Getting Ready For Learning
Children are natural learners. They have an inbuilt curiosity and an eagerness to know more about everything – about themselves, about others and about the world around them. Children learn fast – but only when they are ready and when they display a readiness to learn.
Children in Ireland start school at a very young age, therefore we must guard against putting pressure on them to learn material prior to their readiness to assimilate such material.
Demanding too much too soon can switch a child off completely. The rates of progress of children can vary greatly. We, at Scoil Mhuire, try to give children an opportunity to move ahead at their own pace or as near to it as possible.
The first year in school therefore, is mainly about settling in, relating to others, making friends, feeling happy and gradually getting used to the routines of school. On the learning side, the emphasis is on getting children ready for learning by –
- Developing their oral language and expression.
- Sharpening their senses, especially seeing, hearing and touching.
- Developing physical co-ordination especially of hand and fingers.
- Developing their ability to listen attentively.
- Developing their ability to focus and concentrate.
- Extending their concentration span.
- Learning through play – the most enjoyable and effective way.
- Co-operating with the teacher and other children.
- Performing tasks by themselves.
- Working with others and sharing with them.
- Getting each child to accept the general order – this is necessary for the class and school to work well.
Before Your Child Starts
You should ensure that he (she) is as independent as possible – physically, emotionally and socially. If children can look after themselves in these areas, they will feel secure and confident and settle in to ‘big school’ readily.
Before starting school, it will help greatly if your child is able to –
- Put on and fasten his coat. Practise this lots of times at home. Do not rush or criticise if it is not perfect. Label your child’s coat clearly, as many children have similar coats. Your child should be able to hang up his coat.
- If your child is unable to tie shoelaces, Velcro fastenings are a great idea and help your child to remain independent.
- Use a tissue. Put a tissue or a handkerchief in your child’s pocket and make sure that he/she can use it.
- The less complicated the schoolbag and accessories, the better. Teach your child to open and close them. Elaborate schoolbags, pencil cases and lunchboxes often cause tears in school. They are a huge distraction and children get very upset if they are damaged.
- Have a trial run at home with the lunchbox a few days beforehand. Sit with your child at the table and observe how he opens the lunchbox, the wrapping on the sandwich, the banana or other fruit. Resist the urge to help but make adjustments that you think are necessary.
- At Scoil Mhuire, we encourage healthy eating and would ask you to provide a healthy lunch for your child.
- A few days before school begins, try on the new school uniform. Leave it on for a while. When your child needs to use the bathroom, do not help him or her and see if he/she can manage the school trousers or skirt alone. You will find that belts are usually a hindrance – elasticated waists make things easier.
- Train your child to flush the toilet and to wash hands after using it. Please encourage personal hygiene and cleanliness. Without having to be told, children should turn off the tap when they are finished washing their hands. Children get distressed if they need help in the bathroom at school.
- Share toys and playthings with others and “take turns”.
- Tidy up and put away his/her playthings.
- Remain contentedly for a few hours in the home of a relation, friend or neighbour. If your child has had this experience, then separation from parents when starting school will not cause any great anxiety.
Preparing for the ‘Big Day’
Your child’s first day at school is a day to remember for the rest of his or her life. You can help to make it a really happy one for him/her.
- Tell him about school beforehand, casually, and talk about it as a happy place where there will be a big welcome and lots of new friends.
- Be aware of your own attitudes to school. Your child will take his outlook from you, so a positive attitude from you will influence your child and give confidence.
- Don’t use school or the teacher as a threat. “If you behave like that for your teacher, she’ll murder you” though said light-heartedly, can make some children very apprehensive.
- If you feel it would help, you could take your child for a stroll to the junior classrooms and play area on an afternoon during June when the other children have gone home. You can browse around and become familiar with this new environment. On arrival, you could arrange to meet the Principal and perhaps your child’s new teacher, as well.
- Your child will like to have his new uniform, books and bag when he begins. These help him to identify more readily with the school and other children.