As Ms. Sharon Chanda sings instructions to her class, her first grade students run to the mat at the front of the room to join her, one by one.
It starts as a few students from the table underneath the mtondo (mango) sign scramble to the front of the room. They are soon joined by their classmates who sit below the dangling nanazi (pineapple). As they settle, they don’t miss a beat in the call and response routine.
As Ms. Chanda calls out in Chinyanja, the language of instruction for these first graders in Zambia, the students sing back a melodic reply. The exercise is one of many teaching methods Ms. Chanda learned through the in-service training she received as part of Room to Read's Literacy Instruction program. “The students have always been eager to learn,” she shares, “but the Literacy Instruction program has inspired them to be more curious in their studies.”
While the first graders wait patiently on the mat, their fingers dance in anticipation of the phonics game they’ve gathered to play. She hands out letter cards and has students match the letters to the sounds on the wall. Ms. Chanda believes this interactive approach is working. “I have never seen my students have so much fun while in class", she shares. "Reading and learning are no longer droning activity for them—it’s fun.”
What could result in chaos is pure energetic order, as the students dutifully file back to their assigned tables, all led by Ms. Chanda’s signing.
Once reunitied, the teams work together to match the phonics in pairs with their corresponding vowel sounds—speaking each pair aloud to check their answers. “Ba, be, bi, bo, bu,” they chant together, grinning from ear-to-ear.
“The crux of teaching with the new methods is that we ensure that the students are having fun while learning," says Ms. Chanda. "It emphasizes creativity and encourages both the teachers and the students to learn in a different, yet fun-filled, way.” Maureen Simunchembu—Room to Read’s Literacy expert in Zambia—agrees, adding that the program, “offers a great opportunity for children to learn to read and write, and inspires them to strive for more.”
At Nakatete Basic School, the Literacy Instruction program “has definitely inspired the students, since it complements the prescribed course content perfectly," says Ms. Chanda. A quick observation of her classroom shows that this is clearly the case.
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