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Literacy in the EYFS



In Nursery we provide a language rich environment; modelling correct speech, developing speaking and listening skills and building a rich vocabulary. Each session includes story-telling, nursery rhymes and songs, and opportunities for children to speak and to listen to peers and adults. Children have many opportunities to be physically active, building the muscle tone and control needed to use a pencil to mark make effectively. Early phonics is taught daily, building the aural discrimination needed to break words down into their constituent parts. Development Matters forms the guidance for this age group. Communication & Language are designated as Prime subjects, and Reading & Writing are Specific subjects.

Development Matters 2021

Communication and Language


Birth- 3 years

3-4 years


Reach or point to something they want while making sounds.

Copy your gestures and words. Constantly babble and use single words during play.

Use intonation, pitch and changing volume when ‘talking’

Understand single words in context – ‘cup’, ‘milk’, ‘daddy’. Understand frequently used words such as ‘all gone’, ‘no’ and ‘bye-bye’.

Understand simple instructions like “give to nanny” or “stop”. Recognise and point to objects if asked about them.

Listen to other people’s talk with interest but can easily be distracted by other things

Make themselves understood and can become frustrated when they cannot.

Start to say how they are feeling, using words as well as actions.

Start to develop conversation, often jumping from topic to topic.

Develop pretend play: ‘putting the baby to sleep’ or ‘driving the car to the shops’.

Use the speech sounds p, b, m, w.


• l/r/w/y

• f/th

• s/sh/ch/dz/j

• multi-syllabic words such as ‘banana’ and ‘computer’

Listen to simple stories and understand what is happening, with the help of the pictures.

Identify familiar objects and properties for practitioners when they are described: for example: ‘Katie’s coat’, ‘blue car’, ‘shiny apple’. Understand and act on longer sentences like ‘make teddy jump’ or ‘find your coat’.

Understand simple questions about ‘who’, ‘what’ and ‘where’ (but generally not ‘why’).

Enjoy listening to longer stories and can remember much of what happens.

Pay attention to more than one thing at a time, which can be difficult.

Use a wider range of vocabulary.

Understand a question or instruction that has two parts, such as: “Get your coat and wait at the door”.

Understand ‘why’ questions, like: “Why do you think the caterpillar got so fat?”

Sing a large repertoire of songs.

Know many rhymes, be able to talk about familiar books, and be able to tell a long story.

Use longer sentences of four to six words.

Be able to express a point of view and to debate when they disagree with an adult or a friend, using words as well as actions.

Start a conversation with an adult or a friend and continue it for many turns.

Use talk to organise themselves and their play: “Let’s go on a bus... you sit there... I’ll be the driver.”


Understand how to listen carefully and why listening is important.

Learn new vocabulary.

Use new vocabulary through the day.

Ask questions to find out more and to check they understand what has been said to them.

Articulate their ideas and thoughts in well-formed sentences.

Connect one idea or action to another using a range of connectives.

Describe events in some detail.

Use talk to help work out problems and organise thinking and activities, and to explain how things work and why they might happen.

Develop social phrases.

Engage in Story times.

Listen to and talk about stories to build familiarity and understanding.

Retell the story, once they have developed a deep familiarity with the text, some as exact repetition and some in their own words.

Use new vocabulary in different contexts

Listen carefully to rhymes and songs, paying attention to how they sound.

Learn rhymes, poems and songs.

Engage in non-fiction books.

Listen to and talk about selected non-fiction to develop a deep familiarity with new knowledge and vocabulary.


Physical Development

Birth- 3 years

3-4 years


Develop manipulation and control.

Explore different materials and tools.

Use one-handed tools and equipment, for example, making snips in paper with scissors.

Use a comfortable grip with good control when holding pens and pencils.

Show a preference for a dominant hand.


Develop their small motor skills so that they can use a range of tools competently, safely and confidently. Suggested tools: pencils for drawing and writing, paintbrushes, scissors, knives, forks and spoons.

Develop the foundations of a handwriting style which is fast, accurate and efficient.


Birth- 3 years

3-4 years


Enjoy sharing books with an adult.

Pay attention and respond to the pictures or the words. Have favourite books and seek them out, to share with an adult, with another child, or to look at alone.

Repeat words and phrases from familiar stories.

Ask questions about the book. Make comments and shares their own ideas.

Develop play around favourite stories using props.

Notice some print, such as the first letter of their name, a bus or door number, or a familiar logo.

Enjoy drawing freely.

Add some marks to their drawings, which they give meaning to. For example: “That says mummy.”

Make marks on their picture to stand for their name.

Understand the five key concepts about print:

• print has meaning

• print can have different purposes

• we read English text from left to right and from top to bottom

• the names of the different parts of a book

• page sequencing


Develop their phonological awareness, so that they can:

• spot and suggest rhymes

• count or clap syllables in a word

• recognise words with the same initial sound, such as money and mother


Engage in extended conversations about stories, learning new vocabulary.

Use some of their print and letter knowledge in their early writing. For example: writing a pretend shopping list that starts at the top of the page; writing ‘m’ for mummy. Write some or all of their name.

Write some letters accurately.

Read individual letters by saying the sounds for them.

Blend sounds into words, so that they can read short words made up of known letter– sound correspondences.

Read some letter groups that each represent one sound and say sounds for them.

Read a few common exception words matched to the school’s phonic programme.

Read simple phrases and sentences made up of words with known letter–sound correspondences and, where necessary, a few exception words.

Form lower-case and capital letters correctly.

Spell words by identifying the sounds and then writing the sound with letter/s.


Write short sentences with words with known sound-letter correspondences using a capital letter and full stop.

Re-read what they have written to check that it makes sense.

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