21 Feb 2018
(Please scroll towards the end of this Chinese article for its English version)
Many parents wish to help their children to learn and use the Mother Tongue Language at home, but are often at their wits end on how they could go about doing so. Let us offer a simple way to enhance the learning of Mother Tongue at the convenience of your home environment – Reading aloud.
You may wonder, “Reading aloud seems easy enough, but how does it help?”
Indeed, reading aloud a given passage is part of the Oral Examination for both English and Mother Tongue Languages in school, and is probably the easiest component to score good marks in. However, more often than not, students do not score high marks (let alone full marks) for this seemingly easy component. Why is practising reading aloud important? Just as it is important for us to work the muscles of our body often to maintain agility and flexibility, research has shown that working out the muscles of our mouth and tongue helps us get used to the spoken language structure and be able to speak the language more fluently. Once the “work out” is more regular and frequent, the muscles are less strained and more agile under stressful examination conditions.
Another advantage of practising reading aloud is the link it has with formal spoken language structure for the other components of the Oral Examination, such as the Picture Discussion & Conversation (for English Language) and Stimulus-based Conversation (for Mother Tongue Languages), which require students to think on their feet and express their thoughts and views clearly and fluently. Although the topics of these other components are usually related to the Reading Aloud passage, many students lack the vocabulary, sentence structure and confidence to score well. Reading aloud content-rich passages frequently will help our brain and mouth muscles to be familiarised with words, phrases and structures to better cope with on-the-spot expressions of ideas and tackle oral examination questions with ease.
What are some of the important things to note while practising reading aloud at home? Firstly, each read-aloud session should take about 5 to 10 minutes to avoid fatigue and loss of focus on fluency, expression and tone. Secondly, the passage should be pitched at the child’s reading level; if there are too many unfamiliar words, consider using an easier passage. Thirdly, unfamiliar words can be highlighted for further vocabulary and pronunciation exercises aside from the reading aloud practice. Lastly, use the same passage for repeated practices to chart progress in pronunciation, fluency, tone, expression and appropriate pauses.
An excellent way of ensuring children learn through repeated practice is to record them with a mobile phone, and then playing it back to review how he/she has done compared to the previous recordings. This also allows the children to take ownership of their mistakes and put in effort to record a better version thereafter. With each recording, they should be able to hear the improvements and build confidence from there.
Reading aloud sessions at home are relatively easy for parents to conduct with their children; it does not take up too much time nor require expensive resources. More importantly, these simple practices will go a long way to improve your children’s ability to read and converse in the Mother Tongue language more confidently and skilfully for the oral examinations.
Give it a go and try the “work out” with your child!