Not Your Typical ABC’s

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Uniskript is a writing system that uses picture symbols that representthe parts ofthe mouth used to makethe sounds of language. This makes it good for teaching phonics, and a useful stepping stone towards learning to read in normal letters. It can be appllied to any language, including English. Because it is easy to learn, it is of interest to language development and literacy practitioners in countries with many small language groups, and where school children are struggling to acquire literacy through traditional methods.

A research team from Youth With A Mission (YWAM) developedthe Uniskript method and this yearthey invited a team from Papua New Guineato try Uniskript for themselves. TeachersRoy Harai, Nelson Moio, Anna Larupa and Ether Ukia, (teachers fromthe Urama and Koriki language communities) attended a workshop atthe University ofthe Nationsin Hawai'i, along with SIL literacy experts Robbie and Debbie Petterson.

ThPNG team learned how to use Uniskript symbols to represent language sounds, andthen developed symbols for Koriki and Urama. After testingthe symbols by writing words and sentences,they looked at cultural icons, designs and artifacts, and usedthese to adaptthe basic symbols to ones that had a real “Urama” or “Koriki” home-­u2010grown feel tothem. The Koriki teachers calledtheir Uniskript alphabet “Koriki Ere”, which means “(growth-giving) water for the Koriki,” whilethe Urama pair calledtheirs “Urama Hura,” meaning &quotthe seeds (of learning) for the Urama.” They also worked on basic Uniskripts for Tok Pisin and Hiri Motu.

The team later developed teaching materials and games and stories for reading practice, using computer fonts created especially for them. An important final step was planning teaching materials for bridging tothe Roman alphabet and to help children learning to read English.

The four teachers returned tPNG eager to try outthese materials with small classesf children, now thatthey understandthe potential benefits of using Uniskript for teaching literacy skills. Ifthese trials are successful, ther language communities may be interested in developing Uniskript systems for teaching phonics-based literacy intheir languages, and also for teaching English.

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