Starting school

Starting school is a big and exciting step for our children, one that we as parents and educators hope will be a positive and rewarding one. The team of speech pathologists at Talking Matters work hard to help their families be as ready as they can for this important step, but we know that the most important people in young children’s lives are their parents! Parents of preschool children care the most, spend the most time and have the best relationships with their children. Therefore we know that helping caring parents to know how to help their children be ready for starting school is an extremely important part of our role in supporting families.

We have put together a collection of information for parents of children beginning school. These ideas are some of the ideas we share with families we are working with as they prepare their child for school. This collection of information has been put together not just for the families we work with, but for all families who have children just starting, or about to start school. Giving children the best possible start to school is important to their overall success and feelings of self worth and we are keen for as many children as possible to have this opportunity, whether we work with them ourselves or not! Download your free starting school booklet now!

The booklet covers skills found through research to be important for getting a good start when beginning school:

  • listening skills
  • attention skills
  • knowledge of books and stories
  • hearing beginning and ending sounds in words
  • hearing syllables in words

It contains both information and activities that families can print off and play with their children. To download your free copy of this booklet go to We hope you and your child will enjoy and learn from it.

What communication skills should my five year old have to start school?

Five year olds usually show well developed communication skills. They should be able to hold a conversation confidently with adults and other children. They should be able to use long sentences and join them together with words such as “because” and “but”. Most of their grammar should be correct though they may make occasional errors with words like “feet” and “fell”. They should be able to say most words clearly, though they may still have difficulty with the “th” and “r” sounds.

Five year olds should be able to:

  • Tell you what things are for: “you cut things with scissors”
  • Understand and use position words such as: on top, behind, through
  • Tell their full name and address
  • Use sentences of five to seven words or more
  • Understand concepts and opposites such as: wet/dry, hard/soft
  • Understand “same” and “different” and tell how objects are the same or different
  • Count ten things and name colours
  • Listen to and understand stories and retell them from the pictures
  • Use past, present and future tense
  • Use words such as “he” and “she” correctly
  • Ask and answer “why” and “how” questions
  • Describe their feelings with words such as: happy, sad, mad
  • Understand time concepts such as “before” and “after”

Five year olds are ready to begin school. This means they should be ready for more formal teaching of literacy.

Some of the skills needed for learning literacy include:

  • Being able to hear beginning sounds in words
  • Being able to match and make rhyming words
  • Being able to clap or count the syllable beats in words
  • Recognising letters and the sounds they make
  • Being able to write their own name
  • Understanding the structure of a story with a beginning, middle and end

If you are concerned about your child’s communication skills or their readiness for school a speech pathology assessment would be useful to help you learn how your child is progressing and what you can do to help them. You can find out more about how your child is progressing with the checklists on our website.

For more information and activities to develop your child's language and literacy skills check our Pinterest page. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter to keep up to date with new information, tips and resources.

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