Learning English the 'put put' way
By Thiruni Kelegama
Trishaws. The very essence of city life, you tend to think.

But according to Maureen Wickremasinghe, trishaws are not just a part of city life, they are also a part of rural Sri Lanka for even the poorest or the most remote village has them.

And it is these very trishaws that have formed the crux of her books. Books, through which she hopes to teach little children in all corners of Sri Lanka, English.

"We must start teaching English to our children with reference to their mother tongue,"she explains. "When we introduce books which have been printed in some other country which are obviously written by foreign authors, most of the children in Sri Lanka cannot relate to them."

An English teacher of over 49 years and a specialist in child education, Maureen trained in Australia and having worked for 20 years in England with children, has a wealth of experience.

"When I returned from England the last time, I literally brought back thousands of books," she explains. "But when I tried to teach the little children in Seeduwa where I conduct classes using these very books, I found out that it was useless."

"These books are alien to most of the children here, as they talk of places and people of those countries,"says Maureen.

"It was when I went on a number of outstation trips with my husband that I realised that if I focussed on trishaws, most of the children would be able to relate to the books."

At first she tried the books out on her students in Seeduwa. "They adapted to them quickly. I found out that they actually liked these books as they found them easy to understand," she says.

In these books Maureen has made use of the 'Look and Say' method.

"If we try to teach all the letter combinations before a child is given a reader, it will take years. This is because in the English language, there are always exceptions to the rule."

"However, this has been a method of teaching English for many years, and there are many readers produced. The child then tends to learn 'whole words' by recognising this pattern.

For example, the word 'look' has two eyes in the middle and two tall letters at the beginning and the end," Maureen explains laughing. "It is the same with words like 'elephant' and 'aeroplane'. They have distinct patterns of short and tall letters, and this makes it much easier for the children to remember.

These children need a gradual build up of vocabulary, which could be used in everyday language. The children also need repetition-the need to see and say words several times.

In this series by Maureen Wickremasinghe, Stage 1 will have four books. The first , published by David Peiris Motor Co. is called 'The Red Trishaw' and has illustrations by Sybil Wettasinghe.

There are also the books about the yellow trishaw, the green trishaw, and the blue trishaw. There are four drivers. The first trishaw is driven by a Sinhalese driver,the second by a Tamil, the third by a Muslim and the fourth by a woman driver, Maureen explains.

"In these books, there are 15 to 16 words. The books are small, easy to handle and have a few pages so that the child is not bored with the contents. They are also priced low," explains Maureen, eager that children should start using them.

After completing the four books, the children will be able to write at least 10 basic sentences, and have a sight vocabulary of over 50 words, guarantees the author.

The first two books were launched on October 12, at David Peiris Motor Co. Ltd. Colombo.

Elegance on the ramp
By Yvonne Gulamhusein
"When I was younger, I did some outrageous fashions, which earned me the tag of "Bad Boy of Bangalore fashion' but I have now grown to be more serene," said Indian designer Manoviraj Khosla who presented a stunning couture show at the Colombo Hilton last week.

Fifteen lovely Indian models, all leggy and lissome sashayed down the ramp to present Khosla's contemporary creations.

The one-hour show opened with unisex pants and tops in cotton with spectacular embroidery, a feature being the use of white on white. The touch of Paris came in the glitter with tops for men's wear, sherwanis in glittery fabric and churidhar pants.

His evening wear line up for women included a selection of embroidered sarees. Shirt tops worn with very short pants and sherwanis with brocade were also a highlight of his elegant collection.

Pix by M.A Pushpa Kumara

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