A Typical Phonics Lesson

An early years advisor I was talking to recently said that she had a group of NQTs who weren’t confident about teaching phonics, so I thought that I’d share a typical phonics session with you this morning, to hopefully inspire you NQTs out there!

I started teaching phase 2 sounds this week. I follow the letters and sounds guidance in conjunction with Jolly phonics visuals, actions and songs.

I use a turtle hand puppet to introduce our phoneme each day. The turtle feels a bit shy at the start and hides inside her shell. The children chant..

‘Tina turtle, Tina turtle, what’s our sound?
Come out, come out, so that it can be found..’

The turtle then pops her head out with a phoneme card and jolly phonics sound button in her mouth. One of the children then presses the sound button so we can all hear it.

When I taught P this week I changed things around a bit. I put a happy birthday badge on Tina and left the children a note explaining that it was Tina’s birthday and that they had to open up her presents to look for clues about that day’s phoneme.


Lo and behold, all of the presents started with a p – penguin, polar bear, pizza etc etc.


From under a piece of pink fabric I then revealed a peppa pig cake and some pink birthday candles (linked to the jolly phonics action).

Phonics on www.rockmyclassroom.com

I then modelled how to write the letter and got the children standing up to do large scale air writing and then to write on each other’s backs. For the more able children I encouraged them to write the words pin, peg etc on their friends back.

The children then sat down and I ‘noticed’ another present wrapped in shiny pink paper. Attached to it was an envelope. I got one of the more able children to come up to read what the letter inside said. It said ‘turn on the board and read the words to guess what this present is.’


On the board were the words ‘postman tap’. The more able child read the word postman and then the class had a go at sounding out the word tap.

Realising it was the wrong word, I asked the children to turn to their talk partners and have a go at segmenting the word pat.  I then chose a child to come up to the board and rearrange the letters to spell the the word pat.  Finally I opened the last present which turned out to be a Postman Pat DVD!

We then lit the pink candles on the cake and sang the Jolly phonics song..

‘Puff out the candles on the pink pig cake,
P, p, p…p, p, p,
Puff out the candles on the pink pig cake,
Puff, puff, puff!’

The special helpers then blew out the candles. After that I reviewed the letter sound once more. The lesson took about 15-20mins in all.

The children then had a wee slice of the cake and went completely bonkers because of the sugar rush!

That afternoon we set out pink paints and encouraged the children to practice writing their new sound. The more able children had a go at writing simple CVC words beginning with p.



At the end of the day I put on the postman pat DVD and let them watch one episode.

Last year we made pizzas in the afternoon, but we didn’t have time this year, but this is something else you might like to do.

I believe that with each sound, you should try to give the children an experience to help them remember it. It can be as simple as you like e.g. My TA and I played a game of tennis across all of the children’s heads when I taught the sound T. With the amount of giggling that went on I definitely think that sound will stick in their heads.

Towards the end of the week I put an initial sounds sorting activity out on the funky fingers table….

Funky phonics fingers

I hope this gives you some ideas for your phonics sessions. Best of luck!

My views on using online learning journal, Tapestry

Today’s long awaited blog post is dedicated to the online learning journal, Tapestry. I’ve been using it in my Reception class over the past year and a half and cannot recommend it highly enough.

This is my sixth year in Reception. I’ve taught in 3 different schools, and up until last year I was keeping evidence of children’s’ learning in the traditional scrap book format.  This, as you all know, involved taking reams of photographs, downloading these onto a computer, printing them, guillotining them, sorting them, sticking them into books and, finally, annotating them.  Parents would get to oooh and aaah over their child’s special books about once per term during parents meetings. Conscious that parents weren’t being involved enough I trialled sending their books home after these meetings, in order for parents to spend a little longer looking through the observations and to add in some observations from home. This only lasted a term because some books took weeks to be returned and, in one case, never came back!!!

I had had enough! When I applied for an EYFS leader position in May 2013 I accepted the post under the condition that I would be allowed to record evidence in an online journal.  Thankfully my new head was willing to take a leap of faith and gave me the go ahead, purchasing iPad minis for me and my team. Hooray! My next task was to convince my new TAs! I trialled Tapestry over the summer and felt confident that anyone who was able to use a smart phone would be able to use the app. They both claimed to be ‘rubbish with technology’, but thankfully they were also keen to move away from all the photograph printing and sticking and so were willing to give it a try.

When I mentioned on social media that I was going to do a blog post about tapestry I was inundated with questions, which I hope to answer as best I can below. Please do bear in mind though that I am by no means an expert and have not received any form of training.

If I haven’t answered your questions you can check out Tapestry FAQ section the EYFS.info website –http://eyfs.info/tapestry-info/faqs#faq_17

What are the benefits of using an online learning journal?

  • First and foremost –it promotes a strong partnership with parents. Theyhave immediate access to their child’s learning. They can leave comments and also upload their own observations from home.
A teacher's perspective on Tapestry Rockmyclassroom.com

A teacher’s perspective on Tapestry Rockmyclassroom.com

Parent testimonials from last year:

“I find Tapestry wonderful and very easy to use. The mobile app is fantastic to upload pics and videos. It’s great to be able to get a peek at what your child does in school when you’re not around. I personally found it very easy to use and it’s easy to understand the targets your child is reaching.” 

“Tapestry has been fantastic for us and it’s very simple to use and access.  Every week I can’t wait for a new observation to inform me of what Peter is doing and the teacher’s comments.  Loved every minute of his first year and Tapestry has been an integral part in showing his integration, what’s being taught and his progress. Genius idea!!!”

“I have found Tapestry really useful and have thoroughly enjoyed watching videos and seeing pictures of Jack at school. Its’ great to get an insight of what is going on in his school life as it is not always easy to find out this information from the children. Jack is also a big fan of looking at the pictures and videos posted on here of himself and it is something that we can do together and discuss what he has been doing in school.  It is also very easy to use and to upload your own videos and pictures to enhance what has been taught in the classroom.”

  • Parents gain a better understanding of the EYFS curriculum and appreciate the value of learning through play. You can link each observation with EY statements, characteristics of effective learning and the Leuven scales.  You can choose whether or not to make these visible to parents.  I tend to make statements visible so that parents are left in no doubt as to the wealth of learning that has gone on in one observation.


  • The video function is fabulous and allows you to interact with and talk to the child throughout, without having to frantically write everything down.
Tapestry in action rockmyclassroom.com

Tapestry in action rockmyclassroom.com

  • You can use Tapestry to contact and inform parents e.g. every time we teach a new phoneme I ask my TA to record my introduction so that parents are clear on pronunciation and the corresponding Jolly Phonics action.  We tag every child in the class so that it appears in each child’s profile.

Tapestry on rockmyclassroom.com FullSizeRender

  • It offers the practitioner the opportunity for some self-reflection. I have learned a lot about my questioning and involvement in children’s play.  There are times I have watched a video back and kicked myself for asking too many questions!
  • You can make whole class, group or individual observations. You can also go back and edit the observation before ‘publishing’ it and making it visible to parents.
  • You can add as many family members to receive notifications as the parent wishes – Grandparents, older siblings who have left home to go to uni etc.

Why choose Tapestry?

  • Parents are notified via email once an observation is ‘published’ (Some programmes don’t have this function, plus they also require that you annotate a photograph within a certain time frame before it is deleted from the system. Tapestry holds onto photos for as long as is required)
  • It is very reasonably priced. For 60 pupils in Sept 2013, it cost me £36. Prices have gone up a little since, but not by much and with some programmes charging as much as £600, I think it is a bargain.
  • It is incredibly user friendly and simple to upload observations via an app.  As I mentioned above, if you are able to use a smart phone, you will be able to use the Tapestry app.

Do you use Tapestry to track children?

No. I use Tapestry in quite a basic sense in that it has replaced my camera, post it notes and long observation sheets.  I do not use it to track children because in truth, I find the analysis section totally and utterly baffling. My main issues with are that:

  • You cannot enter data by aspect. You have to enter scores one child at a time, which I find more time consuming.
  • As far as I can tell there is no function for strand analysis.
  • It doesn’t appear to generate percentage scores for you i.e. how many children are on track etc meaning you have to work it out yourself. I’ve been informed however that this is something the tapestry team are working on as we speak.

I currently use my Local authority spread sheet system to track my children, although our school is soon moving to O-track which appears to be very user friendly.

Does Tapestry record how many observations in each area there have been made for each child?

Yes it does, although pulling up this information isn’t the simplest as you have to navigate your way through the analysis section.

Do you still have paper scrap books in conjunction with an online journal?

Yes, I do.  Because there weren’t any other settings using Tapestry in my local authority when I first started I was frightened to completely move away from paper journals. We currently keep children’s collage, paintings and writing samples in these special books, but record the processes on tapestry.

Can it be used into year 1?

Yes it can! Also, if a child is coming into your reception class from a different setting who are also using Tapestry, it’s possible to transfer all the observations over and continue with their nursery profile, and use their data. Similarly you can electronically transfer your Reception profiles up to the year one teacher should they wish to use it.

What happens at the end of the year?

You can create a PDF document on the learning journal to give to parents. I put these all on CDs at the end of the year. Unfortunately there is no way to save videos as far as I am aware.

Does each member of staff need an iPad?

I would say yes.  Because of how we use Tapestry, in that it  replaces all of our traditional methods of recording observations, from photos to post its, it’s important that everyone should have their tablet to hand, so that they don’t miss any learning opportunities.

How did the other staff take to Tapestry?

As I mentioned earlier both my TAs were initially apprehensive/terrified about using Tapestry. One thing that worried them for example was that they wouldn’t be able to record what the children were saying because they couldn’t type fast enough!  They often wrote notes and then transferred these onto the tablet at a later date meaning that they were doubling up and having to work extra hard.  As time went on they became much more confident and quicker at typing and so were able to ditch the notebooks! This year I have been encouraging them to use more video evidence and get over their self-consciousness at hearing themselves on video.  They now agree that changing to the online journal system was the best thing we ever did.

If someone paid you to go back to the old paper system, would you?!

Absolutely not! In an era where more and more schools are using social media and blogs to interact with parents, it is only a matter of time before everyone changes to using online journals. Try not to be be scared, just embrace it!

If you have any more questions I would urge you to check out the foundation stage forum website here… http://eyfs.info/forums/forum/318-tapestry/


The Elf On The Shelf 🎅

I know this is a very early Christmas post, but I wanted to give you all a heads up and some time to order your elf on the shelf, as some people end up having to order theirs from the U.S.

I first heard about the elf on the shelf from one of my favourite Northern Irish photographers Janine Walker.  She had recently adopted 3 wee boys and wanted to give them a magical Christmas. She had me captivated; I can only imagine how her boys felt!

Basically the elf on the shelf arrives in a box along with a story book which explains who he is. I make a big deal out of his arrival and go to town with the wrapping of the parcel!  I usually arrange for the head teacher or the school secretary to arrive  with the parcel when the children are sitting at the carpet for my morning session. They explain that they heard some bells tinkling and looked out the window and the parcel was just sitting on the doorstep, addressed to reception. You can imagine what the children’s faces are like at this point!

Elf on the shelfThe elf is sent from the North Pole to essentially spy on the children and report back to Santa every night. Each morning the children will find that he has returned from his nightly jaunt and will be in a different place around the classroom, often having behaved quite badly! You can find zillions of ideas on Pinterest. Check out my board here… http://www.pinterest.com/rockmyclassroom/the-elf-on-the-shelf/

The one important rule to remember is that the elf uses magic power to fly back to the North Pole each night. If the children touch him he will lose some of his power and might need to spend a night recuperating in elf hospital. Sad times.

imageOne of the first jobs you have to do is to name your elf.  In the past I’ve had Twinkle, Bompodomp and as you can see last years choice was Twilight Sparkle, which I realised afterwards is a character from My Little Pony!

imageIt is designed for use in the home but I introduced it to my class 3 years ago and it went down an absolute storm, needless to say behaviour is traditionally impeccable for all of December!! Here are some ideas for how I have used it in class…


He raided Paws the cat’s sticker collection one night!



The children all planted a magic bean (tic tac) in sugar, sprinkled it with magic dust (glitter) and left them over night. Just look what happened….


I hope this inspires you to get your own elf on the shelf because it is honestly one of the most magical and rewarding things I’ve done since becoming a teacher. The looks on the childrens faces in the morning are just priceless. So many of my friends have bought them for their families and have had such a ball setting up various scenarios. My Facebook feed is constantly bombarded with elf on the shelf antics.

Anyway that’s all for now.  Hope you’re enjoying a few days off for Halloween. 

Have fun 🌟

Puddle Fun ☔️

Hello everyone,

i just wanted to quickly share some pictures from an impromptu activity that I did with the kids yesterday. After a night of heavy rain our outdoor classroom, which has no drainage, was left with the usual lake sized puddle right in the middle of it. I decided to let the kids have some fun, whilst helping to sort out the puddle problem and develop their upper body strength, by adding half a bottle of fairy liquid to it and handing them all a sweeping brush…Puddle fun on rock my classroom

After a few moments of furious brushing and bubble making they asked if they could have some colours; we have put in powder paints in the past which also went down a storm.  I thought I’d do something different this time and added some food colouring…

imageThis was very visually appealing and caused great excitement. Children began to pour outside and we soon ran out of brushes.



The puddle soon turned into an enormous colourful foamy froth which lent itself to some fabulous large scale mark making. It also made the loveliest sound, similar to snow, so a multi sensory experience in all!



imageWhen my husband saw these pics he asked was it not really slippy? It honestly wasn’t at all because the ratio of fairy liquid to water was relatively low because of the size of the puddle.

I hope this inspires you to have fun with your puddles outdoors.  If you have kids maybe try it out with them over the half term?

Enjoy x

ight of heavy rain


🎃 Happy Halloween 🎃

Yay, it’s almost half term and we’ve survived the first few weeks of settling in and the general madness of being back at school!

This year I did a Halloween theme for the first time ever. In the past I’ve always been afraid of upsetting certain parents, but seeing how into witches and potion making some of my Muslim girls were last year, I decided to go for it!

We focused on the Julia Donaldson book, room on the broom, which is full of rhythm, rhyme and repitition and is perfect for phase 1 phonics.

I am a firm believer in not introducing phase 2 letter sounds too early in reception. I feel that it is imperative that children are exposed to plenty of phase 1 rhythm, rhyme, alliteration and blending and segmenting games, in order to build up a solid base and an ear for sounds.  In our objective led planning this week our literacy focus has been blending and segmenting sounds in words. We set up a silly soup activity outside with lentils, beans and CVC word objects….

imageLater in the week we transformed our outdoor playhouse into a witches hut….



In it we had our silly soup cauldron and some CVC word objects. In the other corner we set out the props from the room and the broom story as well as having the book and picture prompts on the wall. We also filled our little ikea storage wall hanger full of pens and writing frames..



Our numeracy objective this week was for the children to count out a set amount from a larger group. I modelled this activity at the carpet and then set it up in our water tray which was filled with gelibaff and cauldrons. The children had to pick a number card and place that many items into their cauldron. They LOVED the gelibaff and asked if they could have it out everyday!


On on our funky fingers table I vagazzled some skull shot glasses that I bought in good old poundland and the children had to fill them up accordingly with spiders of varying sizes. Again differentiated tools were provided.

Halloween activities on rockmyclassroom.com


The following week I set this funky fingers activity up in a tuff spot outside with green gelibaff. The children were thrilled!

imageGelibaff funky fingers

That’s all for now folks. I hope you all have a wonderful and restful half term. ❤️


Nifty Numicon

I ❤️ Numicon. The tactile and visual element it adds to number is fantastic.

At the moment in Reception we are really just at the exploration stage, so I’ve but putting the numicon out with the paints, in gloop and with the play dough.

At the play dough table the children made imprints with various pieces and investigated which pieces would fit on top of the other.  Marbles and gems also fit nicely into the Numicon holes so I put out a few bowls of these and modelled lots of counting out and one to one correspondence.

Numicon and play dough rockmyclassroom.com

We also put it out with some aqua beads which offered a fantastic sensory experience….

Numicon on rockmyclassroom.com

Numicon on rockmyclassroom.comWe’ve been using the numicon tiles as a scaffold for our children who don’t get the concept of counting out from a larger group and stopping at a said number.  With the Aqua beads we encouraged  the children to pick a number card and then count out that many aqua beads into the Numicon holes.

Numicon on rockmyclassroom.com

I also have a little numicon display up on the wall and know it’s a bit OCD, but I’ve colour coordinated all my number lines etc around the classroom to coincide with the Numicon colours so that the children might notice certain patterns developing.

Numicon on rockmyclassroom.com

I had a few (million) requests to add the colour coded numicon number lines pictured on the wall display above and on my on maths table below. Your wish is my command; please click on the images below for your free downloads!

Free download - numicon number line


Click on the image below, or failing that the link below the image, to access your free PDF copy of the numicon colour coded numberline…


Free Download - numicon number line

Free Download – numicon number line

Numicon colour coded number line to 20

Free download - numicon number cardsNumicon colour coded number cards



🍂 Autumnal funky fingers 🍂

Thank you so much for all the love and support I received for my first ever blog post. You’ve given me the encouragement I need to keep going.  Below are this weeks autumn themed funky fingers challenges…

I magpied this idea from Pinterest and thought it was perfect for my funky fingers table..

Leaf hole punching & threading on rockmyclassroom.com

Leaf hole punching & threading on rockmyclassroom.com

Again, I put out a variety of hole punching tools. I got my star hole punches from my fav early years resources high street shop, tiger!

Conker sorting with tea strainers

Conker sorting with tea strainers

I picked up up the tea strainers in tiger at the weekend for only £1 each. They are quite challenging to open and close and are a perfect finger strengthening tool. 👍 I added the measuring cylinders as an extra provocation – how many conkers does it take to fill each one?

This was such a popular activity, particularly amongst the boys. You can see that some children needed to use 2 hands to open the strainer, particularly those children who have a weak pencil grip.

Outdoors we tried to make the best of the bad weather by adding powder paint to the huge puddles! The children squealed with delight, jumping up and down and using the rollers and paint brushes to mix the paint.


The children loved walking around in their wellies creating footprints….

That’s all for now, but did you know that you can also follow me on….

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/rockmyclassroom

Twitter –https://twitter.com/rockmyclassroom#

Pinterest – http://www.pinterest.com/rockmyclassroom/

Thanks for reading ✨


First week of funky fingers 👍

Hello everyone and welcome to my new blog, Rock My Classroom!  I know it looks a bit bare, but I’m not the most technically apt, so please bear with me while I find my way!

I decided to set up a blog because I am constantly inspired by images I see shared online by other early years bloggers and thought I might give it a whirl myself.

One thing I was keen to set up in my Reception class this year was a funky fingers table, so to start off I’m going to share this element of my provision with you all.  Future topics will include using an online assessment app and developing my outdoor area.  Ok here goes…

image Day 1 & 2 some marble sorting on an upturned ikea bath mat

image Days 3, 4 & 5 – Pom Pom sorting with differentiated tools – tweezers, tongs and starter chopsticks. I daren’t remove this after 2 days. The children loved it and turned it into an ice cream parlour!

image Gloop and powder paint exploration. Of course they were more into the colour mixing and investigating the texture than writing their names in it!

image Powder paint and shaving foam. I needed to add a drop of water to this because it was quite dry to begin with. It made the most wonderful mousse like texture. Even with aprons the kids were filthy 😄

That’s all for now folks. Until next time ✨