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Starting School

Parents and guardians can do a lot to help prepare their son for their first day of ‘big school’.   It is such an exciting time.   You will find this document ‘Preparing Young Children for Primary School’ really helpful.

A useful handbook to have a read of….. NCSE-Preparing-Young-Children-for-Primary-School-1 (1)

Getting Ready for Formal Writing!

Here in St. Patrick’s BNS, we will teach your child to write using a cursive (joined) script from the beginning.   By focusing on fine motor skills development, you are giving your son a great start in his handwriting journey.

Some information on Developing Fine Motor Skills.


Jolly Phonics:

·          It is a synthetic phonics programme: The children are taught to read by ‘synthesising’ (which is blending) the letter sounds together.

·          By blending the letter sounds together, the children can work out unknown words themselves, rather than being asked to memorise each new word as they come across it.

There are 5 basic skills covered in Jolly Phonics:

1.     Learning the letter sounds.

2.    Learning letter formation.

3.    Blending.

4.    Identifying sounds in words.

5.    Tricky words.

  1. Letter sounds

Our first basic skill is letter sounds

·          There are 42 different letter sounds, which are divided into 7 groups.

·          Initially, only the letter sounds are taught, letter names are not technically used until Senior Infants. This helps to prevent the children getting muddled between the sound and the name.

In  sound  group 4 children begin to learn sounds where 2 letters are joined together. These are called digraphs and are taught exactly the same as single sounds. (e.g. ai, ie, ou).

Storylines and Actions

So how do we teach each sound?

• There is an action linked to each letter sound,

• Each sound and action is introduced through a story.

Your son will learn 2 new sounds per week

Digraphs (two letters that make one sound):

·         Digraphs ( 2 letters making one sound) are taught exactly the same as single letter sounds, they are accompanied by an action, story and song.

·         The children have to understand that when the letters ‘a’ and ‘i’ are next to each other, they say /ai/.

·         We tell the boys that when 2 letters become best friends they make one sound.

·          children often find digraphs much more difficult which is why repetition at home each night is so important.

Sound Book

·         This will be sent home in your son’s bag each day. Each new sound will be dated. Each evening have your son read each sound, and do the action for an adult. We would encourage the boys to look back over all sounds as repetition is key. We really can’t stress enough how important this learning at home is.

Sound Sheets

This sheet will be sent home in your son’s homework bag. The sound sheet is an indicator as to what sound was taught that day, which can then be practiced in the sound book.

The left-hand part of the worksheet is for parents:

·          It demonstrates the action for the letter sound.

·          It gives some words that have the new letter sound in them.

·          These words act as a guide to the sound the letter makes.

  1. Letter Formation

 This the second basic skill of Jolly Phonics

·          Here in St. Pat’s letter formation means learning to recognise the reading alphabet, which the children will see all around them, in their books and in their homework folder. And then learning the writing alphabet which is cursive print. There are lots of benefits to cursive print which we have attached for you to read at your leisure.

Pencil Hold and Handwriting

In order for your son to learn to write successfully he needs to first and foremost have a correct pencil grip.

Tripod grip

In school, we’ll be using triangular pencils to help the children get used to the tripod grip.

The ‘tripod’ type of pencil hold makes it easier for children to write. They need to learn that:

·          The pencil goes between the thumb and the first finger.

·          The next finger stops the pencil falling down ( or is where the pencil rests).

·          The last two fingers are not needed and should be tucked underneath.

·         We use the phrase ‘froggy legs’ to remind the boys of correct pencil grip.

3&4 Reading (blending & Identifying sounds in words )

Blending is the third of the 5 basic skills and identifying sounds in words is the 4th

·         Once the first 6 sounds have been taught we can then begin to teach the boys how to blend/ read simple words.

 ·         Initially, blending is modelled by the teacher to the whole class.

·         Some children find it easy to blend words and others find it difficult. It is a skill that comes with practice.

Blending words with digraphs is taught in the same way, we ask the children to listen and identify the word.

Word Boxes

Children will receive wordboxes for homework to practice blending. These will be sent in your son’s homework bag.

Each child will be assigned the number of words per evening which best suits their own pace and ability.

 5. Tricky Words

Teaching Tricky Words is the fifth of the five basic skills:

·          At this stage the children are very familiar with working out regular words by blending.

·          Now they have to learn that some words have tricky bits, and when they are blended they do not always give the correct pronunciation. These words are learned by memory.

·          When the first set of Tricky Words has been taught, the children are ready to read the first set of books (Jolly Readers, Red Level 1).

·         So from a homework point of view, we will send home Tricky words in a list like wordboxes when the time comes.

Jolly Readers

·          The Jolly Readers have been carefully written to make it as easy as possible for the children to blend words and read the story.

·          Only the tricky words might be difficult to blend and work out, and these will have been taught at school.

·          As soon as the children can blend words using all the letter sounds and know the first set of tricky words, they are ready to read the Red Level of the Jolly Readers.

·          The children should be able to read these books all by themselves by working out the words.

Benefits of Cursive Writing Fine Motor Skills


Dolch Sight Words

This is a comprehensive list of Dolch Sight Words. These lists account for 50-75% of all words used in school books, library books, newspapers, and magazines. The Dolch word list is made up of “service words” (pronouns, adjectives, adverbs, prepositions, conjunctions, and verbs).

Most cannot be learned through the use of pictures. Many of these words cannot be sounded out because they do not follow decoding rules and, therefore, must be learned as sight words.

It would be of great support to your son if you cut these into flashcards, and every day got your son to say the letter names (do not sound the words out), and then the word. Other things that can be done include discussing the shape of the word, and tracing the letters.




Social, Personal & Health Education

This year, our teachers will play an important role in supporting positive interactions and routines for your children and in encouraging healthy behaviours as they make sense of their new reality. The Social, Personal and Health Education (SPHE) curriculum is particularly important in responding to how Covid-19 has impacted on children in terms of their feelings, thoughts and behaviours. Learning experiences that support children to focus on their strengths, positive attributes and qualities to enable their reconnection with the school community will assist in easing the transition back to school.

To assist us in this endeavour classes from Junior Infants to 1st Class will engage in lessons from a series of books called “Self Esteem”. The activity topics in these books have been carefully selected to address issues specific to younger primary school students with a view to building self-worth and establishing resilience in challenging situations.

Pupils from 2nd to 6th class will engage with the “Weaving Wellbeing” programme we initiated in the school two years ago. This is an Irish-designed SPHE programme which teaches children evidence-based skills and strategies to develop positive mental health and wellbeing. It is based on Positive Psychology, which is the science of wellbeing. The aim of the programme is to empower children to become active participants in creating, maintaining and boosting positive mental health throughout their lives.

As always, we would appreciate your help in supporting your child. You can help by talking to your child about the programme he is engaging in and to encourage practical use of the skill he is developing.

Regards, Brian Horan, Príomhoide

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