About Abjad
The Abjad Arabic Alphabet Learning System
A New Approach to Teaching Children the Arabic Alphabet

Abstract

Abjad Ltd. is the developer of a series of quality educational products designed to effectively teach young children how to read and write Arabic. Abjad's Arabic Alphabet Learning System is also suitable for adult education and has been adapted for use with children who have special needs. The product line is designed around a highly accessible teaching system that presents the different letters of the Arabic alphabet in a way that children can easily understand and assimilate. This system overcomes key teaching challenges associated with the Arabic language by emphasizing the underlying patterns and relationships that pervade the alphabet.

The Abjad products and the key alphabet learning areas they address are summarized in the table below:

Learning Area/Stage

Supporting Abjad Products

Introduction to the letters of the alphabet

Recognition of basic letter shapes; learning the names of the letters; recognizing the various character forms of the same letter.

Plastic Letters

Wooden Letters

Prince of the Letters Book+ audio cassette

Letters Book + audio cassette

Animal Memory Game

Animal Poster

Animal Jigsaw Puzzle

Animal Stickers; Word Stickers

CD-Rom

Basic word formation

Identifying individual letters in a word; assembling simple words using the plastic letters; learning the phonetic sound value of the different letters in a word.

Plastic Letters

Wooden Letters

Prince of the Letters Book+ audio cassette

Animal Book+ audio cassette

Animal Pop-Out Cards

CD-Rom

Writing

Writing letters using dotted guides; writing letters using Abjad letter outline as a guides; writing basic words using dotted guides inscribed in words; writing words with only Abjad lettering as guides.

Letters Book + pen + eraser mitten

Letters Workbook + pen

Animals Book  + pen +  mitten

Words Book  + pen +  mitten

Hamza and the Vowels Book + pen + mitten

Introduction to hamza & short vowels

Hamza and the Vowels Book + tape

Letters; character forms; new vocabulary,

Abjad World Workbook

Abjad Colours & Shapes Workbook

Abjad My World Workbook

 

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Challenges of Teaching the Arabic Alphabet

Through the use of modern manufacturing techniques in plastics injection moulding, colour printing, and laser cutting Abjad has been able to develop the elements of an Arabic Alphabet Learning System. This system can - for the first time - address precisely those challenges associated with teaching Arabic that are not fully addressed by the traditional method of teaching.   

Abjad has identified three key challenges that children face when learning the Arabic alphabet, and for each challenge, Abjad system presents a decisive solution:

Challenge 1: Complexity ­ The Arabic alphabet consists of 28 letters.  When learning, children have to distinguish between the many instances of letters that appear strikingly similar to each other (for example, the number and positioning of dots is often all that distinguishes otherwise identical letters). Added to this problem letters with similar character forms at the beginning of a word can have very different forms at the end of a word (compare Ba and Ya) The traditional system does not especially facilitate the comprehension of the similarities and the differences between the various letters. The Abjad system solves all these complexities in a beautifully simple and intelligible way.

Challenge 2: Semi-Cursive Script ­ While it is generally accepted that Arabic is a cursive script, it is perhaps better to describe it as semi-cursive, since not all the Arabic letters attach to a following letter (Alef, Dal, Dhal, Ra, Zain, and Waw do not attach to a following letter ). Under the traditional system children overcome this challenge by performing lengthy drill. Children are given no "reasons" why some letters should join a following letter and why some letters should not. The Abjad system gives this "reason".

Challenge 3: Letter Forms ­ In the Arabic alphabet, the number of character forms associated with each letter varies (contrast English where letters always have two forms; uppercase and lowercase); Letters can have anything from one to four character forms (three letters have 4 character forms; nineteen letters have 2 essential forms; and the remaining six letters have only 1 essential form).  It is a great challenge for children to assimilate all these complex differences. The Abjad system through its stories and unique letter set magically solves this problem altogether!.


The Abjad Solution :

1.Colour Families

The Abjad Letters overcome the conceptual hurdle of complexity outlined by Challenge1 above by establishing an easily comprehensible scheme of classification through which the letters are grouped according to essential similarities. Based on their orthographic formation, the 28 letters of the alphabet are categorized into seven “families”, clearly differentiated by the colours of the rainbow:

Red letters: The letter "Ha" is unique among the letters in its complexity and variety of forms. In the Abjad system, she is the “queen” of all the letters.
Orange letters: Like the indigo letters, these letters have no “tails”, but unlike the indigo letters, they have "hands" to help them hold onto other letters.
Yellow letters: These letters join to following letters and each has a unique “tail” when found at the end of a word.
Green letters: These letters join to following letters and have horizontal “tails”.
Blue letters: These letters join to following letters and have deeply curved, backward pointing “tails”.
Indigo letters: These letters can not join to following letters since they do not have "hands"..
Violet letters: These letters join to following letters and have deeply curved, upward pointing “tails”.

The Abjad system encapsulates the Colour Family scheme outlined above in the Letter Pyramid, a diagram consisting of the seven layers of letters organized by increasing group size. Each row presents its letters in traditional alphabetical order:




Figure1 - The Abjad Letter Pyramid

It is a most remarkable fact that the Arabic Alphabet, when arranged according to their inherent characteristics of its letters, forms a beautifully symmetrical 7 by 7 triangle. This is not so much an Abjad invention as it is a discovery. The Letter Pyramid renders the entire alphabet much more comprehensible and intelligible for young children.  It fosters a sense of order, symmetry and harmony, which predisposes children to feel comfortable and confident with the alphabet. 

This rainbow-coloured classification makes it clear that the letters Ba, Ta and Tha are related to each other and that they share the same final form - "hold" the same coloured "tail" -  whereas the letter Nun Ya and the letter Ya  which both look similar to these letters at the beginning of a word are not similar since their colours are different, and therefore, their tail forms are different:


Figure 2: The Difference Between Ba Ta Tha, Nun, and Ya

Similarly the potential confusion between the letter Fa and the letter Qaf  - two letters which look similar at the beginning of a word - are prevented through the use of differing colours and groupings in the Abjad pyramid:


Figure 3: The Difference between Fa and Qaf

2. Hands and Tails

The Abjad Learning System responds to the Arabic language’s “semi-cursive” script - Challenge 2 - through the concept of “hands and tails”

All letters that can join to other letters have a small "hand" with which to join. At the end of a word a letter with an "empty" "hand" can "hold" a "tail" of its own color.

Figure4 - "Hands and Tails"

All 3D plastic Abjad letters have a joining point into which these "hands" can fit. The joining point of each letter automatically  aligns the letters correctly relative to each other.


Figure 5: Joining points of letters and tails

Those letters that cannot join to a following letter (Alif, Dal, Dhal, Ra, Zain, and Waw) have no "hands" and consequently cannot be attached to a following letter.


Figure 6: Letters without "hands"

In this way, with the simple idea of "hands" and "tails", some of the greatest difficulties associated with teaching the Arabic semi-cursive script are resolved. Children learn the cursive nature of Arabic through the idea that each letter "holds" a following letter; they learn that many letters have a "tail" form - a letters "holding" a "tail" of their own colour at the end of a word; and they learn that certain letters cannot join a following letter -  letters that have no "hands" and cannot "hold".

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3.Transformations

Letters without "hands" have essentially the same shape wherever they appear in a word. Most letters have essentially two forms, one initial and one final form = "holding" a "tail". When "holding" a "tail" a letter may have to slightly realign itself. To enable the Abjad plastic letter in question has a hinge which allows this transformation to take place.

In a handful of cases the Arabic character shape changes radically in appearance depending on its position in a word, and in some cases there exist even more that two essential different character forms of the same letter - Challenge 3. In such cases the Abjad letters are able to transform into all these various forms through more elaborate transformation, using either hinged elements, or additional elements which are added to the core letter. All these transformations and additions are carefully "explained" to children through the Prince of the Letters story. The letter Ain, for example, needs to "close" its "eyelid" to prevent a preceding letter poking it in the "eye"! (In Arabic the word Ain not only refers to the letter but is also used for the word meaning eye - so it is only "natural" that the Ain should close its "eye" to protect itself.)


Figure 7: Transformation of letter Ain Top of Page


Figure 8: Transformation of letter Ha

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A dramatic example of the letter transformation feature based on the Abjad hinge lies in the letter Kaf .  The sequence below shows the Kaf being transformed from its initial/medial character form into its final/detatchedform:


Figure 9 - Transformation of letter Kaf

In summary, the Abjad system introduces a letter as a single, essential form (this corresponds to the character form of the letter at the beginning of a word). In some cases this essential form never changes (letters without "hands"). When a letter has more than one character form, the child can transform the essential form of the letter into these other forms. In this way a child realizes the different character forms represent the same letter.  Transformations are generally very simple, requiring only the addition of a "tail" and possibly the slight re-alignment of a hinge on the letter. In some cases - notably with the Kaf, the Ain/Ghain, and the letter Ha - the transformations are more involved, but easily grasped through the explanation of the Prince of the Letters story.

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Overview of the Abjad Product Line:

The Alphabet System

The Abjad Plastic Letters are the foundation of the Abjad product line. When used in conjunction with Abjad books and other supporting products, they form a unique and comprehensive educational system that can be applied as an Arabic language curriculum as early as the age of three.

A unique quality of the Abjad system lies in how adaptable each product becomes depending upon when and how it is used. For example, younger children will require the Abjad Animal Book to act as a guide for the Abjad Animal Pop-Out cards. During the next stage the cards may be used on their own without the book, and so on. Not only does this versatility allow the system to suit different grade levels, it also aids teachers in adapting the system to different levels within the same classroom in a subtle manner. Children can thus maintain a sense of their own achievement amongst their classmates even though different children may be working at different levels.

Because Abjad products were designed to address the same teaching area using more than one set of materials, teachers can reinforce their teaching without the risk of becoming monotonous. For example, children may learn how to spell the word "Asad" through the Animal book, through the Pop-Out cards, while playing with the puzzle, or drawing over the poster, or playing with the memory cards, or through the Letters Workbook, and then again they may learn this using the Letters and Words CD-Rom.

This wide variety of teaching materials also helps teachers create new games, school plays and projects. Our teacher's guide CD offers a complete suggested schedule which teachers can follow or adapt to suit their requirements. This guide incorporates all the Abjad products and is packed with useful ideas and suggestions on how to use these products with the best effect within the Abjad Arabic Educational System.

One should also note that the Abjad system does not stop at teaching the Arabic alphabet system. The Abjad educational system already includes materials for teaching the Arabic numerals, and basic addition. The workbooks also cover many topics, such as colours, shapes, directions, positions, seasons, and parts of the body, the five senses and much more.

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A Note About the Abjad Books

Co-ordinated size and colour

The Prince of the Letters picture book represents pictures of the Arabic letters. In all cases where children are being taught an important point the illustrations of the letters are exactly the same scale as the plastic letters. This is a unique Abjad feature! In what other language can children place identically sized and identically coloured embodiments of the letters over equivalent illustrations in a book?

This feature of co-ordinated size and colour is used to maximum effect in all other Abjad books, where all letters and words are the same size and colour as the Abjad plastic letters.
The Letters Book, however, takes the co-ordination of letter size and colour to even a higher level ! This book must indeed rank as one of the most intricately conceived books ever designed to teach the alphabet in any language ! Not only does this book have illustrations of the letters in the same scale and colour as the Abjad plastic letters, it also uses the Abjad typeface for the text of the book.

Unlike The Prince of the Letters, however, each individual letter in each word of the text of this book is also coloured in the same colour as its equivalent Abjad letter ! A child following this Letters Book will be looking at the pictures only (among the pictures are the life-sized Abjad letters which are the subject of the book).

The child - naturally - does not read the text. The parent or teacher, with or without the aid of the audio tape, does this. Why then should the parent or teacher need the text to be colour co-ordinated? The answer is that they do not need this. But, the text of this book deals - exceptionally - with the letters; the very same letters which make up the text of the book ! The parent or teacher can in this case - and this case only - take advantage of the text that they are reading from, to help explain to children what the letters can do ! They can find an example of any letter that they are discussing in miniature - embedded in the text - and point this out to the child.

The coloured text helps to immediately identify the "baby letter" in question. The colour - very importantly - isolates this "baby letter" from other surrounding letters. The fact that the typeface is also identical to the letters being discussed in the pictures prevents any possible confusion that might otherwise arise in the child's mind from the slight differences that distinguish different typefaces. The Letters Book offers a unique possibility to children, the small text of the story - which they cannot read - can act for them as a "bridge", helping them understand how letters are used to convey words and meaning. Co-ordinated size is also an important element in the Animal Book.

The reason here being that the Animal Book dovetails with the Animal Pop-Out Cards. Each of the cards is made up of the same image as each page of this book. Each card has its animal as well as the letter and word stamped out. By pushing out the letters and words from these cards the remaining silhouettes can be used as guides into which the plastic Abjad letters can be assembled. This can even be done with the cards overlaid on the corresponding animal page in the book.

Few educational books, if any, offer such seemingly endless possibilities and support to children using them, as do the Abjad series of books.

Audio

Each Abjad book has an accompanying audio cassette tape which vividly brings to life the stories through narration, music and song. These audio cassettes are important in that they guarantee correct pronunciation of letters, words and sentences. The very best actors and studios have been used for these recordings. Samira Abd al-Aziz - the principal voice in all the Abjad recordings - is one of the best-loved and most widely respected actresses working in Egypt today.

Write On - Wipe Off

Most of the Abjad books have hard covers and laminated pages for durability. Lamination also allows children to practice drawing or writing on the pages using the Abjad pen. Pages can then be wiped clean using the Abjad mitten. Children love to play with the pen and mitten. What better way to encourage them to practice drawing and writing !

The fact that the same page can be wiped clean over and over again, allows children to practice as much as they please. Unlike conventional books, the child can go back and correct any mistakes he may have made, or improve his copying with successive attempts.

Incremental Stages

Each book targets a specific teaching objective. From a general familiarization with the letters; to concentrating on learning all the character forms of the letters; to recognizing simple words; to recognizing the independent phonetic sound values of individual letters within a word; to tracing over dotted lines to write letters; to copying letters without dotted lines; to writing complete words using dotted lines; to becoming aware of the special character of the Hamza and the shorter vowels, etc.

In addition to the specific target for which any given book was produced, it can very often support elements specifically targeted elsewhere. For example, the Hamza and Vowels Book, as well as addressing the area identified by its title, is also a wonderful supplement to the Word Book which uses dotted lines in letters and words to guide children as they trace over the letter forms. The word book, however, only has 28 examples with which to practice, whereas the Hamza and Vowels book has 28 x 3 = 84 words inscribed with dotted lines.

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