Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Primary One: Learning about the English Curriculum

Frankly, the transition into Primary One seems to be easier on Dumpling than on me. Transiting from doing the Math, Science and English on my own to having someone deliver the lessons and not having the level of visibility that I need (yes, the tiger mum in me is growling) have been a tad hard on me. *guffaws* 

So it has been a learning journey (and I suspect that it will be the case for me daily!) but here’s sharing on what my child has been doing for the past month in school for English.

:: English

Stellar Programme

Dumpling's school uses the Stellar programme which you can find out more about here. Basically, the teacher uses a story book with the students and teaches grammar, vocabulary, etc. with it, uses it for discussions and writing experiences.

There is a list of books under this programme and there is no fixed sequence – meaning schools have the choice of introducing whichever titles in whichever order. So what this means is that your child may be reading a different book from your buddy's child. 

Based on chats with my mummy friends and with Dumpling, teachers typically use a big book for “read aloud”. Class activities can range from fun activities such as getting them to move around while learning about prepositions, to re-enacting, and to seat work.

For e.g. with the book “Hairy Bear”, Dumpling’s class has re-enacted the various characters from the story (1/3 of the class was Hairy Bear, the father; 1/3 acted as the mum and said her lines, with the remaining third acting as Baby Bear). They learn about intonation and how to use ‘voices’ when they took on different roles. 

For parents who are exposed to the 'literature based approach', then this method of teaching will not be new to you. Now, for those of you who are going "Alright, fun learning is all good but what exactly do my kids learn?"  There are worksheets and spelling, etc., in this Stellar programme. 

1) Worksheets
Seat work wise, children learn about grammar and new vocabulary from the stories. In Hairy Bear, my kiddo learnt about contractions (e.g. I’ll – I will, I’m – I am, etc.) and did a cloze passage with some of the vocabulary learnt.

She did similar worksheets for Dan, the Flying Man with the focus on prepositions.   

2) Spelling
A quick check with my friends and it seems like the spelling list for most of our children are similar and based on the words introduced in stories:

Spelling lists for Hairy Bear:

Spelling Lists for Dan:

Spelling Lists for Mrs Wishy Washy:

3) Other supporting resources
Besides the worksheets done in class and the spelling exercises, Dumpling brings home penmanship work and the work ranges from 2 – 4 pages so far. For a friend whose child's school does not use the penmanship book, they do hand out their own penmanship worksheets. 

(The above is what we use for penmanship which is part of our Stellar Programme) 

Depending on the school's practice, they may give out other grammar worksheets too. Dumpling's school uses a grammar book which the teacher uses in class. 

So far, Dumpling enjoys the work in school and finds it manageable (except for the time where she had 4 pages of penmanship work but that's another post altogether). If your child is going to P1 in one or two years time, I dare say that most Preschools would have prepped the children well in terms of reading and writing. 

The readers used in the Stellar programme are quite simple so frankly, there really is no need to get your child(ren) to read these before entering P1. I think that may kill their interest as they may find it boring having to do the activities again. It is for that same reason that I do not do any activities relating to the books/stories during our home learning time. I rather she gets that from school. But I do google for materials and watch YouTube for read alouds on those stories so that I know what she is reading in school. 

However, if your child's preschool does not introduce to them the concept of spelling, then I would suggest that you may wish to do so - just 3 to 5 words from the homefront. I personally know some children who struggle with spelling as they are not sure of the concept (for e.g. they thought that the dates indicated on the list is the date that they will be learning the words as a class and not realising that's the test date) or that they are not too sure of the whole phonics / sight word approach. We have yet to receive our Chinese Spelling list at this point and when I do, that will be another post on its own. :p 

Edit: 7 Jan 2016
I have previously shared a series of posts on Primary One which you may find useful:
What to and how to prep for Primary One Prep  

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Friday, January 23, 2015

Parenting with love: dealing with 'mistakes'

It was over a dinner a few days ago when Dumpling went “Mama, I made a careless mistake today. I forgot to fill in the HYPY for my Chinese class work.”

That started a long dinner where she was visibly upset and told me a friend of hers had an A star. She got even madder when I said that her classmate may be better at that task this round but we can always improve the next.

She started tearing and started losing her cool.

Then I realized that she was hurt that I said the other kid was ‘better’.

Sigh. My kiddo is a paradox all on her own – she is intense yet sensitive, mature yet throws the most childlike tantrums at times. Moments like these when I see her trembling lips, I have to bite mine and pray for patience.

Me: “Baby, it is ok, all of us make careless mistakes.”

Her: “No, it is not OK!”

Me: “You will do better next time then.”

Her: “You feel that my classmate is better.”

Me: (inwardly sighing because the Type A genes is from who else but moi?) “Baby, there is a difference between being better at something and just better.”

Her: stoic silence and then she pushed me away with a pencil.

Me: “That hurts ok! Stop doing that. I am not angry nor am I disappointed. Is it a pity, well yes because I know you can do it and you know that you can do it? But is it the end of the world, no. There will be many more instances where we make mistakes, sometimes careless and other times, genuine mistakes.”

Her: eyes brimming with tears

Me: “Why are you upset with me?”

Her: stoic silence

Me: (prayed for grace and it suddenly came to me) “Baby?” (she looked up) “I am really sorry that you are feeling that way. I did not mean to hurt you. Can I give you a hug?”

Her: (bawling her eyes out) "I am so upset with myself! I know that I can do it yet I am so careless. I am so disappointed Mama!!!"

I hugged her till her fat tears trickled to a stop and I felt so guilty. Why? Type A genes aside, it suddenly hit me that as adults, when we go through school work with them, we often chide and nag at them for being careless. It leaves almost no room for them to make mistakes.

It did not occur to me that by doing so, we have unconsciously placed ourselves high up on the pedestal where as parents, we can do no wrong and we have never made any mistakes! All our children hear from us are “why is this not done?” or “Why were you so careless?”

I then spent the rest of the hour sharing stories of some silly mistakes I made, how I double up with a coworker at work to vet and proof read advertisements etc., and that I did not pass my driving exam on the first try!

The society and its expectations are moving along so fast at times, that I often forget that my kid is all but 6. Her little legs may not catch up with me and she may not write as fast as I would like for her, but I realized that time with her and these precious moments where we are ‘present’ and where she enjoys her childhood are far more precious than any ‘mistakes’. 

A buddy with me with this quote today and I would like to share it with you.

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Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Primary One: the 6 things I learnt

Just like that, Dumpling has finished her second week of formal education in Primary School and is attending her third week now. It has been a learning curve for her as much as it has been for me: the-getting-to-know-the-classmates-parents, the mad bento preparation in the morning, teaching her to look at the timetable and pack her school bag, getting her to look through her journal so that we know what homework she has, etc., and the list goes on.

And just like that (and with some dramatic flair *drum rolls*) she's suddenly more grown up and frankly, seems more ready to tackle the weeks ahead than me. Along the way, I learnt as much as the kid, but in different areas. :) Here's sharing some tips with you parents who with children going to P1 next year!

1) Label, label, label! 
Kids lose their belongings and this is a norm. Dumpling has been very blessed to have good teachers who would remind the children to stow and pack away their belongings daily. So far, there has only been one incident where Dumpling left her entire pencil case, yes, ENTIRE pencil case in class. This along with her journal which has records of her daily task / homework.

The good thing is that her school is a single session school so there were no afternoon classes and her items were still there, under her desk the next day. But there have been incidents where she left her lunch bag in the canteen and had to go back to get it. This is where the labels come in handy. We also labelled her shoes as well as her uniforms - pinafore, tee and shorts!

I have been using the value kits from Bright Star Kids labels since Dumpling started attending her Chinese play classes at 18 months and have not looked back. The totally neat thing about this site is that you are able to choose and customize your labels and even preview the artwork before placing an order. Besides the usual pencil labels and book labels, the link above points to a School Labels Value Kit which also includes iron on labels for the uniforms! Some of the labels have been in use for more than 2 years and they have not peeled off. The downside is that they do not have Chinese font at the moment.

2) PVC and Velcro shoes

During my days (yes, I am that old), it was canvas and I recalled having to wash them every Friday evening and then to 'paint' them once they are dried over the weekends. Come this day and age, I suddenly realised that our children have so many choices. For these lower age group children, I strongly recommend PVC shoes with velcro straps. Shoelaces will not be a practical choice for these 7YOs. When we went shoe shopping, there were choices ranging from $20+ to 40+ (and even more). Because the kids spend a fair bit of time walking to and fro (to school hall, canteen, classrooms, washrooms, library, general office, etc.) and that they now have PE lessons weekly, we decided to go with a pair that has a thicker cushioning for better support and comfort. We got ours from Adidas. 

3) Purse
I am a tad paranoid about my kiddo losing her purse and then having to starve the whole day till school ends. So, I reached out to a GF of mine who deals in handmade items and got her to sew a small purse (with an outside zip compartment) AND a strap where the strap is placed through the belt loop. With the back zip compartment, I will place 2 sheets of tissue paper in there for her to use it. It has worked well so far. :)

4) Bento
I am a bento-ing mum who's into her third week of daily morning bentos for the kiddo. On the few occasions that I have been to the school, I noted that there are only 4 stalls in operation. It's simple arithmetic for me. The girls get staggered recess so Dumpling shares a recess time with the P2s. So, technically we have 12 classes of students (avg. of 30 kids?) attempting to queue and eat within 30mins of recess time. That equates to about 360 children. Even if 40% bentos, we still have about more than 200 children queuing up for 4 stalls. Frankly that worries me a bit. Hence, my bento engine restarted. 

Things that I learnt so far:
i) Separate the fruits
If you have a fussy kid like mine, you will need pack your fruits separately when you prepare for items like noodles / rice. The noodles would end up covering the fruits and well, my kid will not touch the fruits then because it is messy. :/

ii) Time saving egg in bread roll! 
Baked egg items are lovely for days that you are in a mad rush. You basically dig out the bread centre (excluding the base) and crack an egg into the 'hole'. Add a dash of herbs and sprinkle some cheese. Pop it into the oven at 170/180 degrees C and bake it for about 20 mins. (Do check on this after 15 mins especially if your oven runs hotter than usual) So this basically frees you up for 20 mins! 

iii) Bite Size
Food that are bite size are often useful. For e.g. Buns / Sandwiches/ Wraps / Mini Shepherds Pie. They are generally nifty and I see that the kiddo finishes more when they are presented that way.  

5) Schedule
As a FTWM I need to be able to have information easily and this is where schedules help me. I have 2 copies of her school's time table. One is on my fridge and the other is in her school bag where we look at packing her bag with her every evening. 

So how I manage to bento daily is that I have a menu plan too. The system works for me as it basically frees me from pondering and panicking every evening. Just 20-30 mins prep and it lasts me for 3 weeks before I repeat the items (unless she asks for the repeats). 

To the right of my menu planner, I also have columns where I indicated if there is veg in these items as I try very hard to make it a balanced diet. 

6) Network
As a homeschooling mum previously, I have basically sort of gotten used to be hands-on. With the kiddo attending formal school, I still intended to be very involved. During week 1, I was on half day leave with the intention to help ease the kiddo into her transition. After hanging around in the canteen, it became very clear that I would not be able to meet most of the parents to get their contacts so as to start a WhatsApp chat group. 

So, I decided to print out some cards and got the kid to hand them out during her recess to her classmates. (I informed the form teacher prior who advised that recess time is the best time for Dumpling to distribute.) It was also a good experience for Dumpling to introduce herself to her classmates too! 

Bit by bit, within a week, I got the response. The network is important because it allows me to cross check matters on homework, etc., with the parents. For e.g. there was a slight confusion on the spelling list. On a summary list, it was stated that "Dan, the Flying Man" list will be tested during week 3. However, on Dan's list, it was stated as week 4! I would not have noticed till much later, until a mum in the group pointed it out. :) 

So there you have it! My 6 survivor tips for P1 so far!  

Edit (3 Jan 2016):
Fellow mum blogger Angie shared a useful shopping list for Primary 1 parents too! Hop on over to find out more! 

If you have enjoyed this post, please follow me on my Facebook Page where I share my parenting thoughts, food photos (be prepared for tons of them!), early shout outs for giveaways and interact with you, my readers! You can also follow me on Pinterest and Instagram.

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