With seven years of experience as an educator and three years as a Malay language teacher under her belt, it may not be a surprise to find that 27-year-old Aimuniliyana Mohammad Rahim has won this year’s Outstanding Preschool other Tongue Language Teacher Award.

How does she bring the Malay language to life for her charges aged five to six years old? Ms Aimuniliyana highlights three effective ways.

Storytelling sessions

She conducts these twice a week, selecting stories based on topics she wishes to highlight to the children.

She typically begins the session with a related item or song to pique her students’ interest. For instance, she shows the class a banana tree stem to introduce the story of The Attack Of The Sword-fish; in it, banana tree trunks are used to prevent the long blades of the swordfish from hurting the villagers.

To ensure that her young charges stay engaged during the session, she takes pains to “make the story come alive with strategies such as participation, dramatisation or puppetry”.

She rounds off the session with an extended activity involving artwork, cookery or dance. For example, she will use the fruits mentioned in a story to show students how to make a fruit salad.

Ms Aimuniliyana cites the two-way communication between the educator and students as a key component in such learning.

She says: “Storybooks provide bountiful vocabulary, and sometimes children may not be familiar with the words.

“I encourage them to speak up when there are words they do not understand. I also use open-ended questions to elicit responses to evaluate their understanding and encourage active participation.”

Video screenings

While storytelling is Ms Aimuniliyana’s preferred way of teaching language, she also feels that videos can complement the teaching of factual and non-fiction topics such as the solar system or natural disasters.

“The sounds and visuals of videos about planets, for instance, can make the teaching of factual topics fun. Videos of natural disasters such as the earthquake at Palu can also give the children an opportunity to reflect on the situation better,” she says.

Learning activities

Sustaining the students’ attention, she says, ultimately involves more than giving them fun visuals and sounds. Ms Aimuniliyana seeks to create age-appropriate activities that are incorporated in class with differentiated learning approaches to address individual developmental needs.

“As educators, we strive to ensure that the children are engaged purposefully and actively,” she stresses, adding that such activities reinforce students’ learning, helping them develop lifelong social skills.

The activities involving language, in particular, encourage the students to speak confidently about their daily experiences.

They build the students’ capacity to listen attentively, increasing their knowledge about themselves and the world around them.