Developing your child's English language skills
How do I choose suitable books for my child? How do I cultivate a love for language learning in my child? How do I help my child succeed in English language learning, if English is not my strongest language? All these questions will be answered below...
If you’re a parent who’s trying to find ways to nurture your child’s English language development, some of the questions on your mind probably include:
- How do I choose suitable books for my child?
- How do I cultivate a love for language learning in my child?
- How do I help my child succeed in English language learning, if English is not my strongest language?
If you ask Dr Elizabeth Pang – who oversees the Strategies for English Language Learning And Reading (STELLAR) programme that has been implemented in all primary schools – she’ll suggest that parents simply make a small change in some of the things they do everyday with their children. A firm believer that parental support at home is essential for the child, Dr Pang has 3 tips to share on how parents can make a difference in their children’s English language learning:Parents can introduce their children to books early, before they enter primary school.
Tip #1: Engage your child in “rich talk”
Parents already chat daily with their children, but how can this be improved to speed up their language acquisition? Engage your child in “rich talk” – ask questions about the things around them, so that the child gains confidence in speaking. “That’s a good start, because it’s only when your child has the oral vocabulary, that it will make sense when he or she encounters the words in print later,” explains Dr Pang.
Parents who are more conversant in mother tongue can also complement the STELLAR programme at home. “The important thing is to build essential skills for language acquisition, whatever the primary language of the home, since many of the skills transfer across languages,” Dr Pang points out. The more you communicate with your child at home in your primary language, the greater the opportunities you have to demonstrate communication skills and how language is used.
Tip #2: Introduce your child to suitable books from an early age
What are “good” books? A good rule of thumb for books popular with children in the lower primary levels is that they tend to be repetitive and funny. For some suggestions, pick up the booklet The Joy of Reading, released by MOE and the National Library Board, and available at public libraries. It compiles a list of recommended books in English. You can borrow these books and model reading with your children at home. Encourage your children to read the books aloud to you, advises Dr Pang.
Parents can pick up The Joy of Reading booklet at public libraries, which contains suggested books and activities for helping children to love reading.
Even if English is not the strongest language in the home, reading books in other languages gives your child a good foundation in reading and writing in English later. “Knowing how a book is read – such as reading from left to right and becoming familiar with printing conventions – transfer across languages and increase literacy,” explains Dr Pang.
In the spirit of STELLAR, where enjoyment is the key to igniting your child’s motivation to read, The Joy of Reading booklet also contains songs, rhymes, and activities that you can carry out at home. Currently available in English, the booklet will also be available in the other three official languages later this year.
Tip #3: Promote the joy of learning
When your child brings home his or her learning sheets or tests, it is tempting to ask what marks were received. However, Dr Pang recommends, “Ask instead what the learning sheet or test is about and listen to your child talk about it. Avoid using homework as punishment.”
Different stimuli can help children to appreciate books, stories and reading.
The STELLAR programme focuses on holistic learning beyond testing, with assessments being introduced at a later stage, in a developmental way appropriate to the strategies used. “We don’t expect Pri 1 children sitting for examinations to take a 1½-hour language paper,” insists Dr Pang. “Research has shown that an overemphasis on test scores does not help learning. If we focus on effective learning, the test results will follow.”
Instead, you can engage your children by creating together the rockets they see illustrated in a story book, help them make masks to use in a skit or encourage them to make up songs from the words in a book they have just read. “Instil the joy of learning as it leads to motivation,” adds Dr Pang. “The teacher can only teach so many hours in a day, but a motivated child will continue to seek knowledge on his or her own.”
Click here for more tips, resources for parents and information about the STELLAR programme.
Article from www.schoolbag.sg and Singapore MOE