How To Prepare For 'Big School' With A Learning Tree
As the countdown to September begins, you may be growing a little bit anxious about how your child who is about to start 'Big School' will settle in - especially after the unsettled last few months.
There are many ways we can prepare our little ones for their first steps on the 'Big School' journey. One way in which we can develop their confidence right now is to spend some time highlighting for them the successes they have already achieved in their learning journey to date.
A very important positive trait to start highlighting for your child, is their current level of competence: They will already have developed some key early learning and pro-social skills in their pre-school learning environment. Visually displaying and verbally labelling those skills for them will effectively support the development of a positive self-image as a competent learner starting 'big school'.
The Learning Tree
Building a learning tree that displays their current repertoire of skills is a very helpful way to embed this successful sense of self. Subsequently all new learning leaps that they make in their new school setting could be displayed and posted weekly on the learning tree.
The roots of the tree could display all the skills your child has learned already.
- I have made lots of friends.
- I can show good listening and good looking at my teacher.
- I can play nicely with a group of my friends.
- I can share and take turns when I am playing with my friends.
- I can hold my pencil.
- I can sit on my chair and do my own work.
Set up some simple opportunities, where you can take photos of the above, (you can pretend that you are the teacher), then post or hang the photos on the Learning Tree drawing.
Every evening, you could hang a new word they have learned, or post a new photo on the tree to show the ongoing leaps in learning that they have been making. The tree could grow up from the roots and flourish into a successful blooming representation of all the wonderful achievements that they are accomplishing, as the days and weeks go by.
One of the main differences experienced by our new Junior Infants is the marked reduction in the adult:child ratio. In the pre-school setting, typically there are 6/8 children per adult, it is now likely that there will be anywhere from 25-30 children per 1 adult teacher.
This in turn leads to higher expectations of certain classroom behaviour from the Junior Infant class teacher.
Many children will already have learned expected classroom routines and behaviours in their pre-school setting. The reduced adult ratio, the new school setting, and the extra-long Summer break may lead to a brief forgetfulness of what is expected from the teacher in the new classroom setting. Some children do need extra help and support to keep and maintain the expected classroom rules.
One branch of the tree could be developed to support your child to remember and follow the classroom rules
- I keep my hands and feet to myself in the circle.
- When I want to talk to teacher I put my hand up and wait for teacher to ask me.
- I show good listening when teacher is talking. (Good listening is when I am looking at teacher and I have a quiet mouth).
- I stay in my seat when doing my own work at independent work time.
Children will learn and keep rules more effectively if they are clearly explained to them, visually represented to them, and regularly reinforced/rewarded for keeping them.
You can help your child by firstly explaining why we need to keep the rules (so that we can all learn together and that we can all stay safe). Set up some simple role play opportunities with them whereby they show you what each rule looks like.
Take a nice clear photo of them showing you each rule. Post the photos on the keeping the rules branch of the learning tree. You can then set up a nice simple reward system, using the photos.
Laminate the system and pop it into their school bag. Each day, you can check in with them and talk with them about how they did their best to follow the rules each day. You can deliver a small reward for following the rules, and if necessary check in with their teacher to show a link between you and teacher.
If you are ever asked to meet with your child’s class teacher to discuss classroom behaviour and learning attainment, remember that there are eight basic types of intelligence (verbal/linguistic, logical/mathematical, visual/spatial, musical/rhythmic, bodily-kinaesthetic, interpersonal, intrapersonal, naturalist).
Typically, in mainstream education formal assessment of performance focuses on the linguistic and mathematical intelligence types. Always ask the teacher how your child is performing in the other areas of intelligence. At all times we want to focus on your child’s learning strengths and promote their successes and competence as they progress through school.