Transitioning to Grade 4: Helping your child make the leap from junior to senior primary

For parents with children heading to Grade 4 in 2024, there are some helpful guidelines to ensure a strong start to the year. Picture: Supplied

For parents with children heading to Grade 4 in 2024, there are some helpful guidelines to ensure a strong start to the year. Picture: Supplied

Published Jan 12, 2024


In South Africa, the jump from Grade 3 to Grade 4 can be a big leap for young learners. Suddenly, they go from having one teacher for all subjects to being taught by multiple specialist teachers.

This change in teaching styles and expectations can have its drawbacks, as research shows that Grade 4 academic performance tends to drop compared to Grade 3.

But what exactly makes this transition so challenging? The Intersen Phase, as it's called, brings forth a whole new set of subjects, teachers, routines, and challenges. Some children may find it thrilling, while others may feel overwhelmed or resistant to the change.

That's where parents come in. According to education expert Desiree Hugo, parents need to prepare their children for this next academic phase. By having open conversations about the upcoming changes, parents can help ease their child's transition to Grade 4.

"In Grade 4, children need to take more ownership and responsibility for their own learning," explains Hugo, who serves as the Academic Head of the ADvTECH Schools Division.

“This includes handling a heavier workload, homework, and assessments. Independence is also expected to develop during this phase.

Desiree Hugo, Academic Head of ADvTECH Schools Division. Picture: Supplied

For parents with children heading to Grade 4 in 2024, there are some helpful guidelines to ensure a strong start to the year.

These guidelines aim to empower children to perform to the best of their abilities and embrace the exciting challenges that lie ahead.

Create a consistent routine

Children thrive on structure and predictability, especially during times of change. Establish a regular routine for your child’s daily activities, such as waking up, getting ready, having breakfast, going to school, extra-murals, doing homework, having family fun time and dinner and going to bed, preferably with a storybook.

Try to stick to the same schedule on most school days, and make sure your child knows what to do and when to do it. Try to keep deviations to a minimum, so that the rhythm of their daily routine becomes second nature.

Support your child’s learning

In Senior Primary, there may be a wider range of subjects that may be new or challenging for your child. You can help your child learn and master the content by providing guidance, encouragement, and feedback.

For example, you can review the lesson notes with your child, help them with their homework, quiz them on the key concepts, praise their efforts and achievements, and discuss their mistakes.

You can also provide other materials, such as books, websites, movies, or games, that complement their learning and pique their interest. However, avoid doing the work for your child or putting too much pressure on them.

Let your child work at their own pace and level, and respect their learning style and preferences.

At the start of Senior Primary, getting into a healthy learning routine is probably one of the most important milestones, which will assist your child throughout their educational journey.

Encourage your child’s social and emotional development

Senior Primary is not only about academic learning but also about personal growth, as your child develops and continues to grow and develop their unique identity.

Your child may face various social and emotional issues, such as making friends, dealing with peer pressure, coping with stress, managing emotions, developing self-esteem, and expressing opinions.

You can help your child develop these skills by being a good role model, listening to their feelings and concerns, validating their emotions, offering advice and support, teaching them coping strategies, and encouraging them to join extracurricular activities.

You can also help your child build positive relationships with their teachers and classmates by communicating with them regularly, attending school events, and resolving conflicts independently and peacefully.

Celebrate your child’s progress and achievements

Your child's move to Senior Primary is a significant milestone, and they should be celebrated for all of their efforts and successes.

While it's necessary to acknowledge and appreciate your child's growth and accomplishments, you should also refrain from comparing them to others or concentrating just on the outcome.

Highlight the steps involved, the work they've done, their ability, and the progress they've made. View failure as an opportunity to learn, and assist them in developing the resilience to keep learning new things over time.

“Senior Primary is an exciting and illuminating period in a child’s life. They continue to build their own identity, learn new skills, and encounter new challenges. This is an important time to help them cultivate a love of learning and a growth mindset.

“Parental and teacher support during this time is crucial, to ensure continued connection while also learning to strike a balance between supporting the child and giving them the room to discover their strengths and abilities; we want to maximise children’s success and gratification in life,” explained Hugo.