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Am I expecting too much from primary school curriculum?


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#1 katpaws

Posted 22 November 2012 - 08:27 AM

I was reflecting on DD's learning at school recently and I am a little bit concerned that the curriculm is not very extensive. She is in Grade 4, in a Vic state school. I had a look at the VELS website, which said that the curriculum for that grade includes Arts, English,  Humanities, Mathematics and Science. While DD's class does cover English and Maths, they don't seem to be doing anything much on history, geography, science etc. Even with the English and Maths - not a lot of focus on grammar and the Maths i think they have just touched on volume.

When I think back to when I was DD's age and grade,  we had covered early explorers, the European settlement of Australia, geography and geology, percentages and long division, and so on - and i would not say my primary school education was of the highest quality. But DD seems very unaware of countries in the world, Australian references (ie explorers, Australian history etc)... things that i knew about at her age.

I don't know if I should be concerned. I ask her what she learns and she says it is mostly English and Maths and her portfolio of work supports this. Occasionally her class delves into history but I am not sure how much in-depth study this is or how accurate. One thing she learnt this year was the Ned Kelly stole from the rich to give to the poor, which was news to me and I went through some resources about Ned Kelly to discuss how this really wasn't an accurate portrayal of him. She spoke to her teacher about it but she said her teacher was not interested. The class actually presented this information to the school - where teachers who watched it were heard to say they found that information incorrect.  

Certainly a lot of what DD knows is what she has gathered from reading, independent to the school learning. She is very inquisitive and asks a lot of questions, which I do my best to answer or we look it up on the Internet or in books.

Am I expecting too much for her class to learn about the Humanities, Science, History etc in a bit more in depth (that is appropriate to the class age and VELS)? I am concerned that she is not getting a broad educational experience and that she will be disadvantaged in high school if she does not know a lot about, for example, Australian history, compared to students from other primary schools that cover more than just Maths and English. Or is this the way it is?

Edited by katpaws, 22 November 2012 - 08:33 AM.


#2 Ianthe

Posted 22 November 2012 - 08:34 AM

That does not reflect what my children have learned in their NSW school at all and my older boys are in Years 10, 6 and 4. Max who is in Year 4 has learned about different countries and the Olympics, the bones/muscles etc in the body,  environmental stuff and that's just what I can remember off the top of my head.

#3 Heather11

Posted 22 November 2012 - 09:00 AM

Not indicative of what my children have learned either.

My DS in year 2 last year learnt about the solar system, they did recycling etc.  DD in year 5 did a whole  term focused on the convicts. Another one on indigenous cultures and our Asian neighbours.  My other DS in Reception have looked at China and I know they did weight and volume in maths.

Does your child's teacher send home an overview of what will be studied for the term?  We have always received a sheet with what they are focusing on that term.  You can always ask for this information from the teacher.

ETA:  The above is just a small sample of what they covered.  It's what I can remember them doing LOL.  They of course covered a lot more.

Edited by Heather11, 22 November 2012 - 09:02 AM.


#4 Buffalo Soldier

Posted 22 November 2012 - 09:05 AM

DD2 is in grade 4 in Victoria and this year has covered the Gold Rush/Eureka Stockade/early exploration, natural disasters, the Olympics (the sports, people and countries), the human body/healthy living, and everyday heroes.

She has done science experiments, had a puppet making workshop (after a puppeteer came and performed), cooked with the grade 2s, and learnt about Anzac Day/Remembrance Day and taken part in services.

Maths has covered times tables, number facts, time, fractions, decimals, probability, polygons, measurement, volume and lots more I'm sure.

English has covered punctuation, grammar, creative writing, persuasive writing, recounts, procedures, information reports, and comprehension (literal and inferential).

Add to this a good dose of religion (Catholic school), computers, sport, library, and at the moment, art (they are preparing for their annual 'Arts Exhibition').

And this isn't even the best school we've been to!

Edited to add - they also do Japanese from grade 3.

Edited by rastamum, 22 November 2012 - 09:07 AM.


#5 Futhermore

Posted 22 November 2012 - 09:07 AM

I have noticed they don't put the emphasis on australian settlement and explorers that they used to, but really it was pretty much all from a very british perspective when I was at primary 20 years ago.  I'd rather they not learn that much on it at all if it is still going to be taught that way.  (Aborigines as savages on the beach waving spears, stealing their sheep, no touching on the problems settlement caused for the indigenous - disease, not understanding the concept of ownership)

They do learn a fair bit about other countries and cultures, including major events in their history.

They learn about botany and biology and entomology, human bodies, how the earth formed, evolution, ancient history, all sorts of interesting stuff really.

Edited by ~maryanne~, 22 November 2012 - 09:14 AM.


#6 Heather11

Posted 22 November 2012 - 09:13 AM

Oh and I noticed that the school advertised recently for a specialised Science Teacher.  They are obviously looking at focusing more on this in future.  This of course maybe due to the new Australian Curriculum being introduced.

The school already has specialised LOTE, PE, Drama and Music teachers.

#7 mindy05

Posted 22 November 2012 - 09:15 AM

My son is in a 3/4 composite. All the class teachers of this age (6 classes) plan together and the integrated studies work is quite extensive. This year they have studied forces (project was to build a toy showing 2 types of forces being used to make it move), Olympics, and this term they are doing the solar system. The children are very engaged in their learning. In maths, DS has brought home quite complicated work on algebra and fractions. I think you might find, OP that long division isn't taught as extensively as it once was, but the other areas are more advanced than even when I taught Grade 3/4 20 years ago. I would suggest that either your DS's teacher isn't communicating effectively with you (we get a level newsletter each term outlining what the children will be learning) or she just isn't extending the children enough. Confusing Ned Kelly for Robin Hood is a worry. ETA- And the work they cover in grammar amazes me. DS is able to tell me all about different types of texts- expository, descriptive etc and uses terms which surprise me.

Edited by mindy05, 22 November 2012 - 09:19 AM.


#8 niggles goes feral

Posted 22 November 2012 - 09:17 AM

I think your first port of call should be the teacher. You could start by asking what they are covering in the humanities this year.

I don't think you are expecting too much but your memory of what gets covered in what year may be skewed and the curriculum has certainly changed from when you were in school. So don't get too concerned about the whats and whens. The teacher is the one to ensure all curriculum requirements are being met.  

It's also possible the teacher is taking a thematic approach and is covering many history and geography requirements, not to mention science and maths and english and art all while learning about one 'topic'. This is very common. This means you won't necessarily see kids working away at history one minute and then pulling out their art portfolio the next.

#9 Taff

Posted 22 November 2012 - 09:26 AM

I thought Victoria was ahead of QLD. My DS is in grade 2 ( in QLD) and his class  covers Science , geography and history.

Ds 's school - solar system - year 1
Different countries , languages, their traditions - year 2

maths - grade 2 they have been doing volume, division, and touching on fractions. DS finds grade 2 maths far too easy ,( but  he's beyond his years in maths- he was at that level when he was 4 yr old) , so we have to support him in mathmatics outside the school   (he's basically on a 10 yr level.)

English - grade 2 , in his school they are very, very much focused on Grammar.

No you're not expecting too much. I am actually very surprised that your class, grade 4  sounds way behind my DS's  Qld  grade 2 class.

If it was me, I'd be talking to the school to find out exactly what they are teaching, or go looking for a new school.

Kind regards

#10 mumto3princesses

Posted 22 November 2012 - 09:50 AM

My twins in Year 3 this year have covered A LOT this year. (They covered a lot last year too) Some of the things they have been working on this year even touch on some of the things DD1 learnt in Year 7.

#11 Overtherainbow

Posted 22 November 2012 - 09:51 AM

Aust curriculum

I've linked the Australian Curriculum so you can look at it.  In year four, students should be doing approx 6 hours of English, 5 of Maths, 2 of Science, 1 of History, 1 of SOSE, plus health, art, IT, TandE, etc.

Main focus for year four history is indigenous people in Australia and other countries and the impact on them from settlement.

#12 JJ

Posted 22 November 2012 - 10:05 AM

I don't think you're expecting too much. I could say a lot about this - it was one of my biggest gripes with DD's school before I pulled her out (she's now homeschooled). What surprised/concerned me the most was that they seemingly touched on a lot of things but didn't go into any detail. So DD would tell me "yeah, we talked about that once, but didn't really spend any time practising it" which is maybe fine with some things that don't require in-depth knowledge at that stage (Yr 2), but not OK when you're talking about basic Maths or English! For example, she had no clue about punctuation. In maths they had looked at some pretty advanced things but once again, hadn't spent much time covering the basics that the more advanced stuff is built on. I mean, it's all very well teaching them how to calculate area and volume, but if they don't understand and haven't mastered multiplication, they're not going to get very far with that...

What they did in humanities, science etc. seemed reasonable, but they certainly didn't always cover the basics. As far as I'm concerned, there's no point talking about Australian explorers, colonisation etc. if you haven't even covered basic geography so the students have a rough idea where these events took place (or even had a quick look at world geography to give the kids an appreciation of how far these explorers had to travel, etc.). Personally I am a big believer in covering the basics first and building up on that, and that's how my DD seems to learn best too. Other kids may benefit more from a different approach...

I think schools expect a lot less knowledge and "rote learning" nowadays and there are more hands-on activities and experiences, some of which are great, and some of which make you wonder what they have to do with anything and how they are in any way educational (like watching 10 music videos on YouTube per day).

Anyway, I digress... I am with PPs, talk to your DD's teacher first and take it from there. What they learn seems to vary vastly between classes at the same school too. Maybe you could find out what other Yr 4 classes at the school are doing.

Edited by JJ, 22 November 2012 - 10:22 AM.


#13 boatiebabe

Posted 22 November 2012 - 10:13 AM

My DD is in Year 3 at a NSW school and I am constantly surprised and impressed with what they are learning.

Our teacher emails us to let us know what's going on that week and what they are focussing on and it helps to be able to talk to DD about it at home and do extra research etc.

I think you should talk to the teacher about it. You might find that there is more going on than you know about.

#14 cesca

Posted 22 November 2012 - 11:39 AM

I wonder about this stuff too occasionally.

From what I can tell, my kids (aged 8 and 10) do literacy and numeracy, and that's about it.  They also touch on other stuff, of course, but it's mainly "topic" stuff, general projects etc.  I'm not even sure they do music anymore, or much art.

But then, I'm the neglectful mum who just pulled her kids out of school for 5 months to drag them around the historic sites of the UK so I guess they DID get some history and geography this year...


#15 katpaws

Posted 23 November 2012 - 05:06 AM

Thanks for the replies.

Next year most definately be keeping an eye on what DD is taught. We consider this year a loss academically.

I know what DD is covering as she has a portfolio of what they do in class. They do work on a large "concept"  but a lot of that is where the children get some information on a subject and do a poster.

I do know what i learned in Grade 4 etc as i still have my notebooks and report cards from those days and it seems a lot more than DD is learning.



#16 jacki

Posted 23 November 2012 - 12:54 PM

Have you had a chance to observe or talk to the teacher about the dynamics in the classroom generally? Are there any kids that could be taking up a lot of her time?

I have a few friends who are teachers and one in particular is at a school where she has said she spends most of her day sorting through social/behavioural stuff and things like kids not having any lunch etc... sad.gif that it is a good day when she actually gets the class down to some actual work.

#17 peking homunculus

Posted 23 November 2012 - 12:58 PM

QUOTE (katpaws @ 23/11/2012, 05:06 AM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
I do know what i learned in Grade 4 etc as i still have my notebooks and report cards from those days and it seems a lot more than DD is learning.


You really kept all that stuff?

Wow

#18 katpaws

Posted 23 November 2012 - 01:03 PM

Jacki, the teacher is not known for being proactive in the classroom (they have been there for a few years). I didn't want to appear to be teacher bashing (so i don't really want to focus on the teacher), so  that's why i am trying to work out DD's curriculum against what other students do so i know to look for next year and to have a better understanding of what it should look like. I've got some pointers and question starters from PPs and i will check out the VELS and national standards ready for next year.  I feel bad that i didn't start thinking of this a lot earlier and spend more time with DD going through VELS learning with her myself.



#19 katpaws

Posted 23 November 2012 - 01:07 PM

QUOTE
You really kept all that stuff?


Yes! I love my pictures of the Brits holding their guns in convict settlements... They look like stick men with baggy clothes on. I admit the report cards are falling apart.  sad.gif I have my b'day and Christmas cards from growing up too.

It's all up in the attic and i want to show DD what i was doing at her age.

PS i am not a hoarder!



#20 Grumpy1

Posted 28 November 2012 - 02:41 PM

I agree with JJ who is now home schooling.  I'm pretty disappointed with what is taught and the lack of depth of knowledge and what appears to be a disregard for the basics.  All my 2 DD's seem to do is maths and English.  Science this year for my year 3 DD was the same as when she was in year 2 (push & pull) which as she says she totally gets...Ugh

It's all so bitsy so that they can never get their heads around something completely.  It seems to me that it would make sense to teach clock/time for eg. each day for 1/2 until each student understood how to tell the time.  But they jump alll over the place never consolidating anything.  I have to have a tutor for my dughter now as she wasn't taught basic maths in year 2 and I teach her the times tables myself by rote.  It seems to me to be the easiest, quickest way to teach but has been abandoned due to such prejudice against it.  


It may be that the introduction of the new NC has made things a bit skewed and teachers/schools are still grappling with how to implement it.  I am in Qld and feel that it has really impacted in a negative way up here.  I'd love for my kids to have th etime to learn stuff that wasn't just maths & English.  But at present that seems to be the focus when it wasn't before the NC was implemented.

#21 papilio

Posted 28 November 2012 - 03:26 PM

Off the top of my head, W, who is in Yr 2, has covered the Greeks, Egyptians, Water and Communication as themes this year.  From what I've observed in the classroom and what she's talked about and brought home, those themes apply across the board.  SO they might write a letter from the perspective of an Egyptian princess, do a powerpoint presentation on what life was like in Grecian times, learn about mass and volume talking about water and discuss Braille and alternate forms of communication.  I really like this way of learning.

#22 FeralRebelWClaws

Posted 28 November 2012 - 05:48 PM

Sorry, I'm late to this but I dd just want to say...

QUOTE (rastamum @ 22/11/2012, 10:05 AM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
Maths has covered times tables, number facts, time, fractions, decimals, probability, polygons, measurement, volume and lots more I'm sure.

The thing bout Maths is that you can't really just say it like that, because Maths build each year, particularly in primary school where they ARE studying the same topic every year, but every year it's more in depth. I am a high school teacher and I am STILL teaching kids fractions, decimals, probability goes to year 12, measurement, volume etc... so you really need to specify the EXACT outcomes.

QUOTE (JJ @ 22/11/2012, 11:05 AM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
In maths they had looked at some pretty advanced things but once again, hadn't spent much time covering the basics that the more advanced stuff is built on. I mean, it's all very well teaching them how to calculate area and volume, but if they don't understand and haven't mastered multiplication, they're not going to get very far with that...

I could kiss you! The hardest thing as a high school maths teacher is having kids who don't have multiplicative thinking. They SHOULD leave primary school with it, but many don't. In high school they again learn about area and volume etc again but it makes no difference when the children can't see that instead of measuring area by counting individual cm square boxes, they can times the lengths. It effects pretty much EVERY aspect of mathematics in high school. I think the importance of understanding the idea of multiplication is underestimated. I'm not talking about memorising the times tables, but understanding the concept!

#23 JJ

Posted 28 November 2012 - 09:47 PM

QUOTE (PussyDids @ 28/11/2012, 04:48 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
I could kiss you!


Go right ahead. biggrin.gif blush.gif

(No, seriously, it's nice to have a high school maths teacher actually agree with me on this one. It just seemed so strange to me and as a result I've chosen a maths curriculum that is very much step-by-step.)


#24 Expelliarmus

Posted 28 November 2012 - 10:04 PM

QUOTE (PussyDids @ 28/11/2012, 06:48 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
I could kiss you! The hardest thing as a high school maths teacher is having kids who don't have multiplicative thinking. They SHOULD leave primary school with it, but many don't. In high school they again learn about area and volume etc again but it makes no difference when the children can't see that instead of measuring area by counting individual cm square boxes, they can times the lengths. It effects pretty much EVERY aspect of mathematics in high school. I think the importance of understanding the idea of multiplication is underestimated. I'm not talking about memorising the times tables, but understanding the concept!

The number of times I have heard parents emphasise learning the times tables by rote as 'good mathematics and really, really key' makes me really cringe.

FWIW the New Curriculum should facilitate such thinking - we just need to get it up and running, skill teachers up and convince parents that rote learning isn't ideal for mathematics as a whole.

#25 FeralRebelWClaws

Posted 29 November 2012 - 08:49 AM

QUOTE (howdo @ 28/11/2012, 11:04 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
The number of times I have heard parents emphasise learning the times tables by rote as 'good mathematics and really, really key' makes me really cringe.


That's the thing, I don't mind if my students can't tell me what 7 x 8 is (of course, I'd prefer they can), but at least they can use a calculator for that. What they don't have is a little computer that can help them understand that they need to USE mulitplication. The concept of multiplication is far more important than knowing the times tables!




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