“We need an ABCs class!” The director of our local partner organization, Community Development Ministry, came to me asking if we could help with an “ABCs class.” A local village wanted to know the best way to teach the ABCs. As I thought about that request, I realized, there’s so much more to it than just the ABCs. I suggested we title the series of workshops, “Building a Foundation for Reading…It’s more than just the ABCs.” She agreed and we set out putting the workshop together.
I had not visited this particular village before. It sits on the west bank of the Nile near the dam that was built shortly after 1900.
On the night of the first session, we pulled into the village which looks typical for this part of the world. The one- and two-story mud brick houses line the narrow streets. Each house displays a bit of colorful creativity with traditional pictures of flowers or geometric shapes painted on the front. The dust cloud gathers behind our car.
We arrive at the local mosque and community center. We offload our materials and greet the men sitting at the cafe across the street. We enter the center and begin arranging the long benches to face a make-shift white board that’s screwed into the plaster wall. We string the extension cord over to the one outlet and power up the projector. Immediately the projector’s “over heating” light comes on. That evening it was 108º in the shade.
One by one the attendees filed in and greeted us. They were warm and engaging as we started the course.
Over the span of the next few weeks we unpacked the idea of building a foundation for reading. That included lessons and activities for building alphabet knowledge, working with the sounds of letters and words, rapid naming of the letters and objects, remembering words and sounds, and print awareness or “booksense.” We encouraged them that while our examples are in English, these principles apply to learning to read and write Arabic as well.
We also spent considerable time on four learning strategies:
- Think Aloud (teacher)
- Self-talk (student)
- PEER (Dialogic Reading Strategy)
The attendees had fun as we demonstrated and had them practice each of the strategies.
We also demonstrated and practiced together a long list of teaching strategies. I encouraged them to add many of these to their personal teaching “toolbox.” These included the following strategies:
- Read Aloud – Read books to the class
- Pronunciation – Try to say letter sounds without an “uh” at the end.
- Read Aloud – Read to the class every day!
- Movement – Air Draw; Make letters with bodies; Write letters in sand; Letter Sound Response; March and Chant; Field Trip
- Games – “I See…;” Hop to the Letter; Find the Letter in the Mix; Find an Item; (Make sure everyone wins!)
- Pictures – Draw Pictures of Items; Sort by initial sound (picture or items), Order by initial sounds
- Hands On – Modeling Clay, Write Letters in Sand, Make Letters with Straws or Toothpicks
- Music – Sing letter songs, Sing “Made Up” Songs, Find Dr. Jean songs on Youtube
- YouTube Video: ABC SONG | ABC Songs for Children – 13 Alphabet Songs & 26 Videos
- Rhyming – Play rhyming games, even made up words.
- Writing – Proper pencil grip; Always start at the top to write letters.
- Dictation – Write the first letter of this word…
- Social – doing things together, talking about feelings
- Repeat After Me – Say a short word and stretch the letters out so they can hear each individually
- NO WORKSHEETS!
- NO SITTING for more than 1 minute per year of age!
- NO STICK! (If you don’t know what this means, see the previous post, “Zanzibar: What Great Teachers Do Differently“)
This group of ladies were a delight to work with. Pam and I enjoyed sharing new ideas with them and hearing their creative ideas, too. While the heat was a challenge, their energy and enthusiasm more than made up for it!