An Update on Zoo-phonics® Teacher Training in Kasese, Uganda

By Bill Carver

Watchmen International Training
Introduction to Zoo-phonics®

A team from the US just completed a two week interaction with WI nursery schools that included visits to four schools (Kenya–Anthony and William’s schools, Uganda–Rukoki and Hamakungu) and an ESL seminar teaching Zoo-phonics to representatives from eleven schools (Kenya–Pauline and Roselyne, Rwantda–Rosemary and Faith, Kilembe–Dinah, Buhuhira–Rose, Kyaka–Racheal, Hamakungu–Pearl, Rwempiche–Resta, Rukoki–Peace, Chrisco–Victoria).

The visits confirmed that last year’s seminar effectively equipped the teachers to begin introducing Zoo-phonics to their students with excellent results. The training last week introduced the ESL curriculum to four schools and brought all the attending teachers to a new proficiency level that allows instruction in the basic alphabet, blends, and word building. One more seminar would equip these eleven school teachers with the training needed to teach their students to read English. Next year we can also introduce the procedures needed to complement reading with writing skills.

Our students will leave the top nursery with true reading skills, not just sight reading. Children will be able to decode and comprehend. This ability will significantly increase their chance of success in P-1.

It will significantly increase the opportunity for graduating nursery school students if we can also train P-1 teachers in schools that offer that grade. We will consider inviting P-1 teachers from Kenya and Rwanda schools in addition to Chrisco and one school from Bavuma next year. Candidates from other schools will be considered. Obviously, as we include these teachers from P-1 in addition to training nursery teachers, we (WI, USA) will have to find the funds for curriculum and seminar expenses. I believe that the Zoo-phonics owners will continue to support the curriculum needs next year and that the US can contribute sufficient funding to pay for seminar expenses.

I believe that properly marketing this instruction to potential families and communities will significantly increase the image of WI nursery schools with the promise of gaining students and influence in the communities being served. A healthy continuation of the ESL training in P-1 will further improve the success of elementary schools by similarly attracting additional students.

Some observations follow:

  • The students truly enjoy this way of learning English.
  • The teachers are adapting quickly to instruction and are effectively teaching the program in schools.
  • The seminar instructional method is working well; teachers are attentive and diligent.
  • Curriculum is relatively inexpensive and complements typical teaching methods in African schools.
  • God is being faithful to encourage our teachers.
  • Nursery schools remain an effective way to meaningfully care for families in WI churches and communities.
  • Opportunity to evangelize students and families abound.
  • Pastors who consistently encourage and monitor progress in their schools demonstrate the best overall results.
  • Teachers with modest education background can master the skills needed to teach Zoo-phonics; attitude, drive, and calling are most important.

It almost goes without saying that the WI teams have made it possible to achieve these gains among WI nursery school teachers. The facilities and personnel in Kasese are excellent and precisely what is needed for future training. The team from the US was blessed by the can-do spirit and hospitality we enjoyed this summer. Thanks to all who contributed to the success of the training visit this year.

A report on Zoo-phonics® Teacher Training in Kasese, Uganda

By Bill Carver

Watchmen International Training

Introduction to Zoo-phonics®

In June 2012, a team from Sanford, NC traveled to Kasese, Uganda to conduct training for nine teachers associated with nursery schools sponsored by Watchmen International (WI). The team included Bill Carver, Director for Schools, Gena Carver, 1st grade teacher at Grace Christian School, Nicole Terhune, 2nd grade teacher, and Janna Ptak, a rising 12th grade student at Grace Christian School.

Attendees at the training included two teachers from Kenyan (WI) nursery schools, one teacher from Rwanda, and six teachers from Uganda. The teachers from these nursery schools had participated in training with WI in previous years. They are representative of the skill level typical of the staff found in WI schools; they were enthusiastic and positive about the new curriculum.

The goals of the training included:

  1. Basic introduction to the concept of teaching phonics using Zoo-phonics® curriculum
  2. Introduction of the animals for each letter including a mini-natural science lesson for each
  3. Introduction of the stylized form of the animals, their names, and the associated sounds
  4. The hand motions for each letter/animal
  5. Teaching the song for the whole alphabet
  6. Basic instruction on teaching children to decode using Zoo-phonics® and introduction of lists of sight words
  7. Practicing lessons for introducing each letter to the nursery and kindergarten school children (classes characterized by predominantly 5 year-olds with 3 to 6 year olds attending)
  8. Provision of laptop computers and videos to reinforce the training

The teaching included direct instruction, whole group practice, small group practice, and trial instruction in the nursery schools. The training lasted five days, Monday through Friday, and instruction included about six hours of classes per day, including visits to two schools.

Introduction of the Zoo-phonics® curriculum promises to enhance learning of English in East Africa. Progress can be made in the African classroom with modest investment in printed curriculum. The pilot program in 2012 encouraged our team to plan subsequent training and to attempt to introduce Zoo-phonics® to all eighteen schools supported by Watchmen International in East Africa.

Zoo-phonics® Makes Learning to Read Fun For Children At Donela Primary School in Uganda

By Align Ministries

We think you’ll love Donala School! See more here on this new video posted by our Donala Zoo-teachers. It is amazing! (October 2012)

“In the past, the goal of the Donela (Uganda) school curriculum was to teach only what was required in order to pass exams; but now, prayers are answered as the Lord has provided a way of introducing the children to a whole new world and experience through reading books.

Thanks to the gracious donation of Char Wrighton, President and Founder of Zoo-phonics®, the teachers at Donela are being trained in a creative teaching style and students are learning to read English in a fun and innovative way. What makes Zoo-phonics® unique is that it takes something that is very abstract (reading) and through music, stories, puppets and games, turn it into something that is concrete and understandable to young children. It simply brings joy into the classroom through the images of animals, movement, music, a game format and through the ease with which the children learn the basics of reading, spelling and writing…”

See full story

Memorable Animals, Hand Motions Help Children Connect Letters, Sounds

By Kym Reinstadler
The Grand Rapids Press

HOLLAND (MI) We have heard, “It’s All Happening at the Zoo.” But the Apple Orchard Early Childhood Center is a total “Zoo Ta-Do.”

Teachers Sandy Stielstra and Nancy Crane started using a new method of teaching pre-reading skills called “Zoo-phonics®” this semester with students in their Young Fives classes. The teachers are wild about it. The kids are, too. Students are learning to read, write and spell so briskly that “it’s actually eerie,” the teachers say.

With results that good, Principal Ellen Westveer decided to have teachers and assistants in Holland Public Schools’ 4-year-old program trained to teach Zoo-phonics®, too. Joining them Thursday for training were 30 other early childhood teachers from throughout West Michigan.

The enthusiasm of workshop participants climbed almost as high as the excitement Stielstra and Crane experienced during recent parent-teacher conferences.

“Our parents are thrilled,” Crane said. “All of a sudden, their kids are reading signs and spelling and feeling so confident in themselves. It’s amazing. And it’s more than we anticipated.”

One shy student surprised his teacher by whispering in her ear that he could now read a book. Then, with her permission, he proceeded to read a beginner’s book cover to cover to the whole class. Another mother told the teachers that, thanks to Zoo-phonics®, she and her husband can no longer spell words out loud to communicate things they did not want their 5-year-old son to know yet.

The mother said she was telling her husband that she had purchased something for the boy, and his ears perked up from the next room. It was not a T- O-Y or C-A-N-D-Y.

“Wow!” the boy exclaimed. “You got me a motorcycle!” No spelled secret is safe from a kid who can make meaning out of a 10-letter word.

Stielstra and Crane had taught the alphabet the traditional way — introducing one letter a week — for more than a decade, but they say they were never delighted with the results.

Letters are abstract symbols of sounds, and some young children don’t easily grasp how letters are grouped together to make words, and can be shuffled to make other words. Zoo-phonics® makes abstract letters concrete and interesting by giving them a personality of an animal that is kind of shaped that way. The Zoo-phonics® alphabet stars Allie Alligator, Bubba Bear, Catina Cat, Deedee Deer, Ellie Elephant, Francy Fish, Gordo Gorilla, etc. The sound of each letter comes through the initial sound of the animal name. Students learn a body signal that represents each animal, and this movement helps young children lock in the learning.

This multi-sensory approach presents the alphabet as one thing with 26 parts. Students learn to decode letters (read) and encode letters (spell and write) all at once to songs and what looks like dancing.Zoo-phonics® sucks the stress out of building phonemic awareness, which is why the 5-year-olds seem to be learning so quickly and retaining it all, teachers said.

“Three-fourths of our students in Young Fives are boys, and boys love to move,” Crane said. “Zoo- phonics is a kinetic way to learn. It’s movement, music, animals and nature, which are naturally fun.”

Many teachers using Zoo-phonics® collect a menagerie of plush animals for their classroom to represent the alphabet. Because sounds are taught before the animal merges into a letter, Westveer said the center’s English as a Second Language students are picking it up faster than other methods of teaching reading.

Zoo-phonics® was developed by Charlene Wrighton and Gigi Bradshaw, two teachers in Northern California, during the mid-1980s when whole language approaches to teaching reading lacked a strong phonics component. The program is used widely in preschool and primary grades.

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