What to expect

What to expect in your child’s first weeks in a mainstream school

Many schools will have staggered starts for kindergarten children. This usually means that kindergarten children start on a different day to other students. In some schools, kindergarten students may start with shorter days in the first week of school.

You may wish to think about how your child might react in their first week/s at school and whether a gradual start may be helpful for your child.

Best Start Assessments

At some schools, kindergarten children will do an assessment on one of their first days at school. In NSW this is called Best Start.

The NSW Best Start initiative is intended to ensure that all students are on the right track in their literacy and numeracy learning by Year 3. The Best Start Kindergarten Assessment is designed to provide teachers’ with knowledge of where each child’s literacy and numeracy skills are at the beginning of kindergarten. This is so they can plan teaching and learning around children’s needs.

All children have the opportunity to participate. Teachers of students with confirmed disabilities get additional support to build a profile of the child. This helps them to plan quality learning programs for these students.

Click here to view specific information about how the assessment may be adapted for children with identified disabilitiy or additional needs.

What is likely to happen at school in the first week

In many kindergarten classrooms, the initial week will involve:

  • teachers emphasising the children’s social skills and getting to know all the children and their learning styles
  • children: 
    • doing a combination of structured activities (such as listening to a story at their desks) and unstructured activities such as free play
    • learning to move around the classroom in what are often referred to as “rotations” –
       where groups of children complete activities and then move to another area in the room to complete another activity
    • becoming familiar with the routines, rules and expectations at school

Expectations and classroom rules such as the 5 L’s of listening (legs still, hands in your lap, lips closed, look at the teacher and listen with your ears) may be taught in group lessons with visual support.

Click here for a link to a video about what happens in mainstream kindergarten including children showing and talking about their school day.

What will my child be taught at school?

Teachers in all NSW schools are required to teach a range of subject areas which are also known as Key Learning Areas or KLAs. These KLAs incorporate the national curriculum.

The 6 Key Learning Areas taught in NSW schools are:

• english (also referred to as literacy)
• mathematics (also referred to as numeracy)
• science and technology
• human society and its environment (HSIE)
• creative arts (including visual and performing arts such as drama and music)
• personal development, health and physical education (PDHPE)

Click here for ideas on preparing your child for school.

How your child might behave after school in the early days

The school routine differs from early childhood education and care settings and home, in terms of structure, routine and expectations.

This means that most children will be very tired at the end of the school day. It is quite common for children to show or act out their tiredness and emotions when they return to the security of their own home and family. This can occur even when their day at school has gone relatively smoothly.

Many families report that limiting their expectations and commitments after school in the first year is helpful. See also calming activities for before and after school.

Calming activities for home

Many families may find that their children both with and without a disability, become quite tired by the end of the school day. For some children this may result in them sleeping and eating better. Others may have difficulty winding down. They may become easily emotional and over-tired which may affect how they adjust and behave at school and home.

“Down time” after school is important especially during the early days of attending school. Many families try not to arrange formal after school activities especially for the first term or so while their child is adjusting to the new routine of going to school each day.

Children may benefit from some calming activities before and after school. This can help them to be in a calm and alert state ready for learning and playing at school and relaxing at home. You may like to plan some time for some calming activities in your morning and after school routine.

It may be helpful to use visual schedules to show your child when calming activities will happen in their routine.

Click here to view an example of a visual schedule for after school routine.

Remember: What is calming for one child may be different to what is calming for another child.

Try a range of activities to find the ones that work for your child. Physical activity such as bouncing on a trampoline, riding a scooter or bicycle can help to release nervous energy and help a child to relax.

Listening to:

  • music through headphones or a stereo
  •  a recorded relaxation or meditation DVD, which may include prompts to breathe deeply and tense and relax muscles
  • watching a relaxing favourite television show or DVD (screen time may be calming for short periods of time)*
  • playing a familiar game on the computer or tablet*

*Monitor your child’s response to particular games or programs, as some may have a more exciting effect than a calming one. It is generally not recommended for children to have “screen time” in the hour prior to bed time, as this can impact on children’s capacity to fall asleep.

Breathing activities – taking deep breaths in and out. Use fun activities, such as blowing:

  • a pin wheel
  • whistle
  • harmonica
  • an inflated balloon across a table
  • bubbles with an easy to use blower

Deep pressure touch activities such as:

  • being rolled up like a “sausage roll” in a blanket
    squeezing their torso between two large cushions
  • squeezing a firm stress ball
  • massage

Tactile sensory play such as:

  • playing with favourite, comforting toys
  • water
  • play dough
  • plasticine

Rocking or swinging in a:

  • hammock
  • swing
  • rocking chair

Modelling calmness

Starting school and adjusting to the new routine may elicit a range of emotions for parents too.

When parents are able to show their children how they manage their own stress, this in turn helps children to learn how to regulate their emotions and calm themselves.

It is hard to help your child calm themselves when your own stress levels are high, so it may be important to work out what supports might be helpful to help you remain calm.

See supporting myself and my family which includes information about well-being and self-care for parents and carers.