Joyce Boykin, the Director, investigated how children learn best to read and write.
What she found was that children need to learn to read in the language they speak. Yet, the academic language of the Solomon Islands is English, a second or third language for most people.
In 2019 – 2020, READ SI had a pilot in eight Honiara primary schools helping teachers present oral lessons in English daily.
The challenge was that some teachers had a difficult time pronouncing English and they did not feel confident teaching children how to speak English.
SEME - Speaking English Made Easy which is the new program, addresses that challenge.
An MP3 player with recorded lessons, songs, and poems will be given to every 35 ECCEs in Honiara this year.
Each Centre will also receive a handbook with pictures that accompany each lesson.
READ SI worked with teachers and parents over the past three months to create daily lessons based on topics for each week of each term.
The pilot in 35 Centres will only be for one term and then teachers and parents will be invited to come together to reflect on the effectiveness of children learning to speak beginning English by using the material.
Research demonstrates that once children learn to speak a new language, they are ready to learn to read and write it easily.
What we do in the majority of our schools right now is to start teaching phonics and reading in English without teaching children to speak that language first. Later, many students have difficulty writing in English because they don’t really speak it very well.
Four actors from Dreamcast recorded the script, songs, and poems at SITAG (Solomon Islands Translation Advisory Group) studios.
They were accompanied by a guitarist who was a student who recently returned from the Philippines.
These people blended together as a creative team and with the assistance of the SITAG studio engineers, the audio files were made for the MP3 players. These players, 400 in total, were funded by Solomon Forest Association and were specifically made for the Solomon Islands.
They are solar powered with 400 hours of recorded time, but SEME will use only about 80 hours.
Putting the SEME material in PPY (Pre-primary Years) and first grade is a possibility as a way to continue the lessons for speaking English while children are learning to read and write in English.
“We are all trying innovative ways to improve education for our children”, stated Mrs. Boykin.
“Even if something is good, it can always be improved upon until it becomes excellent.”