The current pandemic situation has led to many young children engaging in all of their learning at home rather than in a childcare setting or school. Parents will have found a variety of ways to include literacy in their children’s routines and it is likely that televisions, tablet PCs and mobile phones have played a part in this.
As we gradually re-open our settings to children who may find the transition back into school a challenge, there are resources we can utilise to maintain those links between home and the setting. Bug Club has a variety of resources which can support both learning in settings and at home and can be a great way to encourage children to settle into a new routine.
While at home, most children will have had access to stories, either reading together with members of their household in person, watching videos of stories being read online or listening to audiobooks. On a return to their setting, children will need a mix of these approaches to storytelling. Pearson’s Bug Club programme offers animations, online games and interactive activities with links to CBeebies which are likely to be similar to the activities they have been accessing at home. This would also be helpful for those children who have not had much access to literacy activities or language-rich conversation in the past few months as a way of engaging them at an age and stage-appropriate level.
Steps to becoming a fluent reader
Having been in language and print rich environments in their previous childcare settings, at home and in their community, children will have been introduced to the idea that letters and words convey meaning. Knowledge and understanding of phonics is the next step on this journey to becoming fluent readers. However, an introduction to phonics as part of a play-based curriculum is always easier when using resources that children are familiar with, building on their previous knowledge and scaffolding their learning to the next level. The media included in Bug Club’s Phonics and Rapid Phonics programmes utilise CBeebies videos which are likely to engage children from the start and are interactive, so children are able to be active learners immediately.
The Bug Club programme is approved by the Department for Education and is based on the Letters and Sounds guidance, widely used to implement literacy in the Early Years Foundation Stage and Key Stage One of the National Curriculum. The programme provides systematic, synthetic phonics contained in 134 decodable readers, which include the popular CBeebies Alphablock characters. These readers are available both in print and as ebooks which can be allocated by the school to individual children. The classroom resources include the ability to assess the level of whole groups and individuals based on their interactions with the activities and games.
Gauging the word gap
As children have been learning in varied environments over the past few months, assessment of their current levels of ability is an important part of the process of supporting their transition back into the setting. For some children, the word gap may have widened considerably during lockdown, particularly if they live within a small household where conversation is limited. Bug Club resources enable teachers and practitioners to be flexible in their provision and differentiate the learning intentions for individual children which will help those who might struggle more with group learning activities after an extended period of being at home.
The Rapid Phonics programme is designed for children with additional needs who may need a little extra support to understand how to decode words. This set of books, for children in Year 1 and above, contain smaller, more manageable chunks of learning and can help support children with getting to a level where they become more confident within group activities with their peers. Confidence in reading is a key aspect of literacy and the extra boost of Rapid Phonics can provide the supportive building blocks needed to propel children to the next level.
We always recognise that parents are a child’s first teacher and as children begin to return to their settings and schools, it is important to maintain parental confidence in engaging their child in home learning. This is an opportunity to create stronger links between home and the setting by providing parents with the resources linked to those used during the school day. Again, this will support the child’s transition from entirely home learning to a combination of home and school learning. Schools can currently request free access to Bug Club resources through a form on the Pearson website. Parents can also access a range of free Bug Club resources during school closures by signing up for a free account with Pearson, with additional resources allocated by their school.