Setting the Stage for Schooling Success: Grade R Milestones
The foundational phase of schooling is critical. It is absolutely true and accurate to call Grade R – 3 the foundation phase. It is during these years that the foundation of learning is put in place. Without the basis of Grade R milestones in place, children struggle throughout their twelve years at school. It is no exaggeration to say that when education is lacking in this age group, it is setting the children up for failure.
Any reading on the subject shows the critical nature of Early Childhood Development (ECD). Investing in ECD is finally getting the attention it rightly needs. This is a focus that many have felt has been lacking in the country’s educational policy.
What should a child learn in Grade R?
Grade R is for children four years of age, turning five on or before 30th June. This is in the year of admission. Some of the important Grade R milestones they should reach in their skills development this year are:
1) Pencil Grip
After the age of six, correcting pencil grip is very difficult. Getting the grip right is crucial. Incorrect pencil grip will affect legibility. Bad grip also means slower writing. It can even lead to undue stress on developing joints. This could mean arthritis in later life. Occupational therapists often focus on pencil grip with special needs learners.
This is a vital element in Grade R development. It fosters dexterity and muscle strength. It can also have a massive impact on a child’s attitude towards schoolwork. Academic achievement is closely tied to a student’s attitude to learning.
2) Sorting and Classification
These are essential in pre-math learning. They involve putting objects into categories. For example, putting all the toys on one side and all the books on the other. Or sorting boys and girls into teams. Or seeing all the balls as a group and all the bikes as another. Grouping according to colour or type is the basic skill, and it is an important one.
3) Emotional Readiness
It is important that a child be emotionally ready for Grade 1. If they are not, their interaction with their peers can become an issue. This can have a negative impact on their schooling experience.
Aspects of emotional readiness include independence and being able to be separate from the their parents. Persistence and taking responsibility for their belongings are other markers. Another aspect is being able to concentrate for appropriate lengths of time by the end of grade R.
4) Shape and Colour Recognition
Recognising shapes and colours lays the foundation for reading, writing and maths. Seeing that a triangle has three sides helps with future recognition of letters. Differentiating between three-sided and four-sided objects also sets up concepts used in mathematics. Being able to build shapes will also develop problem-solving skills.
5) Bilateral Integration
Bilateral integration is the ability to use both sides of the body in an integrated way. It impacts many facets of developments, including handwriting skills. Grade R is a time where many activities are done in order to development this integration. Gross motor skills are also developed, making for healthy time on the playground.
Handwriting is a bilateral activity. When we write we use one hand to balance us while writing with another. Other activities will be impacted if there is difficulty integrating bilateral coordination. These include tying shoelaces, cutting and drawing. Hopping, skipping and galloping are some gross motor skills that will be a struggle.
Having a proper Grade R will set a child to enjoy the physical activities and be ready to learn handwriting skills.
6) Auditory analysis and synthesis
This is also known as auditory blending. This speaks two aspects of auditory recognition. The one is the ability to differentiate the parts of a word. The other is the ability to synthesise the different sounds into one word.
It is a skill that is very important for correct spelling. Being able to hear the syllables of a word is where to start. In Grade R, children are taught to hear each part of a word. They can see that Superman is three sounds: “soo” + “per” + “man.”
What if a child has not mastered these skills by the end of Grade R?
This is not a scenario any parent even wants to consider. It is a difficult choice to make. It is most common that children born later in the year who will lag behind their peers.
What is best for a child who is falling behind in these Grade R milestones? It might be that they have struggled throughout the year. As the end of the year draws near, their struggles might become more apparent. They might possibly have been barely keeping up throughout the terms. But in fourth term they are no longer able to hold on. Or maybe they already began slipping behind their peers in January.
Should a child in Grade R be pushed through? Will it be best for them to muscle on into Grade 1? Could they catch up there?
Without a doubt, it is probably in a child’s interests to repeat Grade R if they are behind. (This is usually best for a struggling child in any year of schooling.)
Children who progress prematurely become more fearful in their schooling. They are very likely to progress even slower in Grade 1. Their confidence will also erode making he whole schooling process even more daunting. Forcing a child to a more challenging level when they are floundering at their current level will, in all likelihood, have a negative impact on their school career.
It would be far better for a child to repeat Grade R if they are struggling. Mastering the skills at this level will set them up for success in the next exciting stage of their schooling. This will set them up for success into their future.
Grade R at Japari
Despite being introduced in 2001, many primary schools still have not implemented a Grade R program. At Japari we have had a strong foundation phase beginning in Grade R for many years. We work at the pace of the learners to help them achieve their potential.
We work with Grade R children that struggle in mainstream schooling. As we have seen, assessing issues as soon as possible is extremely important. It is the best way to address challenges and set them up for success in life.
We have the experts to ensure the children have the best input from the earliest possible time. We have many decades of success. These children are our passion. Working with them from Grade R is exciting and a true privilege.
At this age, even children without any learning challenges benefit from our environment. A year or few in the foundation phase at Japari will mean that parents can be confident that any learning challenges will have probably been determined. This way no time has been lost if there is an issue. Our students have access to the best professionals in their fields of learning. Those who can transition to a mainstream environment can do so with confidence. Those who need the extra care and attention will have been getting it the entire time they are with us.
Japari is an excellent choice for Grade R.
Bibliography and further reading:
Sorting and Classification:
Shape and Colour Recognition:
Auditory analysis and synthesis