Have you ever read a word and assumed it was pronounced one way, and then you finally heard someone say the word and pronounce it differently? Then you realize you’ve been hearing it incorrectly in your head? When you read, it would be easy to think that though and through rhyme, but if that’s what you thought, then when your teacher asks you to write down another word for ‘toss’, you might write “through” instead of “throw”. Oral language is a very important component of early literacy. Young children need to say words and hear word sounds to build their vocabulary and to create a foundation for reading and writing. Technology can play a key role in supporting the connection between oral language and written language. That’s why voice recording and digital story-telling programs can be valuable tools for early literacy education. With fun and engaging activities, some serious learning can actually be taking place.
With digital storytelling, children can create their own stories and images and they can record their own voice saying the words. Think of this as an enhancement of the traditional preschool or kindergarten learning activity when a teacher reads a story to the children then asks them to retell the story in their own words. With a program such as Voki, children have to think ahead about what they will say and how they want to illustrate it. They have to practice pronouncing the words and then hearing them back as they play their recorded messages. That’s great oral language practice!.
Now consider how this activity could be a great support for young children who are just beginning to learn English as a new language. Children who are learning a second language can often be shy or embarrassed about pronouncing the new words. Rather than asking them to speak aloud in front of the whole class, it’s a good idea to use an app or website that allows them to record their own voice and listen back to the recording to hear how they sound to others. The teacher can even save the child’s recordings to document their progress. Another great use of Voki would be to have a parent, volunteer or other staff member record or trade messages with the new dual language learner (DLL) in their home language. What a welcoming and comforting experience that can be for a new DLL.
Language in the context of brief stories or meaningful interactions makes the strongest connections in a child’s brain. Rather than have the child practice with random vocabulary words, consider having them record Voki messages that will serve a purpose. Can they record a message to be shared with their parents? Can they record a message describing a pattern of beads for stringing and then share with a friend to see if they can duplicate the pattern? Can they record clues for a treasure hunt? Or can they let the pre- recorded message on Voki become part of a pretend play scheme? The possibilities are endless and the value of supporting oral language practices to support literacy and reading success is limitless!
These ideas and more can be found in my book, Digital Decisions: Choosing the Right Technology Tools for Early Childhood Education. You can share your teaching ideas on the Voki.com website.
Karen Nemeth is the author, with Fran Simon, of Digital Decisions: Choosing the Right Technology Tools for Early Childhood Education. Karen and Fran share lots of related resources on their website www.ecetech.net. Karen is also a nationally known speaker and author on teaching young children who are dual language learners.