What better way to start blogging than at the very beginning of the alphabet.
As soon as we could talk, we learnt the alphabet song. Emma, Nenno, Pee, was an acceptable substitution for l, m, n, o, p. It was considered ‘cute’ by the adults around us. As we got older, we met new adults – teachers, who proceded to teach us the alphabet in a new and living way. A is for apple, B is for bat etc. That was my childhood.
Years later, as a teacher, I learnt all the ‘correct’ ways to teach children. “Learning the alphabet by rote means nothing to a child,” they said. “What the child needs to learn is grapheme-phoneme correspondence. Letters should be associated with sounds.” So modern-day teachers who knew all the right ways to teach, started to tell children that the sound of A is /a/. Some teachers however, made a grave mistake and told children that A makes the /a/ sound. How was it a grave mistake? Well since I am a good teacher, I’ll show you rather than tell you. Here goes….
My three-year-old niece, after learning that A makes the /a/ sound, proceded to surprise her mom one day by drawing a huge A on the floor with chalk. Mom was not angry with the chalk on the floor. Oh no! She was a proud momma, happy that her child could write and recognize the letter A. Imagine her utter delight when the said child went on to say that A says /a/. Oooh joy! My child remembered what I taught her. Then….
My brilliant niece, knelt down on the floor and put her ear to the letter A…. no sound. She waited… and waited… then, with great disapointment and even some anger, told mom that the letter A DOES NOT say /a/ – or anything else for that matter.
Real learning had taken place and this teacher learned that A does not indeed make the /a/ sound, but we make the /a/ sound when we see Aa.