Children are natural learners and have an inbuilt curiosity and an eagerness to know more about the world around them. Our aim is to ensure that your child’s experience of school will be such that he/she will come to value learning and will develop the ability to learn independently. However, children will only learn when they are ready and when their interest is aroused. Because they come to us so young we must guard against putting pressure on them to learn what they are not yet ready for. Demanding too much can switch a child off completely but at the same time we must cultivate readiness for learning so that they can get moving as soon as possible.
In the junior infant class, specific goals are prioritised, namely those of settling in, relating to others, making friends, feeling happy and gradually getting used to the routine of school. In terms of learning, the emphasis is on getting children ready for learning by
- Developing their oral language and expression.
- Developing physical coordination especially of hand and fingers. We engage the children in activities to strengthen and improve their gross motor and fine motor skills.
- Extending the children’s concentration span and getting them to listen attentively to teacher and to each other.
- Getting each child to accept the general order which is necessary for the class to work well.
- Co-operating with the teacher and each other and learning to work and share with each other.
- Performing tasks by themselves and thereby helping them become independent learners.
Aistear: Learning through play.
Aistear is a new framework that was developed to support the implementation of the curriculum using the methodology children know best …play . Aistear is divided into 4 themes .
- Identity and Belonging
- Exploring and Thinking.
Different Types of Play:
Games with Rules
Playing is children’s work and through it they learn social skills and to build relationships, they learn creativity, how to read , write and count. They learn how to think and plan. How to problem solve, they learn to use language and they develop their muscles and fine motor skills through physical play .
Readiness for Learning
Language acquisition is a developmental process. It begins from birth and continues throughout the primary school and beyond. Your child comes to school with considerable verbal facility. This is achieved not in any formal learning or teaching situation but in the day-to-day social context of the home, and its most important characteristic is the engagement of the child in a stimulating and challenging way. Language, therefore, is a central factor in the expansion of the child’s conceptual framework and body of knowledge.
Therefore, it is important that your child’s ability to talk is as advanced as possible. It is through speech that the child communicates his/her thoughts and feelings, his/her needs, desires and wonder. If he/she cannot express these in words he/she will tend to remain silent and will often withdraw from the learning activity of the class. That is why a lot of attention is given to language development in the early year’s classroom.
Developing Oral Language
Parental/Guardian involvement will help to develop a child’s oral language skills. You can talk to your child naturally and casually about things of interest that you or he/she may be doing at home. Remember that all the time he/she is absorbing the language he/she hears about him/her. It takes him/her a while to make it his/her own and use it for his/her own needs. You can help to develop your child’s oral language by:
- Making time to listen when your child wants to tell you something that is important to him/her.
- Answering his/her genuine questions with patience and in an adequate way.
- Nurturing his/her sense of wonder and curiosity in the world around him/her.
- Introducing him/her gently to the idea of questions and question words and the idea of How? Why? What? When? Where? etc. These demand more advanced language structures.
Reading in the Early Year’s Classroom
The cornerstone of successful learning is the ability to read. However, learning to read is a gradual process and a lot of preparatory work must be done before a child is introduced to his/her first reader.
In junior infants, we deliberately do not rush or push children into reading. We get them ready for it over an extended period. Reading is something to be enjoyed and this is communicated to the children in the junior infant classroom. It should never start as a chore for the small child
Parental/Guardian Involvement in Reading
You can help to foster a love of reading and an appreciation for books in your child by:
- Having attractive colourful books in the home.
- Looking at the pictures with him/her and talking to him/her about what they say, encouraging him/her to give descriptions and make predictions about the story.
- Reading him/her a variety of stories from time to time. He/she will get to associate these wonderful tales with books and reading.
- Conveying to your child that books are precious things and must be handled with care and put away safely.
- Reciting nursery rhymes with him/her or playing taped nursery rhymes to him/her but take care not to push him/her into learning the rhymes before he/she is ready.
- Singing the alphabet song with your child so that he/she at least has heard of the letters. If he/she knows what one looks like, all the better but don’t push your child into learning letter names and sounds.
Getting Ready for Writing
Making letters on paper is not easy for the small child. His/her hand and finger muscles are only gradually developing at this stage. He/she must learn to hold the pencil properly as failure to adopt the correct grip will impact upon his/her writing all the way up the school and becomes harder to correct as the child gets older.
Parental/Guardian Involvement in Developing Early Writing Skills:
You can help by working on your child’s hand/eye coordination through getting him/her to manipulate toys like:
- Jigsaws, lego, threading beads
- Plasticene and play dough to make his/her own shapes
- A colouring book and thick crayons
- Sheets of paper that he/she can cut up safely with a child’s scissors
In our school we use a multi sensory program called Handwriting Without Tears to teach handwriting at all levels. In Junior Infants we begin by teaching capital letter formation as the children find these easier to make correctly. More information about this program can be found on the school website.
When your child begins to write, don’t worry if he/she begins spelling words incorrectly. As the children in junior infants learn their letters they will be encouraged to sound out and spell short words. If children have a go at spelling words this is fine – it is referred to as inventive spelling. And if your child is left-handed, do not discourage it. If that is his/her natural inclination, don’t attempt to change him/her.
Mathematical Learning in the Early Year’s Classroom:
In junior infants, mathematical concepts and skills are introduced to the children through focusing on the language that they use in understanding and talking about certain things in their daily experiences. For example,
- He/she associates certain numbers with particular things familiar to him/her – two hands, five fingers, his/her house number, etc
- Counting – one, two, three, etc
- Colours – red, blue, green, etc
- Prepositions (telling position) and their opposites: over/under, before/after, inside/outside
- Matching/sorting – objects of the same colour/size/texture
- Odd one out – difference in size, colour, shape
Understanding of these concepts comes very quickly for some children. For others it takes a long time. Be patient – you cannot force mathematical understanding on a child. However, the child gets to understand Maths best by handling and investigating and using real objects. This has been his/her natural method since he/she was a baby. At times this can be a nuisance but if it allows him to do the learning him/herself the final result is well worth it.
Parental/Guardian Involvement in Developing Mathematical Understanding
In the course of your ordinary daily routine in the home, in the shop, etc you should use suitable opportunities to casually introduce the Maths vocabulary referred to above. For example,
- How many cakes are on the plate?
- What colour is the traffic light?
- Where is teddy?
All children enjoy learning another language besides their own language. They have no difficulty in picking it up because it fascinates them as another code of communication. Children in junior infants enjoy learning Irish and love to show-off the new words, phrases, poems and rhymes that they learn. They are free of any hang-ups about Irish unless they become aware that the home attitude towards it is not good. So please be careful that anything you say does not give a negative attitude to your child.
We would like you to give every encouragement and help to your child in their efforts to acquire Irish. If they learn new words in school, encourage them to use them at home or to say the new poem/rhyme they have learned. Children are delighted to find out that their parents/guardians are into their new code and they may well assist you in increasing your own Irish vocabulary!
Other Areas of the Curriculum
In addition to the core subjects of English, Gaeilge and Maths, junior infant children will experience a wide range of subjects appropriate for their level. These include:
- Social environmental and scientific studies
- Social, personal and health education
- Physical Education
Here at St. Brigid’s, we are very fortunate to have a fully equipped computer room, which junior infants, like other classes in the school will have an opportunity to use after the first few weeks. IBM has also supplied each Junior Infant classrrom with a young explorer Little Tikes computer station.
Throughout junior infants, your child will develop his/her social skills through interacting with other children and teachers. The school yard is one area where some children may experience difficulties. While the junior infant teachers will keep a close eye to ensure that children are not left alone, it is important to ask your child whom he/she played with at school and to ensure he/she isn’t alone. Also you should encourage your child to mix rather than being dependent on one friend only.