Monday, May 23, 2011

Starting a phonics adventure

Yes, I am quite particular about using proper English whether it’s written or spoken. Call me anal or whatever, but I feel it’s one of the basic requirements. So at home, I’m always peeved by the usage of phrases like ‘bread where?’, ‘you want what?’, ‘daddy do what?’ and so on. You get the idea. No, I don’t think that the whole family has to speak or write proper English. Being in Singapore, where there is a harmonious blend between proper English and Singlish, it is good to expose her to both. Hey! I do get into that ‘do what’ mode myself too! My point is that there needs to be at least one person in the family who uses proper English, and inculcate a sense of pronunciation, grammar and so on in both written and spoken English in the young one from a young age. This I think will help tremendously as EV goes into pre-school and then formal education.

I remember breaking up a word into its various parts and learning the spelling. Only recently, I learnt that this has to do with something called phonics. And it seems it is making a comeback to help children read and spell. I wanted to know how it works, so I can support EV in her learning, whether it is home teaching or supplementing school teaching with home teaching in future.

There are many methods of phonics teaching, eg Zoophonics, Letterland, Fitzroy Phonics and Jolly Phonics. Many of them are used by preschools as a way to teach phonics but only Jolly Phonics and Fitzroy Phonics conduct workshops for teachers and parents. In the end, I signed up for a two-day Jolly Phonics workshop as the method emphases more on letter sounds. Plus, it is used by the British Council for its Young Learners Programme, so it should be quite an effective method, I hope. More on that in another post, when I start my very own phonics adventure in June.  

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

EV loves her enrichment classes

EV has been attending Neuro Star Academy since January, and she enjoys it tremendously! She really looked forward to class each week, and even when we are in the waiting area, she's already pointing to her class, or she would walk in herself. Guess the decision to enroll her there was a right one. But Neuro Star was moving to Toa Payoh so hubby suggested changing and enrolling in Shichida instead. Well, since EV likes the flashcard style and I had already been 'exposed' to a milder form at Neuro Star, I agreed to it. Whatever's best for EV.

At Shichida, parent involvement is emphasized more to the point where all parents have to attend an orientation seminar followed by a workshop, each lasting about three hours. A compulsory paid seminar and workshop on top of the expensive lesson fees. Yes, ouch! But the seminar fees are refundable after enrolling for a full year. While it's a small amount compared to the investment we would put over a year, well, it's still a refund.

Honestly, I think the seminar and workshop can be combined into one single session. The seminar, which was conducted by the lady who introduced the method to Singapore, was simply a session to explain the history, philosophy and concept of the Shichida method, with one to two experiments for parents to take part in, like hand reading, where you cover up two cards, and use your hand to 'read' and find a particular card. She also touched on the importance of being positive with your kid and believing in their abilities, the eight-second hug (not too long, because apparently, that would spoil the kid) and the five minute persuasion method, where you talk softly into the kid's ear when he/she has just fallen asleep and try to 'psycho' the kid towards an achievement with positive words. (We tried the last tip after the session, to try to get EV to sleep through the night. After a few nights, she seemed to do it, but we can't tell positively whether it's due to this persuasion method.)

Other than that, it was mostly the principal sharing her experiences and taking the opportunity to do marketing, and boasting about the method. Nothing wrong for her to do some 'selling', but halfway through, even though there was a break, the session became very draggy. Fine, we've heard success stories about the Shichida method, but is there a need to go on and on about it?

Similarly, the workshop was helpful to a certain extent, as they showed how flashcards can be held so they can be flashed fast. But again, it became too draggy.

When EV first attended the class, you could see a questioning look on her face, as though asking where are we? But she settled in quite quickly as she recognised the set up and lesson format. There is a progress book for teachers and parents to record the things learnt weekly, so that was helpful for reference. We also bought some flashcard materials so that we could do it with her at home. These cards were more complicated, involving concepts of visuals, puzzles, words, time and so on, and quite unlike the ones we have at home (ABC, 123, vegetables, transport etc). While good supplementary materials, the cast was not cheap. Ouch! We will have to source for other alternatives, or make our own.

We also signed EV up for music enrichment sessions at Kindermusik (Tanglin Mall). Our main aim was to balance the more 'serious' learning at Shichida, with something in the area of the arts. Music was a natural choice as she is beginning to show interest in music, which may or may not be due to my daily piano practise. It was obvious she enjoyed Kindermusik from the first session. And we were able to witness her sense of curiosity again, when she went straight to the source of the music (CD player). Plus, she really like the teacher Yim Ching, who was extremely patient and can sing. She's still getting used to the activities and what she needs to do, but I'm sure she'll get it in no time at all.