What your child should know when it comes to his languages and maths by the time he enters Primary school…


For most kids in Singapore, Primary 1 is not only a big step into the world of formal education, they are making a huge transition in terms of independence, as well as academic learning.

As a parent, you might feel nervous, wondering whether you’ve done enough to prep your munchkin.

You might already have put together his brand-new school uniform, a new backpack, wallet and water bottle, and perhaps even taught him skills like how to tell the time, read his time table and count money.

But has he learnt enough in kindergarten or at home? Does he know enough English, Maths and his Mother Tongue, so that he can keep up with what his Primary school teachers are teaching?

We spoke to several experts to find out what is expected of your child when he enters Primary 1:


What your child should know

· Reading Your child should be able to recognise a range of sight words, and also have a certain degree of fluency. “Teachers will provide reading support through ‘shared reading’ by using Big Books, reading aloud to them, or engaging them in choral reading together,” says Edwin Edangelus Cheng, director of EduEdge English Specialists.

· Phonics Knowledge of phonics will be useful, as teachers will be teaching word identification skills. “Your child will learn how to read by recognising the sound of words, decoding letters and words, listening to and making sense of the stories read to them,” Cheng adds.

· Predicting and making logical inferences Cheng explains that your child will be taught to make logical inferences from clues from titles, headings, key words and pictures. “He will also be encouraged to give his personal responses to what he has read.”

· Psychomotor skills and hand-eye coordination Junior should be able to grip a pencil and write legibly using appropriate hand movements, from the left to the right, and top to bottom of the page.

· Penmanship and spelling “Your child should be able to write and speak fluently and confidently,” says Lee Sue Lynn, academic director for the Early Years at The Learning Lab. He should be able to recognise and spell age- or level-appropriate words.

“Your child will be taught to make logical inferences from clues from titles, headings, key words and pictures.”

· Forming sentences Lee adds that he should be able to “construct sentences with ease, and also comprehend and respond to short passages or stories.” Your child should also be able to complete “simple vocabulary exercises and basic grammar exercises”, she adds.

Cheng gives examples of sentence structures your child should be familiar with:

* Subject + verb; such as “Tom paints.”

* Subject + verb + object; such as “Tom paints the picture.”

* Subject + verb + noun; such as “The girl is her sister.”

* Subject + verb + adjective; such as “The girl is pretty.”

* Using the connector “and” to join two simple sentences, such as “The girl is her sister and is pretty.”

* Using the connector “but” to join two simple sentences; such as “Tom paints, but Judy sings.”

What parents can do

Cheng lists ways in which parents can help their children get up to speed with reading and writing.

· Provide books Pick books that are in line with your child’s passion or hobbies.

· Encourage “reading activities” These can include reading a recipe, or instructions on how to build a craft project.

· Establish a reading time Read to your child before bedtime, for instance, or even if it’s for just 10 minutes a day.

· Be helpful If you child comes to you for help in spelling, punctuation or suitable vocabulary, offer assistance!

· Be a role model Read in front of, and often, to your child. Let your kiddo see you writing. “Otherwise, they may develop a false belief that writing only takes place in schools and during tests and exams.”

· Create story prompts You can cut out pictures of different characters, places or the weather, to act as a visual stimulus to kick-start the creative juices your child has and write short stories about them.

· Praise Compliment your child on the areas he has done well in, and don’t magnify the errors he has committed.



What your child should know

Lau Chin Loong, co-founder and education director of Seriously Addictive Mathematics, notes that the P1 curriculum assumes that the child has no prior knowledge of math. However, it would be helpful if the child knows the following

· Rote counting From 1 to 20, at least.

· Read and write numbers From 1 to 20, in numerals, and if possible, write in words from 1 to 10. “Don’t worry too much about the spelling,” adds Lau.

· Understand the concept of number bonds “This allows the child to ‘see’ that a number is the sum of its parts,” Lau says. “For example, 2 and 3 make 5.”

· Ability to compare Your child should be able to tell which set of items is bigger or smaller, and which of two items is longer or shorter.

· Recognise basic shapes Be able to recognise shapes like squares, rectangles, circles and triangles.

· Add and subtract within 10 Use counting toys like linked cubes, or a child’s fingers to show how 3 +2=5, for instance. Use 3 cubes and count on another 2 cubes. For subtraction, such as 3-2=1, use 3 cubes and take away 2 so you can count the remaining cube.

· Knowledge of multiplication and division These are not necessary at this stage. If you want to introduce the concept of multiplication, introduce it as a concept of “adding the same number many times”. For division, introduce it as “sharing equally”.

Maths is about problem solving, not learning procedure or memory work.

What parents can do

· Youtube videos and games Plenty of YouTube videos of singalong songs should help them to count. “Sesame Street has some nice ones,” says Lau. Playing games like Snakes and Ladders or Ludo can help, too.

· Small counting objects Animal counters or toys like Lego bricks come in useful when learning addition and subtraction concepts. You can also use these objects to show junior how to compare numbers ― more versus fewer items.

· Spying shapes Look for everyday objects to show shapes such as a round plate, or a square photo frame.

· Ask leading questions “Direct them to find the answers by themselves,” Lau notes. “Maths is about problem solving, not learning procedure or memory work. For young children to be successful in maths, number concepts must be taught right.”

Chinese, or other Mother Tongue languages

What your child should know

· Language listening and oral skills “This will help your child understand what the school teachers are teaching, and build their confidence to express themselves should they have any questions,” says Xie Lingyun, a teacher at EduGrove Mandarin Enrichment Centre.

· Writing simple sentences This would mean being able to form simple sentence structures in the Mother Tongue, and being able to write the strokes of simple words.

What parents can do

· Create a comfortable speaking environment Parents should converse to their mini-me in the Mother Tongue as much as possible.

· Read books “Go to the library and borrow some Chinese language storybooks,” Xie suggests.

· Raise their interest in the language Do this with fun videos, watching plays, or going for interesting Chinese language workshops. “Enrichment classes have to be of interest to the child, as forcing the child to sit through a boring lesson can have an adverse effect,” Xie notes.

Photos: iStock

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