Heritage Language Playschools For Indigenous Minorities

By Karla J. Smith, PhD
Multilingual Education
SIL International Consultant
Email: karla_smith@sil.org


This book, Heritage Language Playschools for Indigenous Minorities, contains administrative and curriculum materials that can be used to establish and operate playschool programmes for indigenous communities. The book covers pre-reading, pre-writing and readiness skills and is divided into two parts: Part A and Part B.

Part A, Overview, Principles and Resources for Administrators, gives an overview of the principles and function of the playschools. It is meant to be used and referenced by people who are organising and supervising a heritage language playschool programme. The first few sections give an overview of the educational principles, while later pages give more detail of the particular learning outcomes that the playschools are designed to produce. The latter parts give resources for use by community facilitators who need to call meetings about starting a playschool in the village, or who need to evaluate the progress made by the children, the performance of the teacher and of the playschool as a whole. The classroom materials needed should be made prior to the start of the classes, during pre-service workshops and training times.

Part B, Syllabus and Resources for Teachers contains a syllabus and other materials which will be used by the playschool teachers. It has weekly lesson plans and descriptions of various appropriate indoor and outdoor games that give the teachers a start to which they can add other games they know. It also includes instructions for teaching songs and telling stories. The appendices include templates and ideas for making some classroom materials. Samples of alphabet worksheets/book, a pre-primer and other material are found in the Appendix 4. The pre-primer booklet is designed to help in the continued preparation of the children towards reading and writing before they move into kindergarten, or the next stage of their learning.

An important note is that all suggested activities are meant to be adapted to the language and culture of the community. Language groups using these materials as a guide should adjust them to fit their individual context and community. Themes, instructional materials including stories and songs, must be developed by speakers of the language in the community and be based on their culture. All aspects of the curriculum must fit the local context.

The intention is that the playschools will be conducted entirely in the heritage language of the community. It is therefore imperative that Part B is translated into the heritage language of the community so that the playschool teachers are able to understand it well. This also makes it easier for the teachers to use as they can then think in the same language they are using to teach the class. Although it would be ideal for Part A to also be in the heritage language, it can be translated to the national language, depending on which language the administrators find most comfortable.

Pilot playschools along the lines described in this book are currently running in various areas of Malaysia. In the draft version Part A and Part B were actually produced as two separate books, with the administrators having both parts and the teachers only having Part B. There were two main reasons for this. (1) Since the teachers only really needed Part B and the learning outcomes, it seemed best not to burden them with more materials than they needed. (2) Since there are more teachers than administrators, it saved on the cost of producing the books. In this publication both parts are combined into one book.

Teacher training is an extremely important part of any education programme. Pre-service training is required before the start of any teaching or programme. In-service training should be planned for at least twice during the school year. The topics during in-service time should be based on the teachers’ felt needs, on observations from the facilitators and to acquaint teachers with further educational topics. There should be on-going teacher training yearly for both new teachers and those already teaching. Those who are experienced may become part of the training team for the new teachers.

It should be noted that the next stage after the 3–4 year old1 playschool programme is kindergarten (or classes for 5 year olds). In this program the children continue education in their heritage language, including learning to read and write. They also have one class daily learning the national language (or second language) orally. In the case of the children in Malaysia who started in the heritage language program and continue, this language is Malay (see the phases listed on page 7).

This book was written in a very practical and pragmatic way. The first draft edition was used to start the playschools and as the playschools progressed, the author’s personal observations, along with valuable feedback from teachers, administrators, and colleagues, were used to update the edition. The present book is therefore grounded in the practical operation of several playschools in various regions in Malaysia.


For the complete document, click on “Heritage Language Playschools For Indigenous Minorities”.

One thought on “Heritage Language Playschools For Indigenous Minorities

  1. This book and these materials can be used with children older than 3-4 years as long as they are in need of readiness and pre-literacy skills. There is a CD with materials available from the offices listed in the front of the book (SIL in Sabah or DBNA in Sarawak).
    We are also updating the daily lessons – putting them in landscape format and separating out the mathematics, so making the lessons more teacher/classroom friendly.

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