Grade 3 to 4: Why is it a rough transition?

By Drum Digital
12 May 2014

Your child’s workload will increase and they’ll need to spend more hours at school. This is how you help them during the transition.

The transition from one school grade to another can be difficult and challenging, especially for pupils moving from Grade 3 to 4. And as many parents will tell you, the jump from the Foundation Phase of early education to the Intermediate Phase (Grades 4-6) can be scary and tough.

In Grade 4 your child’s workload increases substantially. This is also the time when learners start following the Curriculum and Assessment Policy Statements (Caps). “The Caps system is designed to develop a child’s independence,” explains Madi Mbambo, a Grade 5 teacher at Panorama Primary School in Pietermaritzburg, adding that the Caps system also requires children to do research for their subjects.

“Children must be able to do work on their own and think on their own. It encourages critical thinking – pupils must discover things by themselves.”

This is often where the problem lies, because if you’ve always been giving your child a hand, this is the time to let go – but that could be difficult for them, and make you feel guilty. Apart from the academic challenge, the start of Grade 4 can also be an emotional time for young children. As they grow older, they become more aware of their differences and abilities – and this may affect a child’s self-esteem.

Clinical psychologist Cristine Scolari says parents should acknowledge their child’s feelings. “Say to your child, ‘I know you think this work is tricky but let’s try and understand it . . .’ ”

She adds that you should be careful not to put too much pressure on your child, “but not having any expectations of the child won’t help either”.

Parents should keep an eye out to spot an unhappy child. A lack of enthusiasm about school, or behavioural issues such as eating and sleeping more than usual, can be signs of problems.

So how do you help your child navigate this new learning curve?

Mbambo explains that moms and dads must have a clear grasp of what happens at the start of Grade 4 – this will allow them to give young children the right level of support.

Here’s her list of the most difficult challenges, with practical tips to ease the process:

  • CHALLENGE: Parents should start letting go and not do their children’s homework for them. Allow them to be independent.

TIP: Monitor your child’s homework but don’t do their homework for them. Instead, show the child how to do the work. For example, if your child has three sums to complete for maths, do one sum for them as an example and let them do the rest.

  • CHALLENGE: New teachers are a reality when your child enters the intermediate phase. This can be frustrating, especially for shy children.

TIP: Make an effort to facilitate relationships between your child and their teachers, Mbambo says. If necessary, arrange a meeting with the new teacher and take your child along. This will help the child warm to the teacher.

  • CHALLENGE: A much heavier suitcase, as exercise books double at the start of Grade 4. This also means more work!

TIP: If your child is struggling with the extra workload, enrol them into extra classes after school, suggests Nhlanhla Dlamini, a teacher at Ekwaluseni Catholic Intermediate School in Vrede, Free State. This will help them cope, with the added value of supervision and support.

  • CHALLENGE: Longer school days, as pupils generally have about three hours added to their class time from Grade 4.

TIP: Concentration levels are generally low for children who’ve just moved to Grade 4, as the longer school day saps their energy. Therefore, ensure your child goes to bed early to rest their mind. Pack snacks such as crackers, pretzels and nuts, and sandwiches with peanut butter or cheese to stretch their attention span.

  • CHALLENGE: Motivating the child to keep up with the new, faster pace in the classroom.

TIP: Parents should pick up where the teacher has left off in the classroom, Nhlanhla says. Find out what lessons your child is working on in class and encourage them to read and write for you at home. If they’ve pulled their weight reward them – this will make them feel special.

- Katlego Mkhwanazi


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