There are various differences between preschool and elementary school, such as external environment, teaching content, and scheduling, which will bring new challenges for children and parents alike.
As the beginning of compulsory education for nine years, the transition of the lower grades of elementary school is particularly important. What kind of curriculum can help children develop a good foundation of thinking habits? What kind of teaching environment can smooth the transition from preschool?
We interviewed the Homeroom teachers, English and computer subject teachers of the Elementary School section to answer some questions and present the latest content on the changes and adaptations, academic and curriculum arrangements, the bilingual environment of Dipont Hauyao Collegiate School during the transition from Preschool to Elementary school.
1. Facing Changes: Comprehensive guidance and gradual transition
– The elementary school day consists of 7 classes per day, each class is 40 minutes. A Break is interspersed between every two classes, but there is no longer a nap session. 15:00, the academic blocks end.
– Every Monday through Thursday from 15:30-16:30 (Life Block), the elementary school offers dozens of extra-curriculums for scholars to choose from, such as English creative writing, science lab, gymnastics, swimming, full equipment American football, origami art, oil painting, music, and more.
To help elementary school scholars transition naturally amidst multiple changes and maintain a good learning pace, we fully integrate game experiences and opportunities for rest into a scientifically standardized time framework.
Upon arriving at the elementary school, scholars participate in a morning meeting. The daily agenda of the morning meeting varies slightly but generally involves scholars discussing their experiences and feelings from the previous evening, along with teachers informing them about the day’s schedule and any special activities, and engaging in some game activities to help children ease into their daily learning.
Miley, the Chinese homeroom teacher in the Elementary School, shared: “We arrange related games based on recent topics. For example, during the spring season, we plan for planting activities, including pruning and care; or we collaborate with the psychology department’s teachers to lead children in making emotional wind chimes, where they can write their fears or sadness on a piece of paper and put it in a bottle, hanging it up to ring with the soothing sound of the wind chimes, helping to dispel negative emotions.”
There are also corresponding arrangements for rest time between classes, making use of every fragmented moment. We mobilize elementary school scholars from different classes together, organizing outdoor activities by grade. Children can adjust their moods through games and playing with others between classes, maintaining a positive attitude.
In the overall schedule, we fully consider the physical and psychological aspects of elementary school children, making good use of every moment at school while also ensuring they are in a relaxed, safe, and pleasant environment, allowing for adaptation and growth.
The ICS course, which is generally only offered in higher grades, can be seen on the first-grade schedule. Through the guidance of teachers, elementary school scholars have the opportunity to learn about information technology, robot programming, 3C products, and other knowledge at an earlier stage.
The era of artificial intelligence has arrived, and we cannot separate ourselves from the multimedia environment. The basic teaching of ICS, such as unplugged programming content, not only helps children develop their understanding of computers from an interest-oriented perspective but also cultivates general thinking skills in various disciplines such as empirical thinking, logical thinking, and computational thinking at an early age.
In the elementary school stage, both Chinese and foreign teachers will prepare lessons together, leading elementary school scholars to delve deeply into the same theme from multiple perspectives and disciplines while fully mobilizing everyone’s initiative, using hands-on and mental work, not only to memorize knowledge but also to practice and exercise various important skills and qualities.
Using “animals” as an example, each subject will closely combine this theme to launch the corresponding classroom content. Children will make animal nameplates and introduce their own designed nameplates and animal sources and living habits in Chinese or English classes. In science courses, they will learn and discuss the appearance, structure, and biological history of some animals. In performing arts classes, they will learn animal-related songs, and so on.
When they learn about endangered species in class and discuss the reasons for extinction and protection methods, we launched a project to make environmental protection bags. Learners will integrate their own thoughts on saving endangered animals into the design. After completing the design, they will invite everyone to vote, and high-voted works will be actually printed in bulk and given to the learners to use. They truly absorb the concept of “environmental protection” and implement it into action.
For example, there are additional project arrangements for Chinese classes every week, and scholars complete creations based on the assigned themes, including but not limited to artistic posters, handmade lanterns, and so on. English teachers will encourage learners to make full use of platform resources, such as MyON, which offers a rich selection of reading materials, and IXL, which provides interesting exercises, to expand their knowledge during their free time.
Homework and assessment
Ms. Miley and our teaching assistants share how they turn the daily dictation word segment in Chinese class into a “challenge” form, implanting a feeling of “learning is like playing a game” in the children’s minds. Or they use Popcorn Reading to improve scholars’ focus on textbook content and provide a more immersive reading experience while ensuring their interest in learning.
Lower-grade scholars have little written homework after school. Repetitive copying and recitation are not only inefficient but may also erode children’s interest in learning. Instead, more comprehensive project presentations are provided.
The assessment for elementary school scholars also includes fun elements. For example, setting up different stations for listening, speaking, reading, and writing to assess and mark progress or simulating a journalist interview to test their oral proficiency.
These flexible evaluation methods make children interested in learning and curious about knowledge from the beginning of their schooling, liberating them from passive education.
In addition, both Chinese and foreign teachers prepare lessons together, with specialized English courses for subjects such as math and science. English teachers supplement the Chinese curriculum by incorporating teaching materials from Western countries such as the United States, emphasizing not only vocabulary but also problem-solving skills and internal logic.
As each child’s exposure to the English language in preschool may differ based on their background and level of knowledge, we offer Flexible Learning Groups (FLGs) in three different dimensions: FLG1 Emerging, FLG2 Expected, and FLG3 Exceeded. Learners can choose the group that best suits their needs and progress at their own pace.
Similarly, Chinese language learning is also tailored to individual needs.
“Even within the same level, scholars may have different vocabulary and reading abilities, so we encourage peer work to help them learn from each other through group interaction.”
From lower grades to higher grades, we gradually introduce more challenging materials. In the first semester of elementary school, picture books with minimal text are used, while in the second semester, books with equal emphasis on pictures and text are introduced. As learners progress in their phonics studies, they move on to reading books with pinyin.
To emphasize the importance of reading in language learning, teachers take scholars to the library every week to participate in reading lessons, with a focus on both in-class and out-of-class reading materials. Reading is practiced in tandem with speaking, with the goal of cultivating reading habits comprehensively in elementary school.
As learners become accustomed to bilingual input in their daily lives, this gradually reflects in their output. In projects, many works produced by learners include bilingual slogans or text, and in-class feedback sessions, learners often use both Chinese and English to express themselves.
4. Positive Discipline: Leading by Example, Teaching, and Educating
Apart from language, the impact of the environment is also emphasized in other aspects of personal growth.
Facing scholars who have just entered the “small society,” the teachers at the HC tend to practice “positive discipline,” welcoming them with a tolerant, positive, and respectful attitude. While cultivating children’s sense of rules, they also fully provide them with space and confidence to share their personal thoughts and opinions. At the same time, they encourage children to use “Positive Thinking” to think in a positive direction.
As a Chinese teacher, Miley is particularly aware of the power of language. Therefore, she places great emphasis on the overall atmosphere of the class and the children’s attitude towards expression. She tries to avoid negative wording as much as possible and pays attention to the language habits of the children.
By communicating with each scholar on an equal basis, they are encouraged to treat others with the same attitude in an unconscious manner.
“We hope to create a loving class where children can learn to respect others and understand equality. No matter what the identity, status, or economic conditions of others are, the attitude should be equal. Saying thank you for help and apologizing for causing trouble are basic manners and qualities.”
For children who have just entered elementary school, things like losing a jacket or not disposing of garbage in a timely manner are common. When problems are discovered, the first step of the teachers is not to criticize, but to remind everyone at regular intervals and in a calm manner of the problem, so that the scholars can gradually develop good behavior habits in a harmonious environment and learn how to solve similar problems.
The increase in regulations in elementary school is not just for “constraint,” but also to prepare scholars for leaving campus and entering other social fields in the future. The earlier children understand the meaning of rules and cultivate their character, morals, and social skills in this system, the better.
The education work in the early stage of elementary school involves details and requires a lot of patience. Some problems may repeatedly occur, requiring teachers to continue to reiterate and remind. But after this stage, when the habits are truly formed, they will benefit the children for a lifetime.
All the settings in the first grade of elementary school currently represent our expectations for the 12-year consistent education system. This is not only the beginning of many distinctive teaching methods, but also the necessary conditions for laying a solid foundation for children. We hope to see elementary school scholars absorb energy, grow strong, and continue to evolve from the first grade onward.