Cluey school guide: What to expect in each school year

What should you expect this school year? How big is the transition from one grade to the next?

school years-guide what to expect
Marina Cilona Young Adult writer and mum of two BA(Hons) Monday, 20 January 2020

We’ve put a spotlight on each year level, outlining key skills and developmental milestones in literacy and numeracy, and offering advice from our education experts to help your child thrive.

Year 2

Year 2 is generally the first big shift from play-based learning to a more structured and rigorous schedule. Don’t worry, there will still be plenty of hands-on activities, especially when it comes to society and culture, history, science and storytelling modules.

Reading comprehension is a focus this year. Sight words and more complex phonics will comprise much of your child’s literacy development, and students will also begin their introduction to grammar and spelling. Spelling lists and readers will likely form the majority of your child’s homework.

Children will begin learning their two, five and 10 times tables, while furthering their ability to add and subtract. Basic terms of weight and measurement, as well as fractions will also be introduced.

ADVICE: Help your child develop their comprehension skills at home by asking questions as you read together. Queries like, “Why do you think he feels that way?” or “What might happen next?” helps children think critically and also teaches empathy.

Year 3

It’s your child’s first NAPLAN year and, whether or not you choose to focus on these standardised tests, it’s an acronym you’re going to hear a lot of. Year 3 NAPLAN forms your child’s first exposure to formal testing, stress, exam conditions and those seemingly illogical questions designed to throw off unsuspecting nine year olds.

The number of sight words your child will be expected to know will skyrocket to the hundreds, while spelling and grammar rules, prefixes, suffixes and pronouns will also become more important.

Times tables will take centre stage this year. Children will be expected to quickly recall most multiplication sets as these form the basis for much of their other numeracy work this year.

ADVICE: Stay positive and regularly check in on your child’s emotional wellbeing, especially in the lead up to NAPLAN. It’s also important to run through spelling and times tables regularly to ensure these skills stick.

Year 4

Year 4 is all about maturity and self-sufficiency as students work towards their ‘pen licence’ and tackle some of their first independent research tasks. This means that they get to design their own projects and think about how they want to present their work.

Year 4 students will be encouraged to work independently on reading, writing and maths tasks. It’s also often the first year in which students are invited to a ‘sleep away’ camp. Ultimately, Year 4 aims to build the confidence your child will need to become a senior in their school.

ADVICE: Listen to your child read out loud as much as possible. This not only builds confidence in their abilities, but also fine tunes their vocabulary and grammar skills. Read widely (fiction, non-fiction, the back of Pokemon cards…) and try to make the experience as fun as possible for your child.

Year 5

In the year before your child begins their transition to high school, Year 5 is often touted as the ‘calm year’. Students are given even more independence in their learning, and tend to solidify their knowledge in literacy and numeracy. Your child will be encouraged to do as much for his or herself as possible — a habit you can reinforce at home by asking them to pack their own things, help with the dishes, and take responsibility for their homework schedule. 

While many schools make a point of never using the word “exam” or “test” in the lead up to Year 3 NAPLAN, some feel that Year 5 is old enough for specific prep work. As such, many children may experience increased stress in the first half of the year.

In Maths, students will work to consolidate their knowledge of things like multiplication, but will also work on fractions, decimals and more complex division.

For English, verb types (could you? Would you? MUST WE?) will be introduced alongside more complex punctuation.

ADVICE: Attend as many NAPLAN information sessions at school as you can. This is a great way to ask questions and connect with your child’s teacher about the best way to help them at home. 

Year 6

Hurrah! Your child has made it to the end of their primary education. This is a hugely exciting year for Year 6 students. Not only do they assume a leadership role in the school (often prefect and buddy jobs are available), they’re preparing to ‘graduate’ and begin a new stage of their social, emotional and intellectual development. It’s an enormously important step towards self-awareness and maturity.

This year your child will learn to rely on their own hard work and perseverance for results — a skill which will be invaluable to them in secondary school (and life).

In Maths, students will begin their first foray into simple algebra, and more complex geometry. English components will involve learning to write in complex sentence structures, taking a critical approach to texts, and fine tuning spelling and grammar skills. 

ADVICE: Step back a little from homework help and supporting their schedule. Helping your child to increase their organisational skills and self-reliance is one of the best things you can do to equip them for the years to come.

Year 7

Welcome to a new phase of learning (and social, emotional and physical development) for your child. Take a breath, this is big.

Not only will students be moving between classes and teachers, they’ll also be exposed to a wider range of subjects and topics. They’ll have to be organised and prepared, following their timetable and ensuring they have the things they need for each class.

Your child should expect their homework load to increase to around one hour per day, and they’ll need to plan their time accordingly. It’s also a NAPLAN year, with more formal exam conditions than previous tests.

Year 7 English focuses on more complex texts and a deeper analysis of symbolism and metaphor, while also encouraging your child to form his or her own opinions about characters and events within the texts.

The list of Maths topics in the Australian National Curriculum also reflects a jump in learning. Things like indices, equations and angle relationships are just a few of the areas your child will cover this year.

ADVICE: Check in on your child’s emotional wellbeing during this period of intense transition, especially as they encounter new peers, new teachers and significantly higher expectations. You’ll likely reduce their stress levels just by listening. You may also want to support your child in organising their homework schedule or study plan, but be mindful of the fact that creating a foundation of independent study is essential.

Year 8

Your child has well and truly transitioned to high school by this stage, so Year 8 is an opportunity for them to consolidate their knowledge and further develop their critical thinking skills. As a non-NAPLAN year, students will spend their time building on existing skills before moving to the next stage of their education.

In English, your child will study classic and contemporary plays, journalism and poetry, while thinking critically about voice, representation and perspective. Students are likely to be introduced to Shakespeare via a range of interactive approaches (and performances).

Year 8 Maths covers many of the same topics from Year 7, urging your child to tackle more difficult equations. Students will also begin statistics, introductory probability and single variable data analysis.

ADVICE: Encourage your child to create schedules and plans to deal with the increased workload. This is a good habit to get into early on in their high school career so that it’s entrenched by the time they reach their senior studies.

Year 9

This is the first year in which students are given a say in their own learning path. Although core subjects still exist (English, Maths, Science), your child will be given the opportunity to choose the rest of their subjects from the following:

  • Creative Arts
  • Human Society and its Environment
  • PDHPE
  • Languages
  • Technology and Applied Studies

These electives will comprise about 60 percent of your child’s timetable.

Year 9 is also the final NAPLAN year which offers students a good way to practice their exam preparation prior to harder, senior years to come.

Developing effective study habits is one of the most important skills your child will need this year. This means planning for assessments and scheduling their increased homework load.

ADVICE: Talk to your child about their elective choices and ensure they know how this might affect their workload and future study options for their senior years. 

Year 10

In Year 10 your child will choose which subjects they would like to study for their senior years and begin to visualise their educational goals for their ATAR and beyond.

One of the most significant changes in Year 10 is the fact that many subjects increase in difficulty. In English, this involves an increase in conceptual difficulty. In subjects like Maths and Science, the technical and research-based knowledge will become much more complex.

The way your child performs in Year 10 will impact their study options for Year 11 and 12. For example, students need to demonstrate considerate ability in Year 10 English in order to be considered for advanced and extension ATAR courses.

ADVICE: Talk to your child about what they might like to study during their senior years and following graduation. Make sure they understand how their selection might impact their ATAR result, emotional wellbeing and tertiary study options.

Year 11

Year 11 students will be expected to learn more independently this year than at any other point in their education to date. Despite being only three terms in length, Year 11 is packed with requirements and students are expected to manage their time well to satisfy the outcomes of the syllabus. A daily routine and assessment plan is a must here.

In English, students will focus on a smaller selection of set texts, and will be required to respond to them in ways which are imaginative, creative, interpretive and critical. Responses will take the form of creative tasks, essay writing, group work and speeches.

Maths in Year 11 will begin to develop the skills needed to study things like computer applications, science courses, finance and engineering at a tertiary level. Topics like calculus, trigonometry, statistics and financial maths form the core of the syllabus.

ADVICE: Encourage your child to begin to compile study notes now. This is a great habit for Year 12. Find a system which works for your child, whether it’s visual cues, colour coding etc. This is also the time to take advantage of after school study programs, groups and tutoring.

Year 12

Although it feels like the stakes are at their peak, Year 12 is also arguably the most wonderful year of your child’s schooling career. They will reenact scenes from Looking for Alibrandi after every exam and hopefully bond with their friends and teachers in a very special way.  

Think carefully with your child about the subject they’d like to carry forward for their ATAR exams and discuss dropping any units they feel they won’t perform well in. This can be done with input from your child’s teachers or year advisor.

Study notes should be compiled throughout the year and knowledge will be layered into everyday revision. There’s no point trying to memorise everything two weeks before exams. This year is all about the long game.

ADVICE: Be prepared for increased assessments and exams, which might put extra pressure on your child, especially leading up to trials and ATAR exams. Students should also begin their major work for their creative and extension courses as early as possible, giving them plenty of time for multiple iterations, feedback and creative thinking. Make sure your child is balancing all that study with regular exercise and some socialising. This year really is the beginning of adulthood for many young people, and they need to get used to balancing work and play.

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