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5 Skills you should help your primary-school child with

Posted on 12 September 2017

From learning to read to multiplication tables, primary school lays the foundation of your child’s education in every area. TheSchoolRun’s Elena Dalrymple highlights five skills you can help them with at home to see them soar at school.


Learning to read is all about phonics these days, so your child will learn letters by their sounds rather than their names. Once they’ve grasped all 40 different phonics sounds, words can be decoded by breaking them down into the different sounds and blending them together. It’s a method that works – research shows that after a year of phonics teaching children can achieve a reading age 12 months ahead of their actual age – but it can seem a bit daunting as a parent (particularly when your child demonstrates actions that go with each sound, or sings the sound’s song to you!).

How you can help at home:

Ask if your child’s school runs an information session about phonics, or read a parent’s guide to phonics to understand how your child will be taught in the classroom. While your child is learning to read it’s important to provide reading materials which are interesting but at the right level for them to practise their skills on, so ask the teacher for advice and visit your local library to borrow the right books.


Does your child show no interest in putting pen to paper? Does the sight of their scrawled homework make you cringe? Handwriting is an essential skill, but it’s a very complex task. Playing games that help develop fine motor skills and building up to writing letters with patterning activities will help, and it is possible to make handwriting practice fun – honest!

How you can help at home:

The way letter formation is taught varies from school to school, so ask the teacher for a guide to the school style so your child can be consistent at school and at home. A very practical tip is to be a writing role model. Let your child see you handwriting – a letter, a shopping list, a birthday card – to reinforce how important this skill is, even in the age of texts and emails.

Times tables

Your child may whinge that times tables are useless in real life, but they’re one of the cornerstones of mathematics (a 2011 Ofsted study highlighted the link between low-attaining secondary school pupils and a lack of fluency with times tables). By the end of primary school children are expected to know all the multiplication tables to 12.

How you can help at home:

There isn’t a no-effort shortcut when it comes to learning times tables, and constant repetition really does make a difference. Work out how your child finds them easiest to learn and start practising multiplication tables at home – chanting them, singing them, playing with them or writing them out, whatever it takes to make them stick!

Reading comprehension

Once children have learnt to read, literacy lessons are about reading to learn. Reading comprehension is a big part of how children are assessed. They will be taught how to find information in a text, told to draw their own conclusions about what they’ve read and asked to give their opinions (as long as they’re backed up by evidence).

How you can help at home:

Discussing books with your child is a practical reading comprehension activity. What happens in the book? Who is their favourite character (and why?)? Why does that character behave the way they do? What evidence does the text offer to support their view? This activity is suitable for all ages as it can be applied to age-appropriate books, both fiction and non-fiction.

Mental maths

The ability to solve maths problems in your head is vital for all of us, whether you’re checking your change, working out if you can afford to buy three items in the sales or calculating whether there’s enough space on your iPod for a new app. By the time they’re in Key Stage 2 (aged 6+) children will have a ‘formal’ mental maths session in school (teachers read out questions and children have a set amount of time to answer them).

How you can help at home:

Help your child develop quick problem-solving skills with mental maths challenges (much more effective if they involve and element of competition and prizes!). Above all, though, encourage your child to use their skills in everyday situations (doubling quantities in recipes or adding up a bill in a shop, for example). As an added bonus you’ll give your own brain a workout by checking their answers!

Article provided by The School Run

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