“Souns like…..” A Peace Corps Reflection

SOUNS Like… “Sesi Nyeleti! Sesi Nyeleti!” All of the Grade R learners shout my name, and jump up and down in unison as I walk from the staff room across the school yard to the Grade R classroom. They are all very excited, because they know that when I come to Grade R it is time for SOUNS. As we walk (or they sprint) over to the spot where we practice our SOUNS, they animatedly yell the most recent sound we have mastered. SOUNS, a literacy program that was introduced during my PST, has become a major part of my day at both primary schools where I teach. On my days at both primary schools, in between my other classes and helping the teachers at the school, I wedge in time to take three groups of about eight Grade R learners per group to work with them on SOUNS.

I had trouble implementing the program. I wanted to make it fun for the kids I was working with, but at the same time effective and educational. After all, learning is the major goal. Literacy is what this program is after. I found myself a tad frustrated, using the same activities day after day and making it far too tedious for the learners. Luckily, at a meeting with my fellow PCVs we had the chance to swap stories and ideas on how to better implement the program. Since returning to site after the meeting, SOUNS has been going wonderfully. Activities like drawing the letter (woops, sound!) on the learners’ hands, having the learners run to the sound, and having the learners sing in unison what sound you have just pulled out of the blue SOUNS bag all make this program very enjoyable for the kids.

What’s more is that they are actually learning. They are connecting the shape/visual of the letter to its sound. A few weeks back, as I was walking with one of the women I am friends with in my village and her son (Grade R), my friend asked her son what he was learning in school. Her son stopped right there, leaned down, and drew the shape of the sound “t” in the ground, voicing the “t” sound. I felt successful, even if it meant I had only reached one learner.

Since starting SOUNS, more PCVs have jumped on the SOUNS bandwagon. From hearing the positive effects it has had on the learners we work with, other PCVs hope to obtain a SOUNS set for their school. In the future and in an effort to make this a sustainable resource, I plan to work with the Foundation Phase Educators on how to implement this program into everyday teaching or as a remediation tool. For now, however, I am quite content as the learners skip back to class after our SOUNS session, happily chanting “mmmmm” and “ssssss.”

17 thoughts on ““Souns like…..” A Peace Corps Reflection

  1. Wonderful! I’m volunteering in a English medium Grade 1 class in Pretoria and SOUNS would be a fabulous remedial system for ESL learners. Is there a training module for using SOUNS for remedial instruction?

    • Question…why are they remedial? Is it because they are English language learners? or because they are demonstrating difficulty learning English to this point? My response to your initial question will have a great deal to do with your answer. Looking forward to hearing from you.

      • Hello and thanks! The school is in a transitional, urban, poor neighorhood with the same issues (compounded by the devastating effects of HIV/AIDS on families) affecting kids you find anywhere. Some enter first grade having been to pre-school (creche) and kindergarten. Others with little or no prior exposure to literacy or numeracy or oral English. One little boy I’m working with doesn’t know all the English names for colors, shapes, body parts, spacial concepts, etc. but knows numbers. I don’t know if he has these concepts in his first language or just hasn’t been exposed to much. The children that are not spoken to in English at home have, clearly, more limited vocabulary but everyone’s English appears to be improving as the school year progresses. Appreciate any/all suggestions.

      • Another question to best build an answer that actually helps: are you teaching English because it is required at the school or because you have chosen to enhance their curriculum by teaching English?

      • It’s an English medium school and all instruction is in English but most of the kids’ first language is one of many languages spoken here in SA or from other sub-Saharan countries.

    • Carolyn, I know much about SAhave been training for Souns for five years there. I am asking specifics because it helps me seek a few simple words that I will need to paint a teaching picture for you. I am not PC. I am a Rotarian working on this literacy project in SA with the PC as well as the developer of the program. I can help you and will gladly do so.

    • I have met John and he has shared your work. So, if I can have the home language of the children, I can then give the picture I have to share for helping. Sorry, my name is Brenda.

      • Great, Brenda, thanks! The kids speak Tswane, Sesotho, Zulu, Xhosa. Some are also from Zimbawe, Nigeria and the DRC.

        I think SOUNS is a brilliantly conceived program, congratulations.

    • Carolyn, Did you get the piece I sent yesterday? I can’t go further without the questions answered. Also, want to know if it is understandable. I have a work in progress that will address your situation. I will send it to you at the end of the week and will need a review of it for making corrections, building clarity, etc.

      Thank you!

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