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EYFS: Signs


This activity builds on children’s developing knowledge of how humans interact with the environment. Signs are often all around us; children may begin to notice them as they learn to read and interpret environmental print such as words and symbols. Through noticing signage and thinking about the location of and reasons for signs, children will develop foundational knowledge of human environmental features that will be built on in key stage 1.

Links to Understanding the world

  • Support children to make sense of their physical world and community.
  • Build on children’s personal experiences to develop knowledge.
  • Notice similarities and differences in the world around them.
  • Understand how humans and animals interact with the natural world.

Links to other areas of the EYFS

  • Emergent writing and physical development.
  • Being imaginative.

Starting points

You will need:

Activity idea: ‘Signs’

This activity is all about noticing environmental print. Photographs have been provided as a starting point, but children are likely to be more engaged by images that reflect the environment around their school.

Use the photographs to introduce signs and print in the environment, and collect ideas to assess children’s prior knowledge and experience.

Signs are often there to tell us information, maybe to keep us safe or help us find the correct way to go.

Use the provided photographs to show examples.

  • Close the gate sign – why is the sign there? To give an instruction, to tell us to do something, to keep us safe?
  • Direction sign – to show us where to go. Notice the sign is arrow-shaped and points to where the nature trail starts.
  • Information sign – this tells us something we need to know: that this place is a play area and how to look after it.

Next, look for signs in the school grounds:

  • Can we read them? How did they get here?
  • What do they tell us? How do they help us use this place?
  • Can you find a sign giving an instruction?
  • Can you find a direction sign?
  • Can you find an information sign?
  • Depending on your school and the signs you find, you may notice that certain colours are used to show warnings or information.
  • Are the school signs all the same colour, or do they have the school logo on? Why is this?

You could interview the headteacher or caretaker about why the signs are needed and how they help us to use the spaces.

Plan some questions for your interview, such as: who designed the signs? What material are they made from and why? Why do there need to be signs outside the school?

Create a trail around your school using signs to showcase your favourite places. This could be designed for children who are new to the school to follow. Test out the trail to see if the signs work or if they need to be moved or added to.

  • Which parts of the school will you want to signpost?
  • Decide where signs would need to be placed so that visitors can easily see them.
  • What would make our signs clearer? Large writing? Bright colours?
  • How big should the signs be?

How to make this successful

  • Children are likely to be at varying stages with their reading confidence. Choose signs that match children’s reading and understanding level, so that they are likely to be able to read the signs mostly independently.
  • Provide a variety of materials for children to create their signs, such as chunky pens and cut-out letters.

Ideas to build on knowledge

  • Share examples of environment print in other areas of the classroom, such as a welcome mat in the home corner and road signs in the construction or small world area.
  • Involve children in renewing classroom signs and labels to think about how they use the environment.
  • Link the idea with home, so that children can look out for signs on their journey home from school.

This Teaching Resource was written for the Geographical Association by Sarah Sprake.

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