No, that’s not a typo!
I have officially started working with the literacy program called Souns. Now that I’m back at site, I’ve started working with the creche children (kindergarten), doing Souns everyday. Right now I’m just working with one class (3-4 years), but I’ll be working with all 75 of our creche learners, aged 0-5 years!
So how exactly do you teach literacy to toddlers and really young kids? And in a language they don’t speak?
Souns is a really neat program because you can use any language as the medium of instruction, and you teach children letter sounds, rather than names. For example, and “m” is a “mmm” not an “em”. Why? Think about what sound the letter makes. Children (especially in a second or third language) can easily become confused when they start to read because the letter “s” is called an “es” but makes a “sss” sound. Heck, it sounds confusing when I read it.
However, if children are taught that “s” is a “sss”, they can lay out the word “stop” and think “sss-tih-ah-pih” and read “stop” easily. Later on, children can be taught the letter names and spelling, once they have figured out the sounds and start building and reading words.
If I lost you, sorry. It’s a really cool program, trust me. And hopefully a way to overcome language barriers while teaching children basic literacy. The really sweet part is that most letters sound the same in each language. For example, I know for a fact that “m” makes a “mmm” sound in English, Spanish, French, Setswana, Xitsonga, Afrikaans…etc. However, the letter name isn’t necessarily the same in each language. Less information, less confusion.
Soooo….today was my first day with Souns. I went to one of the 3-4 years class, which had 22 kids in it. Souns is designed to be used with a group of 5-8 children in an informal environment, so sitting in front of 22 children in a classroom wasn’t ideal. However, due to current staffing shortages and language barriers between the teacher and me, I decided it wouldn’t be bad to start out this way. The kids can figure out what exactly I want them to do together, and hopefully next week we can find a place to play with our Souns in small groups.
I was impressed with these kids. They know the alphabet song, but don’t know what it means, so I got to start with a pretty blank slate. I started with “o” (ah), “m” (mmm), and “s” (sss), and the kids had a blast. We spent maybe 20 minutes going over the sounds, and at the end of my session, most kids were figuring out which sound went with each letter. I’m sure most will forget by tomorrow, but that’s okay.
I’ll start adding more letters once the children start to master these three sounds. And if you were wondering, we started with those three letters because they are the most natural sounds to make. Think of the noises babies make.
Souns started training SA PCVs with my cohort, back in 2011. Due to where my site was located, I wasn’t able to be involved. So I’m really happy to finally be working with the program!
Want to learn more about Souns, or potentially donate some money so Souns sets can be distributed to more schools? Look no further than here, at their website.