Just after Vera turned four, we noticed that she was enthusiastically trying to read books and words around her.
At school, the preschool curriculum includes an introduction to Phonics, and she was starting to decipher first sounds. At home, she was asking us how to read certain words that she spotted, and how to spell words that came to her mind. When we were out, we turned that thirst for learning into games. Case in point: she went hunting for words with her favourite things – cakes! HA!
Taking these cues and her interest in learning to read, we asked if she would be keen to attend classes. She reacted excitedly and that spurred us to shop around for phonics classes around our home.
To K and I, child-led learning and child-readiness are important cues when it comes to enrichment classes. We decided to let our child take the lead by showing positive interest before packing her off to phonics classes just because of the academic pressure in Singapore.
In fact, we’ve sat Vera through the child assessments at different centres to better understand their programmes. Assessments are conducted for free to find out your child’s reading ability so the educators can recommend a level for the child to begin with. One of our concerns was that classes are not parent-accompanied so we were worried that she would decide against attending as she’s rather shy in new environments. Multiple factors come to mind before we make a decision for our kids, right? HA! #parentslife
Searching around for a phonics class
Through research and asking among my mummy friends, My English School seemed to be the most recommended one with positive reviews. One of my friends has two kids enrolled in their Woodlands centre! Thus, when we were invited to give their programme a shot, we thought it was a timely arrangement since Vera was ready to learn. I was nervous about her first lesson though since she would be alone in a class of unfamiliar faces. But my dad’s advice was stuck in mind when we contemplated switching preschool back then – being adaptable to changes is a life skill. Wise words, aren’t they? :)
Going for the free assessment at My English School, Tampines
During the assessment, I was pleasantly surprised that she scored pretty well and could identify most of the first sounds of the Alphabet. She was recommended to join the My English Foundation Class, and thus our reading journey began!
What are the reading classes about and how about the teachers hired at My English School? Here are more details!
Reading classes: These are recommended based on a child’s ability rather than forcing the kids to be in a class or stage specified by age. Children starting from 2.5 years can join the reading classes which incorporate phonics, and the phonics curriculum goes up to the primary school level. Thereafter, there are English programmes and PSLE Prep classes for Primary school students.
Teachers’ experience and credentials: The teachers at My English School are qualified and have had experience working with young children. Teachers undergo in-house training by experienced and qualified teacher trainers who are well versed with the programmes offered at My English School. This training equips them with the skills to teach the reading and primary programmes. All teachers are native-level speakers and are local or foreign e.g. from the UK and love children and enjoy teaching children.
Starting reading classes at My English School and that nerve-wracking first phonics lesson!
Prior to her first lesson with her teacher, Keith, Vera was excited and raring to attend her reading class at My English School, located at Our Tampines Hub. However, when we stepped into the classroom on the first day, she was nervous and didn’t want me to leave. I was glad that Keith showed nary a sign of annoyance to have his class disturbed!
Ms. Jojo, the front desk staff, was patient and assured me that Vera would be fine. She came over to Vera and me, and told Vera that mummy would be stepping away, and she would be right with her during the lesson. Well, of course, there were some sobs and the separation anxiety made me feel like I was ditching her, but I knew she would have to learn to be independent and she was going to have loads of fun with her new friends and teacher! It was pretty much like how she was already attending full-time childcare, except that she’d only see these new friends and teacher just once a week :P
Thankfully, my tearful girl calmed down 15 mins later, and I was glad that the team at My English School acted professionally – almost with a flip of a hair, if I may say so!
If you’re wondering how a typical class is conducted, you need to read further!
What goes on at the My English Foundation Class at My English School
Considering that classes are non-parent accompanied and some kids aren’t able to articulate what actually happens during a class, some parents may feel that they don’t “see” any progress or learnings taking place. That is exactly what my friend, X, told me when she decided to stop sending her daughter for classes.
Initially, I felt intrusive for asking multiple questions such as how classes are conducted, what type of learning materials and resources are used, what do they really do in that 1.5 hours… after all, class sizes may vary up to 10 kids (I realised the classes were growing every other week with new faces!). But I decided to put away my embarrassment and to ask Ms. Jojo more about how classes are conducted before we attended the first phonics class.
Here are some samples of their teaching materials:
The programme has an overview guide on how lessons are taught. Classes are ongoing, so new students can join in at any time without the fear of missing out on lessons. The teacher would also dedicate time to each child to teach and assess what they’ve absorbed during the class. Kids are also given a file where the teacher would note the ‘letter of the day’ and a workbook which the child works on in class. Teacher Keith was also friendly and open to parents who wanted to chat and find out more about their children’s progress.
Every teacher has his or her own teaching style, and as for teacher Keith, he starts the class by drawing on the whiteboard which excites the kids in Vera’s class who are 3-6 years old. They would be guessing what the drawings were, identifying their first sounds and they would be practising pronunciation. The kids work on their workbook, developed by a team of educators and teaching specialists for My English School. Kids would circle, colour and write, which support their fine motor skills such as pencil grip and dexterity. They also get “free” time to explore different corners of the classroom to read storybooks, play puzzles with words and have a storytelling session with the teacher, too.
What I learned from sending my child to phonics classes
To us, we’re glad to note that Vera’s interest in reading has developed, and she enjoys going to “owl class” every week! It’s important that children see the fun side of learning, especially when they are Vera’s age (around 4-years old). We don’t wish to pressure her at this point, where the education system in Singapore is stressful when Primary school comes along. At any age, learning should be fun, and we hope she always keeps this attitude and disposition towards learning!
For effective learning, parents should support their child’s exposure through other manners. That can be done through informal teaching opportunities such as asking her at the supermarket about the first sound of the fruit and vegetables that you see. There’s no miracle to effectiveness and results to learning – discipline and time are key factors.
We’ve to be honest though because during the term of lessons, we made minimal efforts to revise phonics – not saying this is the right way, but I’m still struggling to find time to do that more regularly since our working hours are pretty long. But we try to see opportunities in other manners and make learning fun instead of sitting down formally to learn! A dash of creativity makes learning fun, don’t you agree?
We’re also excited to share that Vera has progressed well at her own pace. After a term of classes at the My English School My Reading Foundation Class, her teacher Keith did an assessment test for her and officially shared that she’s ready to be promoted to the next level! Hello, My Reading Readiness Class! We’re thankful that her interest is further fuelled and sustained with reading classes at My English School! In fact, we’ve just enrolled her for another term at the new level, so folks, you’ll still be seeing us at Our Tampines Hub! :P
Are you thinking of sending your kids to phonics classes? Do share your reviews and experiences too!