Thursday, January 13, 2011

Temples of Sand and other classroom experiments in a village school

This week, Gandhi Fellow Kabir Arora writes about some of the many experiments he undertook in the school where he was posted during his village immersion experience.

Marti was my companion. He said that the teacher especially in rural schools should not be an instructor but conversationalist. I followed his principle in the school. The kids in my school don't fear anything. They do what they want to do. Many of my comrades complained that kids don't speak in their schools.  In mine they never shut their mouths! I knew the fact that if I'm not teaching in that school, the learning will still happen. What is my value addition was the question hanging on my neck like sword. I decided to have activity based class where mathematics was taught with exercises needed for studying language and environmental sciences. 

Geometry on ground
The last few chapters of the maths textbook (for primary wing)  are dedicated to geometrical figures which teachers rarely touch. We decided to have a game around the figures which kids named as tribhuj waala khel. I drew the figures which included triangle, hexagon, square and circle (Tribhuj, shashtbhuj, varg, virat) on the board. I told kids about their features and names. Took them out. Asked them to draw the same on the ground but enlarged version.

Square has all sides equal, so to make it they took the measurement by their feet. After drawing, I asked them to hear me and follow my instruction. If I say Varit, they all have to run and stand in figure of circle, relevant to other figures.

The idea was to understand geometrical figures properly and promote individual thinking not influenced by others. Not sure about the second part which is a time taking process. We abandoned the game when they were able distinguish between these figures and explain their features. This game was played with students of 3rd and 4th standard.

Temples of sand
This one was my favorite. Here I requested them to come out of their classes and construct whatever they wanted with sand. Most of the kids from 1st and 2nd standard were interested to construct temples.

Why temples? Their wealth and grandness attract everyone, even child's mind is not left untouched. Chhota Lohsana had three temples, Goga Ji Ka Mandir, Ramdev Ka Mandir and Shiv Ji Ka Mandir. This I came to know while this activity was going on. Anganwadi is also there in the village which kids constructed with the model of their own school.

One of my student was constructing a temple. While construction was on, I told him that there is no way to enter his building, so I made a door in the sand structure. He told me that it is in the wrong direction. I was surprised by his observation of the holy place.

3rd and 4th constructed the replica of whole village. It was a delighting activity which took me back to my childhood. I was satisfying my desire of playing with mud through them. 4th standard even drew the map of their school in the sand. They were asked to show everything the way it is in school. Many of them were perfect in their imagery.

My aim of life
All classes I entered I questioned my kids about their ambition in life. Many wanted to join the army, a few were interested in becoming doctors and teachers. There was one scientist too, another one who wanted to migrate to Iraq. They had dreams in their eyes, especially when they are very young. When I turned to 8th standard, the answer was Pata Nahi, Kucch Nahi. Girls prefered to say Kucch Nahi. At that juncture, they know ground realities, and they can envision their future which many a times looks very hopeless. I tried to shake them to rejuvenate their lost dreams. For getting kucch Nahi out of their mind, I narrated a story I will share in future.

Chitra Mandu?
Wall graffiti was the idea which I experimented here too. At moments I used to get frustrated especially with 1st and 2nd. They used to behave like beggars and later hide the chalks given to them for drawing. Still they colored their walls and faces. In 3rd and 4th papers and colors replaced the wall and chalks. Surprisingly here kids were asking what to draw, while in junior classes they drew whatever they felt like drawing. Loss of creativity because of our education system was my logic. Bhagirath ji had something else to tell, at that age kids start looking for perfection which our society and education system demands. Those who are not able to cope up with it feel shy to do anything creative.

Chhori Chhora
We played another game where I divided third standard in two halves. Forced girls and boys sit together in one girl one boy pattern. They named the game Chhori Chhora. They were very reluctant to sit together initially.

One group with seven members was assigned to say the names of animals, while other one with same number was suppose to share the names of fruits and vegetables. The idea was to increase the vocabulary and add team spirit and consensus building in classroom. By the end of the game they came up with so many names with consensus. For them there were no girls and boys but team members all around.

Another activity almost similar was about the favorite animal. From a crocodile to an elephant, frog they liked all of them. I was amused by their knowledge of natural world.

Handling 1st and 2nd together was a challenge which I never overcame. It was a sort of torture for me at times. The kids freaked me out. There was chaos all around which never got managed. I feel that I was not able to do justice with so many kids. I taught kids addition, subtractions from both standards. Those who were learning number recognition were left out at a lot of occasions. There were two mentally challenged kids, one of them was very attached to me. Initially I used to loose patience with both of them later learned to manage them through affection. There are many moments where I lost my temper and patience. Kids start crying at my angry gesture. When tears pour out from their eyes, my dams broke too. I hugged them, tickled them to bring back in form.

Brutal Crackdown
In morning assembly harsh words used to start my day; because of it frustration never left me. At times it used to reach to the peak. At one instance kids of 3rd standard were playing Kabaddi when 5th class kids started teasing and interrupting them. I literally had to run behind them to shoo them away. They  hid themselves and turned up again to repeat the same. Suddenly they started hitting the younger ones where I lost my temper. I went to their class, looked in their eyes. Few were laughing, knowingly hit them. I saw an angry and hurt animal in me. Later after realizing my mistake, I decided to reconcile. To ill luck the day was over. I entered their class on the third day after the episode. To break the ice we shared the names of favorite animals. I narrated a story for them. Most of my stories were from the stock of folk tales of Punjab read years back.

Nakali Guruji Asli Guruji
What came to Sachin's (student of Class 1), suddenly he came to me when I was just observing kids playing. He was holding his bag the way I was holding mine. He said to me with his smiling cute face “I'm Asli Guru ji and you're Nakali Guru ji”. At that very moment, my eyes blinked to say that yes, you are! Every child has a sleeping man in him as Marti says.

Chhori Hai Chhora Hai?
In my school all boys of junior classes had their ear pierced. Many of them wore the earing which usually girls wear. I used to get confused about their gender. “Chhori hai Ke Chhora Hai?”, was the question on my lips. Their answer “Chhora!”. In case of girls, they had very boyish names and outlook. “Dinesh, Naresh” are few examples.

Roaming around world in classroom
Geography needs lot of visualization. Being a tutor of geography, I desired to show the movie “Planet Earth” to my class. With the permission of “My boss” I undertook this venture. A dark room with my laptop in front, speakers down on the floor. Audience with wide open eyes moving across the planet. With every new animal appearing on the screen they were asking me about its name and location. I feel to proud to ignite their curiosity to explore the beautiful world around them. We are so small when we look at the whole planet. No lands are foreign! 

For more of Kabir's experiences, see:
If I were my own teacher: confidence, colour and voices
Steep Climb 
Tourist Guide  

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