As the 2021 Preppies eagerly prepare for their new adventure, we chat to Tracey Down, Prep teacher at Sunshine Beach State School, to find out what makes Prep such a magical year.
What is the main purpose of the Prep year?
Prep is all about ensuring our students have a good grounding in learning readiness. This means developing their fine and gross motor skills, plus lots of conversation and asking questions to develop oral language skills. With those critical skills established, we then build on them now that they have the fine motor skills to create letter shapes and the oral language skills to participate in class. We also want them to be resilient and confident risk takers. Prep is about building self belief—instilling the self talk to say ‘you can do it’ and supporting them to keep trying.
What methods do you use to provide Preppies with the best possible start to their learning journey?
We are really focused on age-appropriate pedagogy—what and how we are teaching. We still deliver the curriculum, but we focus on doing that in an age-appropriate and skills-appropriate way. For example, it might be chalks on the ground, paintbrushes in water, we might set up a cafe or create shopping lists. It’s about opportunities for interactions, multi-sensory experiences and learning what they need to learn through play.
What is it that makes the Prep year so special?
The growth children experience during that first year is incredible. In the beginning, some can’t write their name; yet by the end of the year, they are able to read a book. Also, the Prep classroom is their first exposure to a more structured learning environment. The imagination they have and innocence they bring to the classroom is magical. The best part is the connections you make with the children as their Prep teacher, sharing in their excitement for all the new things they encounter each day.
What advice do you have for new Prep parents?
It’s a magical year but it goes very fast! So, celebrate all the opportunities that schooling brings. Help them develop their fine and gross motor skills, let them enjoy being little, let them be outside and play and encourage them to use their imagination.
How has COVID affected the Prep year?
The biggest change during COVID has been that our Prep children are met at the gates
by a teacher or teachers aide, rather than parents walking them into the classroom.
So, connecting with parents has been trickier. We use an app called Class Dojo, which is a great tool for communicating. It allows us to take and share photos and keep parents involved in what is happening in the classroom. And, if anything, this change has shown us how capable our little people can be! They are now walking themselves down to class, getting out their water bottles, and showing wonderful independence—simply because they’ve had to do more for themselves.
Sunshine Beach State School is an accredited ‘Glasser Quality School’ and international school, located beside Noosa National Park.