Open day at school

Every year, our school, as with most schools in Australia, has open days for new parents and students. One of the questions most frequently asked by parents is:

What will she be learning about?

All children learn at different rates, and the teacher will cater for a whole range of abilities, especially in the first year of school. 

Most schools have a specific period of time in the morning for literacy and numeracy. These two subject areas cover many, many learning experiences during the year.

For example during literacy, there is a focus on teaching children to recognise print, to discuss and read stories with the teacher, and ultimately to read independently. They will learn the sounds and symbols that make up the alphabet and practise writing letters and words. Some will write sentences and short stories.

Most of the numeracy learning children do in the first years of school are based on “hands on” activities. For example, weighing and measuring, counting, sorting, learning maths language, (same/ different, floating/sinking).  Students love counting to 100, but just as importantly they learn to match objects with a number, ie number 7 with 7 counters. The counting and sorting of objects leads to addition and subtraction, multiplication and division. Over time children learn to think abstractly, and be able to count, add, and subtract “in their heads”

Although literacy and numeracy is a specialist “block” of time, all learning at school overlaps and is inter-related. During the day children may go to different rooms, often with different teachers to learn other skills, for example:

• Gymnastics and dancing

• Art and craft

• Music, singing and learning to play instruments

• Library, reading, borrowing and returning books, and learning all about how to use a library

• Computer lab for lessons in a range of subjects, or simply to write stories.

Another question frequently asked by parents is:

Will my child be able to make friends, will he be okay on the playground?

All the teachers in the school are very aware of new children starting school, and take particular care with the youngest students, especially in their first year. Many schools have “buddies” or mentors for the younger children. Children learn surprisingly quickly where the playground, canteen and library are located. There is always a teacher on duty in every playground, to help children in need. 

A very big part of beginning school is learning to socialise and mix with large groups of students. Children can be prepared for this socialising in simple ways at home. For example, 

• Everyone feels better if they see a few familiar faces on the first day. If you know of children going to the same school, try having one or two over for a play before school begins.

• Play games that involve taking turns. Children need to be able to wait for their turn, and also understand that not everybody can win every time!

• Teach your child simple games that she can play on the playground with other children.

• Practise taking turns to speak at mealtimes or incidental times spent together. Being able to speak to other children and to the teacher is important, as is listening when it is some-else’s turn to speak.

• Do some little “acting out” sessions at home, introduce yourself to your child and ask him to introduce himself to you, so that he learns to say his name clearly. Give him demonstrations of questions and statements, both for the teacher and the other students:

“May I go to the toilet please?”  

“Please pass me the scissors” 

“May I have the red pencil after you?”

• Discuss that the fact that school has lots of children, and the teacher is often trying to listen to everyone, so taking turns with the teacher is important too.

Routines and calm help with change

The beginning term of the school year is very tiring for all children. In my experience the first few days of the term are always really hot! The excitement of learning, meeting new children, teachers and being in a new school is like sensory overload! Children, teachers and probably parents need to be in bed by 7.00pm!

Routines for children at school and at home are very important and give children something to hold onto while everything is changing in their lives. For example:

• Have a calendar on the fridge at your child’s level clearly marking the days of the week, and the school events happening on those days. This way your child can check to see what she needs to put in her bag for that day ie: Monday: Library, Wednesday: Sport. Etc

• Homework can cause all sorts of drama at home and at school. Try to have a specific place for homework books and home readers. Preferably these books should be kept away from food or messy areas of the house, ie avoid areas where children might have paint, or glue etc.

• Try having a “messy” area where children can display artwork and projects. Children are learning lots of new things at school, and it is great for them to be able to practise with pens, pencils, textas, glue and paint.

• Bedtime routines are vital for children in primary school. Children should go to bed at about the same time on school nights. It is much better for them to have a calming “down time” reading in bed with a parent than watching TV right up until bedtime.

by Geraldine Mackey