We’re off to market
We’re off to market to buy some fresh food,
I love going there, I’m in a good mood.
We fill up our bilums with corn, yams and beans,
We fill up our bilums with fruit, fish and greens.
We have to get home with our heavy load,
So we catch a bus home along the main road.
The teacher read and re-read the poem, with students repeating each line. And, with an eye on the Teacher Guide, he asked questions to test comprehension:
How does the person in the poem feel?
Are they happy or sad?
What does ‘a good mood’ mean?
What words tell you they are happy?
Why did they go to the market?
What did they buy?
Did they walk home?
How do you know?
Next he turned to ‘Reading and comprehension’. The class opened their Student Activity Books, Elementary 1 Book B. He reviewed yesterday’s reading and then focussed on the next page, about plants.
Before reading, Mr Oa asked questions to prepare the students for reading:
What can you see in the first picture?
What does a plant need to help it grow?
Having discussed the pictures, the class read the sentences together. They read in small groups. They read individually. Children took turns. I stood and watched as a student slowly read the line:
“We eat the plants from our garden.”
Not the most arresting sentence in literature, but those words on that page had meaning and relevance for that child. That child in that remote village was getting meaning from print. He was learning to read using a Bilum Books Student Book, supplied by ChildFund.
His teacher conducted the lesson with confidence using the structure and sequence in the Bilum Books Teacher Guide. He followed up by teaching Phonics and Common Words, exactly as directed in the Teacher Guide, followed by some writing.
I thought ‘Wow! It’s working. The books are working. Children here in this village in Papua New Guinea are learning to read. And they’re learning to read using Bilum Books’!
Vanuamai in Central Province is a world away from the ordered streets of Kensington, Adelaide, South Australia – but there is a connection. Five years ago, Irene Sawczak, my wife Sara White and myself set up Bilum Books. Our vision was to produce resources that would enable teachers in PNG to teach their children to read and write.