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The Move to ‘Big School’

Date: September 21, 2018 Author: hpelc Categories: Educators Blog

Written by Alex Crosby

As we approach the end of the year with less than 15 weeks until Christmas, we are beginning to look deeper into the transition to Primary School for the children that are graduating from our Early Learning Centre and moving into a formal school setting. This can be an unsettling time for the children and for their families, especially for those whom it is their first child going to school. During this time is when we, as educators, get asked many questions about school readiness, so let us start the conversation!

We at Handprints are in connection with local schools to each centre to discuss with them about what skills they would like from ‘our’ children before moving into their school setting. Many families believe that the ability to read and write prior to sitting in their Kindergarten class for their first day is crucial. However, this is not a requirement that the local schools ask of us or the main focus of our teaching. So, what is?

Well, there are a few key skills that they would like a child to have developed over their years prior to starting Kindy. Social, emotional and self-help skills being towards the top of this list. Why are these important? Let us delve further into these and how they provide a child with the right building blocks to integrate into Primary school.
Social skills include the ability to engage in meaningful conversations with teachers and peers, allowing a child to question about their greater world. This allows them the opportunity to learn more as they are able to understand and follow instructions given to them.

When they are out during their meal breaks and in the playground, the ratio of teachers to children changes dramatically, (especially from the 1:10 or less that we provide in an Early Childhood setting). The teachers are out watching over the larger collection of children, but do not have the time or resources to help each child when they have a disagreement with a peer. If we have provided the children with opportunities to refine their social skills by modelling how to resolve conflict between each other, then the teachers do not need to help each child when they are trying to have a turn of the slide or want to play in a group game of hide-and-seek.

Emotional skills and regulation (also known as EQ – Emotional Quotient) are also highly important for being able to engage with teachers and peers both in and out of the classroom environment. When something goes wrong, they have difficulty completing a task or someone says something to them that they do not like, how do they react? Do they retreat into themselves and try to shut out what is happening? Do they lash out in a verbal or physical way to ‘scare’ away what they do not like? Or are they able to understand that sometimes things are out of their control and they do not need to worry about it, trying to manage what has happened as best as possible and if needed, ask a teacher or peer for assistance. Resilience comes from practice and understanding that it is ok when we do not do something right, or when someone does something we do not like. During these times we want to reflect on what has occurred and try to better our practices. Handprints Educators and Management are in constant reflection about what we do.

We never claim to know everything, but pride ourselves on our ability to reflect on our practices and to model to the children that we teach that it is ok to not get it right all time, as this is how we learn!

Now, what about all their belongings? Before starting in Early Childhood Education, I was in Outside Hours School Care and I could not even guess the number of times that I had parents asking me about where their hat or jumper is! In most schools, there is a uniform that all the children wear, and sometimes even the same school bag that they must use, so finding these things in a sea of identical items can be a time consuming and frustrating task, not to mention expensive should you be unable to find them! Firstly, we recommend that all clothing be labelled clearly with a name so that these items can be identified and returned to their owner (not only for Primary School, but in our Early Childhood Setting too!). While we do not expect a child to read or write, being able to identify their belongings is important. This can be done with the use of a unique label containing their name and a picture of something they can recognise as theirs. We find that most children going to school are able, just through exposure, to identify their name by sight, even if they are unable to read or write other words. This comes from us discussing with them about the symbols they see on all their belongings. Once they have removed an item of clothing though, what usually happens to it? Do you pick it up for them? Are they encouraged to be responsible for this or do they have someone that does this for them, such as a family member like a parent or older sibling?

While at school, this person will not be there to constantly ensure that these items are being put away, so talk to them about doing this each time they remove an item of clothing. What happens when they cannot find something? Is there someone else that finds it for them, or are they encouraged to think about what they were doing or where they were when they removed it? This cognitive thinking and memory recall not only helps them to find their belongings, but also to better recall what they are learning at school and to be able to problem solve when faced with a scenario which they have not yet encountered.

What about putting these clothes back on when its cold? Or changing into a sport uniform? Can they dress themselves without assistance from an adult? At Handprints St. Ives we have some school uniforms that were donated to us from local residents that we offer to the children to practice this skill. This not only gives them the opportunity to do this with an educator giving them verbal instructions or assisting as needed, but they love to dress in ‘Big School’ clothing as it gives them a feeling of accomplishment, that they have earned the responsibility to wear a uniform.

If you have any concerns about these different skills or abilities with your child, it is a great opportunity now to discuss these with their educators. This allows us time to work collaboratively towards giving them the opportunities to refine these skills prior to their first day. Let us provide every possible opportunity for the children to be ready and love to learn throughout their lives!