The Importance of Grade R

Posted on April 10 2013 by FHPPS in School

Believe it or not I volunteered to write this blog “The Importance of Grade R”. I thought it would be easy because I have taught Grade R for many years and furthermore I enjoy teaching this age group. They are always keen to learn and will attempt almost anything with great bravado.

Whilst doing research and thinking about what I wanted to write something kept coming to mind. Children need to be educated before Gr. R. A year in Gr. R certainly helps to prepare a child for primary school but they need a solid and firm foundation before the come to Gr. R. I then decided to rather write on “The Importance of a Good Pre- School. “

A “good pre-school” aims to create a secure and happy environment that provides opportunities to educate the whole child. It aims to develop the child physically, intellectually, cognitively, creatively, socially and emotionally. This does not just happen. A school needs a qualified and trained staff to help create the right environment to meet the individual needs of each child. Learning can only take place when the child feels confident, content and happy in the school.

I joined FHPPS in January 2012 after teaching Grade 1and 2, for nine years in an International School in Dubai. In my first few days at FHPPS I was amazed at the children’s cognitive and intellectual development, their language , their physical abilities and in particular their fine motor skills. They were confident, happy and cheerful children who settled in quickly and believe it or not they took turns and shared toys. This did not happen perchance, it was a result of good teaching and guidance in the younger and middle groups. I felt so blessed to be at the school with a delightful group of children and an educated staff.

In the 2-3 year group they initially mainly focus on the social and emotional development of the child as the staff help them adjust to leaving their parents and settling into the school routine. They learn to share, take turns and not to bite or throw sand. The children become more independent as they are encouraged to dress themselves, take care of their belongings and to tidy up the classroom. Their large motor skills improve when they play outdoors on the equipment and use the push bikes. They are exposed to creative activities and this aids their fine motor co-ordination. Communication skills improve in this age group because the children have to speak to adults and they tend to talk non-stop when playing with their friends. Their cognitive skills are extended as they are taught shapes, colour and general knowledge about the weekly themes.

In the 3-5 year groups all the skills, language and cognitive facts that were taught in the younger group are extended. The teachers are aware of the developmental stages of a child and therefore teach accordingly. Lessons and activities are planned and prepared to meet the needs of each specific age group. We work as a team and give suggestions to help children move from one class to another.

We put great emphasis on the development of large and fine motor skills. The children are encouraged to experiment and explore the wonderful climbing equipment that we have in our school. They are exposed to movement lessons which encourage them to climb, skip, run or balance. These exercises develop and strengthen muscles giving the child the opportunity to refine and enhance their gross motor skills. These skills are needed to help a child sit at a desk and work. They also help develop visual perception skills that form the basis of reading and writing. Fine motor skills are extended daily as the children participate in art activities, build with construction toys or manipulate small equipment.

In this age group the children are introduced to a quiet time where they are expected to play educational games, do puzzles, look at books or build with construction toys. They are encouraged to play quietly and to concentrate and focus their attention purposefully on what they are doing.

The teacher guided lessons also help to extend the children’s concentration, language, cognitive and physical skills. They give the child the opportunity to express himself freely and creatively in the group. This helps the child to develop self confidence and the ability to speak and perform in front of others. It develops their listening skills as they have to follow instructions correctly a task required daily in school.

Discipline plays an important part in the children’s education. They need to sit quietly during lessons, listen to their teacher and to the contributions of their peers. They understand that they must not disturb their friends. This is the beginning of group discipline and being able to work independently and within a group.

Everything the teacher prepares and plans has an educational value and is aimed at helping the children to develop and extend their language, perceptual physical, intellectual and social and emotional development. By the time the children reach Grade R they have a good solid foundation.

In Grade R we continue to extend the children in all areas of their development. Many of our children stay with us for Gr. R and this is good as we are able to continue to develop and extend the program they have been following in the younger/middle groups. Furthermore the Gr. R teachers get to know the children before they come to the class as we integrate with all the children during the day. As a staff we support each other and are able to give one another guidelines and ideas to help us teach children who may have specific learning problems.

All Gr. R classes throughout the country have to be taught CAPS the new curriculum devised by the Department of Education.

Gr. R teachers are expected to attend training in this method and require a valid CAPS certificate. We follow CAPS and use it as a guideline to teach mathematics, language and life skills. We teach the Letterland Reading Program and by the end of the year the children are able to identify the initial sounds and a few are able to read 3 letter words. In Gr. R we continue to extend mathematical concepts and place great emphasis on counting and understanding number.

Listening skills, concentration and following instructions are of vital importance and are needed to execute creative and written tasks correctly. The children are encouraged to work quietly and independently but within a small group. They also play educational games and need to be able to share, take turns and at times lead a group. Working in a group and playing games requires self control and confidence and the ability to communicate purposefully and logically.

I believe FHPPS provides a child with a good education and am very happy to be part of the teaching staff. We strive to provide a warm, happy and cheerful environment that allows the child to develop cognitively and intellectually, socially and emotionally as well as physically.

”I hear and I forget, I see and I remember, I do and I understand.” To obtain abstract thought a child needs to “do” and experience things. What better place to achieve this than at pre-school.