Want to help your kids to score well in primary school? Here are 5 basic skills parents can foster to ensure that they have a smoother academic path in their future school years.
1) Reading Skills
Reading is an essential skill for every subject that your child will study now and later in Secondary school. Other than reading to learn, your child will have to read to understand, especially during exams. Hence, it pays to develop this skill at a young age as it lays a good foundation for your child’s academic vocation. Here are some tips to do so.
- Inculcate a love of reading in your child. Set aside an hour of reading time each day (if you haven’t already established that) into their daily routine. If there is a shortage of time, incorporating a reading time on alternate days is better than not reading at all.
- Guide your children in the reading quality. The library usually has a good selection of books and magazines. Help them find books that will spark their interest – adventure, fairy tales, biographies etc. Check out our lists of age-appropriate reading books for your child.
- Allow time for leisure reading, so allow them to read the books of THEIR choice. This will seem more fun and less work. It’s ok to re-read a favourite book. And if time permits, read with them during this quiet reading time. It is a great opportunity to role-model a love for reading.
- Reading is not the easiest thing for a kinaesthetic child. Start with a shorter reading time and slowly (or stealthily) increase it. You may also wish to let your child read books that have already been made into films so you can watch it after. This will help bring the words to life for the child.
- Encourage them to bring a book with them when they go out. Kill time during queuing time by reading.
- Reading helps to develop a stronger proficiency in spelling words and build a larger vocabulary base.
2) Writing Skills
Neat Handwriting (or the lack of it) is often the bane of most parents and teachers. When it comes to neat handwriting, it is as natural as ABC for some kids. For others, they require studious practicing. Here are some tips for parents to try:
- Start the habit of good handwriting at a young age (if possible). ENCOURAGE your toddler or preschooler to practice pincer activities to strengthen their fingers. Lower primary students often complain that their hands are tired from too much writing, hence strengthening their muscles at a younger age will help them.
- PRAISE good handwriting at every opportunity to encourage the writer.
- Some common complains that teachers have on handwriting include:
- alphabets: p, q, g, d, r
- capitalization or small letters: C, S, X, K, O
- numbers: 4, 9, 6, 0, 5
- word spacing
3) Oral Skills
This portion of the language subject (English or Mandarin) takes the least time to “study” and the marks are easiest to score. You can help your child succeed by practice speaking to them in proper English/Mandarin and give them lots of opportunities to “practice” their oral skills throughout the year without them even knowing it’s practice. Here’s how:
- Occasionally, get them to read aloud passages from their books that are interesting to them.
- Provide opportunities for them to converse with strangers. Throw that old adage: never speak to strangers out the window. Whenever I run errands or eat at restaurants, I find many willing participants (waiters at restaurants, cashiers, hawkers, hairstylist and neighbours etc) who help me practise simple conversations with my kids in both English and Mandarin. Usually, they are very encouraging and supportive to the kids and I always thank the strangers and the kids for their cooperation.
- Kids usually clamp up when they see a foreign face. During oral exams, the examiner is usually a different teacher that your child may not be familiar with. For shy kids (like my daughter), the above exercises helps overcome this barrier.
- Teach them to enunciate their words clearly. (Read our review of Be The Voice)
- Conversations should be fun. Don’t stress your child if he/she is initially not receptive to reply, coach your child in private how to answer and let him/her try again the next few times. You will be surprise how much confidence these private practices can help your child. When he/she succeeds, be generous in your praises of his/her efforts and success.
- Oral conversations are usually based on scenarios the child is familiar with. For example, a birthday party, a recent trip abroad, a family outing, taking the bus. Asking your child to share these events (with you or relative like grandma) is another way to prep them for Oral.
4) Listening Skills
Let’s face it. This is a challenging skill for any 7, 8 and 9 year olds. Teachers complain all the time about kids not having focus and being distracted. When you tell a child this age to “pay attention” and “focus”, they don’t get it. These concepts are too abstract for them. Try giving them these instructions instead:
- “When the teacher is talking to the class, keep your eyes on the teacher and hear what she says.”
- “When the teacher tells you to do something in class, follow the instructions.” (eg. if the teacher says to put your books away, do that.)
- No talking when the teacher is talking. Say: “Let’s be quiet when the teacher is talking so you can hear what she says.”
- If your friends talk while the teacher is in class, put your hands to your lips to signal silence.
One of the traits that I observe in students who gets better grades are their abilities to listen and follow instructions. Let me know if you have the same or differing observation than this.
5) Ability to Sit For Exams
Here is another toughie for an active child. Unfortunately, in our local schools, our kids have to sit through 50 to 60 minutes for their tests or exams. This can be challenging for many kids, especially the kinesthetic learners. Overcome this challenge by implementing the following sit-down exercise:
- Start with 15 minutes and slowly build it up to 60 minutes by extending the time by 5 minutes each.
- Reward the child for sitting through said period of time.
- If necessary, explain to your child the reason for this exercise so that you can win his/her cooperation.
In my next post, I will share how my p4 girl went from floundering in average grades (60 – 70%) to scoring Band 1 (90%) grades in her English, Maths and Science and winning the Edusave Good Progress Report without any tuition.
Till then, love yourself, love your child, live strong and be free.