Do you remember your first day at primary school? Here at Watson’s it is an extremely special time, as our children kick off the formal part of their education.
We asked long-serving Primary 1 teacher Sally Brown, to take us through the first day (and a little beyond) behind the scenes in our Lower Primary...
We prepare really thoroughly for pupils coming into school for the first time; everything is labelled, different activities are laid out, and we make sure the classroom is a bright, engaging place to come to.
On the day itself, half of the children come in first thing, and the other half after break. This enables teachers to spend time with every single child on that first, important morning.
We are happy to welcome parents to join us (not this year, unfortunately, as you can imagine) but we do gently encourage them to head off quickly when they are sure their child is settled.
We know that the first day can be emotional for everyone (including the teachers) but we structure that first day (and first few weeks) very strongly around the health and wellbeing of the children.
Structured play is extremely important in the first months of Primary 1, but so is listening. It’s the ‘number one’ skill we teach and encourage with pupils. After all, if you cannot listen to teachers, support staff, and your classmates, learning will be more difficult.
Children benefit from a classroom assistant to every Primary 1 class, whilst other teachers are part of the group, particularly early on when we identify and support them into their new routines.
Activities on the first day also enable us to assess which hand children prefer to use, something that will quickly become very important.
On the first afternoon, the children meet Floppy the dog. He’s a popular character in one of the popular reading programmes we use (Oxford Reading Tree) alongside ‘mum’ and ‘dad’ as well as three children: Biff, Chip, and Kipper
As well as health and wellbeing, we focus strongly on literacy and numeracy.
From the first full week of school, we begin learning the alphabet through Jolly Phonics, which teaches 42 different sounds. In the first two weeks the children learn, ‘S,’ ‘A,’ ‘T,’ ‘I,’ ‘P,’ and ‘N’.
Once you know those six sounds there are at least 30-40 words pupils can start to ‘blend’ in a consonant-vowel-consonant (CVC) format. Yes! Reading inside the first fortnight.
To help learn each sound, a movement is taught to associate with. For example, for the sound ‘T’ children bounce their heads left and right as if they are watching a ‘tennis’ match.
Pupils also learn a series of common words. By mastering, ‘the,’ ‘said,’ ‘and,’ ‘who,’ ‘I,’ ‘no,’ and ‘oh’ children are quickly able to start to build sentences!
When it comes to numeracy, children will quickly learn to count to 10, and back to zero again - going in reverse helps them feel secure in understanding the basis. Alongside this, they’ll be taking part in matching and pairing games as they build together the key fundamentals towards adding and subtracting.
At the end of the first day (and frankly for the first few months of Primary 1) you might find your child is a little bit grumpy.
Experience tells us that the change of pace to life in Junior School takes a lot out of them. They love the new challenge, the new routine, and all the new things they are learning about - but they can be pretty tired.
Tired they may be, but they’ll be happy because their new adventure will be underway, with many more exciting things still to come...