1 What do pre-readers know?

You start by thinking about what pre-readers know about language and how it works, in an activity for you.

Activity 1: What do pre-readers know?

First read the short description of Sanjay, below. Then answer the questions that follow.

Sanjay is four years old. He loves rhyming games and rhyming jokes, even when he doesn’t completely understand the meanings. For instance, he likes to play this word game with his older brothers:

Q: What is Bruce Lee’s finger called? A: Ungli (finger)

Q: What is his sister-in-law called? A: Saali (sister-in-law/derogatory word)

Q: Who is his gardener? A: Maali (gardener)

Q: What is Bruce Lee’s favourite vegetable? A: Muulee (radish)

Q: What is Bruce Lee’s favourite breakfast? A: Idli (south Indian rice cakes)

Q: … festival? A: Diwali

Q: … music? A: Qawwali

Q: … film? A: Coolie

Q: … animal? A: Billee (cat)

Q: … brain? A: Yours! Because it is khaalii (empty)!

Now answer these questions:

  • Why do you think Sanjay and his brothers like to play this game?
  • What do they know in order to play it?
  • Can you identify the rule behind this game?
  • Do you know any other similar games? Could you create one yourself?

Sanjay’s game is imaginative and creative, and also silly and fun. The game develops vocabulary. These elements combined make language learning memorable for children. The rule behind this game is that the ending sound of each word must rhyme. Each word must also make sense and be familiar. Children who can hear and predict rhyming words are learning important pre-reading skills. They are hearing the sounds of language and will match these sounds to written words later on.

Pause for thought

Think about the students in your class. Do they know rhymes and short poems in their own language, or in English? Do they play any games with language? Can they recognise rhyming words?

What you can learn in this unit

2 Singing poetry