For parents and children, the step up into Grade 1 (or big school!) is a time of excitement – but it can also be a time of some anxiety. How do you know if your child is ready for this step? Firstly, parents should be guided by qualified teachers to assess a child’s readiness to begin and take the step up into the start of their formal schooling.
What exactly is school readiness?
School readiness is a measure of how prepared a child is to succeed at school, and involves two types of readiness: a readiness to learn (which is continuous) and a readiness for school (which is associated with a fixed age).
School readiness depends on both emotional maturity and scholastic ability. It is split into different areas and although these areas are separate, they do interact with and reinforce each other. Children need to be developed across these key five areas:
1. Physical and motor development
- Gross motor, for example running, skipping, standing on one leg.
- Fine motor, for example comfortable using a pair of scissors, successfully doing zips and buttons, able to use cutlery.
- Perceptual development, both visual and auditory.
- Taking care of themselves, for example managing to go to the toilet by themselves.
2. Emotional and social development
- A child who is emotionally well-adjusted has a significantly greater chance of early school success.
- Gets along with peers, can interact within a group or shows an interest in other children, willing to help a friend.
- Can express feelings and needs.
- Can share.
- Can sit still, for example long enough to listen to a story.
- Can concentrate on a task for a reasonable amount of time.
- Able to deal with frustration in an acceptable way.
3. Cognitive development
- Can make independent decisions and follow through.
- Has ideas of his or her own.
- Can follow simple directions or instructions.
- Shows an interest in learning.
4. Language development (includes literacy, listening, speaking and vocabulary)
- Should be able to communicate effectively in home language.
- Be able to sequence (retell a story or a set of events).
- Identify similarities and differences between objects.
5. Emotional maturity
- Reasonable control over emotions.
- Basic problem-solving skills.
- Shows responsibility.
- Handles separation well.
Jenny Trollip, Head of Department at St Martin’s Junior Preparatory Phase in the south of Johannesburg, encourages parents to begin getting their child into the routine in preparation for Grade 1. St Martin’s is well-known for their smaller classes, passionate teachers, individual attention, and holistic education, and Trollip offers the following advice for establishing a routine:
Establish a morning routine
Your child should follow the same sequence of activities each morning so that it becomes an automatic chain of tasks. This leads to a sense of independence on the part of your child. A suggested morning routine could include the following: wake up, breakfast, ablutions, get dressed, collect school bag and lunch, walk to the car.
Set up an evening routine
The aim of this routine is to calm your child. They can relax knowing that they are prepared for the next day at school. Ideas for this routine could include taking out the school uniform, bath time, quiet play with no screen time, story time and finally bedtime. A Grade 1 child should be in bed between 19:30 and 20:00.
Allocate a homework space
Your child will require a place to do their homework where distractions are limited. Have specific stationery available so that they can complete the given tasks properly. Create a homework routine, with a specific time, sequence of activities to be followed and end off with packing the school suitcase. Homework in Grade 1 needs to be supervised by an adult who can create a positive environment.
Prepare a healthy snack box
Discuss nutritious options and treats with your child. Prepare a menu together. Take into consideration that these snacks will have to sustain your child for at least six hours at school.
Communication is key
When you child starts Grade 1, make sure that as parents you are on the school App and class Dojo, or whatever communication mechanism is used at the school so that you know what is happening and do not miss out on special days.
In addition to establishing a routine, parents can take time to prepare their children for this new phase in their lives by
• Reading to their child.
• Teaching their child songs, nursery rhymes and poems.
• Taking their child on excursions to, for example, museums.
• Making regular opportunities for play-dates.
• Playing games so that your child starts recognising colours, numbers, and letters.
Cherish moments spent with your child and enjoy their school journey with them. Grade 1 is exciting, and memories made in this year should be filled with laughter and enjoyment.