How To Bring A Book Alive – Experiments And Games

El used to attend an enrichment centre, and I quite like some of the activities where the children would conduct science experiments or engage in games related to a book.

One famous book, I’m going on a bear hunt, was used by the teachers to create an exploration for the children. They made the children walk through a puddle of water (a basin of water was placed there), walk through tall grasses (streamers were used), and then wandered into a dark cave (lights were switched off). The children were led through the entire room. Experiential learning takes place, and the students had fun.

There is another story about a crow who searches for water, only to find water in a narrow beak jar. The teacher wore a mask of a crow, and then tried to drink water from a jar. True enough, she could not reach the water. Then, she guided the children to place pebbles into the jar, and true enough, the water level rose and the beak could finally reach the water.

On another occasion, there was a story about a little pig who was a postman. It delivered letters for the other animals. The teachers made a card box to resemble a mail box, and children had to deliver letters. They had to hop through a path, and climb up a few steps to deliver a letter.

One more lesson that I could remember was to teach the children about fishing and magnets. The children went around the room to attract fish with a magnetic fishing rod. There is a good example here about a simple activity of fishing with magnetsyou can do at home. They had also used little nets to catch fish toys. They also learnt the concept of density, where certain items float, while others sink.

Fishing with magnets by billaday

Fishing with magnets by billaday

I enjoyed the lessons more than my son did, as he was pretty non-responsive then, but then again, he was very young then. Perhaps if there was more room for quiet time, he might have enjoyed them more. However, the school did a good job of incorporating science and other activities into the story telling.

Unfortunately, I don’t have the time and energy to try to bring these books alive, apart from the use of my voice when reading books with El. I am not sure whether his current school teaches science.

Baby Talk

Do you go ‘goo goo ga ga’ with babies? Do you talk in proper sentences or do you baby talk?

My parents seem to love to make sounds to get Gar to respond. They told me that my grandfather loved to say ‘Ah Ging’ and the baby will follow. It’s supposed to mean ‘Ah Gong’ or grandfather. They were mildly successful with El for one time only. However, they would be met with silence most of the time. Gar simply doesn’t like baby talk.

Sing to him, speak to him about the day, about his features, or anything else, and he will respond with lots of cooing and a wide range of sounds. I would ask him questions, and he would answer in his own way, and I would pause to let him answer, and then respond accordingly, as if I had really understood his words. Just a few days ago, I thought I heard ‘mummy’ in one of his babbling sessions.

In language acquisition for babies, they need to hear adult talk. They will get used to the sounds of the language, and they will start watching your mouth as you make the sounds. Face them when you are talking.

There is a four-step process in speech production according to Levelt (1989). First, you conceptualise the thought. Second, you formulate the words into appropriate syntax. Third, you articulate the sounds, and fourth, you self-monitor your speech. I am fascinated by this and wrote about this in my Critical Inquiry paper for my MEd. The only difference is instead of articulating sounds, students type words. People are able to learn a language through typing, as there is internal dialogue when they type. It gives them time to self regulate if there is asynchronous computer-mediated communication.

El typing ABC

El typing ABC

If we do not allow the babies to hear what your language sounds like, then they will take a long time. In fact, very young children are able to reach the first two stages. Before El could talk, he was already thinking, and formulating the words. He was just unable to articulate the sounds. I know this because instead of articulating the sounds, he typed out the words he wanted to say on his netbook. He was typing out A to Z, our names, and even the lyrics of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star when he was a year old plus. He only started speaking after 2 years, and even then, he was spelling words more than saying the actual words.

In another case, an autistic child, Carly Fleischmann, did not speak a words until she was a pre teen. She was given a lap top, and she started typing. Soon, she was writing long essays to explain what was going through her mind. It was like a magic switch that had turned on for her.

Some people teach their babies sign language so that they could express themselves. I did not really do this, but I had a few sign words for carrying and eating. I do not have sufficient data that babies who have learnt sign language pick up language more easily, or it could delay their speech. I only know that technology may just be the key to unlock the vast thoughts that are going through our little children’s minds.

Mao, Meow and Cat

Despite being an English teacher, I speak Mandarin to my children. I want them to grow up in a bilingual environment, and if possible, multilingual. Even though I am clearly more at ease speaking English, I am better at Mandarin than my husband, so I am the one who speaks that to my children.

El is more fluent in English, but I still soldier on. Thank goodness my colleague who sits beside me is from China, so we speak to each other in Mandarin, and I slowly become more comfortable. Anyway, more people think I am a Chinese language teacher instead of an English teacher. Yes, and that includes my husband when he saw me for the first time.

El is quite advanced in reading English. His pediatrician said that he has asynchronous development, as he started spelling words instead of saying them. He was saying ‘b-u-s’ and ‘c-a-t’ before he could say the actual words. So I guess I can forget about spelling words to my husband if we want to speak secretly.

One day, my mother-in-law told me he was reading his Chinese notes on the rhymes for Term 3. I was very shocked as he had showed no interest in the Chinese flash cards I had shown him. How did he manage to learn the Chinese characters? Perhaps he might have memorised the poems.

However, I discovered that he was actually reading the hanyu pinyin. I was flipping through a book in Chinese language about animals. He was reading the names of these animals in Mandarin aloud. I thought he had learnt all the animals, but I finally realised that he was reading the hanyu pinyin aloud when he mispronounced ‘goose’ as ‘e’. The ‘e’ sound in Chinese was closer to ‘er’ sound.

I got him a book on hanyu pinyin, and went through bopomofo with him. It was the Chinese hanyu pinyin alphabet. One day later, he read the whole list to me with almost accurate sounds.

Just recently, he came home with an Elmo book he got in a goodie bag from one of his classmates celebrating his birthday. I saw he had written some random letters beside some animals, and asked him what he was writing. Earlier he had written the word ‘banana’ beside a drawing of a banana.

What on earth was he writing, I thought.

“‘Mao’,” he said in a matter of fact tone.

Mao for Cat in hanyu pinyin

Mao for Cat in hanyu pinyin

I suddenly realised that he had written down the hanyu pinyin of the animals. Some appeared weird because he had spelt them wrongly, such as ‘na’ instead of ‘niao’ for bird.

I corrected him and he made the changes swiftly.

I have no idea why he decided to write the hanyu pinyin. It just seemed so natural.

Once we were done with that page, he asked me to draw a bird on the corresponding page.

It was only just recently that he had been calling the cat ‘Xiao Hua Meow’ instead of ‘Mao’.

This boy never ceases to amaze me.

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