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Don’t panic when your 6-year-old can’t read! An educational author explains what that first formal schooling year is for.
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The traditional 3Rs of primary school are Reading, wRiting and aRithmetic. As parents we often expect that is what our children will learn in Grade R. We are alarmed when our little genius is not reading books, writing essays and solving maths problems in Grade R.

Parents need to understand that Grade R is a PRE-primary year. I like to think of the 3Rs of Grade R as Ready, Routine and Relationships.

Grade R gets our children Ready for the 3Rs of primary school by developing their pre-reading, pre-writing and pre-numeracy skills.

For example, before children can learn to read they need to understand how a book works, understand the relationship between words and pictures in a book, and realise that words on a page have meaning and are made up of sounds.

Before children can learn how to write they need to know how to hold a pen or pencil, understand that text works from left to right and from top to bottom, and realise that drawings and writing convey a message.

Before children can learn numeracy skills, they need to understand that numbers represent quantities, that objects can be sorted and grouped, and that things can be shared.

All these skills are learned through play, which is the real work of children in Grade R. Playing with building blocks and doing jigsaw puzzles develop important pre-numeracy skills. Drawing and playing with modelling clay foster vital pre-writing skills while fantasy play and story-telling play crucial roles in the development of pre-reading skills.

Routine

Grade R gets our children ready for the Routine of primary school. Grade R should have a well-structured daily programme with blocks of time for each activity. These activities include routines for everything from eating and toilet times and outside play to different types of classroom activities. Each routine is an opportunity for learning important life-skills.

Children in Grade R are learning about routine by being in a routine. When children know the order of events in a school day, they are always prepared for what comes next. Grade R helps the children to adjust to classroom routines and to understand what is expected of them at different points in the school day.

Relationships

Grade R helps our children to build relationships with both their peers and their teachers. They start to develop the social skills they will need throughout their school life and beyond. The children are exposed to working and playing with their peers, sharing materials, taking turns and taking on different roles and responsibilities.

As children share materials and play together, they learn to co-operate, listen to others and to be patient. They will experience how to get along with one another, expressing their feelings without harming others, understanding the feelings of others, and solving problems and conflicts. Even just learning how to share physical playing space with other children without bumping into or hurting themselves or others, is an important skill.

In the classroom Grade R children are taught to listen to their teacher or their peers without interrupting, to show respect for the person who is speaking, and to wait their turn to speak. The Grade R teacher will encourage the children to ask questions when they do not understand or need more information, and to answer clearly when they are asked questions. All of these skills will make learning in a school environment much easier for the children.

Grade R does not just prepare children for Grade 1. It prepares children for a lifetime of learning. The R in Grade R stands for Reception. It is the year that our children are received into the scary world of ‘big’ school. If their reception is warm and fun, they will have an excellent foundation for coping with school and enjoying learning.

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What do you think of compulsory Grade R for all learners?

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