Beginning of Primary 1 Academics

Preparing for Primary 1 includes buying items for school, teaching the child practical skills like counting money, and preparing the child socially, mentally and emotionally. After all the preparation for Primary 1, it’s now just the beginning. Knowing how to communicate well with the school and its partners and help your child in Primary 1 academics marks a great start to the journey.

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Academics in Primary 1

In Primary 1 (“P1”), the focus is more on the child’s social development than academics. Hence, there shouldn’t be much homework in P1. Work is usually done in school. So let the children have a lot of downtime to relax and read after school. This will also help them to cultivate a love for reading.

Don’t give tonnes of assessment books to “make up” for what’s lacking from school. Worse, if the child finds the assessment books difficult. They will feel defeated and frustrated, and thus unable to recharge even after school. Imagine you have to work overtime on a difficult project after a whole day of work. Every day.

Let your child learn on her own first and then consider tuition if she is still struggling. However, keep in mind that she does not need to get everything right in school. Let her learn from her mistakes – it’s low stakes in P1. If they already know everything, there’s no need for school! 😉

Reading a Book

Your Child’s Role in Learning

Instead of focusing only on academics, it’s also important to develop your child’s learning attitude from the beginning.

Listen to Instructions

As mentioned in my previous post, your child should be able to respect the teachers, such as speaking politely, listening in class, and following the instructions (if it’s reasonable).

Teachers will relay information such as homework and spelling to the child and expect them to remember. The students will usually copy the information into their student handbooks. It’s good to practise copy work before P1 starts. Make it fun to write – like copying the restaurant menu. Teach the child to look at two to three letters at a time and copy instead of letter by letter. Remember to praise her!

A note on pencil grip. I taught my daughter to use the tripod grip when she started writing. However, I didn’t realise that this skill was lost along the way! It was only when her P1 teacher asked the class to get triangular pencils to correct their grips that I realised my daughter wasn’t using the proper pencil grip — dynamic tripod grip. So best, if you can correct your child’s grip before entering primary school. You can also get the pencil grip cover to put over existing pencils.

Let your child take responsibility for learning and doing homework. Let her tell you about her homework and tests on her own. To train my daughter to be more independent, I gave her a printed monthly calendar to write down the important dates. With this visual aid, it’s easier for her to keep track on her own and know when she needs to learn spelling and complete her school project.



I used to rummage through my daughter’s student handbook and ask her to do her homework. However, I have since learned that I should not do it because the child will then rely on the parent to make sure all work is done. Even if you know about the homework, don’t intervene and rescue her if it’s not done. Let her learn the hard way of not following through.

Don’t do the homework for the child — that is, do not tell her the answers, but teach her how to find them. Don’t erase the mistakes and make it perfect. If not, the teacher cannot identify any learning gaps and give support where necessary. Also, allow the child to be accountable for their learning and homework, so that self-revision will be easier as they get older.


However, the child might not know when she should start to learn spelling initially. Know your child’s learning disposition and set the pace for her and guide her. You can slowly let go later on and let her fully take charge of her revision.

For my daughter, I have her study a few days in advance because she wouldn’t be able to learn that fast and I don’t want to create undue stress by drilling too much just a day before. I will start her on a few words each time and when she has gone through the list, reinforce all the words again.

Be involved, but not overly involved

Be an engaged parent and show genuine interest in your child’s learning. Talk to your child after school to find out information the teachers have conveyed. Prompt your child to share her needs and challenges in school, and monitor her progress in her school work. This will help you gain insights into what learning support the child needs, especially for children with learning difficulties.

Through conversations, you might also learn about her emotions and happenings in school, such as bullying. As your child shares, remember to practise active listening and be her emotional support. Refer to my post about helping the child emotionally and mentally. However, don’t go too far to micromanage and be a helicopter parent. Trust your child. He or she is capable.

By having ongoing conversations with your child to understand and know her, you can better foster her interests and strengths while supporting areas of her weaknesses. You will also have a more realistic expectation of her cognitive and non-cognitive skills. These expectations will enable her to have a healthier sense of self-esteem.

Lastly, parents are role models for their children. So if you show a keen attitude towards learning and reading, the child will also follow. One is never too old to learn. æŽ»ćˆ°è€,ć­Šćˆ°è€ă€‚

Desk at Immersive Disney Animation

Do not over-prepare your child

The following is not a popular proposition and it’s hard when most of their peers are going to many tuition classes even in Kindergarten. Teachers and parents of older children have been advised not to over-prepare children academically before Primary 1. I will share what I have heard and read from them.

Knowing too much will make school boring for the over-prepared children as they are understimulated. They will find school too easy for them and gradually tune out the teachers in school. After all, they know they can rely on the tuition teacher instead of listening in class.

As a result, instead of paying attention in class, they will fiddle with things and disturb their classmates. The subject teacher will scold them and they will in turn not like the subject, creating a vicious cycle. And by the time they reach Primary 3, hard reality hits them. Even with tuition, they need to listen in class to keep up with the academic intensity, but by then they have become too complacent and inattentive in school. To make up for it, these children struggling in school in turn need even more tuition.

More importantly, over-preparing will cause these students to miss out on learning along with their friends and not develop a keen learning attitude of listening, being curious and asking questions. They will also not fully develop positive learning skills, such as resilience, independence, reflectiveness and curiosity, which are all important elements to becoming a lifelong learner.

According to ourlittleplaynest, there’s no need to send the children to academic tuition before primary school. Let your child learn on her own first and then consider tuition if she is still struggling.

What Does Your Child Need to Know Before Primary 1?

School Books

Knowing what to prepare the child for P1 will also prevent you from over-preparing the child. I got the following guidelines from ourlittleplaynest who interviewed teachers for it.


Only basic reading skills are required:

  • Carry out conversations in English.
  • Recognise upper and lowercase.
  • Know the sounds of consonants and vowels. If your child doesn’t know phonics well, read to your child more and create an environment with lots of books. Pepper books around the house. Have your child see you read and go to the library. Point out words in the environment. Sing songs.
  • Read the basic words learned in preschool. Recognise high-frequency and sight words.
  • Know how to hold the book upright to read from left to right, top to bottom.
  • Write their names.

Some children can’t read confidently when they enter P1. Hence, the teachers will still guide in the beginning. P1 students will take a test at the beginning of the year, and students with weak literacy and numeracy skills will be identified for additional learning programs. The programs will be conducted in a smaller group to give more attention to the individuals. It’s also easier for them to seek help from teachers.


Term 1 and 2 of P1 is a recap of the math concepts they learned in kindergarten. To reinforce learning, you can point out these math concepts in daily life to make meaning of the subject, such as counting money. There are numeracy programs for children who need additional support.

Mother Tongue (Chinese)

P1 students need to know how to write their Chinese names confidently. However, I was shocked when my daughter had Chinese spelling (“ting xie”) in Week 3. She was tested on Hanyupinyin (“HYPY”)! Apparently, it is common to have ting xie in week 2 or 3 of P1. For children with a weaker grasp of Chinese or who generally learn slower, learning some basic HYPY before P1 might help!

Not to worry, all the words in ting xie have been taught in school. The child just needs to pay attention in school and revise one more time at home. Remember mistakes provide information on the child’s learning gaps.

For children who don’t like their mother tongue, assign a day of the week to speak that language with them. Or in that language, sing songs, read more storybooks, listen to podcasts, and watch cartoons. Choose age-appropriate books for your child and not bombard her with books filled with words. Picture books help to stir interest!

For Chinese, I highly recommend these two podcasts by Mediacorp: Storytime with Jiahui, and æˆèŻ­æœ€ćŠ èŠŹă€‚

That’s about it, have a great start to your child’s primary school journey! Before you go, you might want to check out my other posts for P1 children. Leave your comments or questions below. Love to hear from you. 🙂

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