Finally, it is time for me to leave the wonderful world of teaching in the classroom to blogging about it. What better way to start of than by talking about something so simple and yet can be so impossible to teach than the infamous 7 words sentence kindergarten kids just have to ask, permission to go to the washroom or toilet.
“Cher (short for teacher), may I go toilet pwease?”
(Teacher, may I go to the toilet please?)
In a short 7 word sentence, there are already 3 errors to be corrected. They are teacher, please and ‘go to the’. Although it takes only less than a minute for us to correct the child, it does take a child more than a day to get it right. The teacher shall repeat the sentence correctly for the child to follow. I find myself repeating the same sentence like a tape recorder everyday. Teaching the child to ask me “Teacher, may I go to the toilet please?” correctly becomes my mantra. Let me share some of the versions I have heard.
“Cher, I go toilet please?”
“Cher, I want to toilet pwease?”
“Teacher, I want toilet please?”
“Teacher, may you toilet I please?”
“Cher, may I want to go to the toilet please?”
I kid you not. Children get it wrong everyday. It soon occurs to me that the problem is not with any of the children. It is in the way the skill is being taught. I have to make a change. Unlike in primary schools where students read textbooks, the children in kindergarten can only rely on their listening and observation skills to register every bit of knowledge presented to him. They are there to learn the letters of the alphabets, phonics and reading skills. The child does not bring with him a sentence card home to practise. As an analogy, when we are watching a movie, our eyes and ears are switched on. After two hours, we always come out of the cinema feeling as if we’ve been somewhere else in this planet. Can we remember everything that was said in that movie? Of course not. We can probably remember the most hilarious lines, the scariest scenes or the principal characters in the movie. But we can never remember every word that was spoken.
“Go ahead, make my day.” Clint Eastwood. Short and sharp sentences spoken by famous actors and actresses become infamous movie lines. Even then, it is because this scene has been shown repeatedly that it makes the line so famous. So, a child who enters a room full of activities to do and friends to play with, cannot be expected to learn to speak a full 7 word sentence correctly and fluently without any effort. In order for the child to improve, he must be allowed to ask the question as many times as he needs to go to the toilet, either urgently or not. I cannot fail myself, neither can I afford to fail the child. Excusing oneself to go to the toilet is being polite. If after one term, the child still says, “Teacher, may I please go toilet to?”, it is time to review teaching strategies.
Since answering nature’s call is everybody’s business, it doesn’t take long for children to understand why I keep saying “”Teacher, may I go to the toilet please?” every time their friend asks me the same question, albeit in pigeon English. I hear a few helping out, “you must say properly, “go to the toilet”, not “go toilet”. With the help of their friends, speaking a 7 word sentence correctly becomes a concerted effort that everyone is actually proud to be a part of.