Sing the First Line of a Song from the classic production The Sound of Music. These words are so well-known that speakers, bloggers, and instructors everywhere use them to begin their presentations on the creation of the world; on birth (of a child, an idea, an organization); on building (a house, a business, a career) from scratch; on launching a new show or program; on following a step-by-step procedure or process; or even on entering into a new period of time like a day, a week, a month, a year, or an epoch. Here are some visual “pieces of wisdom” that touch or comment on the concept:
Apply This Idea to Language Teaching & Learning. How aptly the intents and purposes of “Let's start at the very beginning” apply to any educational process-especially the acquisition of a particular language such as English. That's because both oral and written language can be seen as a “pyramid of pieces” structured top to base from small to large:
As shown above, the smallest units of speech are sounds. The smallest bits of written language are symbols with meaning, especially the 26 letters of the English (roman) alphabet a, b, c, d, e, f, g, h, i, j, k, l, m, n, o, p, q, r, s, t, u, v, w, x, y, z. These connect in Phonics & Spelling, which correlate the two. Associating sounds with printed letters produces word-level decoding (reading) abilities. Conversely, knowing which letters represent which sounds is the beginning of spelling. Used with meaningful language, both skills empower participants to learn vocabulary from the very start. Both sounds and alphabet letters combine into words, which are used in phrases and sentences, the elements of connected, meaningful speech and writing.
Compare Starting at the Very Beginning with Starting Elsewhere: Of course, some administrators, teachers, and students require or prefer placing (positioning) learners into quantified “levels” of accomplishment, knowledge, or ability. Perhaps their perception is that “starting at appropriate levels” saves time, money, and effort because it bypasses repetition of, (re)instruction in, and/or anchoring of what learners already “know.”
On the other hand, novice and experienced language teachers/learners alike are likely to benefit from “starting (again) with the basics,” whether the notion means (re)acquiring necessary background knowledge or reviewing what's needed to progress. After all, maintaining the fundamentals-often referred to as “the ABCs”-and practicing or polishing them consistently-is a big part of many areas of life. The basics are essential for success in sports, education, work, and achieving mastery in many-or most-fields of human endeavor.
Learn & Teach the Alphabet. Applied to language improvement, “starting from the very beginning” most often means focusing on an alphabet. And when the targeted language is English, the first steps in (re)mastery are probably recognizing, naming, sequencing, reading the sounds of, and writing its 26 alphabet letters. These “tasks” contribute to learner confidence. Beginners are immediately enticed without feeling intimidated. Others get to reinforce what they already know while noting how even the “simplest” bits and pieces can be valuable tools in listening, speaking, reading, and writing effectively.
The last line in the “Do-Re-Mi Song” makes its main point. Its words are “If you know the notes to sing, you can sing most anything.”
Using a “substitution drill” technique, this sentence can be transformed into truisms like these:
“If you know the sounds to make, you can say most any word.”
“If you know the letters to put, you can spell most any phrase.
“If you know the words to use, you can make most any point.
Use Tried-and-True Resources & Materials. Whether they are individualized, cooperative, or competitive, single and multi-level instructional lessons, activities, and games can engage, motivate, and even challenge. Here are the most complete how-to resources and classroom-ready materials that cover “All You Need to Know & Do in Regard to Teaching & Learning the (English) Alphabet.”
Start at the Very Beginning. So what can you do first-and second-and next- and after that? And how might you “come to the end” of the process-and then stop? And how can your ending create a new beginning? Here's a stepping-stone by stone diagram of what leads to mastery of the alphabet.
And continue through M-Z. (Provided in other materials)
And When You Get to the End, Stop.
And Always Remember-& Never Forget . . .
- Better English, Better Life: Why English Matters for Work, Life, & Happiness
- So Many Ways to Learn English: How to Decide What’s Best for You
- Now That I Really Want to Learn Language, How Can I Do It?
- So Now That I Know, What Choice Do I Have?
Related External Resources:
About Work/Life English
Work/Life English is an experienced provider of fun, effective English language improvement content that advances the lives of native English and English as a Second Language (ESL) speakers by improving their English competence, comprehension, and communication skills. For more information, visit: www.worklifeenglish.com.