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Sounds and languages

It’s always fascinating to listen to children discussing language learning – explaining what they understand and what puzzles them.   As teachers we know that when children think about their own learning they are ordering and labeling their experiences. As they do this they are developing learning strategies – tools they can use throughout their lives.

Recently some children I visited were asking lots of questions about why languages that use the same letters as English don’t all sound the same. Great question !!

In classes with lots of different mother tongues there are instant examples of what different languages sound like and children can hear how the sounds represented by the writing vary from language to language.

In monolingual classes I’ve found the language of the month page at Newbury Park Primary School website an excellent starting point for listening to the sounds of different languages. The site is a wonderful learning resource which promotes respect and understanding of other cultures and languages with lots of activities.

And of course children love making their own collections from one language or several. In this photo you can see how this class added their  “welcome” wordle to their existing  wordle wall.

The play’s the thing

Just back from summer work and holidays and a technical break which took my website down for a few days! September is one of my favourite months in our part of the world – days are still long and the weather usually pleasant. And as children move into new classes it always seems like a new beginning!

Watching children play over the summer break reminded me forcefully of its powerful place in their learning. In many countries it is assumed that by this I mean some kind of fun and entertainment whereas recently I’ve been appreciating once more how during play children use all their experiences to construct their understanding of reality. This takes on a new dimension in mixed age groups when you see younger ones watching, interpreting and constructing meaning through this sharing with the older ones.

ready for the "play"

Not for the first time I thought of Mildren Parten’s classic study of how play develops in young children – as valid today as it was in the 1920’s. For a good résumé and so much more that is really valuable – check out PsyBlog

Of course looking at how play developed during summer days set me thinking again of ways to bring this “free” cooperative play into the language classroom.  Right now Bear’s preparing materials for younger children he’s going to meet soon … more to follow!



Back to school – what’s the best advice you’ve ever got?

Imagine the scene….

First week of school … 44 four year olds in a classroom … missing their familiar world …  most of them stunned by the presence of so many other four year olds … the teacher is new …the principal is helping out…

Having agreed to stand in for a teacher who had been taken ill I was now facing my first class. The principal was marvellous – guiding parents, children and me through the routine.

When the class seemed nearly settled I noticed her moving slowly through the groups of children – going towards the door.

She was leaving!!

Panic rose as I watched. At the door she turned and smiled don’t worry … you’ll be fine…just try not to lose any of them!

That was over forty years ago.

Since then I’ve become very aware of how wise she was and my understanding of “try not to lose any of them” has deepened considerably as you can imagine!!

Definitely the best advice I ever got and first on my list for teachers.

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