SINGAPORE - Armed with a fish fresh from the market, pre-school teacher Juliana Jaysree, 24, begins her lesson.
Gathering the children around, she teaches them how to name its body parts in Tamil.
The Tamil word for fish is "meen" and the word for eyes is "kann".
Ms Jaysree also weaves in lessons in Tamil culture, such as the names of dishes and how food is sometimes eaten on a banana leaf, especially on festive occasions.
She said: "I first entered the classroom using a white board to teach. This method didn't catch their attention and the children were not grasping the content well.
"So, six months later, I changed my method by bringing in materials and things from the real world as teaching aids, for them to touch and feel."
For her efforts, Ms Jaysree, who teaches at PCF Sparkletots Preschool in Sembawang, has been picked to be among seven recipients this year of the Outstanding Pre-school Mother Tongue Language Teacher Award.
The other six winners in the same category are My First Skool's Ms Luo Yan Yan and Xie Xiao Yan, PCF Sparkletots Preschool's Mdm Pang Nuan Kee, Mdm Norhaizahwati Mohd Said and Mdm Rozanah Rabunam, MOE Kindergarten's Mrs Reka Sherlin John.
There are six other winners in the merit category.
Ms Jaysree received the award on Saturday (Aug 19) at the Mother Tongue Languages Symposium at Suntec Singapore Convention and Exhibition Centre.
The award, first introduced in 2009, recognises the teachers' efforts in making the learning of mother tongue languages engaging and in nurturing a love for languages among pre-school children.
It is jointly presented by the Mother Tongue Languages Learning and Promotion Committees, and supported by the Lee Kuan Yew Fund for Bilingualism.
The 13 award recipients were selected from a total of 96 nominations by a panel of 10 senior pre-school educators and academics, the Education Ministry said.
The panel conducted on-site lesson observations and interviews with the teachers as part of the selection process.
Mdm Pang, 57, who teaches at Chinese at PCF Sparkletots Preschool at Punggol, said she uses games, puzzles, flashcards and songs to get children interested.
"I create a fun and carefree environment for children to learn," she said.
Parents can do the same at home by simply speaking to their children in Chinese and watching educational programmes in the language. "This will help to improve their conversational skills," she said.
In his speech, Education Minister (Schools) Ng Chee Meng who also presented the awards, said: "Our mother tongues offer us a different set of cultural lenses and perspectives to connect with the world around us.
"A deeper appreciation of our mother tongue cultures, will strengthen our multicultural identity and also build the confidence of Singaporeans to engage our counterparts in the region more effectively."
He said the importance of mother tongue languages is clear and that children should be started on their learning journey, as well as to develop a love for these languages, from young.
This year's theme for the symposium - which is organised by MOE and the Mother Tongue Languages Learning and Promotion Committees - is "Flourish in the Wonderland of Our Languages".
It features 30 sharing sessions and workshops as well as 43 exhibition booths by pre-school centres, schools and various partners.
The booths will showcase innovative teaching methods and community programmes that help nurture children as active learners and proficient users of their mother tongue languages.
A list of activities and exhibitions at the event can be found at www.mtls.com.sg.