Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

Many parents wonder how to help their children excel in Primary School English. In our education system, Primary 3 and 4 are considered the transitional levels where students transition from the honeymoon years of Primary 1 and 2, to the more challenging and stressful Primary 5 and 6 levels.

Students who breezed through Primary 1 and 2 might suddenly find themselves struggling in Primary 3.  If your child is struggling in English in Primary 3 or 4, do not panic. It is still not too late for them to build a strong foundation in English, before the more challenging years of upper primary.

For many children, Primary 3 is the year where they are exposed to more difficult texts in English. Along with that comes a wider range of vocabulary and more difficult grammar rules.

What should students do to excel in upper primary English?

These are the components tested in the upper primary English Examinations (Paper 2):

  • Grammar
  • Vocabulary
  • Editing for Spelling and Punctuation
  • Synthesis and Transformation
  • Cloze Passages (Grammar, Vocabulary and Comprehension Cloze)
  • Visual Text Comprehension
  • Comprehension (MCQ and Open-ended

If your child is in Primary 1 or 2 now, it definitely helps if he or she can start building a strong foundation in grammar and be exposed to a wide range of vocabulary.

If your child is weak in English and starting Primary 3 soon, it is still not too late to get him or her started in building this foundation.

What can be done for students to excel in Primary School English?

If you look at the components of the Paper 2 for upper primary English, you can see that it is vital for students to be strong in Grammar and Vocabulary.  In fact, these two areas are the two building blocks of the English language.

Some parents expect tutors and tuition centres to be magicians. Wave the magic wand and see their children’s grades shoot up from F to A within a few lessons.  If you expect immediate results, you will most likely be disappointed. It takes time and effort to build a strong foundation especially when learning languages. The Primary 1 and 2 years are the best times to build that foundation, as the workload for these two years are still considerably light.

There are some steps you can take to help your child build a strong foundation in the lower primary years.

How To Build A Strong English Foundation In Lower Primary

1. Get your child familiar with basic grammar rules.

Grammar can be easier to teach than Vocabulary.  Grammar rules are more or less fixed and once a child understands the rules, he or she should be able to answer Grammar questions correctly.  It is important to let your child learn the basic grammar rules when they are in the lower primary.  Do not wait until they are in Primary 5 or 6!

Some basic grammar rules that lower primary students should learn and master are:

  • Subject-Verb agreement
  • Present and Past Tense
  • Basic Parts of Speech (nouns, pronouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, prepositions, conjunctions)

2. Expose your child to a wide range of vocabulary.

Expanding one’s vocabulary range is one of the more difficult areas to teach. How do we help our children expand their range of vocabulary?  Building a child’s vocabulary takes time.  The good news is, there are some effective steps we can take to expand our children’s vocabulary.

One practical way is to get your child a Vocabulary Notebook.  It can be any notebook, exercise book or diary for children to record new words they come across in their daily life.  Encourage your child to record new words that he or she comes across when reading story books, doing their homework or even from watching television programmes or a trip to the supermarket.  After recording these words, look for their meanings in the dictionary and form a sentence with each word or phrase.  This helps them to internalise their learning of new words.  Once a week or whenever they are free, get your child to read through the words that they have recorded.  You can even encourage them to use relevant words in their compositions. Get our free pack of 300 words for kids HERE!

3. Read, read and read.

Reading is an important step in learning a language.  Experts recommend reading to your child as early as possible.  Some parents even start reading to their infants when they are still in the womb!

Parents can read to or with their children regularly before bedtime.  If you struggle with time, even reading a few pages of a book a day is better than nothing at all.  For older children, encourage them to read at least a few pages or a chapter of a story book a day.  Visit the library and borrow interesting books for your child to read.  Besides reading story books, parents can get their children to read model compositions, especially if you want to expose them to examples of good compositions.

4. Write, write and write.

Most people agree that regular reading is important.  But not many get their kids to write regularly. Writing is a powerful tool to get kids to learn grammar and vocabulary.  When children are writing, they have to use proper grammar and appropriate vocabulary.  Writing does not happen in isolation.  It is a combination of grammar, vocabulary, punctuation, sentence structure and proper writing techniques.

If your child is in lower primary this year, work on the above four areas to build his or her foundation in English.

If your child is starting upper primary and is weak in English, it is still not too late to help him or her build a strong foundation in English.

Now is the perfect time to start!