Preparing for the Primary Years
Primary 1 marks the beginning of our children’s journey into formal education. While some will sail right though with minor hiccups, some will get stuck occasionally and need a push every now and then, yet others will simply struggle from the beginning.
Whether their academic journey is one of smooth sailing, or one fraught with challenges, as parents, we are always there to help support them in accordance with their needs.
Providing them with the right kind of emotional support is of course a given, but there is another more concrete way in which parents can really help provide the right academic support to their primary-school going children – identifying the right books for mastering and excelling the various subjects.
Every child a problem solver and critical thinker
Education today aims to equip our children with 21st century competencies such as problem solving and critical thinking skills, realistic skills that are necessary to help them cope with the real working world in the future.
How do these goals translate to what our children need to go through in school? Let’s have a look at the emphasis in each of the subject areas.
When it comes to language learning, instead of only mastering grammar rules, word recognition and writing skills, the emphasis is now on the application of these language components to everyday life situations.
You will find your children exposed to tasks that aim to help them understand how language components together, with language skills are applicable in daily life.
Mathematics and Science
When learning Mathematics, the emphasis is on the problem-solving process and the ability to reason with mathematical skills acquired from the mathematics education.
For Science, increasingly, the focus is to make the learning of Science relevant. To achieve this, the use of questions and activities that are set in real world are prevalent in Science lessons. This would make Science concepts less abstract and easier to understand. It is also with the use of contextualised questions that a child’s knowledge of science and process skills can be assessed.
Increasingly, as parents try to move away from heavy reliance on tuition by becoming more involved in their children’s education, there are demands for workshops and learning materials on how to teach the various subjects that children are learning in school.
There are many learning materials out there, but what sets one apart from another?
We speak to Marshall Cavendish Education, the leading textbook and assessment publisher, to find out how to choose a good assessment book to help your children achieve the various subjects’ learning objectives.
The right books for the right start
It is important that parents are able to determine the stage at which their children are and diagnose their children’s learning shortfalls. This helps you, as parents to identify the type of learning materials that they’d need to enhance their learning.
For starters, you could:
1. Look through their school and home assignments to identify which types of questions they are struggling with. This gives you a good idea on which areas in the subject they are weak in, e.g.: Science – conceptual understanding VS process skills.
2. Speak to the teacher. Teachers would be your next best source for such feedback as your children spend most of their waking time in school. As a professional educator, they have been trained to identify and close the gaps of learning difficulties.
With this information, you’ll now have a better idea on how to get started.
Books that support academic preparedness can be grouped under three broad categories, each of which has been developed to gear towards different study objectives to aid students in specific aspects of learning.
1. Skill-based books: The objective of these books is to hone specific skills required to attempt year-end examinations. These books help in the introduction and familiarisation of concepts in line with the curriculum for the specific year through practice sheets.
2. Guidebooks: The objective of these books is to help students revise and prepare for their exams through repeated practice.
3. Exam papers: These are meant to help students assess themselves based on criteria of scored and timing. Specimen papers from previous years are included as well to help give a realistic assessment of how prepared the student is.
For the books to be really beneficial, it is also important that these books meet the following criteria:
1. Based on the latest syllabus by Ministry of Education, Singapore (MOE)
2. Latest test and exam standards are reflected in the questions
3. Questions are stimulating to develop critical thinking skills
4. Revision tests available for self-assessment
5. Notes and/or answer key comes with full solutions for self-study
A helpful start with Marshall Cavendish Education
No matter which stage of learning your children are at, Marshall Cavendish Education has the necessary learning materials for you.
The Write Way
Area of focus: writing skills and grammar
Extracted from English PSLE Revision Guide (2nd Edition)
In the revised continuous writing format, one topic is given, with three visuals to help them think about the different perspectives of the topic. Despite the visuals given, many children still struggle with writing. The reason behind this phenomenon – they are unsure of what they can or cannot write about.
The Write Way is a series by Marshall Cavendish Education that supports parents in this journey all the way from P1 to P6. The series focuses on developing an enthusiasm for writing. The books have three main sections that cover different skills sets:
- Generating ideas and content
- Developing ideas and content
- Editing and refining writing
With detailed instructions, picture stimuli and practice sheets, the series provides rigour and variety at the same time as developing strong writing skills.
Angeline Tan, mother of a P6 student, found The Write Way useful in helping her child during practice and improve her English language skills. She says, “The parts on checking spelling, punctuations were important (in grasping the elements of composition). My child learned how to check for mistakes in her composition. The book was very detailed and would be useful even for weaker students.”
Area of focus: language use; vocabulary
As the sole publisher of Mother Tongue textbooks in Singapore schools, it is not surprising to know that Marshall Cavendish Education also offers Mother Tongue assessment books that are updated to the latest syllabus.
Just Practice, a series that focuses on language use, not only has an extensive vocabulary list, but also ample practices to allow children to practise using the words in different and possible contexts. Mid-Year SA1 Examination and Final Year SA2 Examination Specimen Paper 2 are included in the book.
Area of focus: Problem-solving process; heuristics
As the Mathematics education aims to mould our children into critical thinkers and problem solvers, the problem-solving approach is heavily reflected in the Mathematics curriculum and in classroom teaching.
This approach is also used throughout the work examples in Mightymatics to help children organise their thoughts and translate them into well-presented solutions.
There are 3 sections in Mightmatics, each one is set out to accomplish a learning objective.
There are 3 sections in Mightymatics, each set out to accomplish a learning objective:
1. What You Must Know (to reinforce key concepts)
2. Apply What You Know (to apply the 4-step problem-solving approach to problem sums)
3. Extend What You Know (to practise using various heuristics methods)
Apply & Score
Area of focus: Context-based questions; process skills
Over the six years of Primary education, children are required to develop what are called “science process skills.” Singapore’s Primary Science syllabus acknowledges the need for children to develop Science process skills among others, and as such “emphasises the need for a balance between the acquisition of science knowledge, process and attitudes.”
At the same time, we should also not forget that central to the curriculum framework is “Science as an inquiry”. While we work on developing our children’s process skills, how can we at the same time bring out scientific curiosity in our children?
By making science relevant.
That’s why, increasingly, we find the use of contextualised questions more prevalent in science lessons. With activities and questions set in authentic context, it makes science concepts less abstract and easier to understand. Questions set in real world contexts also help us assess pupils’ ability to apply knowledge and process skills.
Apply & Score is a series that is written to expose children to context-based questions – a question type found in tests and exams, including PSLE.
If there is only one type of learning material that you can get to prepare your children for their examinations, it would be guidebooks. Guidebooks are your all-in-one review resource for examination preparations. They come with:
- topical notes
- detailed explanations for choice of answers
- tips on how to score for a particular section of the exam paper / type of question
- specimen papers
Below is a list of guidebooks you can consider if you are preparing your children for the PSLE:
English PSLE Revision Guide (2nd Edition)
While using English PSLE Revision Guide (2nd Edition), Angeline Tan found that her son found the text and format engaging. She found that this guidebook allows for independent revision as it has notes and detailed explanation throughout the book. Angeline has no reservations about recommending this book to other parents as, in it sample practices are accompanied by immediate explanation for the choice of answer. The answer key also gives a very detailed explanation for the correct answer.
Chinese PSLE Revision Guide
Cherie Tan found both Chinese PSLE Revision Guide useful during her child’s preparations: “It includes essential pointers and key points for preparing exams. What’s more, it comes with notes for parents written in English, which is helpful when I want to be more involved in preparing my child for the exam.”
Head on to the last page to find out which Mathematics and Science books are best suited for PSLE revision.
Science Revision Guide
A parent, Lim Sun Beam, shares that she found that the Science Revision Guide covers the curriculum comprehensively and in-depth.
The books have a very detailed and step-by-step logical process to learning, which allows the children to develop their conceptual learning and really understand how science is connected to everyday life.
My Pals are Here! PSLE Mathematics Revision Guide
Built on the highly successful My Pals are Here! Maths series, this guidebook is written in a way that allows students to recall lessons learnt over the years for the specific purpose of taking the Mathematics paper.
On top of worked examples that guide children along to help in their understanding, there are also specimen papers in this guidebook to prepare them for the actual exam.
While textbooks are effective in conveying concepts to aid in your children’s learning, supplementary resources such as assessment books and guidebooks can help to extend and enhance their understanding of a particular subject.
However, before deciding on which learning materials to purchase for your child, do remember to determine which stage your child is at and understand what his specific learning shortfalls are. You can get a better understanding of your child's struggles and difficulties by looking through their school work and speaking to their teacher.
Remember your child's successful learning journey depends on the partnership between you, the teacher and your child.