All of this is so personal to teachers – I hope you agree!
So how do I teach to both Reception and Year 1 simultaneously! I use carefully posed questions, split screens on the interactive whiteboard, hidden challenges up my sleeve for the Year ones – and sometimes repetition of the fundamentals is a good thing anyway! This sparks discussion, confidence and consolidates their learning! They become experts! They WANT to explain their understanding, they want to have their work displayed on the working wall and they want to wear the learning hero lanyard first!
Activities within the provision are set out for each year group. The year one still have choice and this, in my option, excites them and encourages focus and positive self-esteem. I LOVE the use of chilli challenges for both year groups. They genuinely do want to work through the activities and begin to understand that learning never ends – not even for adults. A Growth Mindset – the power of Yet all comes into play here!
Reception children start the day with a clipboard challenge! (the fundamentals – phonics, numbers, formation etc…) With training and practice, they become super at this and love how the activities progress and change throughout the year as their understanding develops.
Year 1 children complete their fluency in five maths activity and then look through their English and Maths books to respond to marking tips and further questions. i.e. they may practice their spellings, form the letter k correctly or explain why the maths calculation is wrong. They are busy bees who can focus, with the support of the TA, while I focus on the Reception children – or vice versa.
Maths is a little trickier as the objectives are quite different! But this doesn’t stop us! We start as a whole group! Again, I ensure that I have planned white board slides that address all needs and abilities. I praise abundantly where it is due – and sometime where it isn’t if you know what I mean! I do things wrong (on purpose – well most of the time) . I ask the Year 1 to help me – they come to the front and sometimes I sit in their carpet space! For that time – at the front while I spin the plates and fire differentiated questions around the room – It’s like going on stage – and it can be exhausting! And when I know the year ones have understood the objectives, off they go to their tales to complete their mild task. They need to SHOW they KNOW before they GROW! I keep the Receptions with me a little longer while we practice our number formation or have a go at addition on a number line. Then they go off and continue this learning within the provision with lots of the activities linked to our learning intentions that week. Again! Lots of repetition – I love repeating things. I really do love repeating things!? Did I already tell you that?
English starts with a focus – a hook! An amazing hook at the beginning of the unit but a simple hook each day. That can vary from showing a piece of super dooper work from the previous day to revealing something wrapped up in a box! I love videos too – ooh and voice recordings from the characters (it’s me really!?!) Bringing something alive! Making the lesson ‘3D’ and almost real! I love that! Do see my Exciting Writing work for more on this…..
So, children are part of the lesson! When ready, the Reception children would go and complete their independent clipboard challenge (linked to their next steps) and then access the provision linked to the learning intentions for that week (across all areas).
Afternoon sessions are all in! That’s when I LOVE seeing the Reception children access the Year 1 tasks – and vice versa – and that’s all good! The important bit is recording the children’s learning! This could be in a learning floor book for the whole class and also on our working wall! And the children need to have ownership of both of these! THEY want to show off what they know! We have daily quizzes – guess what – they are repetitive! Eg if we are learning about the continents, we will sing the Montessori continents song three times a day! (Earworm) We will go over to the world map and point to South America! We will name the oceans when we line up for lunch! Now you can start to see here, that by osmosis and also a genuine thirst for learning, the Reception children learn and learn and learn – even without realising! It’s heart-warming! It works. The ones that are ready fly! And the ones who are nearly there are gently exposed to new ideas alongside their many daily opportunities to consolidate their own learning, at the correct pace whilst on their own learning journey!
So yes! I love a mixed R/Y1 Class! It works! September is toughhhhhhh but May is aMayzing! It truly is……