the Imagination to Rise

the Imagination to Rise

The challenge of any creative journey is that there is always a sense in which you are starting without a map. In the country of Uganda, the Ministry of Education and Sports (MoES) had a policy and commitment to mother tongue instruction. The Uganda MoES understood that a child who can’t understand the language of instruction cannot learn, and that an educated populace is the foundation of a country’s development…

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Is Language Boring? Last, but Critical.

This is the second half of a two part story about a USAID Uganda School Health and Reading Program  materials development workshop, written by SIL LEAD consultant, Agatha J. van Ginkel. You can find part one on our blog. And ‘like’ SIL LEAD on facebook to get notifications about new stories and continued updates about the USAID School Health and Reading Program.

While we have been developing the materials for grade 4 for the local language, the English team has been upstairs developing the materials for grade 4 English. Grade 4 is a transition year for the children. They will switch from having their local language as the medium of instruction to having  English as the language of instruction. The team realises that the children will still find that very difficult. There are so many words for the children to learn. The team is pondering, “Which words are keywords that need to be included in the materials for grade 4?” Luckily, in grade 4 English as a subject is on the schedule seven times during a week, so the children will have plenty of time. 

On a daily basis the Local language team and the English team discuss together how they can link the two languages. How can English make use of what has been learned in the Local Language first? Making use of what is known is called the ‘interdependence theory’ — what is learned in the first language will transfer to the new language once the learners have sufficient knowledge of the language. 

Another way this transition is facilitated is by integrating some key English vocabulary in the local language books. All the page headers are in English. Each new concept introduced in week 1, practised in week 2, and applied in week 3 is also given its English name in week 3. So, once the children are familiar with the concept in their local language, they learn the English word for it. That will make it easier to make the transition: They know the concept in their local language, they know the label for it in English, and now they can use it in English as well. (This assumes, of course,  that they have sufficient vocabulary to express themselves in English.) 

While everyone is writing, drawing and thinking, the typists keyboard all the outputs. They type away, typing both in languages they know and ones they do not know. While the typists seem to be the last people on the book development chain, their role is crucial. Their work gives the teams feedback about whether sufficient, too much, or too little content was written. The typists transcribe all the lessons directly into the book design program Bloom. It has been developed and set up in such a way that with a little training, they can design the books. 

Materials development for grade 4 is a dynamic process with many different parts. Excitement is in the room as stories are prepared, lesson are written, and illustrations are drawn. Facilitating this process is exciting and challenging at the same time. Days like today are good days—days in which I think I have the best job ever! 

You can read more about the USAID School Health and Reading Program here

Is Language Boring?

This is the first in a two part story about a USAID Uganda School Health and Reading Program materials development workshop in Uganda written by SIL LEAD consultant, Agatha J. van Ginkel. “Like” SIL LEAD on facebook to get notifications about part two.

Looking at their gestures, it is absolutely not boring! It is not boring to think and talk about grammar of your mother tongue. Imagine the enthusiasm in a room where new stories and teaching materials are being created for the heart language of a community that has never had the opportunity to learn in this way before. This is a look at several different aspects of a materials development workshop that are a part of the USAID Uganda School Health and Reading Program. 

Our Ugandan linguist is working with the Ugandan language specialists of two languages to select which morpheme to focus on for advanced blending and segmenting exercises.

A morpheme is the smallest, meaningful part of a word. And these grammar exercises divide words like “unbeatable” into its morphemes, “un-beat-able”so that the meaning can be gleaned from the parts of the whole.


The linguists and language specialists work the whole day together to think through their languages. They need to get the right information to help the learners in grade 4 develop advanced skills for reading fluency. 

In the earlier years or primary school, the children learn to blend and segment simple words into syllables. In grade two, they also learn to recognise the most frequent morphemes of the language for quick word recognition, but after grade two this is a skill that needs to continue to develop. This is especially important in languages that like to cluster many morphemes around the root of the word. 

As the linguistics and language specialists wrestle with grammar, the illustrators are scratching their heads. They were used to drawing large illustrations with many details that showed real life situations. Rather than drawing an illustration of 2 by 4 inches, they have to draw two illustrations that are much smaller. They were thinking and thinking how to do so. In the end, they decided to draw within the small square of the provided box to make sure that their illustration will fit into the space available.

In the student book for grade 4, the illustrations have a different role than previous materials developed for grades 1-3. The illustrations help students predict what the text is going to be about. The smaller illustrations challenge the students to get their information from the text rather than the illustration.