At the start of every school year, parents and students alike are often in the dark about what is coming in the year ahead. When students are in primary school, this does not feel so overwhelming. However, once a student reaches high school the thought of a new year’s content can become more and more overwhelming particularly as they reach the ATAR years. As parents or students, it is incredibly important to prepare correctly for the school year ahead. There are a number of strategies that people can use to prepare for the new school year whether in primary school or in high school. Here are my top five favourite strategies for preparing for a new school year to ensure academic success.
Number 1: Checking the Syllabus
Every year, teachers will create a learning plan for your child based on what is required of them by the Australian curriculum. Copies of the Australian curriculum for each year group and each subject can be found at the ACARA website. My recommendation is to search on the website for the appropriate year and understand what is going to be taught in the year ahead. Once you know what your child will be learning, it becomes a lot easier to frame your daily conversations and your daily questions to the appropriate year level that you were looking at. For example, you can find out on the year three science syllabus that children are going to learn about how liquids and solids respond to changes in temperature, for example water changing to ice, or melting chocolate. Once you are aware of this it becomes much easier to prompt conversations about this topic in everyday life. Children’s brains make connections to things that they already know or things that they have already heard. By establishing an understanding of the concept that they are going to learn in class will be much more engaging and they will be much more likely to hold on to all of their learning in the classroom.
Number 2: Lesson Plans or Unit Outlines
In primary school, teachers will often set units based on collaboration with other teachers in their school. Therefore, we know that teachers have some kind of understanding of the subjects or that in areas that they will be teaching in a particular term. It’s a great idea to reach out to your child’s new teacher at the at the start of the year and kindly ask for a very brief breakdown of what they will be covering in class that term so that you can reinforce different concepts and create different questions in your everyday life that will develop more enhanced learning in the classroom. For high school students, teachers are required to deliver a unit outline or assessment outline for each of the subjects that your child will sit (teachers of elective units may not be required to do this) and they should be accessible on your parent portal for school. Alternatively, teachers will likely give students a copy of this unit outline on the very first day of each of their classes for the year. Prompt your child to bring these home and make a copy of them so that you could have a copy at home. This is particularly important for year 11 and year 12 as sometimes these assessments will fall sooner than expected due to the sheer amount of content that is being taught at any one time.
Number 3: Note Keeping
Daily study is a little bit excessive for primary school. However, it makes sense for students to have somewhere that they can keep notes that they will likely need for tests. For example, if your student has studied Greek history in their humanities class, have them jot down four or five of the main points that they were taught in that class. They can keep this in a folder at home and this will prompt them when they are then practising for their test or if they forget important information to remember key lessons that were delivered as part of the unit. Once a student reaches high school, it is fundamentally important that note keeping becomes part of their habits. Having files at home where children can come home and do a weekly or daily dump of all of the key lessons that they talk about will help them recall what they learnt in the day; this will also serve as a useful study resource when it comes to test time. If this habit is practised every week students will find themselves in a much better position when it comes to exam time later in the year.
Number 4: Yearly Testing
It is a good idea to do a quick google search of the yearly tests that are expected of students as they progress through different years. For example, in year three, year five, year seven and year nine, students are expected to do the NAPLAN test. However, certain schools have requirements for students every year with tests such as the PAT test or the gifted and talented test. Understanding the different standardised testing that is going to be done through the year can reduce test anxiety as they are not sprung on the students without forewarning. It is good to discuss these tests and discuss that they are really useful in providing a picture of where students are out but not to worry too much about what happens with the results. It’s all about understanding what additional resources your child needs to help them in their learning. This could also be useful for students who are looking to enter selective schools as you will keep abreast of the selective testing that is done in yearly intervals.
Number 5: Getting in the Right Headspace
One of the biggest challenges that students have when it comes to starting a new year can be the anxiety of what the year will bring for them. The start of the new year can be a really effective time to create some mindfulness practices in a child’s life. Breathing exercises are really useful for students to self regulate when it comes to tests or things such as oral presentations. Meditation is another fantastic way that students can become more in tune with their emotions and learn to self regulate rather than let school overwhelm them. When discussing mindfulness with your children it should be made clear that all students no matter how intelligent they are have concerns about their abilities. This is a normal part of schooling and should be discussed as such. The more that we can destigmatise stress and make it a normal experience the better life will become for students everywhere.
I hope these tips help you in preparing for the New Year. Please reach out if you have any that I have not included in this list.