3 Things to Teach Primary School Kids, Before School Reopens

Are you shopping for assessment books during the December holidays, hoping to give your child a head start in the new school year? Or is your child attending year-end enrichment classes, covering topics ahead of the school?

These efforts may help your child to score well in tests and exams. However, they may not address the most important need of all — preparing your child to be a better learner.

This is where you, the parent, can make a difference!

Below are three essential skills that all students need in order to learn effectively. Find out what these skills are, and how you can help your child to develop these skills at home.

#1 How to Be Self-Motivated

Motivation is closely linked to a sense of having control over one’s life. But in Singapore, school children often have schedules that are packed from morning till evening — with little choice over how they spend their time.

And when children encounter roadblocks in school, many well-meaning parents will jump in to fix these problems. Some common scenarios include:

  • Parents asking in the class chat for a list of homework assignments.
  • When a child receives less-than-ideal grades, parents start seeking recommendations for tutors and enrichment classes, without consulting the child.
  • Pushing children to get more involved in extracurricular activities, without checking if this is what the child wants.

To give your child more autonomy in the new school year, try this:

  • During the school term, encourage your child to clarify homework doubts with teachers, using messaging apps such as ClassDojo. If your child is not sure how to compose a message, teach them how! 
  • Ask how your child feels about the year-end grades, and if they would like to do better. (If the answer is no, skip to the next section on mindset!) If yes, offer options for improvement, such as doing more practice questions at home, or joining an enrichment class.
  • If your child is training hard to represent the school in a sport or activity, help to protect their time. For instance, if a coach asks whether your child would like to attend more training sessions during the school holidays, check if this is what your child wants, and be prepared to say ‘No’ to the coach. 

#2 How to Have a Growth Mindset

What are the most important qualities for school success? Students who succeed are willing to do ‘hard’ things, and resilient enough to try again after failure.

For instance, why do some children look at a maths problem, give up, and ask for help without trying to solve it themselves? While others grab a pencil and paper, and work at it till they get a solution? According to learning experts, this is the difference between a fixed mindset and a growth mindset.

If you could peek into the heads of students with ‘fixed’ and ‘growth’ mindsets, here’s what they might be thinking:

Fixed Mindset
Growth Mindset
I’m not smart! I’m finding this difficult. Where can I get help?
I’m no good at maths! I can’t solve this problem. What can I do differently?
I’m happy with this, don’t tell me what else to do. Is there a better way to do this?
This is too hard, I’m giving up! This may take time. Let me take a break and come back to it later.
I wish I was a talented writer, like her. She writes good compositions. Let me ask her how she does it!

How can you get your child to adopt a growth mindset in the new school year? Here are some suggestions:

  • Teach your child to reframe challenges using the word ‘yet.’ For instance, instead of “I don’t understand fractions,” say “I don’t understand fractions yet!” This helps to set up the expectation that it is a skill that will be mastered, in time.
  • Stop praising your child for being smart, and start praising your child for effort. Be specific — praise your child for putting aside an hour to focus, trying new study methods, removing distractions, persisting when work is hard, and any other improvements that you might spot.
  • Reinforce the message that the brain needs challenges, in order to ‘grow.’
  • Develop a growth mindset yourself, so that you can be a role model for your child.

#3 How to Say “No” to Procrastination

Many children are now taught goal-setting skills in school — it can be fun to set goals, but when it’s time to do the actual work, children can quickly lose their enthusiasm! If a child finds it difficult to get started on homework or revision, it can significantly affect the time that is available for these tasks, as well as your child’s academic performance.

How can you help your child to guard against procrastination? Here are some strategies:

  • Set clear routines (i.e. times) for tackling homework, rather than letting your child get started when he or she “feels like it.”
  • If your child has several tasks to complete in a day, help your child with the planning. Estimate how much time it will take to complete each task, ask your child what they would like to do first, and factor in breaks so that your child doesn’t become over-tired.
  • Encourage your child to tackle the most challenging tasks first. This ensures that your child will have the energy for difficult or tedious work, and also leads to a great sense of relief when the biggest deadline for the day is accomplished.
  • If your child feels overwhelmed by a responsibility — be it homework, or doing a chore such as tidying one’s room — teach your child to break a ‘big’ task into smaller, more manageable parts, with breaks in between.
  • As much as possible, create a conducive environment for getting things done. Instrumental music can be effective for boosting concentration, while a tidy environment is an instant mood-lifter. 
  • Resist the urge to rescue your child from the consequences of procrastination, e.g. doing homework on behalf of your child, so that they can sleep early. If you keep picking up the pieces for them, they will never learn to take responsibility for their own actions.
  • Be a role model for your child, by showing them how you do the hard things first, and relax later. 

Want more school tips? Find out what parents should AVOID doing, to ensure that children stay motivated through the school year!