Thursday, July 7, 2011

A Foreign Language?

This week in Sunday School, I had an interesting experience. We were sorting, stacking, and playing with coins. Mixed in the regular coins were a couple of coins I got in Taiwan. "H" was fascinated with these coins. He held them and looked at them. He took them to the writing center and made rubbings of them. He would spin them and study them to see how they differed from pennies. (The coins were the same approximate color and size as our penny.)

At one point, he called me over to the table. "Can you read Chinese?" he asked me.
"No," I said.
O listened to this exchange. "Can you read cursive?" he asked me quietly. I nodded and smiled.
I guess to a 6-year-old, Chinese and cursive are equally baffling.

In reading Literacy Beginnings for our book study, I've been thinking about reading and writing a lot. I guess letters and print are like a foreign language to kids - mysterious symbols that others can decipher. We are translators and guides into this new territory. We can help them begin to understand and navigate this "foreign" language. How can we do this?

  • Print words, sentences, and verses for children to see in the learning centers.
  • Point out letters and words, especially letters that are familiar to the child (the ones in his name).
  • Provide a variety of opportunities for children to draw and write.
  • Offer different types of writing utensils and paper.
  • Add notepads and pencils to use in dramatic play experiences.
  • Add signs to use with the blocks.
  • Introduce new words and talk about meanings.
  • Tell stories and encourage children retell them to you.
  • Allow them to explore and experiment with letters in various ways.

Learning about print and how it works can be challenging. It's like learning a new way of communication. Guide kids carefully on their journey so they can have skills that last a lifetime.

Read more about helping kids discover the sounds of language with Leslie at No More Worksheets.

And Vanessa at Pre-K Pages reviews ways to help children who really are learning English as a foreign language.

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