Developmental milestones at Primary level and how we approach them at Agora International School Barcelona
The Primary School stage is a crucial period in our children’s development, not only in terms of their educational progress, but also in terms of the development of personality and self-esteem.
Children aged from 6 to 12 years negotiate several significant developmental stages; below we outline a few of these important milestones:
- Personality and self-esteem: throughout the primary stage, a child’s personality begins to form and develop as they start to interact with their peer group, broaden their cultural and social horizons beyond those of their immediate family, and start to develop a sense of self-esteem. It is therefore important that the activities, social relationships and experiences that they engage in at school help to support this process, encouraging them to develop a positive self-image and to grow in self-confidence.
- Developing social skills: during the early years at school children start to broaden their social spheres; they learn how to interact with their peers and their personalities begin to develop in an environment beyond the security of the family home. At this stage children want to feel part of a group and to be liked and accepted by others. They start to form more meaningful friendships and relationships with those around them.
- Independence: children become more independent and begin to assimilate and clarify their opinions, thoughts and feelings. At Agora Barcelona we focus on all-round development, helping our students to formulate and express their thoughts, ideas and feelings, and to take a more independent approach to learning.
- Speech and Language: By the age of 6 a child’s language skills are generally progressing and they become more adept at expressing themselves; they communicate more freely, use more advanced language, and find new ways to describe their experiences and ideas. Therefore, at this stage of a child’s education it is essential to incorporate activites that allow them to use and experiment with more complex language skills.
- Multiple Languages: learning additional languages before the age of 6 is beneficial in many ways. Children’s brains are like sponges; they learn quickly and easily and are capable of multitasking. In early childhood, children learn foreign languages primarily through listening and repetition so their pronunciation and mode of expression tends to be more natural, and closer to that of native speakers. At Agora International School Barcelona children learn in three main languages; English, Catalan and Spanish, and in Primary Year 6 they also get the opportunity to learn Mandarin Chinese and French or German. Gerard Valls, the Director of Agora International School Barcelona says “We want the whole world to be open to our students and for them to embrace the fact that they belong to a multicultural and multilingual global community. Achieving fluency in English is one of the tools that we use to accomplish this goal, and thus English forms a fundamental part of our curriculum”.
- Curiosity and meaning: at Primary level students are extremely curious and want to make sense of the things they encounter. They begin to think of the future and to understand their place in the world. Teacher, Magician, Finalist of the Global Teacher Prize 2018, and author of the book “Teaching with Magic”, Xuxo Ruiz says “Each child has special potential, each one can be a genius in their own way. As educators, our job is to discover and nurture this potential” (more information on Teaching blog). At our school we focus on the individual to try and bring out the best in every child. We offer personalised tutorials to create a safe and supportive learning space for each child and promote good communication with the family via a range of different channels. “We want our students to have fun, be motivated and curious to learn. Curiosity plays an essential role in a child’s ability to learn and progress” Gerard Valls, Director, Agora International School Barcelona.
- Reading: Children learn to read in Primary and reading plays a key part in their education and development. “Children should be encouraged but not forced to read. We must not turn a pleasure into an obligation”, says César Bona (chosen as one of the 50 best teachers in the world by the Global Teacher Prize committee).
- Creativity: creativity helps to develop cognitive ability, stimulates intelligence and facilitates communication, amongst many other things, which is why it plays a central role in our curriculum at Primary level. We promote creativity through art, exploring a range of artistic styles and techniques, and Music also plays a fundamental part in helping our students to explore and express their creativity. A wide range of instrumental options are available at the school and, depending on their preference and the advice of our specialist music staff, children are encouraged to learn to play an instrument. Our school is linked to the Music Conservatory for the Liceo de Barcelona and the Escolanía de Montserrat, providing our pupils with the chance to develop their musical skill to a higher level, and offering many opportunities to play and perform.
- Care for their surroundings: throughout Primary, children learn to focus less on themselves and more on the things around them; they learn to care for others and for the environment, and begin to recognise the importance of friendship, thoughtfulness, kindness and cooperation.
- Building on our value-systems: The curriculum at Primary level supports and consolidates our underlying value systems, in terms of individual strengths, (self-reliance, critical spirit, initiative, responsibility, self-discipline and so on), collective values (cooperation, respect, tolerance, etc.), and more generally in the way that we work together, encouraging our students to adopt positive habits such as open dialogue, willingness to resolve conflicts, working together to make decisions and finding innovative and creative solutions to the problems that they might encounter.
- Physical Development: During the primary stage we work on encouraging our pupils to establish healthy habits and to understand the importance of physical activity and a fit and healthy lifestyle. We offer a full sports programme, focussing on developing physical skills such as coordination, balance, strength and stamina, but also instilling values such as a sense of sportsmanship and fair play, respect for rules, and skills such as perseverance, self-discipline and teamwork. The school is fortunate enough to have excellent sports facilities in a wonderful location, and sport and physical activity form and important part of the life of the school, developing healthy habits that our students will take forward with them throughout their lives.
At Agora International School Barcelona, we work on developing strategies to help our students find positive solutions to the different situations that they come across in the classroom and in their daily lives. We are an international school promoting an international outlook at every stage of the curriculum, preparing our pupils to become citizens of the world.
As explained above, throughout the Primary stage children have to navigate many important developmental milestones; their capacity for learning is extensive and our aim is to celebrate this precious time in their lives by helping our students to achieve their full potential. Professor César Bona asks us to “Just imagine how much children are capable of learning?” (more information on RTVE website) and as a school we know that our job is to ensure that our pupils have all the resources and support in place to help them to make the most of this critical phase of their education.