Elementary School: The Foundation for Readiness
A child’s development in elementary school creates a strong foundation for future academic abilities, leading to college and career readiness, engaged citizenship and lifelong learning. Support for elementary school students should focus on the whole child – encouraging their cognitive, linguistic, social-emotional and physical growth.
You can help Massachusetts’ youngest students to grow, learn and reach developmental milestones through emotionally and physically safe, developmentally appropriate and inclusive, high quality, active learning experiences in language. Improving achievement in literacy in the early grades starts students on a path toward further academic success.
The messages students receive in elementary school lead them to adopt beliefs about themselves that can define their education and experiences. By partnering with others and modeling positive behavior, you can help them to adopt confident self-beliefs in their abilities and potential.
Take an active role by:
- Getting Involved – Connect with school and out of school events. Strong, collaborative relationships between families and educators who are raising, nurturing and educating children are critical. You can find a directory of schools and contact information at www.profiles.doe.mass.edu.
- Modeling Work – Demonstrate the value of work, at the workplace or in the home, and encourage reading and writing at the earliest ages possible.
- Creating Experiences – Use play activities that increase children’s attention span and help them choose and complete tasks. You can provide meaning through play with objects, drawings and illustrations, contextualized symbols, icons, letters, and numerals.
Literacy is a key component of building college and career readiness. It’s a broad set of skills that includes reading, writing, speaking, listening and language, allowing a person to read, understand, write and communicate about complex ideas. These literacy skills will stay with your child throughout school, and eventually follow them to their workplace and community.
The ability to read at grade level in third grade is incredibly important – in fact, it’s highly predictive of a student’s likelihood to perform well throughout school and graduate from high school.
You can help a child to achieve this milestone by:
- Fostering Love of Language – Find opportunities for rich oral language experiences in English and in the child’s native language. These include conversation, storytelling, talking and listening, and expanding vocabulary.
- Pointing out Print – Read to and with your child whenever possible. Talk about the words you see all around you and ask your child to find a new word every time you go out together.
- Turning off TV – Limit computer, television and other “screen time” – the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no more than 1-2 hours of high-quality content per day. Instead, engage children in activities and encourage them to ask and answer questions about the world around them.
Learning in elementary school helps young children become inquisitive about their world and develop confidence in their ability to construct meaning; that is to understand what they are learning and how it fits in with the rest of their world. For younger children it is the opportunity to pretend, to imagine what they might become, and to express big ideas and strong feelings.
As they grow, the right mix of opportunities will help your child reach important learning and developmental milestones by the end of early childhood, around eight years old. These developmental milestones are academic (such as strong reading and communication skills) but also personal and social. You can take an active role by:
Developing the ideas and habits of persistence, self-awareness and regulation, and creative and critical thinking.
Helping to develop citizenship and a sense of self in the classroom, school, and community of friends and family.
- Encouraging concrete, thoughtful experiences and materials for exploration and learning. Rich play activities promote self-regulation and a child’s ability to explore, stay curious and learn about themselves and their expanding world.
- Talking with your child – promoting language is one of the best ways to help children develop language and listening skills. Longer conversations also help children learn how to wait, take turns and be active listeners.
- Assisting your child to develop the ability to express their feelings appropriately, control their behavior and wait their turn. Children build these skills through play, appropriate adult modeling and clear and consistent guidance regarding their behavior.
- Providing children with unstructured play opportunities with a mixed age of children so that they can explore their indoor and outdoor environments.