The Primary 1 transition is huge, for both kids and parents. For your little one, it’s the start of formal schooling, bigger classes and learning to be independent. One of the biggest changes is the removal of exams and weighted assessments in Primary 1 and 2, as well as omitting certain academic indicators in report books.
The reason: To rein in overemphasis on grades.
But as a parent, you’re probably wondering if this will make it harder to track your kid’s progress in school. And what if she becomes complacent about her studies?
Here, we get the experts to share more on the Primary 1 transition, what’s truly important for your child’s learning, and tips on how to do it without relying on exams and grades.
Look at the big picture
Although single-point assessments, like semestral exams, are given less emphasis now, schools have adopted more holistic assessment practices to support learning, says former primary school teacher Belize Chan, an educational supply designer at Eh, Cher! Supply Co.
Holistic assessment may include mini tropical tests, performance tasks, project work and oral presentations. Such assessments “emphasise qualitative feedback, in the form of teacher’s comments on strength’s weakness and areas of improvement, over quantitative feedback (in the form of grades and marks), which would help parents support and track your child’s learning better,” Belize says.
What you can do During the Primary 1 transition, look through the holistic assessment portfolio together with your child, the various performance tasks assigned and discuss the strengths and weaknesses, Belize says. This will help you and your child better understand what he is good at and trouble spots that he can improve upon.
Billy Clucas, a teacher at the British Council, suggests communicating regularly with your child’s school teacher, enrichment teacher or tutor. “Try asking specific questions and focus on skill-based areas, rather than general classroom performance,” he says.
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Give kids hands-on learning experiences
With fewer exams, Education Minister Ong Ye Kung has said that schools will have around three more weeks of curriculum time every two years.
This would free up more curriculum time for teachers to conduct more inquiry-based learning, such as field trips, excursions as well as other hands-on activities.
What you can do Your child’s learning doesn’t have to stop after the school bell rings. Follow up on activities she has done in school, says Mathini Segar, academic director (Science Olympiad) at the Singapore International Maths Contest Centre.
As part of the Primary 1 transition, help your little one revise what he has learnt by doing a similar activity at home. But don’t overdo the practice and drill to avoid snuffing out your child’s love for learning. Instead, opt for more fun, experiential activities.
While every child learns differently, most students generally learn best from activities and games instead of lectures and worksheets, Belize says. “Hands-on activities and games are able to capture their attention and interest,” she adds.
Rather than make kids do past-year exam papers, it is better to instill a love for learning at a young age as that would indirectly spur them to practise questions on their own, adds Mathini, who is also a primary and secondary science assessment book author.
To get them to interested to learn more about Science for example, introduce fun, relatable activities like “the science of the human body”, “the science of cooking”, watch National Geographic programs together, Mathini suggests.
That said, it is still important for you to check your children’s homework regularly so that you can spot and track common mistakes, as well as their strengths, says Belize.
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English language skills matter, even for other subjects
What’s the link between English and Stem (Science, technology, engineering and maths) subjects? A solid foundation in English can have a positive impact on a wide range of subjects such as science and maths, Billy shares.
Students often misread or do not fully understand the question types and become prone to making errors. Strong reading strategies are a great asset during exam season, especially in Primary 4, he adds.
“Learners with the ability to pinpoint key words in question are at an advantage and can get to the root of the answer quicker. With time management being a key component of success in exams, a strong English comprehension skillset is highly desirable,” Billy explains.
What you can do Encourage your child to read out loud during the Primary 1 transition, Billy says. “By doing so, you have the opportunity to track your child’s progress of fluency, pronunciation and reading performance skills, which would be impossible to do if he read silently,” he explains.
Ask your child open-ended questions starting with words like “why”, “how” or “what”.
“By avoiding yes or no questions, the learner is encouraged to give reasons and even offer an opinion. This form of critical thinking is a vital skill for mid- and upper primary students, and is something that is overlooked,” says Billy of the British Council.
(Also read: 8 ways to prepare your child for Primary 1 Mandarin)
No exams, but your kid may still benefit from extra help
All children can benefit from having someone review the school syllabus and explain learning points they do not understand or missed in school, says Belize.
“If you are able and willing to consistently go through your child’s school work, and support his learning, tuition would not be needed. However, in cases where parents feel they are unable or unwilling to do so, tuition would be the best way to support and extend their child’s learning after school,” Belize adds.
What you can do Before you consider additional help, it is important to set up a healthy study environment at home for your child. Help your child create own “office space” or personal study area – this helps him get in the frame of mind when tackling homework and revision, Billy says.
With the ongoing changes, enrichment and tuition centres, and even assessment book authors, will need to engage students differently.
When looking for additional help to support your kid’s learning, look for those that focus on engaging children and encourage active learning, instead of those that carry out practice and drill, says Mathini.
For instance, an assessment book that delivers concepts in an interesting manner, provides fun science facts and activities that can be done at home may be more engaging for lower primary students, she says.
Don’t overlook the soft skills
It takes more than just subject mastery to do well in school. Increasingly, research shows that soft skills matter when it comes to predicting success in school, at work and for life.
Having good time management skills, teamwork and the ability to work under pressure are important skills for children in upper primary levels, says Billy.
Students with a decisive attitude, clarity of thought and organisational skills often have an easier ride, while those who can manage their time well can efficiently prioritise tasks and organise their study schedules for more productive revision time, Billy shares.
What you can do Teach your kid to get organised and stay on top of things. Work with Junior to create a schedule or timetable to help him manage his homework, CCA and tuition schedule, Billy suggests.
This may include making a checklist of things that need to be done, shopping for tools that will help him be more organised such as binders, files or a notebook.
Consider a buddy system where you let your child study with a friend or family member – learning to ask for help and being able to work in a team are important skills.
Primary 1 kids photo: The Straits Times; other photos: 123RF.com