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Keep Calm and Let Them Carry On

02 Aug 2016

Keep Calm and Let Them Carry On_Xinghua Primary

Classroom games, such as this one being played at Xinghua Primary, are one of the ways in which schools are helping children ease into Primary 1.

The three big anxieties you may have about your child entering Primary 1, and how schools are helping to allay them.

Your child is headed for Primary 1 next year. It’s a big moment for both of you. You’re excited for him, but also a little anxious. There will be new experiences, new expectations, and a completely new environment for your child to navigate. How will he cope?

Don’t fret; you’re not the only one wondering. Our schools are asking the same questions too. Here are some of the solutions they’ve come up with to ensure your child’s rite of passage is a smooth one.

Anxiety #1: Lessons and assessments

All this while, languages were just something both of you spoke at home, and numbers were just a way to count toys, snacks, and keep time. Now, they’ll become the focus of formal lessons and assessments.

It’s a big shift, but it doesn’t mean your child has to hit the books immediately. In fact, all Primary 1 and 2 students get to enjoy non-academic activities such as games, outdoor exploration, music, art and drama during school hours. It’s an initiative called PAL, or Programme for Active Learning – be sure to ask your kid’s teachers about it.

Even within the academic curriculum, teachers are finding ways to keep the fun going. At Da Qiao Primary School, students are eased into English lessons through 10 weeks of speech and drama, culminating in class skits. Cedar Primary gets its students to practise their verbal skills by doing show-and-tell presentations on objects they’ve created using LEGO bricks. Punggol View Primary pupils do this too, on their favourite characters from books they’ve read in class.

And it doesn’t stop at language. Punggol View organises a daily 10-minute “Happy Hall” session in the school for the Primary 1 and 2 kids arriving before assembly, involving games, quizzes and stories. The topics rotate around the full gamut of primary school content, covering languages, mathematics, general knowledge, PE, art, music, and Character & Citizenship Education (CCE).

Anxiety #2: I want my mummy

Concerned that your child will start experiencing separation anxiety? Why not get in on some of the action yourself? Several schools have reading programmes for their Primary 1 students and their families. Malay language students at Pei Ying Primary are given books to read with their parents during holidays, as part of its “Celik Sastera” programme. Teck Ghee Primary designs stories to help their Chinese language students remember how to write certain words, and encourages them to tell these stories at home. Cedar Primary’s English department conducts workshops for parents on how to support their children’s language learning at home.

You could even participate directly in school activities. Punggol Green Primary teaches Chinese to Primary 1 and 2 pupils through real-life scenarios, such as a simulated supermarket environment. Parent volunteers role-play as shoppers, staging scenarios such as dropping items or falling down, which students have to respond to using their language skills. At Juying Primary, parents read to students in class and chip in to organise the annual “Pyjama Raya”, an evening where they go to the school with their kids in pyjamas to enjoy puppet shows, games, and storytelling.

Anxiety #3: A whole new world

Perhaps the biggest change of all for your child is the school environment itself. Suddenly he has to contend with rules, routines, and responsibilities. He has to be able to keep up in class and understand how to get along with others.

Once again, schools have got this covered. At Xinghua Primary, there are no lessons in the first week. Instead, teachers introduce silent reading, flag raising, pledge taking, and queuing up in twos. They help students get used to packing their bags based on their timetables, and passing messages to parents. This “New-U Programme” is a time for icebreaker games and songs; talks on discipline, safety, and nutrition; and tours to the school library, offices and eco-garden. Primary 4 students buddy up with their juniors during recess, guiding them on how to buy food, receive change, manage time, and greet teachers.

Juying Primary covers these areas too, though their “I Can Shine” curriculum is spread out over the Primary 1 and 2 years, alongside regular classes. You may not think of classrooms as a place where your kids would learn to fold their clothes, but that’s exactly what they do at Juying. Students from different classes are grouped together to learn life skills such as table manners, tying shoelaces, using brooms and dustpans, making sandwiches and cornflake cookies, washing plates and wrapping gifts for each other.

West View Primary takes things one step further. Their “Start It Right” programme runs for three solid weeks. Each student rotates through different orientation groups so they get to know everyone else in their cohort, as well as all the Primary 1 teachers. This may seem confusing, but the programme hangs together because all its activities centre around a single children’s book – Julie Lacome’s “Walking Through the Jungle”. It’s about the animals a boy encounters in a jungle, and the school uses it as a metaphor for their new pupils’ journey, giving them an opportunity to reflect on their own experiences and concerns. Besides playing games, the Primary 1 students are also taught to count money, dress smartly and take their own temperature. They are paired with Primary 5 buddies for the duration of the programme but are encouraged to continue the friendship even after orientation week.

These are just some of the things our schools are doing to help your kids take that big first step into the world of formal education. So don’t worry – Junior is in good hands.