Beginning reading Arabic

Bismillah,

Alhamdulillah, by the Mercy of Allah swt, Sumayya has started reading in Arabic. She can read the surahs she has memorized very fluently. I think she does read half from the memory and half from the print. She tries to read the surahs she has not memorized and doing so well.

We have started using the book called Ahsanul Qawaid for both Sumayya and Safiyya. I loved the book and the order/presentation of each lesson. The flow of lessons is so smooth, the lessons build on each other like building blocks and child starts reading on Lesson 4.

Safiyya knows the use of “fatha”, “damma” and “kasra” and knows they make “a”, “u” and “i” sounds but like I said she finds it hard to blend sounds. She is instead memorized the written form of words. She recognizes the word “Allah” for example in Arabic and always plays word-hunting games with 2-3 words when we do Qur’an memorizing sessions. She recites all the 12 surahs off by heart, then I open the last page and ask her to find certain words namely “Allah”, “Qul”, “Nas”. Usually it has to be one of the high-frequency words (a word that is repeated many times) on that page. Alhamdulillah she is really good at word hunting.

Sumayya can read in Arabic now. Sometimes I cant believe she has started reading in Arabic, subhanAllah. I mean it is not our 1st or 2nd, or even 3rd language. We dont speak it and we dont live in Arab-speaking country. Plus the fact that she is not even 5 years of age yet makes it hard for our family and friends to believe that she can read and write in English, Uzbek and Arabic. I am not saying she is a genius of some kind. No, but it only shows that if parents put a little bit of effort and be consistent, children can read and write in 3 completely different languages before they reach 5.  Anyway, here is the book we have started using.

  

We have just finished lesson 6 and proceeded onto learning the high-frequency words of the Qur’an. Sumayya reads them easily, as you can see on the left page words like Huva, Laka, Hiya etc. Safiyya tries to identify the beginning sound or find fath, damma, kasra etc.

Sumayya has finished her Arabic Handwriting Book given by Arabic School. She now copies 4-5 words from Ahsanul Qawaid or 1-2 sentences from her Uhibbu Deeni Book. So she is doing copywork to improve her Arabic handwriting. She has a lot to improve yet as she is still not very much interested in Arabic writing

    

Safiyya has Arabic Handwriting Book that she uses at Arabic school. She is also trying to write the stand-alone forms of Arabic letters independently.

  

I have also started using the names of Allah flashcards I made long time ago. Sumayya was still a baby when I made these. My original plan was to flash these to help her to learn how to read in Arabic. (to be used as flashcards as in Doman method). But, Alhamdulillah she can now read these easily and I can use these to teach Safiyya how to read in Arabic now. So, I take 10 cards out each week for Sumayya to read/talk about meaning and I flash them to Safiyya at circle times.

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Safiyya: Reading progress

Bismillah,

Alhamdulillah our days are getting busier and busier; more and more productive. All with the Mercy of Allah swt. I am so thankful for Allah has blessed us with guidance to homeschooling. The more we do it the more we fall in love.

Sumayya is reading on average 3-4 books a day. She is so inquisitive about anything she comes across in books and finds interesting.

Safiyya recognizes all the phonics now. I am using Jolly Phonics Flashcards with her as she seems to be better at sight-reading rather than blending. Alhamdulillah the set of flashcards was passed on to us by a dear sister and came in so handy to teach Safiyya how to read. I take out 10 flashcards for a week and she is learning how to read this way.

The cards have a particular sound highlighted in the middle and a word to go with it at the bottom. And if Safiyya can’t remember the word I quickly flash the back of the card where there is a picture and it prompts her to read the word.

She has also been trying to write independently. She can easily write most letters but she does struggle with some like “Z”. So, she does lots of tracing all week long and she loves doing it. Alhamdulillah, the starfalls programme really helps her to get the hang of blending. After completing the work for each word group she prints off the tracing worksheet and does it there and then.

          

I am taking things in a much relaxed manner with Safiyya. Maybe therefore I find that she is learning much quicker than her sister. I mean she was always trying to do things on the background when I was teaching Sumayya. But we only started to give her real one-on-one time, focus and attention last September 2011. I never force her, the way I used to do with Sumayya. If she loses interest in the middle of the work I just let her go and most of the time after wandering off for a few minutes she keeps coming back and asking me to sit down with her and help her to learn.

So, in 5 months she has finished learning all the letters of both English and Arabic alphabet. All the numbers (that is 0-10) of both English and Arabic alphabet. She has memorized lots of words in Arabic and has memorized from An Nas till At-Takathur (that is 13 surahs) from Juzu Amma. SubhanAllah, though we do struggle with her discipline and “creativity mode” (the way she keeps cutting everything and anything, breaking things in order to remake etc), she seems to learn things real quick.

I bought these workbooks sometime ago on sale and she loved them. I don’t like using workbooks solely but we do a lot of hands on activities to go with these workbooks. She has The Alphabet (Phonics), The Numbers and The Writing activity books.

She does 1-2 pages as and when she wants. Samples pages starting from the left: from Writing Book, from Phonics Book and below from The Numbers Book.

    

 

What to do with 6-12 months olds

Bismillah,

I have been wanting to write more about Ibrahim. My mom-in-law always asks me to write more about Ibrahim so that we know what activities he started doing at which month etc

I cant believe he is almost 8 months. It seems like yesterday, my days of being overdue with him and impatiently waiting for his birth, subhanAllah. And here he is, wearing 12-18 months clothes at just 8 months. All my kids grow very fast, mashAllah, so I have always had chunky fat babies lol.

He started growing teeth at 6 months and now at 8 months has 4 teeth- 2 at the bottom and 2 at the top. I have been reluctant to start brushing his teeth but we should start soon inshaAllah.

We have started weaning him around 5 months- nothing official but we would let him try tiny bits of food from our plate to get him used to different texture and flavour. Alhamdulillah, he showed much interest in joining in mealtimes and started eating very well right from the start. He now sits in high chair and happily tries to feed himself. I leave a little bit of food there so that when he tries to feed himself I quickly put my spoonful of food into his mouth. Team work, alhamdulillah.

We have started weaning him on fruits, mashed banana, pear, apple. I would squeeze pear, orange, and apple for him. Then we introduced cooked vegetables like mashed potato, carrots, broccoli etc. We make lots of soups so I would just take out the vegetables from the pot and mash them alltogether for him. He loves yogurt, peach and pear. He recently started eating rice and pasta. He has not tried meat yet but that is fine. He will have plenty of chance lol, inshaAllah.

Yesterday 15th February we made him bald a second time. He has a bath every other day and we have moved him to big bath sometime ago. He loves water and playing in the water. He loves playing with foams stuck to bathroom tiles. He tries to reach them and peel them off. It is like removing a sticker from paper and good exercise for his fingers.

He can sit independently, roll over to reach things and crawls backwards.

He likes holding objects, small toys, teethers and chewing on them. He loves ripping paper. Once he ate some bits of paper, usually he grabs any chance to quickly reach for papers lying around, rip small tiny bits and put them in his mouth.

He is read aloud 1-2 times a day and he loves books, Alhamdulillah. He has started playing very early. He would have reactions to facial expressions and games like peekaboo etc when he was few weeks old.

And last but not least, it has been 2-3 weeks since grandma started potty-training him. MashAllah I cant believe how well trained he is. He does most of his toiletry needs in the potty and we are saving on nappies. Alhamdulillah, usually we put him in potty after we feed him and most of the time the result is there lol.

So, my plans for him are:

  • BATH- keep bathing him every other day. Introduce other games during bath time, counting objects, talking about colour etc.
  • SWIMMING- I am planning to start swimming sessions with him on Sundays when his sisters are at Arabic school. Alhamdulillah the university pool does ladies only sessions where I can take him.
  • READ ALOUD- at least 2 books a day with Ibrahim. Make sure it is one-on-one inshaAllah. Alhamdulillah we have plenty of board books, with interactive bits so he cant rip the pages
  • QURAN- he listens to Qur’an in the mornings with his sisters. But we should do more focused, more organized Qur’an sessions with him. I remember Sumayya would listen to the whole of juzu amma daily at his age where I would do some baby gym with her on the gym ball with Qur’an reciting at the background.
  • DO PHYSICAL ACTIVITIES- such as babygym, baby yoga etc. Try to help him crawl better. He can now stand holding on to things but trying to improve his positioning. So, will keep on working on making him more mobile inshaAllah
  • PAINTING/COLOURING- InshaAllah he is old enough to be introduced to colors.
  • WALKS/PARKS/OUTDOORS- usually I take his sisters out between 30 mins-1 hour daily. We have not been able to take Ibrahim out much due to weather and it interrupts with his nap times etc. InshaAllah trying to get him out to fresh air as much as possible.
  • PLAY TIME- keep playing lots of baby games, nursery rhymes etc.
  • TALKING- he does get plenty of talking about things that surrounds him. I try to explain things to him (saying eyes pointing to his eyes, ears pointing to his ears etc)

Alhamdulillah these are the things we have been doing with him but want to do more constructively. I am especially trying to focus on 3 out of my list: 1- aid the physical development, do lots of baby gym, start swimming. 2- lots of together listening to Qur’an time and 3- lots of reading aloud time. And these 3 I would recommend to any moms who have 6-12 months olds inshaAllah.

Multi-lingual children

Bismillah,

There are so many benefits of having a second language in your pocket; for employment, for communicating when travelling, for accessing the literature etc, the list is endless. And there are so many benefits of teaching a second language to children from young age. Their brain will become more receptive to a new information, their ears will get used to various different sounds in different languages and a child who knows 2 or more languages find it very easy to learn a new language. When we were at school we learned about the 12th century Central Asian scholars like Mahmud Qoshg’ariy who could speak, read and write in as many as 9 languages very fluently. Most scholars of the region were multi-lingual having Turkish, Farsi, Arabic as their language of communication, language of reading and writing.

As a language teacher, I was very interested in experimenting SLA theories with my kids. Their first language is Uzbek but obviously because we live in England, they speak English the minute they leave the house. Although they are bilingual, I would say at this point their way of expressing themselves is far better in Uzbek than in English. But they read more books in English due to shortage of good story books in Uzbek. So, their Uzbek is very much limited to conversational Uzbek rather than stylistic literature.

I was so inspired by sister Umm Ibrahim bint Milton over at Talibiddeen Jr being able to homeschool 9 children in English and Arabic. I used to read her posts back in 2007 where she said you don’t need to be a fluent Arabic speaker or reader in order to teach your children Arabic. Because I always had this fear that unless I am not confident in a language I can not teach it. MashAllah, time has proved that I can learn alongside with my children. I dont have vast amount of knowledge of Arabic. Although it would have definitely been of benefit if I was taught Arabic as a child, not knowing the language should not hold me back from giving the chance to kids. Especially at this day and age where you can find plenty of free resources online be it interactive websites, printables, books and games.

So, our children are bilingual- Uzbek and English. And we have started teaching them Arabic from early age, starting from Arabic alphabet then building on the vocabulary, as well as memorizing the surah from the Qur’an, which is in Arabic. Currently my daughters go to Sunday school organized for children of Arab families living in our area.  Also they watch Educational Cartoons in Arabic about 20-30 minutes daily on youtube. Alhamdulillah, they are motivated to learn Arabic because they know it is the language of the Qur’an, the language of the prophet Muhammad (saw) and the language of jannah.

Sumayya just started reading in Arabic recently. She reads from her Reading Book given by Arabic school, she reads the vocabulary worksheets from Arabic comes first, and she could read the small surahs on Qur’an centred word workbooks. She copies sentences from her Uhibby Deeni book given by school for her handwriting.

Safiyya alhamdulillah has learned all the letters of the Arabic Alphabet and currently learning new vocabulary through her reading and vocab books given by Arabic School. She does lots of Arabic Alphabet tracing worksheets to improve her handwriting too.

Recently I have been thinking of adding Russian to our list of languages to be learnt and researching where to start teaching Cyrillic alphabet. And I know inshaAllah it will not be a burden on the girls as both are very interested in Russian. We read Russian books and they get to watch educational cartoon series in Russian called Luntik. They know how to count 0-10, and names of animals etc. They dont know the Russian alphabet, but when they see something in Cyrillic they recognize it immediately being in Russian language. I always have the feeling that if I make the effort, they pick up very quick on this. We even found local Russian school that runs on Saturday mornings for children of Russian families who live in our city. But at the moment it clashes with our Saturday’s circle that we do in our house for Sumayya’s friends.

I really need some inspiration to start with Russian. I can imagine my multi-lingual children speaking in Uzbek, English, Arabic and Russian in a couple of years- it doesn’t hurt being ambitious right lol…inshaAllah perhaps they will if I make the effort. It is not the case that children get confused between several different languages, NO, it is just the case of me finding the resources needed and making the effort.

SLA theories and approaches/methods in Language Teaching

Bismillah,

I have wanted to write a short summary of theories behind Second Language Acquisition and give an introductory post on approaches and methods in Language Teaching.  InshaAllah this will help mothers to understand what goes on in child’s brain when they try to acquire a second or third/fourth language. I hope it will help parents to teach their kids Arabic or any other language more effectively .

Anyway, the first thing is, studies have proved that a child’s ability to learn a foreign language is so much higher than that of an adult. It is said that this ability will probably stop somewhere when child reaches the age of 12. That means, a child above 12 needs to make a lot more effort to learn a language.  So the earlier we start teaching a foreign language, the better results we get within shorter space of time.

The language skills are divided into 2 parts: Receptive skills- hear and speak; Productive Skills- read and write. The development of receptive skills will always overtake the latter. Therefore, we should first aid their hear/speak skills in a foreign language. Ideally, they should be exposed to an environment where that language is naturally spoken as much as possible. If teaching Arabic, let them watch Islamic Educational cartoons in Arabic, read aloud Arabic story books, mingle with Arab families where children speak in Arabic etc. Try to incorporate few Arabic phrases and word combinations into your daily life i.e say Ijlis- when asking them to sit down, Ta’li huna- come here etc.

At the same time they should be learning vocabulary. It is best to expand their vocabulary at early stage. Children have no fear of making a mistake when speaking in a foreign language. They are not interested in using the right vocab and grammar rules to construct a sentence. They see language as a whole- a holistic means of getting the message across. Very often they try to express their ideas through one or two words.

We can start teaching them how to read and write once they have developed some receptive skills. If teaching how to read Arabic, for example, child should have some exposure to and understanding of the Arabic language. Some say what is the point of teaching a child to read in Arabic if she/he can’t understand what he/she is reading? And subhanAllah it is so true. But, from an Islamic point of view, we want our children to be able to read the Qur’an. Understanding Qur’an is equally important. But, if child has memorized some surah from Qur’an, they can be taught how to read the Qur’an even if they don’t know the meanings of words used in the book of Allah and their spoken Arabic is very limited. Any other foreign language, I would say a child should have at least enough bank of vocabulary to make out what the story is saying before being taught how to read. But, because children have already memorized certain surah, teaching them how to read those memorized verses would become easy inshaAllah.

A sister asked me recently “what language shall I start with to teach my 4 year old how to read?”. Ideally, she wants to go for English because there are so many resources on the net to help parents. True. But, they don’t live in an English speaking country and they don’t speak English in the family. So the child doesn’t have enough exposure to English. Its sounds, tone and the whole system of language might be very new to her. And what is the point of teaching a child to read in a language if she doesn’t understand what she is reading? It is almost like she recognizes sounds D, O, G and she knows to blend them and pronounce dog but she doesn’t understand what the word means in a language she communicates and uses with the environment around her.

In a nutshell, she might learn how to read in English if taught but she can not relate what she is reading to her own life experience. This might be very frustrating for a child. InshaAllah I would say start teaching how to read in a language a child has most knowledge of at the time. If it is Russian and you live in Russian speaking country, then teach her how to read in Russian first. If child speaks more Uzbek and lives in non-Uzbek speaking country, I would say start with Uzbek and slowly introduce English or the language of the country you live in etc. Remember, we don’t want children merely to be able how to read. We want our children to actually enjoy reading, enjoy learning through books and enjoy what they read to their own life experiences etc. inshaAllah.

I was going to write a short passage about different methods and approaches in Language Teaching with my own preferences. But, subhanAllah this post is taking me  several days. InshaAllah I hope to continue writing on this topic in the future. For now I will have to give a short list of methods I would like to touch on in my upcoming posts. And if moms, educators, parents interested in teaching their children several other languages besides a mother tongue, it would be extremely helpful to learn about these approaches and take what suits them best from each.

Oral Approach and Situational Language Teaching

The Audio-Lingual Method

Total Physical Response

The Silent Way

The Lexical Approach

The Whole Language

The Natural Approach

Neurolinguistic Programming

Communicative Language Teaching

Content Based Instruction

InshaAllah, as and when I get time I will try to write more about each and how we can incorporate them in our daily life in order to help our children learn several other languages from young age.

Living Books: Arabic story books

Bismillah,

Have you ever come across the term Living Books? A term coined by 19th century British educator Charlotte Mason. Fore a long time I had a hard time to define what a living book might be. I have only understood it better after I read few examples of living books.

Living books present living ideas, they are emotionally engaging and morally-challenging. Living books make child use his/her imagination and pauses some problems for their thought/mind. Children need to extract a conclusion that goes along way in their life. Living books teach children how to overcome certain situations in life, good manners, behaviour and above all they help children to develop relations. Relations with God, relations with family members, relation with neighbours etc.

We have read so many books with my girls and only now I can clearly distinguish a living book from non living. A lot of books are fact/information based, dry and written down to children. The lack of stylistic features of a language, short sentences and incorrect grammar are some features of twaddle. In a nutshell “Twaddle = dumbed down literature; absence of meaning. Living Books = books that are well-written and engaging–they absorb the reader–the narrative and characters “come alive”; living books are the opposite of cold, dry textbooks” (Deborah Taylor-Hough)

I have realized how I should carefully select the literature for my children. Alhamdulillah all the Islamic story books we have would be in the category of living books. But a lot of the English books are not, subhanAllah. They lack the meaning, they don’t pause a challenge of deriving a conclusion for a child that she/he can apply in real life.
Recently I have come across a nice collection of Arabic story books through a sister’s blog. The books are written in beautifully stylistic language using the correct Arabic grammar rules in fus’ha. And when Abu Sumayya read them aloud to our daughters, even they have clearly noticed the difference between these stories and many of the English stories they have read so far. The books are indeed very engaging, puts a child in touch with ideas and excellent sequence of events that challenges their problem-solving skills.
My husband has printed all those books. Initially we have laminated each page and did manual-binding at home to make the seperate pages into a book. SubhanAllah each book contains average 16-20 pages so we gave up after making 9 books. For the remaining 12 books we bought a binding plastic cover. So, Alhamdulillah we have more than 20 children’s Arabic story books to be read aloud at home now.
I am not a fluent reader in Arabic and I should be doing more to improve my own Arabic (learning with kids, smile). But, alhamdulillah, my husband reads about an hour to them daily and yet Sumayya keeps asking for more and more. (I am not surprised, they are awesome books)
So, Abu Sumayya reads books aloud in Arabic and then translates them into Uzbek. We ask kids to narrate the stories.  Each book has a list of vocabulary to memorize and learn. Sumayya has picked up a lot of words and word combinations from being read aloud. She really loves these new books.
Here are some samples of our each-page-laminated home-bound books, on the left. On the right, books made with plastic cover bindings. (These can be bought cheaply at any store)
Here are the sample of vocab sheet to be memorized at the end of each story. Kids will learn most of these words off by heart naturally if they are read aloud often enough to reinforce the story and the morale from it.
InshaAllah I will leave you with a link to a blog where you can download the books and start having your own collection of Arabic story books to be read aloud at bed time.

Together We Read: January 2012

Bismillah,

I love the sister Um an Numan’s early literacy project over at a Muslim Child is Born. I have always tried to participate with available books on the subject. The project had a long break, but mashAllah sister had a new post this January. Alhamdulillah, it was about penguins this time. Ideal to learn in winter.

We didnt have the same book sister mentioned. But we had the following book about 3 little penguins who had to meet the consequences of being a lazy when they didnt listen to their mommy. Alhamdulillah, it is an excellent alternative so check it out in your local library.

Most activities inside were ideal for Safiyya. Sumayya read the poem about penguins and was interested in science experiment. Safiyya did the addition with penguins, tracing, puzzles, sight-words, cut and paste from the small to smallest etc kind of activities. Alhamdulillah, it was good follow up work to reinforce their knowledge of penguins and literacy. So, JazakAllah khayr to sister for putting this activity book together. May Allah reward her for all the wonderful books she writes for us, amen.