While literacy and numeracy are core elements of the Ipswich Grammar School curriculum, it is recognised that highly-developed literacy skills enable children to interpret, understand and process their learning of all other skills and knowledge across the remainder of the curriculum.
Literacy is addressed throughout the entire curriculum. Language is all encompassing and is studied explicitly across all subject areas. Therefore, throughout Mathematics, Language, Science, Social Sciences, the Arts and even Physical Education, teachers constantly highlight the importance of the language and structures used to express themselves in each area and teach the specific terms of each subject while emphasising the importance of communicating and understanding language in all its forms.
Literacy is specifically addressed through reading, listening, writing, viewing, interpreting, understanding and learning to produce different types of text as well as incorporating general language conventions, including grammar and punctuation, throughout each lesson. The boys are given daily opportunities to learn and practise their growing reading and writing skills in whole class, small group and individual activities. They learn that reading is a real-life skill as they follow a recipe and cook, make a list of items to collect for a toy design, ask questions from a class-generated questionnaire in order to get information for their advertising “campaign”, follow a diagram to make a machine, research information on the internet about a sea creature and so on. Writing too comes alive as they draft questions for a survey, write a letter to their grandparent, create a set of instructions on how to play a game they have invented, recount their holiday…
Speaking and listening skills are also a key focus. It is understood that in today’s world, people need to be able to communicate succinctly in order to succeed. More than ever, society uses visual communication to get a message across and the boys at Ipswich Grammar School are taught to use oral and visual language in careful and articulate ways so that they can best communicate with others in all situations. Listening skills are emphasised as so much daily information is received in this form.
Prep-Year 2 Co-ordinator and teacher of Prep, Mrs Cate McGrath said that Grammar’s curriculum is tailored to meet the needs of each of the boys:
"There are differences in early years learning between the teaching of boys and girls. Ipswich Grammar recognises these differences, caters for them and excels with its outcomes. More hands-on activities, teaching in small chunks and differentiating the programme to meet each boy’s needs allow all to succeed at their own rate. Everyone learns at different rates in everything they do, even as a baby. But it is really special when you see the light turn on in a child’s eyes as they realise that sounds, letters and words are the tools of written communication with other people. Suddenly a whole new world of language use becomes available and usable to them.”
For further information, book a tour of the school and speak to staff or the Head of Junior School, Mr David Macknish. Prep places are still available for 2013 and beyond.
The Key to Success in Kindergarten
Children need a broad range of experiences From such eye-openers as museums to fun activities like combing the seashore for shells, broadening your child's world is a smart move.
"The more kids are able to experience by the time they get to kindergarten, the easier it will be for them to learn and build upon what they're learning," says Laurie Marple, a kindergarten teacher in Davenport, IA.
Diverse activities can also help increase vocabulary. "One of the best predictors of a child's later success as a reader is the size of her vocabulary when she begins school," Hyson says. Helping your child explore her corner of the world will provide her with the chance to learn new words associated with visits to zoos, forests, lakes, stores, libraries, and so forth.
What to do: Even young kids can get something out of a trip to an art or science museum, whether it's seeing the difference between watercolor and oil paintings (then wanting to create both at home) or understanding that some animals sleep during the day and play at night. Go fishing or to a sporting event; call the fire department or police station to arrange a tour. Take a trip to the zoo, a local animal shelter, or a farm. Head to a gardening store and talk about plants and seeds, then buy some to grow together at home. Visit a pet store to buy tadpoles, put them in a fish tank, and watch them develop into frogs. "These simple activities aren't things a parent necessarily thinks of as wonderful experiences, but to a five- or six-year-old who's never experienced them before, they're fascinating," says Paquette.
Developing Social Skills
Social skills -- listening, taking turns, sharing, following directions -- are vital. If your child doesn't know how to make friends or borrow things, she won't be able to share classroom materials with her peers. If she can't follow three-part instructions or sit still for the 20 minutes it takes to do a project, she'll lag behind. And any student who's struggling not to speak out of turn will have trouble focusing on the lesson.
What to do: It takes time and practice for a 5- or 6-year-old to learn to pay attention and not poke her neighbor. Kids in group daycare or preschool have some experience with taking turns and cooperating; others can learn through summer camp or art, sports, or music classes.
At home, role-play. "How do you ask to borrow something? What if a kid says no? Being prepared for situations like these will help your child get through the day," says Tracie Paquette, a kindergarten teacher in Satellite Beach, FL.
Teresa Savage, author of The Ready-to-Read, Ready-to-Count Handbook: How to Best Prepare Your Child for School, suggests a game of Lids and Bottles to help a short attention span grow. "Collect peanut butter jars, shampoo bottles, or other containers. Put the lids in one box and the jars in another. Ask your child to match the lid to the correct bottle," she says. To encourage following directions, play Simon Says.
Kindergarten Isn't Just Fun and Games
Good teachers strive to make classes fun, so what your child does in school may seem like play. But the work children do really is important for learning. A picture, for instance, is rarely just a picture, says Paquette. "It's about listening. Did the child draw what he was told to draw? Sometimes we talk about shapes: What shape is a house? Can you draw that?"
Singing songs subtly introduces kids to memorization, rhythm, and tempo, all of which will come in handy for learning reading, math, and science. Something as simple as cutting and pasting can hone fine motor skills, as well as teach such lessons as patience and how to follow instructions.
What to do: Start now by sharing with your child your excitement about all the Big Kid things that he'll be doing. "Eagerness to learn is at least as important as knowing specific facts and skills," says Marilou Hyson, Ph.D., associate executive director for professional development at the National Association for the Education of Young Children.
In the fall, help him understand the importance of school by being involved yourself. Contact your child's teacher before the first day (many schools will already know who it is) and ask how parents can assist in the classroom.
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