It is not only your child who has anxiety attacks at the start of every school year.

Statistics show that parents feel separation anxiety as well as frustration over their child's social situation at school.

However, if your child is well-prepared for the initial Key Stages; if you know what to expect and how to help for English, you can minimise your and your little student's stress.

This article is an overview of what to expect in English classes during these first years at school, ways to help your child get ahead and tips to make English learning more fun, for you and your child.

Your child should test into the average for his class
Your child's English capabilities will be assessed with his peers' Source: Pixabay Credit: Tolmacho

An Overview of Key Stage Learning

Primary school English teachers build on Early Years Foundation Stage elements of academics, a facet of which is studying English.

During Year One, your English learner will develop the ability to combine syllables into words when reading. S/he will apply this skill every time s/he reads a new word.

English teachers will promote reading through active use of books in the classroom.

By Year Two of your child's academic English career, s/he should be able to read simple words, identify numbers and recognise punctuation marks.

Pupils will increase their fluency by being able to read words that do not follow the main spelling rules without needing to sound them out.

Your child's English course will build upon those skills and provide the means of further learning.

If your child is learning English as a second language, s/he would benefit the most from this early education.

Reading comprehension leads to greater understanding.

The ability to read leads to proficiency in every aspect of English language learning. That is why there is such emphasis on reading phrases and poems as early as possible.

That is why you will find poetry and the occasional idiom among your child's homework assignments.

If your child is an Esl student, extra help for English should be given from the start of Year One with reading and pronunciation, and understanding of common phrases.

If you are the parent of an ESOL learner, be sure to talk with your child's teacher about any extracurricular activities or English programs available to him/her.

At the end of Year Two, your child will take an assessment exam to measure, among other subjects, his/her overall English skills, handwriting included.

Share your thoughts: are handwriting skills really relevant now that everything gets typed?

A General Overview of Key Stage Two

By the time your child starts Year Three, s/he should be able to read age-appropriate materials with little to no effort.

As well as fluency in reading words that are well-known, s/he should be able to read words not used in everyday English with minimal trouble.

Your child's English teacher will focus on these competencies, and build on on them.

Non native speakers are expected to be at the same level as native speakers of English in all facets of language learning.

Starting Year Six, students should be able to express and write their ideas fluently, using correct punctuation.

Writing capabilities are measured by your child being able to organise his/her thoughts around a main idea and discuss related ideas.

Proper sentence structure, appropriate punctuation and using the correct verb tense figure prominently in the Key Stage Two pupil's evaluation of English mastery.

In consideration of your child's advancing intellect, s/he will be challenged to interpret information and discuss writers' choice of language and form.

Your child will sit for this more advanced SAT exam after successful completion of Scholastic Year Six.

Should there be any areas of weakness revealed by this exam, your child will have the opportunity to resit in Year Seven.

To avoid the possibility of an exam retake, you could incorporate some of these extra study activities to help your child learn English better, faster.

Use interactive exercises to make English learning more fun
Learning English can be fun with interactive exercises Source: Pixabay Credit: Geralt

Resources for Young English Learners

As your child gains English language skills, s/he is preparing to take his/her place in society.

The ability to read, write and speak English puts your progeny on par with the more than a billion and a half English speakers around the world.

Let us take a look at how you could help launch him/her successfully with English language resources.

Your local library is the one-stop place to find legends, heroes, princesses and trolls.

The only thing that you absolutely have to know is the location of the library – Albert Einstein

At the library closest to you, there should be workshops, English tuition and other activities that can help build your young learner's overall English skills.

Students enrolled in the UK's public schools are introduced to poetry and literature during the first year of Key Stage One.

Considering that, doesn't it make sense to take your child to the place where literature reigns supreme?

Consider an English Tutor

Your child will have taken an English assessment exam at the end of Reception Year.

The English teacher should have communicated what level of proficiency your student has demonstrated with the language, and whether additional English language courses are advised.

If so, you might consider enlisting with an agency that specialises in helping young learners with English.

Whether your child is an international student or a native English tutor, s/he can benefit from tutoring agencies which specialize in delivering English lessons that follow National Curriculum guidelines.

By some reports, more than a quarter of Britain's students benefit from private tutoring. In London, that percentage grows to nearly fifty!

Beware that private tutoring costs rest exclusively with you.

Should private tutoring not be an option for you, you might consider checking with the British Council.

Their English Department offers several programs to help with elementary English learning.

You could talk with a local council representative, or check out their web page.

What About Practising English Online?

Education experts all agree: an engaged student learns better and retain more of what they learn. How to get your child involved and interested in learning?

To learn English, one mustn't always conjugate verbs and focus on exams.

Making learning entertaining and fun helps young students realise that English grammar does not have to be drudge work.

Colouring help develop muscle control needed for writing
Colouring pictures is a fun way to develop fine motor skills Source: Pixabay Credit An3344625

Why Not Play Games to Learn?

The site FunEnglishGames provides amusing activities that cover the whole spectrum of English learning, from grammar quizzes to vocabulary building exercises.

If you are more of a serious bent, you might check out Cambridge English. They host a website dedicated especially to young learners, where you will find:

  • games
  • quizzes
  • interactive learning initiatives
  • videos
  • tools to help develop listening skills

The more your student plays on that site, the more challenging the reading and writing activities become.

Now, let's talk about games and activities you can play with your young learner to foster a love of English learning.

Build Spelling Skills

I Spy, With My Little Eye... something that starts with M!

A twist to the classic observation game, the player leading the game announces what letter the spied object's name starts with.

Participants should look around for objects that start with that letter, calling out words until the spied object is correctly guessed.

Mat, mum, mirror, mouse... and so on.

For learners at Key Stage Two level, the objects can be spelled instead of named.

Did you spy a m-a-s-k? Or was it a m-o-p-e-d?

The game continues, with a different object to be guessed, that starts with a different letter of the alphabet.

You can check here for more fun games that build and reinforce spelling skills.

Help Your Child Learn to Love Writing

By all reports, handwriting is no longer emphasised in America, and cursive writing is no longer taught at all.

However, in the UK, penmanship is still an important criterion of early education, with skills being assessed at Key Stage exams.

Foreign language students entering University in Britain must take IELTS,where they must demonstrate handwriting capabilities, among other facets of English proficiency.

That signals the expectation that everyone in UK schools must be able to write legibly.

It also underscores the importance of being able to write fluently and well.

How do you develop these fine motor skills in your student?

Nothing Beats Tradition

We pay tribute to generations of parents who have hoisted their child onto their lap and guided tiny hands to form letters properly. Their method of training future writers was way ahead of its time.

Muscle memory learning involves building neural pathways so that repetitive movements no longer require conscious thought.

There is nothing wrong with this tried-and-true method of helping your child improve writing skills.

A note of caution: if your child demonstrates as either left-handed or right-handed, this teaching technique would work best if you are inclined to use the same dominant hand.

You Write, I Write

Why should story time always be someone else's stories, read out loud? Why not write a story with your child, or get the whole family involved?

For this activity, you only need a notepad, a pen and a bit of imagination. You start the story by composing the first sentence, writing it in the notebook.

Your child expands on it, writing the next line. You (or another family member) follow... and so on, until the story is complete.

Taking turns composing sentences, you would be surprised at how quickly you can flesh out an adventure and fill a notebook!

This writing activity is perfect for cold, rainy days, when lounging indoors is preferred to splashing outside.

Before we discover ways to learn good spelling habits, let us talk about learning disabilities.

Statistics show that more than a quarter of a million school-aged children in the UK are learning, in spite of any sort of disability.

Not being fluent in English is not considered a disability under these guidelines.

Unfortunately, it is generally only the most obvious of disabilities that are quickly recognised.

Others, such as dyslexia, are more difficult to spot in younger learners.

If you have concerns about your child's progress in reading, writing or spelling, be sure to talk with your child's English tutor.

Taking steps to work around learning disabilities will reduce your child's school anxiety.

How to Instil a Lifelong Love of Reading

Experts in early education aver that reading to your child is one of the best ways to get them ready for their formal schooling.

Reading to your child also stimulates curiosity – a characteristic of rapid intellectual development.

As you and your tot delve into the magical world of books, it stands to reason that you could also help cultivate reading skills.

Many books for young children are written using rhyming words and repeating phrases because our smallest learners enjoy recurring words and sounds.

Such stories give little listeners a feeling of accomplishment by being able to predict what comes next.

Let's put that to good use, shall we?

Let your child choose the story.

Most likely, there will be lines that repeat, such as in Have You Seen My Cat?.

This is not my cat! / Have you seen my cat?

This type of line works wonders with young learners, especially if you add 'sound effects'.

While you read, point to each word with your finger as you speak it, and pronounce each word clearly.

Soon, you will find that your child will say select lines with you. When s/he does, stop saying it and let him/her have all the fun!

If s/he is a reluctant participant, prompting should give encouragement: “Have you seen...?” for example.

Or you could ask: “What is this word?” while pointing to various words in the text.

This activity helps your child establish a correlation between the written and spoken word, and gives early exposure to word recognition.

You will most likely find a great selection of such books at your local library.

Your child will sit for Key Stage One and Two exams
English proficiencies will be measured through a series of Key Stage exams Source: Pixabay Credit Antoniusales

Measuring English Proficiency at Key Stage Level

Amidst all the fun and hard work of teaching their child, parents seldom think of reaching milestones, measuring progress, or assessing achievements.

By contrast, the UK education system focuses on those developmental stages intently.

Your child's grasp of the English language will be measured through a series of standardised examinations throughout his/her academic career.

S/he will have already sat for one evaluation toward the end of Reception Year. This is an unofficial test, to gauge competency before moving into Key Stage One learning.

Key Stage One Assessment

While there is one other informal exam at the end of Year One, your young learner will sit for his/her first formal exam toward the end of Year 2, during the month of May.

English language aspects that are measured at that time are reading, grammar, vocabulary, punctuation, and spelling.

  • The reading portion is made up of two short texts, from which your child will answer questions.
    • Reading comprehension is generally allotted thirty minutes per segment
  • The spelling test covers twenty randomly chosen words, and lasts approximately twenty minutes.
  • The grammar, punctuation and vocabulary part is taken separately, in two segments.
    • Each lasts about ten minutes, and students may enjoy a small break between them, if needed.

Test takers's results are interpreted along a spectrum, much like the letter marks one receives on a composition paper.

The median mark of one hundred points means your English learner's language competence is as expected.

Key Stage Two Assessment

This more exacting test weighs heavily on your child's official academic record, it is accorded an expanded schedule.

Although the test your child took in Year Two defined his/her ability to learn on par with peers, the Year 6 exam carries substantial gravitas.

The results of this exam are considered a part of your child's academic record.

  • The reading portion comprises of questions drawn from three separate texts
    • the selection is expanded to magazine articles, poetry and classic literature
  • Spelling competencies are challenged through dictation
  • Grammar and punctuation proficiencies are incorporated into one paper

As with Key Stage One, your child's official result will be a composite score, and the target of one hundred remains as the national average.

Students sitting for the Year 6 exam are expected to fall in the one hundred and above spectrum.

Learners must achieve a mark of four (4) or above, else they will be scheduled to resit during Year Seven.

You should be aware that little accommodation is given to students with learning disabilities, even if they have a SEN certificate. Every Year Six student is expected to sit for exams alongside their peers, including non native students.

SEN stands for Special Educational Needs.

By preparing your child for school: playing word games and reading out loud, by practising writing and spelling, your young learner stands a better chance at lower stress levels and, more importantly: at academic success.

And that's really what every parent wants for their child's school experience, isn't it?

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A vagabond traveler whose first love is the written word, I advocate for continuous learning, cycling, and the joy only a beloved pet can bring. There is plenty else I am passionate about, but those three should do it, for now.