What is being ready for school?
Starting school is different for every child and his first years of life will contribute to that difference. Between 0 and 5 years old, babies go through several steps that will lead him to learn many things. Each of these steps will help him develop in a way that will prepare him for school.
Articles, books and websites that that discuss the preparation of children for school usually explain what a child must master or have learned: he must be clean, able to recognize and control his urgent needs and to be able to go to the toilet on his own. He must be curious and want to learn, sociable, capable of some autonomy and be able to be separated from his parent. He must also be able to partly manage his emotions, that is to say not crying at any little frustration or throwing endless tantrums. However, mastering his language is also important, even essential, because it represents the basis of his social and academic life.
Let’s see why his language is so important in kindergarten activities and during the first years of school.
Expressing through the language
In every daily situation, whether at school or elsewhere, learning a language allows a child to be in a relationship with others. To achieve this, he must be able to answer, inform, question, give his opinion, express his feelings, describe an event or tell a story.
The language spoken in school
As in any new situation, the passage from home or daycare to school requires to be prepared. To help our child, it is interesting to think about the changes he is going through.
- Facing new people and a greater number of strangers: a regular teacher and a gym teacher, a director, a janitor, a bus driver, a crossing guard and the school care staff.
- Being on new communication grounds. For example, he will have to share his experiences with other students. In these little discussions, he will talk about his weekends, his family, his favourite pet, his tastes… A child who can easily express himself in such situations will improve his confidence and his self-esteem and it will greatly facilitate his integration and his interest for school.
- Express his ideas autonomously. Teachers will not always know what a child needs or what has just happened between two children. For that reason, the fact of being able to express himself will be useful: to explain his behaviour at all times, to defend himself when conflicts occur, but also to make new friends, to exchange or to play during workshops, to ask for an explanation when he doesn’t understand an instruction or to tell things differently when we do not understand him…
Understanding the language
Understanding also means being able to discover what someone wanted to express through his or her message. It is being able to build a mental image. In addition to words, messages are transmitted by several factors such as non-verbal expression (looks, gestures, posture), but also the situation in which people are and the objects that surround them. Several elements are essential for a child to be able to understand. Through his preschool years, a child must have acquired the following habits:
- Being attentive to people;
- Paying attention to what is said, what we call “being focused”;
- Using his memory;
- Using the vocabulary that he knows;
- Using logic;
- Take a context into account.
Understanding the language at school
School presents several new situations in which the linguistic understanding developed by a child is employed. First, the teacher will support his children by showing what is required of them and by using visual support but over time children must memorize this information because the instructions will be less and less supported by examples. Also, the language is impersonal in school: children are part of groups where information and instructions are given to all children at once, not individually. Children who are not used to listen up as a group could have a hard time feeling concerned and might not understand what must be done.