"The more you read, the more things you know. The more that you learn, the more places you will go." Dr. Seuss.

For parents, this quote by the famous children's author can provide some sort of comfort when they need to send their children off to primary school. Entering the foundation phase can very well be accompanied by anxiety for both parent and child especially if you have questions about the foundation phase school content for all subjects including English. Bearing the quote by Dr. Seuss in mind will help you to understand that allowing your child to continuously read is the best possible way to get your child to improve in English.  Assisting your child with reading is one way to help your child during his or her early years because reading encourages learning. However, you also need to know what is required from you as your child undergoes the primary school English learning journey. Knowing some information about English tests at the primary school level will be helpful for you so that you can actually assist your child with English studying and preparation for assessments from home.

English Tests

There are many tests (or as teachers would call it, assessments) that begin from the foundation phase. In Grade R, assessments are rather informal to avoid placing young learners into that stressful 'test situation'. Teachers usually conduct observations of learners in their natural educational setting and use teacher records to provide an overview of the Grade R child's understanding of the language. This, however, changes drastically when learners enter Grade 1.

Learners start writing English tests from Term 1 of their Grade 1 year. English tests in government schools are guided by the Curriculum Assessment Policy Statement (CAPS document). The CAPS document is quite simply written and is devoid of much teacher jargon, so parents can easily gain access to a foundation phase CAPS softcopy and download it from the internet. Familiarising yourself with the CAPS document is one way of knowing what is expected from your child during the foundation phase. The CAPS document can also inform you about primary school English topics. At a home language level, the English curriculum deals with the core skills such as; Listening and speaking, reading and phonics, and writing and handwriting. So important is Home Language, as English is a subject that is integrated into all other learning areas. Thus understanding the language will play a role in the way that your child performs in all subjects including mathematics and life skills.

Writing an English exam
A child can be well-prepared for an English exam. Source: Unsplash

As per the CAPS document, children are assessed orally and in the form of a written assessment. Children need to have mastered by the end of term 1 of their first schooling year how to distinguish between phonetics and sounds, build their own words using sounds, draw pictures to capture a message, adequately write captions for pictures, and contribute ideas for shared writing. This seems like much too much for your playful Grade 1 child, however, when the termly report arrives, you will see just how well your child is doing in the subject.  The report card is a vital piece of information about progress. Numerical information about your child's performance is given along with a comment about the progress of the child

If the report card mentions that a child is struggling with either reading, writing, or comprehension, perhaps you can decide to rope in a tutoring agency to assist you with helping your child improve in the subject. Knowing how to read and understanding what has been read, sets the foundation for everything. The earlier you identify that your child has a reading or comprehension barrier, the quicker you can help your child overcome this setback. Children within South African schools for whom English is not a home language (HL)  or even a first additional language (FAL) struggle considerably with the language during the first few years of schooling. As the language is not spoken predominantly at home, it sounds totally foreign and overwhelming for these children for whom English is but a second or third language. To avoid letting your child face the stress of an exam that he or she doesn't understand, call on a private tutor to help you adequately prepare your child to adapt to the examination situation.

Help for English can be easily found through multiple channels. Do you know how to find a tutor?

Study English

One of the most puzzling dilemmas for parents is, "How does my child study English?" It seems virtually impossible to study for a language but in order to get your child to improve in the language, he or she needs to study for it. You must regularly attend parent-teacher meetings so your child's teacher can inform you what you can do to assist the learning process from home. Your child's teacher will also openly provide insight as to which areas of the language your child is struggling in.

Research shows that you learn better if you take a keen interest in the subject matter. To get learners to be interested in bettering their understanding of the language from a young age, you have to disguise the learning in the form of fun activities.  The Roald Dahl website is a delightful website for young children from Grade 1 up to Grade 5. The well-renowned author's website helps stimulate young minds by prompting children to write better and to enjoy reading by offering fun activities based on his beloved books.

To get your child to read better, teach reading as a game. Using online interactive English learning games such as the  Teach Your Monster to Read website can make reading a fun adventure.

As much as children of today enjoy learning using Ipads, tablets, and electronic devices, the bulk of time spent getting your child to study should include traditional teaching methods. Fun English Learning Games are good sources of added enrichment but since exams entail using paper and pen, you need to ensure you train your child adequately for the exam.  You can gain access to worksheets, flashcards, and exams from the Smartkids website or even visit an Exclusive Books store to purchase the Smartkids range of study guides to be used as a supplement textbook alongside the original textbooks used at school.

You can teach handwriting by making it a fun activity too. Give your child a specific pencil to write with. Perhaps use a unicorn or Harry Potter pencil if that is what he or she likes. Using a funky pencil may make your child want to write. For your Grade 1 child, writing formation is everything so use some worksheets that can improve his or her ability to formulate letters. You can use arrows as cues for your child who is practising to write. You must encourage speed and legibility when working on your child's handwriting.

Spelling can be taught by using your Scrabble board to get your Grade 1 or Grade 2 child to arrange the letters to formulate a word from his or her weekly spelling test. You can even do a sort of word a day learning game whereby you plaster a spelling word on the fridge. Your child will have to spell out the word on the fridge every time that he or he has to get something from the fridge.

Create fun English learning games for your child throughout the year so that your child sees English learning as an integrated part of their everyday life.

mom teaching young child to read
Assisting your child with reading will encourage learning. - Source: Unsplash

English Grammar

YouTube and the internet have numerous English learning games for children that can also assist with English Grammar but for the most part, English grammar can be corrected by you every time that your child says something grammatically incorrect. Since playing is the best way to learn, listen to what your child says while he or she is playing alone, and correct the grammar mistakes when he or she says something wrong. Make sure you also check that your child listens to your correct grammar and immediately corrects his or her mistake.  This is easy to do for parents who are home language (HL) English speakers.

For homes in which English is not the home language, incorporating grammatical corrections into your daily life may not be possible. Creating optimal opportunities for English immersion is also great. If your home is one whereby English is but a second or third language, you can get your children to learn correct English grammar by watching an English film on television. English immersion is good for children who speak English and those who barely speak a word of English. If it is hard for you to foster an environment whereby your child learns English through immersion, perhaps you can ask a tutor to help.

English Tuition

For foundation phase children, the curriculum is rather taxing. More and more educators are picking up on English learning barriers and disabilities in their classrooms. The younger the student is when he or she gets to Grade 1, the more cumbersome the idea of assessments become. For many working South African parents, finding a private tutor for their child is the best solution. Finding a tutor who can provide intricate one-on-one lessons for your child is not at all difficult.

You can also read up on what parents need to know about providing help in English for children.

You can be certain that having someone assist your child with English, can surely help your child battle all of his or her English monsters, ghosts, and ghouls. Plus Superprof tutors are always ready to enter the fantasy realm with your foundation phase child and make learning an imaginatively fun experience.

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Laila is an enthusiastic English educator and a fun-filled freelance writer. She has accomplished her dream of getting her first book published and has managed to write over 1 000 000 words since beginning her freelance career. In her free time, she is a travel blogger who explores all South Africa has to offer.