I’m 29 years old and I’m learning to read…………………………………… in Arabic. I know how to read in English (of course) and French & Spanish (kind of), but learning how to read in Arabic means learning a whole new alphabet and learning to read in a whole new direction. I truly feel like I’m learning to read all over again, and it’s really helping me understand how my students feel when they are learning how to read. Since most people don’t remember the cognitive processes they used when they were learning to read, I thought I would share some of my experiences and insights.
I am only beginning to learn (I’ve been at it about a month.), so I have a long ways to go – but here’s what I’ve already learned about reading by learning how to read all over again.
1. Different variations of a letter don’t look the same until you train your brain to see them that way. When I began working on the alphabet, my husband pointed at two letters and called them both the same letter – Ghayn – he couldn’t figure out why they didn’t look like the same letter to me. I couldn’t figure out how they looked the same to him. (In Arabic, there are no Capitols and Lowercase, rather the letters look different depending on where they are in a word.) Then, it occurred to me that a capitol A and a lowercase a really don’t look like they belong together at all. The only reason we know that these letters are the same is that we have train our brains to see them both as the same thing.
2. I can sound out words very well, but have no idea what that word means. I know we have all had word callers in our class, and know that this phenomena is common, but I never understood it in the same way as when I sounded out this great, long word in Arabic and realized that it head no meaning to me whatsoever. Now, when that word is next to a picture, or written in a place in my notebook that helps me remember what it means, I’m good, but written in a random place in a book, and I’m lost!
3. Handwriting is important. In English, my handwriting stinks, and I’ve never really thought it was all that important, as long as it was legible. However, I have realized that different handwritings can be like different fonts. Just like the capitol A and the lowercase a don’t look like each other – different people’s a’s might also look different. I know that the pretty, neat writing that my teacher uses doesn’t always reflect my husband’s quickly written Arabic, or the fancy Arabic fonts that can be found on cereal boxes and billboard signs.
4. Environmental print encourages reading. Now that I can sound out words, I am starting to make more sense of all these Arabic words that have been surrounding me for the past 9 months. I see Arabic everywhere here in Morocco – street signs, billboards, packaging, books, etc. However, much of the time, the Arabic words have corresponding French words, which are MUCH easier for me to figure out, so my eyes have pretty much skipped over the Arabic writing as a whole. Now that I know what the letters are, my eyes are beginning to search for the Arabic and trying to sound out words everywhere. (It’s actually driving my husband a little crazy – lol!)
Here’s a challenge for you – write a comment telling us what one thing has made you a better teacher. It’s easier said than done. One thing that has made me a better teacher is my move to Morocco. Teaching here has had it’s own special set of challenges – like the fact that my kids only speak English when they are in my class (and sometimes not even then!), but teaching here has also brought it’s own special set of rewards. I love being able to connect with the background knowledge my students have, and being able to utilize their other languages. I love that when we look at the globe, they can all point to at least one other country they’ve been to. I love re-looking at my own language through their eyes.
In addition to being a teacher in Morocco, I am a parent here. My children don’t go to my school, but to a Moroccan school where they spend half of their day in French and half of their day in Arabic. They come home for lunch every day. They have chalkboards, not whiteboards (and definitely not interactive whiteboards) in their classrooms, and almost no books. The teaching methods are “traditional” to say the least. But, the teachers are caring and experienced and my children are learning so much! As a “non-traditional” teacher, it has made me take a step back and remember that schools can look many different ways and have many different programs, but still focus on education children.
Being a “global” teacher has inspired me. So much so, that I have a new project in the works. I won’t tell you all the details right now, but be on the look out for something big in the coming weeks.
In the meantime, please take the time to tell me what has changed you as a teacher.
Holy cow, I knew I was behind on blogging, but I didn’t realize I had left you guys hanging for a week! My students and I were super busy during the past week, so I have a bunch to blog about, but I just haven’t had the time to sit and type. I guess I thought that perhaps celebrating Christmas in a country where there is effectively no Christmas would be slightly easier (you know, no sales to rush out to, no huge parties to attend), but I’ve found out it actually takes more time! One of the reasons it takes more time is that I have 3 small boys who still need Christmas, and I’ve been going out of my way to make sure that they still feel the “Christmas Spirit”. Anyways, I am about to go and frost Christmas Cookies with my children, but I thought I needed to get at least a short blog post out there to those of you who have been so kind as to follow this humble blog. I promise to get some good tips and a great “out of the mouths of babes” funny later this week. But, I leave you now with 10 quick facts about Christmas in Morocco and a link to my newly improved Christmas Centers packet, which is still FREE on TeachersPayTeachers. (FYI – if you already downloaded it, jump over to do a quick re-download as I have had a super fan find some small typos.)
10 Facts about Christmas in Morocco
1. Morocco is a Muslim country, so Christmas is not an official (banks, stores closed) holiday in Morocco.
2. Morocco used to be a protectorate of France, so there are many people living in Morocco with French citizenship or French ancestry, including many (but not all) are French Catholics, who do celebrate Christmas.
3. Morocco is on the continent of Africa, and there are many people living in Morocco from “Sub-Saharan” African countries like Senegal, Congo and South Africa. Many (but not all) of these people are Christians and/or Catholics, who do celebrate Christmas.
4. Morocco also has a significant “expat” community from Europe and the United States, as well as the Phillipines. Many (but not all) of these expats celebrate Christmas.
5. Most Moroccans know Santa Clause by his French name – Pere Noel (literally – Father Christmas).
6. Even though the majority of Moroccans do not celebrate Christmas, you can find Christmas trees, lights, decorations and plenty of toys on sale at the big stores (Marjane, Alpha 55 and the Morocco Mall).
7. All of the American Schools, and many French Schools held Christmas Shows, Christmas Fairs etc. to celebrate the Christmas Holiday.
8. Many individuals held individual holiday dinners and holiday parties to celebrate the Christmas holiday.
9. The French and American schools are on break during the Christmas holiday (which means I’m out for 2 weeks!), but most of the Moroccan public and private schools are not (Which means my kids could’ve gone to school on Christmas – although thankfully Christmas falls on a Sunday.)
10. My family has been able to turn this holiday season into a great one, but choosing the holiday traditions we like best (making cookies, decorating the tree) and feel slightly separated from some of the commercialism we sometimes felt in the states.
For more information on my experiences in Morocco, check out my personal blog Journey to Morocco.