It is that time of year when the results for trials are out and parents begin to frantically panic for their children's matriculation examinations. The truth is that your worries for your child begin from the time that your child starts his or her grade one year.  Grade one children are expected to write exams as well. As much as this statement sounds like a scare, most children actually perform well during their foundation phase years. There is a chance that your child will be one of the lucky few who fall in love with the subject of English and actually excels at it. If you feel that the chances are slim of your child falling in love with the English language, perhaps change your luck by roping in a tutor to make English language learning fun for your child. Even when you rope in a tutor, it is important for you to know what will be expected of your child in the foundation phase.

"However small the chance might be of striking lucky, the chance was there" Roald Dahl

So what do you need to know about primary school English lessons to help your child?

In this article, you will find out how easy English can be at a foundation phase level, looking specifically at primary school English lessons.

English for Kids

"If you are interested in something, no matter what it is, go at it full speed. Embrace it with both arms, hug it, love it, and above all become passionate about it. Lukewarm is no good." Road Dahl

Take an interest in what English lessons for kids entail, speak to your child's teacher, or ask for information at English tutorial centers. Being fully interested in what your child needs to do will enable you to help your child to perform well.

Grade 1 to Grade 3 is considered to be one phase according to the Curriculum Assessment Policy Statement (CAPS) that guides teachers and facilitators. This means that a standardised assessment set by the Department of Basic Education is provided for all Grade 3 learners at the end of the Grade 3 year.  Grade 3 learners from across Gauteng write the same examination at the end of the Grade 3 year to ascertain if they are ready for the next phase of learning.

Learning English in School
All children need to learn basic English skills in the foundation phase. Source: Unsplash

The truth is that according to the regulations set by the Department of Education, children can only fail once in a phase. This means that if a child fails Grade 2 for instance and repeats the year, even if he or she doesn't meet the requirements in Grade 3, he or she cannot fail again.

Having said that it is vital to pass English in order to actually pass the year. Having the word, "condoned," on your child'ss report card means that your child did not meet the English requirements for the year but was still pushed to the next grade. That is why we say that English is such an important subject and kids ought to do well in the subject. In order to meet the requirements for English, Grade 1 to 3 students need to be proficient in grammar, reading, vocally expressing themselves, and writing basic stories. Students also need to be well-versed with age-appropriate spelling and vocabulary.

Knowing how to assist your child in the English language will make the subject seem like easy English and there will be nothing overly complex about the subject.

English Games

"A stodgy parent is no fun at all. What a child wants and deserves is a parent who is sparky." Roald Dahl

While the Grade R school day still includes fun and games in their daily cycles, Grade 1 focuses much more intensely on academics only. If you want to help your child excel in a specific subject, you ought to take your child's ability to concentrate into consideration. Yes, concentration does increase with age. So while your 7 or 8 years old may not have the limited concentration span of a toddler, their ability to concentrate for a very long period of time is not developed as yet.

  • Children who are 6 or 7 years old concentrate for 12 to 18 minutes
  • Children who are 8 years old concentrate for 16 to 24 minutes
  • Children who are 10 years concentrate for 20 to 30 minutes

Using the child's concentration span as a guide, you will note that it is literally impossible to get your 7-year-old child to perfect twenty spelling words without him or her getting distracted and losing focus entirely. This is why we advocate the use of English games as a way to improve English skills for very young children. Be a sparky parent and teach your child in a way that is fun for him or her.

There are numerous benefits of incorporating games into learning. One such reason is that when children are having fun doing something, they tend to not see it as learning at all.

One of the traditional games that still work for teaching vocabulary is to take a big word like, "suitcase," and to get your child to build as many smaller words as he or she can from this word. Your child will list words like, "cat", "sit" and "eat" at a Grade 1 level. This is great as it reinforces the vocabulary taught at school.

To teach storytelling, perhaps read a book and role-play a scene with your child. If you take a simple Disney story like Cinderella, ask your child to create a monologue for Cinderella when she notices that the clock has struck 12.

To add a more modern spin to storytelling perhaps use the block-based coding environment called Scratch. Scratch is free of charge and enables kids to build their own worlds and add sprites (characters) to their world. You can get your child to create a world and then make your child explain his or her world to you. By doing this, you are actually teaching your child descriptive writing skills.

Learning through coding
Incorporating coding languages into English learning can be fun and effective. Source: Unsplash

You could thereafter ask your child to create a story for characters in his or her world. When your child creates a story for a cat or cow in his or her world, he or she is learning to tell a story. If you get your child to write down this narrative, he or she will ask for help with the spelling of certain words and in turn, learn vocabulary and spelling as well.

It is important to encourage children's creativity. If your child wants to tell you an alien story, simply listen to it. Not everything about their little fictional imaginations will be believable so ask stimulating questions. If they say aliens landed in South Africa, probe them to think deeper by asking, "How did the aliens get to South Africa?"

Playing dollhouse with your little girl and playing a board game with your boy also allows them to learn. Children tend to imitate adults especially through play so never think that playing with your child for an hour per night is not helpful in any way. Make sure to correct incorrect grammar utterances when your child is speaking and you can turn playtime into an English game. Your child might say, "Me and mummy are playing." This would be the perfect chance to state that we always say, "Mummy and I instead".  Your child will remember most of what was taught during play.

Learn English Words

If you want your child to be better at the English language, he or she must know English words and their meaning. At a Grade 4 level, you will notice that dictionary skills form a big part of every term's curriculum coverage. It is never too early to help your child use a dictionary. In fact, when he or she begins to learn the language concept of synonyms and antonyms introduce him or her to the thesaurus and teach your child what the function of a thesaurus is.

Use the protagonist Matilda as inspiration, she was so intelligent simply because she loved reading.

"These books gave Matilda a hopeful and comforting message: you are not alone."

The best way to get your child to learn new English words is by getting him or her interested in reading. While reading, children stumble across many words that are peculiar and unfamiliar. This is where you can assist your child to understand these words and memorize the spelling of the word and its meaning. To make learning English vocabulary easy for your child, a book is his or her best companion.

Learn words
You need to expand your child's vocabulary to encourage an understanding of the English language. Source: Pixabay

Primary School English Lessons

Many parents (especially English second language speaker's parents) think that assessments in Grae 1 to 3 are not fair. Irrespective of your opinion on assessments, your child cannot escape from writing the termly assessment.

Assessment types of questions include:

  • multiple-choice questions
  • One word answers
  • Matching questions

All the assessment types of questions that feature in an assessment either test language content or understanding and these questions are often included in the primary school teacher's daily lesson plan. Every day your child's teacher plans an English lesson that takes into consideration all the different learning styles of the learners in her class. Always ask about English lessons at the eating table so you know exactly what your child did in school and how much he or she actually remembers. We recommend that you discuss your child's day at school daily with your child to improve his or her speaking skills (even if all your child speaks of is break time).

It's always good to work through the DBE Rainbow workbooks with your child. The books simplify English content taught in class.

Remember as a parent you must be "twinkly" when it comes to teaching your child English, and your child will surely benefit. If your child sees a twinkle in your eye when you are reading or writing a story, your child will also want to sparkle in the language.

"It is impossible to make your eyes twinkle if you are not twinkly yourself." Roald Dahl

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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.