How can you prepare your child at home for school? New Zealand has recently introduced National Standards and I know that as a teacher, it has been a lot for educators, students and parents to come to terms with. We all know that children start learning from the day they are born, so preparing children for school readiness is essential.
The biggest question that I get asked as an educator is, “How can I prepare my 5 year old for school?”
I usually find that parents do a great job at teaching their children the alphabet names before they start school, which really helps build confidence, but it doesn’t really help them much in those initial learning phases in reading. So I have a few ideas below if you’d like to hear a teacher’s advice on school readiness.
It is really important and beneficial for your child to learn how to audibly identify simple sounds that are similar. This can be highlighted in poems or rhyming books. Asking your child to be able to identify the sounds that sound the same or words that rhyme would be of great advantage to your child. Even playing “I-spy” with letter sounds rather than alphabet names may very well be achievable for a more advanced learner. This is called Phonological Awareness and is an important foundation to learning to read.
Something I am continuously discussing with early childhood centers, is the importance of Phonological Awareness. This may sound like a lot of teacher talk however Phonological Awareness is very important in the development of your five year old. Being able to hear and identify similar sounds, or sounds that are different for that matter, will really prepare your child for reading.
Far too often we expect students to identify letter sounds by looking at them and expecting them to know what sound they represent. This is called phonics and only comes later in the developmental process.
Research shows that students are coming to school with very little preparation in Phonological Awareness, which is now a prerequisite for school. By the time your child starts school, they should be learning to match these familiar sounds with the letters, if they haven’t done so already.
Another useful tip is teaching your child to write their name. This will be very useful in identifying their work at school and build confidence. Students need confidence in order to succeed at learning. The more your child succeeds, the more they will achieve and want to take ownership of their learning.
If you want to teach the alphabet names, make sure you teach them the alphabet sounds first. There are a lot of ABC apps out there that will provide both of these learning opportunities, including how to write these letters, which will help when it comes to your child learning to write their name.
Reading to your child and with your child every night will not only teach your child the necessary concepts about print, but will provide them with valuable quality time. It is so important that your child knows that you are interested in them and have time for them. Having this positive relationship with your child will also benefit their learning tremendously, as love and affirmation is so critical and necessary at this age, which goes without saying.
Learning how to count out their lollies, toys or anything else of interest to them will also assist them in their mathematics. Again, teach them how to count to ten before asking them to identify the numerals. If they are confident with this, then you can proceed to numbers up to 20. Remember that this is not a prerequisite for the 5 year old and they will be taught this at school. However, learning these concepts in real life contexts is invaluable.
Once they can count to 10, they can start learning that if they add 1 and 1, it equals 2. The language of mathematics is really important here, so don’t be afraid to use words like add, subtract, equals and left over. This will once again prepare them for the symbols that they will learn to match this mathematical language.
Fine Motor Skills
What about teaching them to tie their shoelaces? Yes, it is important that you teach them everything to make them independent in being able to dress and use the toilet independently. Learning how to use a pair of scissors is also probably an expected skill by the time your child starts school however this is also not a requirement for New Entrants.
All gross and fine motor development is also important in the preparation for writing. What is this you say? Gross motor development is the development of the bigger muscles in the body that will help prevent your child from falling off their chair. To develop these muscles practice climbing up and down stairs, running races and encourage your child to play regularly on adventure playgrounds. Fine motor development is essential in helping your child to have the muscle strength in their hands to grip a pencil and make the necessary small movements on a page with their pencil. You can encourage your child to draw, paint, cut out pictures, play with play-dough, build and pick up puzzle pieces. All of these activities will assist your child in their fine motor development.
Finally, there are many other things that you could do with your child although the key to their success is the ownership of their learning. This means that the learning is fun and meaningful for them, providing real life contexts from their own home culture and that they have the freedom to share these learning experience with others at school, according to recent research. Most of all have fun and enjoy learning!