A fun fact about English is that 4 000 words are added to the dictionary annually. Knowing this fact may overwhelm you slightly and you may start to question how much you actually know about the English language. How many words do you actually know that are in the dictionary? How many English words in the dictionary seems rather difficult for you to pronounce? Now imagine what it must feel like for your 6 or 7-year-old child who is expected to learn how to read and write at a Grade 1 level. Aside from only having to read, write, and speak English, your Grade 1 child also needs to perform well in both oral and written standardised tests.

If your child is placed in a predominantly English school, you will realise that English permeates all classroom interactions. For the home language English speaking child, this situation may seem quite normal. However, for the learner whose mother tongue is not English, this classroom situation may seem overly overwhelming. Aside from constantly hearing the English language being spoken throughout the day, learners in Grade 1 to 3 also have a designated time during each day that is devoted to the subject of English.

For foundation phase learners, English is subdivided to include: 45 minutes per week that is devoted to listening and speaking, 4 hours and 30 minutes of the week is set aside for reading and phonics, 1 hour weekly entails perfecting handwriting, and only 45 minutes is given to story creation.

This article provides an overview of what you can expect your child to do during the foundation phase schooling years and also emphasizes ways that you can step in and assist your little English enthusiast to perform better when being tested in the language.

Learn English Words

The word, "Go" need not only be seen as a word but is also the shortest sentence in the English language that has no grammar errors.  You are saying the sentence, "Go!" over and over again in your head now. The truth is that in order to master any language you need to learn certain words first. Learners in Grade 1 need to know how to build words with, "ig", "og," "ug," and "en" just to name a few. Learners at a Grade 1 level also need to differentiate between singular and plural words.

reading books
Your child can read books or read books online. Picture by Debby Hudson from Unsplash

So how do you teach English words to your foundation phase child?

There are many vocabulary games that are available for purchase, however, instead of spending money on purchasing games, you can easily create your own games for your child. A common word game that has been played for ages is Hangman. In Hangman, you can use a word from the Grade 1-word list that is often provided at the beginning of each term by your child's teacher. You write one letter of a specific word and leave blank spaces so that your child can guess the rest of the letters that fit into the blank spaces.  Hangman is also a fun game to use when teaching English spelling words to your child. This works especially well if your child tends to mix up the vowels in the spelling of certain words. Playing hangman to reinforce spelling is excellent and learners will learn how not to mix the vowels "e" and "i" in the process.

Another way to reinforce English words is to visit various websites and download word searches. Word searches specifically based on books that Grade 1 children love like, Diary of The Wimpy Kid, are always fun and interesting to do.

For second-language English speakers, sourcing electronic books that read themselves to your child is a good way to encourage your child to learn new English words. Watching videos of books being read on Vooks is a sure way forward. The more the child sees and hears a word being pronounced, the easier it is for him or her to identify the word.

Learning How to Speak English Well

One of the best qualities of young children is their need to question everything. Encouraging them to ask questions and probing further questioning may get your child to become better at speaking English.

At schools, teachers usually play a story-building game with all their learners. The teacher will provide a certain story prompt and all the learners are encouraged to use their knowledge of English words to add ideas to the story. This allows children to speak more fluently in English. You can do this at home as well. Provide a story prompt and encourage your child to verbally add ideas to the story. This technique encourages children to speak English well. When you are helping your child with story improvement, you can teach your child new English words as well. As a parent speaking to your child and reading constantly for your child is a way to get your child to speak English well. Parents need to make sure that they make English learning fun for their children.

Fun English Techniques for Parents

Learning words
You need to learn words. Sources: Unsplash

Any English tutor will tell you that children learn best when learning is fun and interactive. Children tend to remember what they have learnt if it was learnt in a fun way. Certain South African sites like Letterland phonics uses a phonetic program to teach phonetics to Grade 1 to 3 children. The Letterland team has crafted their own recipes which encourages reading. Just going through the recipes and trying them out with your children will allow them to learn English words. It is quite amazing how quickly children pick up on abbreviations and acronyms used in recipes.

We have to pay tribute to old school parents who believed that the best way to teach your child to improve in English is to indulge in bedtime reading. Yes, we understand how valuable bedtime reading is, but we also advocate reading during the day. After reading, ask your child stimulating questions such as how would you change the ending of the story, and what do you think about the characters? For young minds, these questions may seem too difficult to answer and the answers may be disappointing the first few times that you ask your child. Be sure to encourage your child, irrespective of the answers provided. Thereafter provide your answer to your child to further encourage him or her to think. If you keep on asking questions the encourages opinions and creativity in the long run you will also teach your child how to answer open-ended questions well.

Play games with your child when you are on a journey. Get him or her to spot road signs and spell out words like, "Stop".

Any good tutor will advise you that the more interactive you make learning, the better the results. You can also read other articles about how to help out your child in English through various activities and play.

Primary School English Guidance

In Grade 1, students need to know language and grammar concepts such as; sentences, capital letters, and full stops. By Grade 2, children must be able to know and explain certain parts of speech like nouns, adjectives, verbs, pronouns, and prepositions. At a Grade 3 level, students must be able to discuss terms such as subject, verb, object, questions, commands, synonyms, and antonyms.

Knowing some of the language concepts that children need to know will help you to incorporate these terms into your daily English learning schedule. While eating you could ask your child to identify all the nouns at the eating table. A simple activity like this will be a fun English learning technique

In Grade 1, a child simply listens to and understands stories. In Grade 2, children listen to stories and express their feelings about the story, and at a Grade 3 level, children get to listen to stories to sift out the main idea of the story as well as answer open-ended questions based on the story.  You can use primary school English resources such as textbooks to find comprehension passages and questions to help your child comprehend and understand.

Speak to your child's teacher to find out what other primary school English resources can be helpful to further encourage English learning at home. When parents get involved, children tend to want to learn and do better.

Your child must read to understand. Photo credit: Mi Pham from Unsplash

In fact, the best you can do as a parent is to assist in preparing your child for each Grade. The ultimate goal behind guiding your child through primary school is to help your child achieve the academic success that he or she is capable of.

If you feel that your child is still struggling to grasp certain concepts or to comprehend then make sure you ask for help from an expert English tutor. Superprof South Africa offers tutors who are willing to assist you and your child via the online platform and by having our tutors come to your home to assist your child to sail smoothly through a trying learning period.

As a parent, we have to do as much as possible to help our child in every way possible. For parents whose first language is not English, seeking English help from a professional tutor for your child who is struggling with the language is always an advisable option. When it comes to tutors who come home to teach your child, sometimes both parents and their children can benefit from the interaction with the tutor.

Need an English teacher?

Enjoyed this article?

5.00/5 - 1 vote(s)


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.