How Singapore preschools prepare kids for Primary 1

June 28, 2016
  • THE BIG LEAP
    1 / 8 THE BIG LEAP

    Starting primary school can be rather daunting for a six-year-old. 

    From a class of 15 to a class of 30 or more. From a homely set-up to a sprawling complex of buildings. From teachers who hug you, to teachers who don’t smile (much).

    And let’s not talk about homework.

    Is it any wonder then that many parents are anxious  perhaps more so than their children  about how prepared their little ones are for Primary 1?

    And how do major preschool chains prepare their young charges? Young Parents finds out.

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  • A STRUCTURED TRANSITION
    2 / 8 A STRUCTURED TRANSITION

    “The transition from kindergarten to primary school is a big one, and advancing from kindergarten to primary school can actually be quite daunting,” says Thian Ai Ling, deputy general manager of My First Skool.

    “Apart from learning subjects at a deeper level, children have to adjust to a new environment, follow a different routine and exercise a greater degree of independence,” she adds.  

    “Today, transition activities between preschools and primary schools tend to be ad-hoc and unstructured in nature. Yet, research has shown the importance of strong linkages, close coordination, and continuity between early childhood programmes and primary schools.” 

    That’s why the preschool chain partnered with five primary schools last year to offer a more structured transition programme for 320 K2-level kids from 13 centres. 

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  • LEARNING THROUGH ACTIVITIES
    3 / 8 LEARNING THROUGH ACTIVITIES

    Through learn-and-play activities over six months, the preschoolers (at My First Skool) learnt about the primary-school environment and routines such as recess and assembly time.

    They practised paying for food, used the toilets independently and waited for their turn in a big group. The kids had a taste of the primary-school curriculum and learnt to get along with new friends from P1. 

    Their parents also had the chance to meet with the primary school’s leaders and parent support groups to find out more about formal education.

    This year’s K2 cohort will also be using a journal to document their learning experiences in primary school, Ai Ling adds. 

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  • NEW SCHOOL, NEW RULES
    4 / 8 NEW SCHOOL, NEW RULES

    Other childcare chains, such as The Little Skool-house International, Star Learners, Pat’s Schoolhouse and Etonhouse, also organise excursions to primary schools for the same reason. 

    Under The Little Skool-house’s school experience programme, for instance, teachers take the learning a notch up. 

    Its deputy general manager, Coreen Soh, explains: “The teachers will facilitate the experiences further by doing compare-and-contrast discussions, getting children to draw the map of the school and the childcare centre, identifying key similarities and differences and associating them with potential challenges and how they may be resolved. 

    “Classrooms in our preschools are ‘transformed’ to imitate a school setting and small practices are mocked up to let kids understand some key differences between the operating environments.”  

    It also holds workshops so parents can learn more about the emotional, physical and social adjustments of P1.  

     

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  • STANDING ON THEIR OWN (LITTLE) FEET
    5 / 8 STANDING ON THEIR OWN (LITTLE) FEET

    Cultivating independence is key for the preschools Young Parents interviewed.  At Brighton Montessori, for instance, K2 children start “buying” their morning snack using real money in the third and fourth terms.

    Pat’s Schoolhouse’s K2 curriculum includes a theme on money concepts and management, where kids role-play in a shop or supermarket setting, practising budgeting and buying food and stationery, as if they were in P1. 

    “By K2, our children are also well-equipped with self-help skills such as showering and dressing independently. They are responsible for their own belongings, are mindful of others and also take turns to maintain their classrooms through daily classroom duties, from arranging of library books on the shelves to ensuring classroom stationery is neat and tidy,” says a Pat’s Schoolhouse spokesman. 

    “They also serve themselves breakfast whilst ensuring there is still enough for their classmates and friends before they have second helpings.” 

    To prepare for the longer school day, some preschools phase out naps in K2. At Brighton, these are usually done in the third term, while Etonhouse turns nap time into a rest period of 30 minutes. 

    Pat’s Schoolhouse, however, keeps nap time “to allow them to collect their thoughts, take a break and recharge. This is especially effective for children who are in school from 7am to 7pm”, says its spokesman. 

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  • TO TEST OR NOT TO TEST?
    6 / 8 TO TEST OR NOT TO TEST?

    With the transition comes the weekly grind of weekly spelling tests in English and mother tongue, and preschools handle the challenge differently. 

    A spokesman for Star Learners admits that this is “one of the major concerns” of its parents, so it introduces English and Chinese spelling in the first term of the K2 year. 

    “The main intention is to heighten the children’s phonemic awareness and reinforce words that are commonly used in both languages. Our goal is to help them develop skills to correctly represent the written language and not to memorise words temporarily,” cluster supervisor Sharon Teo explains. 

    Star Learners also created its Write A Rainbow programme to develop reading and writing skills. The stories written by each K2 cohort are published and presented as a graduation gift. 

    Brighton Montessori starts its spelling tests after Chinese New Year, with 10 words per week in the first and second terms. These increase to five words and five phrases in the last two terms, it says. 

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  • FUN LANGUAGE LESSONS
    7 / 8 FUN LANGUAGE LESSONS

    Pat’s Schoolhouse, on the other hand, believes strongly that language is caught and not taught. “Little emphasis is thus placed on rote learning and spelling tests,” its spokesman says.

    Instead, its teachers use phonics, one-to-one and small group readings, as well as games and activities (which include spelling exercises), so kids learn the language in a meaningful context.

    “These skills are further enhanced via Reader’s Theatre and preparation for our Graduation Performances, where children have a purpose to write, read and share their ‘imagination space’ with others, as they learn to understand their world, create their own scripts, perform aloud and bring enjoyment to both themselves and their audience,” its spokesman adds. 

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  • SKILLS FOR LIFE IN THE 21st CENTURY
    8 / 8 SKILLS FOR LIFE IN THE 21st CENTURY

    As the K2 graduating classes across the island ramp up their preparations for the big transition, parents would do well to remember that primary school is ultimately a journey, not a destination. 

    Munia Ahmed Syeda, principal of Etonhouse Pre-School, Vanda, sums it up: “In the 21st century, we aim to work with children towards understanding and not memorising. It’s not about preparing them only for primary school, but also for life. 

    “We believe that, more than the 3Rs (reading, writing and arithmetic), today’s children need to learn the 4Cs – collaboration, creativity, communication, and critical thinking.” 

     

    (Photos: 123RF.com)

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