Vocal play was the “call” of most of this term’s Kindermusik lessons. Nice timing as B is also acquiring language – a gradual development process that includes listening, facial interaction, symbolic play, means-to-an-end behaviour, object permanence, imitation and vocal chord development. Vocal play engages the vocal muscles intensely and is great preparation for expressive speech. Exploration with sound also increases spatial reasoning, which is the ability to understand how things relate in space and time, to visualise the world accurately, to form mental images of physical objects, and to recognise variations of objects.
We were encouraged to keep up vocal play by exaggerating the shape of the mouth, using animated facial expressions and eye contact via mirrors and/or positioning yourself within his view. In addition, we should sing often and invite him to accompany on instruments. Kids actually start singing early by babbling, repeated words and fragments, and finally adding rhythmic features and pitch components. Singing is enjoyable AND beneficial in both cognitive development (abstract conceptual thinking, verbal abilities, originality) and motor development, esp. coordination. Besides sounds, we did some symbolic play too with feathers, toy birds and paper “leaves” to teach that one thing can represent another, starting with familiar items. This correlates to language acquisition in that a word represents an object. The first stage of symbolic play usually manifests from 6-8 months and becomes more sophisticated as they grow with imaginary and role play. This time there were new syncopated swing and jazz song-and-dances! “Sing a Song of Sixpence” (dig that groovy intermission!), “Gee, But It’s Great to Meet a Friend” and “Once I Saw a Little Bird”, “Hop To It” and “Duck Dance” which explored the tribal calls of the muskogean people and combines vocal play with singing in a fun way. 😀
Feathers for lunch. Lois Ehlert, Harcourt Brace and Jovanovich Co.
Baby Steps. Claire Kopp, WH Freeman and CO.
Singing Bee! A Collection of Favourite Children’s Songs. Compiled by Jane Hart with pictures by Anita Lobel, Lothrop, Lee & Shepard Books.
Trees, a poem. Harry Behn, illustrated by James Endicott, Henry Holt & Co.
CD. Brahms at Bedtime: A Sleepy Serenade.
On a side note, I renewed B for one last term at Chengzhu Playnest and Kindermusik Village to supplement mama’s morning “right brain class” (plus books, numbers, phonics, music and outdoor activities where possible). He also had his MMRV booster shot yesterday. Thankfully there’s only 2 more jabs till the next series at 10 years old. Pheew! He’s now 11.3 kg, 81 cm at 15.5 months, understands lots of words, vocalises some, learning to self feed (patience and mess are a challenge for me!), naps ~2 hours once a day, sleeps from 830p to 730a with occasional waking (argh), and works on his gross and fine motor skills every chance he gets. What a busy boy!
I’d been meaning to try both phonics as well as whole words with B, regardless of the ongoing debate. Besides daily reading, we started regular flash cards (real images, Doman style) with words spoken in English and Chinese after he turned one. This has improved B’s focus and vocabulary – or at least his comprehension since he’s no talking encyclopedia. Yet, at 15 months. However after initial alphabet attempts, the latest being Dr Seuss’s ABC: An Amazing Alphabet Book, I realised B needed something more “whole brain” to connect the abstract letters with concrete words. By chance, we stumbled upon Zoophonics when a friend passed us her son’s used cards. I decided to give it a try after researching online and seeing this method adopted in Singapore (e.g. Growing Up Gifted, Zoo-phonics and Safari Preschools). If B remains interested after we run through all 26 lower case merged animal letters (what a mouthful!), I might get the full essential pack.
For now, here’s what we’re doing and why:
Zoo-phonics was developed in the mid 1980s by Charlene Wrighton and Gigi Bradshaw, two teachers in Northern California, who developed a strong phonics and physical component to enhance the existing whole language methods. Zoo-phonics introduces alphabet as one thing with 26 parts via a multi-sensory approach involving the whole child, eyes, ears, mouth, mind and body.
Endearing animals as letter shapes (visual learning) – Shows animals in the shapes of lowercase letters before teaching the actual letters for easy remembering. Lowercase letters are taught before capital/upper letters as it’s easier for a young child to form a lowercase letter and 95% of reading materials are in lowercase anyways. In addition, when you flip the Animal Letter Cards around, a “bear” is always a bear but a “b” can easily be a “d” “p” or “q.”
Sounds and songs (auditory learning) – Teaches sounds of the letters through the animal names (“a” as in Allie Alligator, etc.), and letter sounds are taught before letter names. The sound of each letter comes through the initial sound of the animal name.
Hand and body motions, games and activities (kinesthetic learning) – Introduces a body signal to represents each animal letter, which in turn helps them lock in the learning. Children decode letters (read) and encode letters (spell and write) all at once to songs and what looks like dancing, sucking the stress out of building phonemic awareness.
For 1-2 year olds like B, Zoo-phonics is taught via music and movement, animals and nature, all which he enjoys. According to them, parents can start as soon as your child is ready to sit for a few minutes and listen to a story. Teach the individual letter shapes and sounds of the lowercase alphabet with the Animal Letter Cards and Body Movements, which will lay the foundation for all future reading, spelling and writing. Show one Animal Letter Card at a time then reinforce all the letters you have taught previously with the fun games and activities. Leave the Animal Cards where your child can find them easily and play with them daily!