When we first came back to Singapore after living in Jakarta for 2.5 years, I was really anxious about how N would cope with the education system in Singapore. The international school that he attended in Jakarta provided him with a really different experience, and you can read about how English was taught there in THIS POST, Math in THIS POST, Science in THIS POST, and what a student-led conference (their version of a Parent-Teacher Conference) was like in THIS POST.
I was overwhelmed when I visited Popular, because I wasn’t sure what he needed, and was sooooo tempted to buy a lot of assessment books. I confess that I ended up buying a rather wide variety of books back then, but now that N is in Primary Three, I feel like I have a better sense of his abilities, and am a lot more selective about what I buy.
First of all, remember that every child is different, and N’s strengths and weaknesses will most likely be different from your child’s. However, here are some tips from my experience with N.
You don’t need to buy that many books, because you need a healthy balance between work and play. Honestly, there really isn’t that much time to work on assessment books daily, if you factor in after-school activities and time for your child to rest/decompress/play after a long day in school. School IS tiring, and kids need time to rest and just be kids.
“Drilling”, ie doing plenty of similar questions on the same topic, isn’t very effective, unless your child doesn’t understand the topic and needs extra practice. For Math, I recommend picking a few questions from each chapter for him to work on, to see if he understands it. If you can tell that he has no major problems with it, move on to the next topic.
Don’t be afraid to buy a level above his current grade in school, if you think he is advanced in that subject. I monitor N’s progress in his subjects very closely, and when I looked at the P3 and P4 English assessment books at Popular, I felt that he would benefit from trying some of the P4 books out. It’s not that he knows everything in the P3 books, or that he can get everything correct in the P3 books. It’s just that I want to stretch him, and it gives him a confidence boost when he can get all or almost all of the questions in the P4 books correct.
I picked out some books from CPD Singapore previously, and liked what I saw, so I was happy to try out these four books that they sent to us.
Prior to this, I didn’t know what a full English paper looked like, so I found this Primary 3 English Practice Papers book useful. Even though I teach N how to write stories using the Writing Workshop programme, I feel that it is important that he gets some practice in answering the “standard” exam questions. I’ve shared about the Writing Workshop programme in THIS POST and in THIS ONE, if you want to know more about what it is about.
I also like that the book has full Paper 2 papers, and I can assign a paper to N as a timed assessment to give him some practice in exam time management. I feel that Visual Text Comprehension is important for children to be able to do, as it helps them to process the information they see, and I like that the questions in this book (not just this section) are pitched at the right level.
I really like the Challenging Weekly Practices book as well, because it covers grammar, vocabulary, editing, synthesis, and comprehension. There are also short explanations on grammar, which is useful for kids who don’t have a very strong foundation in it. The exercises are also not very lengthy, so I could get N to do one or two pages, every now and then. I find it more effective to give him short practices, as he is more focused that way. I plan to try out the assessment books that focus on individual sections next, such as the Mastering Comprehension (Open-Ended) Skills, and Mastering Comprehension Visual Text & Cloze, as I feel these are sections that N may need more practice in.
For Math, we tried Mastering Mathematics, and again, the bite-size exercises work well for us. I like that there is always an example given, as it gives a quick explanation of what is expected in that section, and once I go through the example with N, he can work on the rest of the questions on his own.
I bought a really thick Math assessment book previously, and N hates doing it, because there are SO MANY QUESTIONS! Even though I pick out selected questions in that book for him, he feels overwhelmed just looking at the book, so I prefer using this Mastering Mathematics book as it is less intimidating.
The Master Math Models series looks rather interesting, and I plan to try out the Fractions book and the The Solutions book next. I like that they cover both P3 and P4, so I can use it for a longer period of time.
Science is probably the subject that I am least comfortable with, but thankfully, N loves Science, and likes learning more about Science. Reading the Science Olympiad Primary 3 & 4 Guide and Practice Book with N was an eye-opening experience for me, as the worked-out examples were really detailed. I let N read the examples and try out the questions when he wants to learn more about the topics that he has covered in school, and get him to verbally explain what he has learnt from the question(s) that he has read in this book.
As I mentioned earlier, every child is different, so you’ll need to figure out which areas your child is weak in, in order to give him more targeted practice. You can look through his schoolwork or talk to his teachers to get some advice, or get the books with full practice papers for English and Math to see what he needs more help with. Remember that it’s not about quantity, but quality, so for me, I prefer to focus on his weaknesses first, before moving on to his strengths.
All the best!
PS. If you want to purchase some of the CPD assessment books, use my code ‘TAN13’ to get 13% off CPD books. There’s no expiry date for this code, so you can always get one or two books per subject to try out first, and figure out which areas your child needs more practice in.