There was much clapping, stamping of feet, swaying of hips, waving of arms, chanting, holding hands while dancing in a circle, as well as fun and games at the fifth early childhood development workshop offered by Rays of Hope at Ikhaya Lomusa on 11 March. In attendance were 17 caregivers and crèche owners representing 13 of the 15 crèches in Alexandra township where Rays of Hope maintains an outreach programme.
The Saturday morning workshop, which comprised separate slots relating to the correct teaching of numeracy, literacy and dexterity for preschool children, was held by Gillian Leathers, a remedial and maths teacher, and by Christy Bennett, Rays of Hope Early Childhood Development project leader.
The eager-beaver participants didn’t just sit there passively while being lectured to. Instead, they themselves became the children they teach during the week by acting out a series of physical and especially dexterity activities and movements as taught and demonstrated by the two presenters. Hence the happy-clappy African-style commotion that was such a strong feature of the day’s teaching programme. “I do, I teach” was undoubtedly the underlying pedagogic leitmotif.
In the numeracy slot, rhyming mnemonics were taught, chanted and reinforced by physical jerks employing arms, hands, feet and hips. This was to help remember the names of numbers from 0 to 10, their correct sequence and the values they represent. Coloured plastic bottle tops were poured onto the tables and the women did what their charges would be required to do: they sorted them and counted them out aloud. In another exercise, 11 volunteers came forward and held up cards showing the numbers, where each number had an easy-to-remember “story” attached to it. Gillian emphasised the need to incorporate some counting activity in the crèches every day.
A DVD was screened showing an actual teaching session during which the very young made friends with the numbers and how they could be used.
In the literacy slot, the emphasis was on effective ways of reading out aloud to children, together with any objects to help support the story, for example, four bottle tops could represent four monkeys. Gillian’s tip to story-tellers: practice by standing in front of a mirror to see how you would come across to an audience. Readers and story-tellers were urged to put in plenty of practice at home before going “live.”
In the dexterity department, fine motor skills (i.e., using the small muscles of the hands and fingers) were explained. The three-phase motion of how a young child should hold a pencil was shown. Other fine motor skills consisted of threading coloured shoelaces in and out of holes in pieces of coloured plastic.
All participants were given ample supplies of all materials they had handled during the morning, plus a comprehensive curriculum folder, as well as colourful certificates of participation. The adult “class” then adjourned for lunch.
Trish Lockwood, Operations Manager of Rays of Hope, commented that it was most encouraging that 13 of the 15 Alex crèches where RoH has an involvement, were represented at the workshop. It was evident that participants were keen and eager to transfer the knowledge and the know-how they had picked up during the presentation, to their preschool charges during the week.