By Dr Selina Samuels
With millions of Aussie kids back in the classrooms, students will benefit this year from a pared-back Australian curriculum with a stronger focus on English phonics and more targeted approach to mastering essential mathematical facts, skills and concepts.
Dr Selina Samuels, Chief Learning Officer at Cluey Learning, said the revamped Australian curriculum will be welcomed by teachers given how busy the school days are with an already jam-packed curriculum.
“Teachers often note how difficult it is to cover all the concepts in sufficient depth with room for differentiation and engagement,” she said. “Simplifying the curriculum does not mean making it simpler but instead will better enable students to embed the key foundational skills and knowledge and build their confidence as learners.”
One core change will be a greater phonics-based approach in teaching children to read. “Systematic phonics instruction has been shown to be particularly effective for younger readers, giving them skills to decode unfamiliar words,” said Dr Samuels. “Phonics instruction should be supported by an emphasis on reading comprehension, so students learn reading fluency and understanding.”
With regard to the greater emphasis on mastering core mathematical skills, Dr Samuels said this was an important revision. “It is very important children acquire strong mathematical foundations early. A secure understanding of number and numerical patterns enables them to tackle more complex and abstract concepts as they progress.
Students need to be fluent with numbers and to know how to apply appropriate problem-solving strategies.”
There will also be a lifting of standards for mathematics in Year 1. “In addition to securing an understanding of number and numerical patterns in the early years, there will be a focus of learning times tables to get better at addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. Fluency and computational speed also give students greater confidence with maths.”
Dr Samuels said there can be tell-tale signs a student requires additional academic support such as tutoring. “For younger children, statements such as, ‘I hate maths’ or ‘I’m just bad at English’ may suggest there’s a fundamental problem that needs to be addressed.
Equally, if they’re refusing to engage in class, they may need additional support to build their confidence.”
For high schoolers, Dr Samuels said a student who routinely avoids doing homework in a certain subject, dismisses its relevance or the teacher’s ability may be avoiding revealing their own confusion. “Equally, a student who’s very anxious about a subject, even if their performance is reasonable, may need additional support to build their confidence and self-efficacy. For high-ability students who are coasting, tutoring can challenge them so they don’t identify education with ‘being bored’.”
Dr Samuels said starting tutoring early in the year gives students more time to establish good learning routines and ensures the academic support aligns with what they’re doing in class. “Leaving tutoring until later in the year, perhaps in response to a poor assessment, means the tutoring is focused on fixing what was done wrong and is retrospective. It can be more effective to be proactive in building strong skills and knowledge to underpin the challenges a student will encounter during the year.
“Tutoring can also build confidence by giving students the opportunity to ask questions and making them feel positive about themselves as learners. A student who is positive about learning is more likely to seek out opportunities to learn throughout their lives.”
Cluey Learning Cluey Learning delivers personalised online tutoring support for students in Years 2 -12, across Math, English and Chemistry. All content is mapped to the Australian National Curriculum and is based on the unique learning needs of each individual student. Cluey has supported over 17,832 Australian families, run over 519,000 sessions and has been rated 4.7/5 by parents and students.
Advice for each year level to keep kids on track:
|Kinder & Prep: Read with kids daily and encourage them to point out and name objects in their environment. Practise counting, recognising letters and writing their name with them regularly.|
|Year 1: Practise counting, identifying numbers and reading with kids regularly. Encourage them to express their own ideas and thoughts in simple sentences whilst writing.|
|Year 2: Help your child develop comprehension skills by asking questions as you read together. Asking ‘how did the person feel?’ helps kids think critically and teaches empathy.|
|Year 3: Stay positive and check on your child’s emotional wellbeing, especially in the lead up to NAPLAN. Run through spelling and times tables regularly.|
|Year 4: Listen to your child read out loud. Read widely – fiction, non-fiction, magazines, anything that your child is interested in.|
|Year 5: Ask questions and connect with your child’s teacher about the best way to help them at home.|
|Year 6: Help your child increase organisational skills and self-reliance.|
|Year 7: Support your child in organising their homework schedule or study plan but be mindful of creating a foundation of independent study.|
|Year 8: Encourage your child to create schedules and plans to deal with the increased workload.|
|Year 9: Talk to your child about elective choices and how this might affect workload and future study options.|
|Year 10: Talk to your child about what they might like to study during senior years and following graduation. Make sure they understand how their selection might impact ATAR results.|
|Year 11: Encourage your child to compile study notes. This is a great habit for Year 12. Find a system whether it’s visual cues, colour coding etc. Remind them that all mistakes are learning opportunities.|
|Year 12: Consolidate effective study habits. Take advantage of after-school study programs, groups and tutoring.|
Dr Selina Samuels is the Chief Learning Officer at online education company Cluey Learning. She has been in education for over three decades and has been working with schools since 2013 to establish and provide digital education programs across a range of subjects and year levels. Qualifications: BA (Hons), LLB, PhD, MEd.