Sunday 15 March 2020

Teaching Arabic - the Montessori way


"Indeed we have made it an Arabic Quran that You might understand "
 .Al -Zukhruf. 43-3.

Muslim parents hold enormous responsibility in bringing up their children according to the guidelines of Quran and Sunnah.  It is very essential to impart the learning of Quran and Sunnah from young age, as this is the time that a child is the most impressionable and a child's brain functions spontaneously in acquiring everything which it is exposed to.  Learning Arabic is an integral part of gaining the knowledge of Islam, as Arabic is the language of Quran and the language of Hadith. Introducing Arabic in early childhood also helps a child develop more positive attitude towards it. 

In the Al Qamar Montessori environment, we introduce Arabic as a second language. We provide a conducive environment where the child learns the language comfortably.  The child learns Arabic through the medium of materials which makes the language more concrete,  Fun activities are aligned with the materials. Additionally many opportunities are given for listening to the language - through book reading, name lessons and group activities. It is imperative to have the language alive in the environment as constant listening to a language is simple yet powerful strategy to acquire a language. 

We begin by introducing nouns, as nouns are the base of every langauage  We use picture cards with images to help the child associate the words with objects. The teacher enriches the lesson by asking simple questions and having discussions in Arabic. Additionally, she strengthens language acquisition through conversations, stories and reading books. Gradually  the child becomes familiar with the language.  Children continue to expand their vocabulary as they are constantly hearing the language, and their sensitivity towards new words is helps them to pick up the language faster.  

Once the child gets the language exposure, we take him to phonetic awareness .  First, we help the child understand through activities that the words are made up of sounds. Word sounds are categories into levels. The first level includes those sounds which is easier for the child to utter. We draw the child's attention to the sounds in the words by having simple, fun filled activities.  When the child understands the concept of sound, we present him sand papers letters. Sand paper letters are plaques with letters made of sand paper onto them.  The plaques allow the child to physically touch and trace the shape of the letters while uttering the sound.  This activity includes muscular, visual as well as acoustic senses, which register the shape and sounds of the letter in the memory.  The child who learns from tracing will remember the symbol and sound better . We have specially created Arabic sandpaper letters for Al Qamar's Montessori environments. Simultaneously we give different activities for the child to listen to the sounds in different word in succession. 

Once the child develops the ability to recognize sounds in sequence, we present him with the Movable Alphabet Box.   The Movable Alphabet Box in a wooden box with multiple compartments, which holds several copies of single alphabets.  It is similar to the English Movable Alphabets box with few changes, as the structure of Arabic reading and writing is different from English.  The Movable Alphabets Box is a great help for the child to read and write.  The child holds and lifts the concrete symbols of corresponding sound to form words, using his ability to listen to the sounds in order.  It is an intellectual process of building words in the mind, thereby honing the ability to put letters together to create a word.  The adult's work is to aid the young child prepare the mind for the work of writing. This preparation for writing gets developed before the child 's hand can hold a pencil. It also helps the child for reading as the child' s ability to read is directly connected to his ability of writing.

Initially, the child builds the words in his mind and puts it on the mat, as the adult says the word.  Thereafter, to make the child independent we present her with the Pink Series. The Pink Series is a series of pictures of nouns, classified by levels of group of sounds.  The Arabic version of this material has been specially created at Al Qamar for teaching.The child takes a picture, and identifies it, and forms the corresponding noun word.  The Pink Series also leads for child to become an independent learner, which is the whole idea of Montessori. Help is only given when the child really needs it. The tracing complicated sounds and working with different envelopes of Pink series goes on simultaneously with enrichment of vocabulary.  We also introduce other sign of vowels and prolongables. 

To move the child further, we introduce cursive script in Arabic. This is quite complicated as Arabic has different shapes of the same letter depending on whether it is the beginning, middle or end form.  We have materials which are specially designed to help the child learn this complexity. It also helps the child to move from words to phrases and sentences. A sudden explosion in to writing occurs shortly. Often the child's first writing experience will be with the movable alphabet with what the child had made. Then a smooth transition from writing to reading take place. Step by step the child will move from concrete to abstract work - from material to paper.

The child enjoys his newly acquired language, as we provide an exemplary environment for him to consolidate his language skills. Child works on his own space and interest with different sets of materials to retain the language.  In Montessori the child's brain is not yet ready for the facts of grammar to be stored, hence we give him the live experience of the language. Once the child promoted to Elementary we start presenting the structure of the Arabic grammar. There the child gets the deeper knowledge of what he has learnt in the early years.

Early childhood is a period of rapid language development. Children  switch comfortably from one language to another language . Hence it is easy for the child to learn different languages. Learning multiple languages also challenges the brain and improves cognitive and social-emotional development. A similar method can be followed for introducing children to several languages.

By Nikhath Ara, Montessori Directress

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