“Are you ready? It’s time to stretch your fingers.”
Teacher Zohreh, the Kindergarten 2 English Teacher says to the three children seated in front of her. Behind her, Deng Fei Lao Shi, the class Mandarin Teacher is attending to five children.
The class is abuzz with activities. The five learning stations in the classroom are occupied with four to five children. Whether they are playing alone, in pairs or in threes, one thing is clear – each child is engrossed and engaged in an activity of their choice.
The Little Skool-House (LSH) Guided Reading Programme
From Mondays to Thursdays, all children across the LSH preschools from Nursery 2 to Kindergarten 2 undergo the Guided Reading Programme, using the series of readers by Reading Bee. The Programme was recently revised to be more concept driven; for better integration into the whole LSH curriculum.
“It’s not just about how many new words they learn each day. More importantly, we want our children to be able to comprehend what they read, ask good questions, and communicate their thoughts confidently with their peers and adults.” Coreen Soh, Deputy General Manager of The Little Skool-House International adds.
Lessons are planned by the LSH curriculum department, with follow-up activities in the learning stations prepared by teachers.
Encouraging children to be independent learners and inquisitive thinkers
During the Guided Reading Programme, children will have a turn at each of the learning stations for 20 minutes. There are about three to five activities for children to choose from in each station. Of the five stations, two are Mandarin and three are English-based. The activities are changed on a monthly basis, when a new reader is introduced to the children.
“My favourite animal is the lion and my favourite fish is the swordfish.” Darus (right), creating his own picture story with his friend, Katya (left).
The corners also promote quiet time, self-regulation and independent learning. In one of the corners, Avril is flipping through deck of word cards, reading them silently on her own.
In the same area, two girls are busy building on a structure together, using blocks with words written on them. Games like that create a safe environment for children to learn new words together without the fear of making mistakes.
Micah is building a stack of Phonemes Power Tower using paper plastic cups. In this activity, he builds a tower using plastic cups and as he adds the cups to his stack, he sometimes sounds out the letters digraph on the cups.
“This makes a “oi” sound.” he says while looking at the digraph “oi”.
“我在抓鱼” (“I am trying to catch the fish”) Over at the other Mandarin corner, Stacey is trying to ‘catch’ sea creatures in this magnet fishing game. She reads the Chinese word before placing them in the basket. This activity allows Deng Fei Lao Shi to identify what are some words that Stacey already know, and what are the words that she has yet to master.
Peter Lee, Father of Brandon (Kindergarten 2 Harrison) and Ethan (Nursery 2 Fisher) believes the programme is a well-rounded and structured one, that has motivated his two boys on a path to independent reading. “Being at an age where he is naturally curious about everything, the content is very well suited to increase his vocabulary. The structure of the programme also encourages independent reading, at the same time satisfying that natural needs in a child to learn. ” Peter adds.
The bell goes off and the children automatically pack the things they were using and proceed to the next station.
Each child will have a session with the English and Mandarin Teachers. In these guided sessions, they will have a more individualized attention with the class teachers. Teachers use this time to assess each child’s progress and level of literacy.
- Finger Gymnastics
After a few warm-up tries, Teacher Zohreh begins with the main activity. Children have to match words and pictures by placing their fingers on the corresponding words on their charts.
“First, let’s stretch and put our fingers on the paper. Can you match your finger to the same word here?”
The children read the book “At The Zoo”. All the activities complement the book’s content, hence reinforcing the vocabulary and concepts in the book.
- Story/creative writing
Over at the next table, Deng Fei Lao Shi guides the children as they continue writing their own stories. There are 5 folders spread across the floor, with individual Chinese characters slotted inside. These characters include commonly used words and words featured in the Chinese storybook.
Imaishi (below) is looking for a particular word but she needs help. With Deng Fei Lao Shi’s guidance, she managed to find the word.
After identifying it, she removed the word from the folder, brought it to the table and copied it. She placed the word back on the folder and continued with her story writing.
Pamela Ng, Cluster Director of The Little Skool-House International adds that journal writing will be held on Fridays. During this time, children will pick a question from a box of questions where they will reflect, discuss and record their thoughts. “Each child also has their own word bank book, where they will write words they are unfamiliar with. We encourage them to be authors, illustrators and publishers.” Pamela adds.
Daphne Koh, mother of Avril (Kindergarten 2 Kendrick) and Arica Hia (Kindergarten 1 Coover) has seen for herself the benefits of the different stations in the Guided Reading Programme. She describes, “The different stations have invoked reading interest in both my girls. Through the different forms and methods used in the programme, my girls’ literacy & language skills have improved tremendously. They have learned to express themselves in vocabulary which amazes me. I have also witnessed how my girls look forward to the time of the day of the programme and coming back excitedly to tell us all about it.”
Literacy Rich Environment
From the classroom walls, it is also evident that the school’s rich literacy-based curriculum encourages children to ask provoking questions, share their findings, retell stories and compose their own stories.
Teachers show children newspaper clippings daily and discuss it in the classroom. Their responses are recorded and placed at various learning stations.
The bell goes off for the third time, marking the end of the Guided Reading Programme.
But for these children, we believe their literacy journey has only just begun.
Photo credit goes to the teachers and children of The Little Skool-House At Tampines Junction
With 16 branches located island-wide, The Little Skool-House International offers preschool programmes for children ages of 2 months to 6 years old. To find out more about The Little Skool-House, go to www.littleskoolhouse.com
This article was first published in The New Age Parents e-magazine
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