Hunter’s just finished Primary One – WHEW! What a huuuuge change and adjustment a child goes through, between Kindergarten and Primary school. One of my biggest concerns at the start of the year was – will he enjoy school?
A few months into Primary One, I was walking Hunter to school and asked “Do you prefer kindergarten, or primary school?”
To which he replied, “Primary school.”
When asked why, he responded “Because I like my teachers. And I love having subjects and real work. My favourite is Maths and Computers!”
That made me smile. They were my fave subjects when I was a kid too!! ? But…. what about English?
His response? “English is HARD. Harder than Chinese.”
That totally threw me.
It was totally unexpected to hear that. We speak English – exclusively – at home. Both sets of grandparents speak only English. Hunter simply isn’t exposed ‘in the real world’ to Chinese.. only to English. And he finds English difficult?!
When pressed, he shared that it was all the rules, regulations, grammar, etc of English that was difficult to learn. Because English is actually a pretty tricky language when presented in an academic fashion – which is exactly the format that it’s taught in in primary schools.
So, despite being a native English speaker, YES – I felt that Hunter could benefit from having a boost in his English academic skills!
My English School has several centres around Singapore and are specifically catered to enhance a child’s learning before and during their Primary School years.
If you’ve had a child in Primary School in Singapore, you’ll know that they start off with very basic concepts at the beginning of Primary One.. then ramp up at high speed. I personally feel that the Singaporean education system produces one of the BEST (if not THE best) performers in written English skills. But that comes with a price…. intense studying and laying down a very strong foundation in literacy.. which also translates to lots of learning to be done, even before they start Primary One.
When Hunter initially started at My English School (coinciding with the beginning of his Primary One school year), my main goal was for him to get extra help in becoming accustomed to formal education classes. This means I wanted him to:
- Get used to regular spelling tests and being graded
- Understanding that he has to concentrate during comprehension tasks
- Be alert and listen when a teacher gives instructions
- Familiarise himself with reading long passages of text
- Build a strong foundation in English literacy and concepts
That’s a pretty long list! So, how did My English School work out for him?
Every child is assessed at the time of enrolment, to slot them into an aptitude-appropriate class.
Here’s Hunter with his assessor, giving him a little test. I was wondering if he would be intimidiated at the thought of being ‘tested’ in a pretty formal environment, but it was made light hearted and engaging, so he had fun!
My English School classes run 1.5 hours. For me, this is ideal – I feel 1 hour is too short to warrant the time to get to/from class, yet 2 hours would be too long for a young child.
Their classroom environment has bright posters and kids artworks on the walls, but is otherwise very clean and basic. Children are spaced along the tables (rearranged every so often if two noise kids are sat together, like Hunter was with his friend!) and have a cute My English School bag (you’ll see it in the photo above) that contains their material.
Each week, they get a new Booklet containing several Activities that are completed in class, as well as a few Activities to do at home. There is also a spelling list that they prepare for, for the next week’s Spelling Test.
Hunter’s teacher was a young British lady that he really liked. I eavesdropped on some lessons and she is firm but very kind and personable to the kids, which is exactly the kind of teacher that Hunter gravitates towards.
Another view of the classroom, this time for the Kindergarten kids, hence the lowered tables. I always marvel at how clean the classrooms and equipment are at My English School.. especially compared to the state of the Primary School classrooms!!
I thought this communal whiteboard in the lobby area was a great touch! It changes every week, and encourages children to read and try to figure out the answers. A nice idea, as it keeps kids occupied if they arrive early or are picked up late.
A snapshot of one of the Activities that he did in class. It made me LOL because Hannah is his very good Kindergarten friend who is as equally talkative as Hunter is!
You’ll also see the Spelling list that he has. It contains words that are a bit more advanced than what they’re currently doing at Primary School. I asked the teacher, and she said that, in general, they stay a few months ahead of the Primary School syllabus.
This is HUGELY beneficial if your child requires several tries at a concept before he/she understands it completely, since Primary School classes progress more swiftly. It’s also very good for kids like Hunter, who may lack… erm… focus. Because there are only a handful of kids in each My English School class, he gets the attention he needs and I feel a lot safer in the knowledge that he won’t miss any key concepts.
This is another example of Hunter’s worksheet, which he filled in after reading a long passage. I like how the kids have a variety of Q&A formats – so they learn alternative words, sentence structures, checkboxes, etc.
And – best of all – they learn presentation skills! There are TONS of show & tell assessments in Primary One, so if you have a shy kid, you may be concerned. Here, the kids get to present a narrative and are assessed on Pronunciation, Fluency, and Expression…. exactly the same criteria that Primary School Teachers use. It gives kids an extra chance – on a regular basis – to practice their presentation skills in a classroom environment. LOVE THIS.
Since they follow MOE English, the kids are exposed to “Present Tense Verbs” and these English rules and regulations before they do it in their Primary classes. And it’s actually to quite an intense degree, as you can see in the snapshot above.
This piece above was Hunter’s own work, done without any adult supervision, at the start of last year when he first entered Primary One. He did this after 2.5 months at My English School. He needed to focus to do this, but he got it all correct, so I was proud of his effort!
Ultimately, I feel that while English can be a first language and can be spoken well by a child, it’s the foundations and concepts behind the language that is a challenge to correctly understand and excel in. Of course, this is an even greater challenge if English is not the main spoken language in a household. Go through a Primary One school textbook and you’ll see that it’s actually pretty ‘dry’… there is just so much to learn! It’s for this reason that Hunter labelled his English classes as “hardest”.
This is what we’ve found My English School has helped with:
- Preparing Kindergarten kids for the formal classroom environment of Primary One
- Providing extremely strong foundations in learning English literacy skills
- Enhanced a child’s aptitude in presentation and listening skills
- Make learning enjoyable – Hunter happily goes to his classes without any complaint, not even once!
- International teachers that speak well
And here’s what I thought could be improved:
- The centre we went to had classrooms without windows/natural light. I’m a huge fan of loads of sunshine!
- Their classes on weekdays start at 4pm at the earliest. I wish they had classes at 3pm as my kids’ bedtime is at 7pm.
You can go to the My English School website for more information and check out their various locations around Singapore.