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Start The School Year Right: Is Your Child On Track In Term 1?

Are your primary schoolers ready for their first school assessments, which may be weighted or unweighted?

In every school year, Term 1 is when students tend to be more relaxed. At the same time, parents may be too caught up in beginning-of-year transitions to keep up with their children’s schoolwork.

However, students who tend to perform well are those who have started the year well — their goals and routines are in place, and they are already receiving support if they need it.

If this is not your child’s situation, there is still ample time to get things back on track. For starters, you can work with your child to prepare for the upcoming school assessments, by doing the following:

  • Get your child a weekly or monthly planner, and ask him or her to note down the assessment dates.
  • Your child should be aware of the topics that will be covered — teachers will typically send this information to parents as well, and you can print it out for your child.
  • Together with your child, look through his or her schoolwork, to spot mistakes made due to:
    • Carelessness
    • Forgetfulness or not having things memorised (e.g. spelling, second language characters, multiplication tables, math formulas, and science facts)
    • Not grasping concepts
  • For anything that your child doesn’t understand, you will need to discuss how he or she can get additional help.
  • Set up a daily revision schedule — exclude days that are set aside for co-curricular and enrichment activities — and decide with your child whether to:
    • Do topical exercises
    • Attempt practice papers
    • Redo tricky questions
    • Memorise necessary information

To set up academic goals, ask your child what grades he or she would like to get, bearing in mind his or her grades for the previous year.

Work towards incremental improvements, and ensure that your child knows the success criteria, i.e. what it takes to boost one’s grade. For instance, one can’t simply write a “better” composition without knowing what “better” entails. Your child needs specific areas to focus on, such as minimising spelling and grammar errors, using more vocabulary words, or knowing the ways to craft a better introduction or conclusion. For best results, focus on making one improvement at a time.

If you are unsure about how your child can raise his or her grades, seek clarifications with your child’s teachers, and ask for clear and actionable suggestions.

To support parents in the new school year, Singapore’s Ministry of Education held a “Starting The Year Right” webinar last month. During the session, local parents shared their parenting concerns with the expert panelists. For those interested, the session is still available for viewing on Facebook,

Below, we’ve highlighted pertinent questions that were asked during the session — along with relevant advice — for your reference:

How can I help my children to manage their time well?

Apart from the school timetable, you can create a timetable for kids to follow at home. Let your kids play a part in deciding how they would like to structure their day. For lower primary students, grouping or colour coding different types of activities (e.g. study time, screen time, and bedtime routines) may make it easier for them to refer to the timetable.

To help kids stay on task, phone timers will come in handy — your child can use them to track study times, or to set a limit on device usage.

But having a timetable alone is not enough. There should be consequences established for not adhering to the timetable, especially when it comes to screen time. Discuss what these consequences should be with your child, to give him or her a sense of ownership.

If your child’s schedule is packed with after-school activities, it may not be feasible to have a strict timetable in place. Your busy child should have the autonomy to decide when to take breaks, and when to resume work.

Above all, do ensure that your child is well-rested. Read our guide to setting up good sleep routines for kids.

My child seems to be taking a long time to complete homework. What should I do?

First, check with your child’s teacher (and tutor) if your child is really taking a longer time to complete work, compared to other children of the same age.

If you are concerned that your child might have a learning disability, read our guide to learn how to spot the signs.

If your child does not have any learning issues, it could be that he or she is dealing with more distractions at home — from siblings, toys, and devices. You will have to teach your child good work habits, such as maintaining a tidy work space, and setting devices aside during work.

How do I encourage my child to bounce back from poor results? Or what if my child gets upset with mistakes, and doesn’t want to try again?

The first thing to do is to reframe failure as a natural part of learning, and life. To help your child see this, you can say that “FAIL” stands for “first attempt at learning.” Also, let your child know that failure is not something that holds us back. Instead, it helps us to move forward, by giving us something to work on.

If your child is getting upset over mistakes in daily life, you will need to find out what is making your child sad or anxious. Is it a fear of consequences? Is your child a perfectionist? Through gentle questioning, get your child to identify and acknowledge these feelings, and work to help him or her change the negative thoughts.

A child might quickly give up on challenging tasks when he or she only wants to be set up for success, in order to receive praise or to be seen in a positive light. Learn to praise your child for effort, and not the outcome.

As a family, you can work towards developing a growth mindset, which is the ability to see that we can work at changing our abilities and outcomes — nothing is set in stone.

How can I help my child grow into a lifelong learner? What goals should I set for my child, if there are no exams this year?

Lifelong learning begins when you enjoy learning for the sake of it, and the best way to teach this to your child is to model it yourself. You can pick up a new hobby for fun, or learn a new skill for career development — read our upskilling guide to learn how to balance work, family, and learning.

If your child is not facing exams this year, it’s a great chance to focus on personal growth. Social development is one area that you can pay attention to. For instance, if your child is an introvert, you can encourage your child to get to know his or her classmates better, by speaking to one new person a day.

Even if there are no graded assessments, teachers will still be giving you feedback on your child’s skill sets, and you can see if your child is meeting expectations, or if there is something that needs to be worked on. Do look at the non-academic feedback as well. For instance, in physical education, perhaps your child can improve his or her ball skills, or learn how to use the jump rope.

For more ideas on extending your child’s learning opportunities, read our guide to looking beyond grades to set goals.

My child is having nightmares and could be stressed. What should I do?

All parents should learn to recognise the signs of stress in children, which can include:

  • Nightmares
  • Physical symptoms such as tummy pain or a headache
  • Tiredness
  • Finding excuses to miss school
  • Becoming withdrawn

Stress can be triggered by internal or external factors, and it is important for you to take an honest look at your child’s environment to understand the source of your child’s stress. If you are certain that the stress is school-related, do let your child’s teachers know, and ask them about your child’s behaviour during class to compare notes. Teachers can help to mitigate the situation by reducing your child’s workload, or providing extra support where needed.

Are you also worried that your child might be depressed? Read our guide to childhood depression and find out where you can seek help.

 

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