Starting Grade 1

My son reached a huge milestone last year: he started Grade 1. I had images of small children in oversized uniforms carrying little brown cardboard suitcases but that was the Grade 1 of my distant youth. Grade 1 then was all about the traditional 3Rs of primary education (Reading, wRiting and aRithmetic). In 2019 Grade 1 is quite different (but the small children still wear too-big school clothes).

Like all parents, I wanted to help my son cope with his move from the playful games of nursery school to the more serious business of big school. I learnt that there are 3Rs for parents of newbie learners: Research, Rehearsal and Routine, and they mainly happen before your child steps foot in Grade 1.


The fears parents and children have about Grade 1 are mainly about terror of the unknown. This is where the first R comes in: Research. Find out about the school your child is going to: the teacher, the curriculum, the uniform, the timetable, the rules - anything to feel familiar with the new environment. Share your research with your child to reassure him and make him part of this exciting journey.

Many schools have an orientation session before school starts to familiarise you and your child with the school, their classroom and their teacher. Take notes at this session so you can remember everything and support your child when he asks you a question. And don’t be afraid to ask questions yourself. Teachers can leave out important details because they are so familiar to them. My son’s teacher forgot to tell the children where the toilets are!


The second R is Rehearsal. Before school starts you need to rehearse Grade 1 with your child. For example, this may be the first time your child wears a uniform. My son was very excited about his uniform and putting on a belt and tying shoelaces.

My research revealed that my son needed to be able to write his first name and that all uniform items needed to be labelled. We combined the two by letting him write his name in laundry marker on all his school clothes.

We also found out that he needed to be able to recognise his surname. It was just as well we rehearsed that because on the first day the children had to find their desks by recognising their full names and he was confident to do that.


The third R is Routine. Big school works on a timetable. Everything has its time and place and there are bells. This shift to a regular routine can be a big change for little ones used to a looser structure at home or at nursery school.

When you know what time school starts and where your child needs to be, you need to work out your own routines to make sure your little one is at school all the things he needs.

I have my own routine that works with his. My routine includes packing lunches, packing school bags (the night before) and making sure we are out the door in time. We rehearsed this routine before school started and did a few dry runs to see if we would make it to school on time given the morning traffic. Running late for school leaves everyone feeling flustered and unsettled which is not a great way to start the day.

Our rehearsals allowed us to make all the necessary changes to our routine before the big day. The 3Rs helped make the first day one that was eagerly anticipated and enjoyed.

Did your child start a new school this year? Share you images, videos comments and stories , by emailing we might publish your response.
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