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Reception English: what your child learns

Magnetic letters on a fridge
Want to know how your child’s English skills are developed when they start school? Read on to find out.

Literacy at this age is taught as part of a broader area: ‘Communication, Language and Literacy’, in preparation for reading and writing. At this age, speaking and listening play a big part in literacy sessions, so your child’s teacher will be reading aloud and the children will be encouraged to sing songs and rhymes and join in with stories.

Speaking and listening in Reception – your child will be:

  • Speaking clearly and grammatically
  • Listening carefully
  • Acting out stories
  • Singing songs with actions and intonation
  • Taking part in ‘show and tell’ sessions; for example, your child may make a model at home, and tell the class about it
  • Making up stories, rhymes and poems

Try this at home:

  • Sing songs together
  • In the car, listen to story CDs
  • When you read a new story, ask your child to predict the ending
  • Look at a picture book together and play a spotting game.

Reading in Reception – your child will be:

  • Naming and sounding the letters of the alphabet
  • Linking sounds to letters (phonics)
  • Recognising groups of letters, for example, ‘oo’ and ‘ee’
  • Hearing and saying sounds in words
  • Recognising familiar and common words
  • Understanding a story has a beginning, middle and end

Your school will probably have a reading scheme, made up of books of different levels, and your child may start to bring books home to read. You will probably be given a ‘reading record’ book to note down your comments. Don’t be alarmed if some of the books have no words at first: encourage your child to tell the story by looking at the pictures. Your child will probably read individually with the teacher once a week, and also in small groups with other children, which is known as ‘guided reading’.

Try this at home:

  • Read with your child every day – little and often is the best way to learn
  • Make it enjoyable – if your child isn’t in the mood, try again later
  • Rhyming books are great fun and your child can join in
  • Be a role model – it’s important to let your child see you reading
  • Play with letters: make them out of dough, bricks, or buy some magnetic letters and stick them on the fridge
  • Play I-spy when you go out – use the sound the letter makes, rather than its name

Writing in Reception – your child will be:

  • Using a pencil and holding it correctly
  • Writing recognisable letters, mostly formed correctly and facing the right way
  • Writing their name
  • Writing labels, captions and mini books
  • Using phonics to write simple consonant-vowel-consonant words, and having a go at more complicated words
  • Beginning to form simple sentences
  • Using basic punctuation
  • Beginning to learn to spell (read our Reception spelling explained for parents guide for details)

Children will start forming letters by working on vertical lines and drawing anti-clockwise circles. They will be working on their own stories, based on books they are reading in class, and they will also put together information books. The classroom will have a role-play area, possibly a shop or cafe, and the children will use this to practise handwriting.

Try this at home:

  • Develop fine motor skills: try modelling with clay or threading beads. Anything fiddly is good for the hands
  • Practise forming letters – it’s often easier to make them big at first
  • If your child doesn’t want to pick up a pencil, try finger paints, or drawing in sand

Browse through all our Reception English worksheets, or look through our phonics games and activities for your beginner reader. Our Fabulous phonics pack is our complete guide to everything parents need to know about phonics in EYFS and KS1.

Check your Reception child's progress in English with our free Reception English Progress checks, three mini-tests for the autumn, spring and summer terms.

Explore the Reception English & Maths Learning Journey programmes.

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