Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Ameetha madam guides volunteers with the Teaching process/ methodologies

Sunday 23rd May 2010


Though I had started shooting the Email and SMS reminders 7 days before the meeting, I was somehow bit skeptical about the actual number of volunteers that would turn up on the D-day. I reached the centre at 9.50am, thinking at least one of them would have reached by then. However, was shocked, though not much, to find myself alone. Anyways, opened up the shutter and started doing some arrangements, keeping the fingers crossed. The clock struck 10 and was relieved to see our ever-smiling new volunteer Kuheli followed by Akshay, then Amruta and then soon the numbers started rising up.

Volunteers present:

11.Kartha Madam

Here is the link to the snaps:

Ameetha, no doubt, was the centre of attraction. We made a big circle while everyone curious with their eyes, ears and minds wide open to devour the gobbets of much-needed and much-awaited gnyaan from the expert:-). Ameetha took the lead and broke the ice with a brief introduction of everyone. She had already been to our centre, twice. Not only she had made some good observations of our children during her captivating story telling sessions but also had interacted with some of our volunteers esp. Kuheli trying to alleviate her problems during the teaching sessions.

“Dramatics is the Key-word”, she says. “Children learn best through role plays. By this, I mean characterization even if it’s a non-living thing. Make them come alive. Make a particular child centre of attraction”

She pointed out that children are very sensitive and smart. They can easily make out if their teacher is just ‘physically’ present. (Volunteers taking up the phone calls during the teaching sessions should be discouraged) “Tell the children that you ARE with THEM. Make them FEEL your ‘actual presence’ with them.”

Ameetha recounted a wonderful incident she witnessed during one of her sessions with our children. A girl was persistently asking for a picture book, while the volunteer was reluctant in handing it over to her, worrying that the girl might not handle her carefully and damage it. “Break this barrier”, says Ameetha. “Give them the hands-on experience. Give them the ‘responsibility’ and they will surprise you with their obedience & sincerity. NO- NO-NO – Then children will get more rebellious.” She made a clear point that 'our children' are extremely curious and crazy about the picture books. They don’t even mind watching the same pictures again and again. “Take this opportunity and make their world alive through the pictures. Teach them through pictures and not just words.”

“We should try to make the best of the latest wonderful tool in teaching aids – Technology! You guys have music system- Audio Cassette player/ CD player, Television, Computer with Speakers. What else do you need? There is plethora of wonderful material available in the market in the form of educational CDs and even on the internet in free downloadable forms. Use of Audio-Visuals is the simplest and smartest way to make your point go and stay deeper into their minds.”

“We should also try out some innovative games. Some of the ones that I play with my children regularly is POPCORN. This is one of the best ones to test and improve their listening skills and alertness.”

What’s the game of POPCORN? Make the children sit like a frog -- something like kneels down but not touching the ground and hands touching the ground.

Popcorn to teach the multiplication table of 3: Every child should pop (momentary jerk upwards) only when teacher says 3,6,9,12, and so on and Not on 1,2,4,5,7,8,etc.

Popcorn to teach colors: Every child is given a color and he/she child should pop only when he hears that specific color announced by the teacher. (Teacher’s job is to continuously say the names of various colors).

Children one who pop for the wrong one or do not pop for the right one lose and the one who will be very alert till the end will win the game.

Thus POPCORN Game can be used for teaching any concept, even during telling the stories.

“Give them rewards after winning. And most important explain them clearly the reason for their reward.”

Game-2: Game of opposites. Explain the rules to the children. For example:

Eyes and Ears are opposite

Head and Toes are opposite

Red and Yellow are opposite

Sit and Stand are opposite

Laugh and Cry are opposite

And so on… (Initially, play the game with just few opposites, and gradually introduce more pairs once they pick up the pace.)

Now Teacher says eyes with action (Spell out loudly EYES and Touch the Eyes). But children should say EARS with their hands touching their ears. Similarly if teacher says and touches ears, children work on eyes. And the crazy game will not just do its job of teaching the opposites in a funny way but also will make them stay alert.

ALWAYS END THE SESSION WITH A GAME. Make and explain the session’s schedule to your children. Tell the children clearly in the beginning of the session itself that they will be learning this particular concept today for say one hour (Never ask them what would they like to study on that day) and then they will play a particular game for say last 15 minutes, but provided they pay attention throughout the session. And then the teacher should stay by his/her words. Don’t allow the children/ child to play the game if they/he/she didn’t follow your rules. If you give up to the whims of the child, or get emotional and break your own rules, then he/she will always take you for granted and take you for the ride. So BE STRICT in this aspect. Rules should be followed. We will play the game in the end only if we pay attention throughout the session.

“It’s important to associate your action with your words.”

Amruta asks,” I face a lot of problem when I move over to the new topic. Some children insist on doing the things that they already know and love doing the same and hate learning the new concept in the beginning. What do I do?”

Priyanka and Shreya too add up explaining the similar case of non-school going girls Madhuri, Sheinki and Einnetti. “Some of them have become quite arrogant and moody.”

“There is nothing wrong in their behaviour or attitude. If we carefully analyse the circumstances that these girls are facing and the day-day problems and challenges being faced by them, we will realize that for them, their life as a struggle or a fight. People have been simply burdening them till now with their chores without thinking a bit about their dreams or aspirations; they are never appreciated or acknowledged, but on the contrary are regularly slammed, abused and even whipped. So where do they speak up their minds? Who is there to ‘listen’ to them? Here, at LEAD centre, in this cheerful environment, they feel happy that there are wonderful people who give them the much sought attention and love. So they try to make the best out of it. They expect the teachers as someone who will be fulfilling their wishes and whims now, after being utterly frustrated with their normal tasks. And when the teacher/ sir deny them something or do something that goes against their intentions, it hurts them and then they can’t control and vent out their frustration, which seems to be arrogance and rudeness for us. By expressing denial, they want to tell the world that no one listens to them. They are being tortured at home and are ignored even here now. Their attitude or behaviour just reflects their continuous inner and outer struggle with the world and it should not be perceived as their arrogance and dislike towards education. They need healing and counselling first, then education.”

“What kind of punishments should be given to the children when they don’t follow our instructions or misbehave?” was the most pressing question for all the volunteers.

“Never ever make them get out of the class”, came the pat reply from Ameetha. “This may make them happy and then the punishment will backfire. Instead make them sit aside away from the class/ group, but do this politely and smilingly and Not angrily, and then have some fun with the other children for next 4-5 minutes(may be in the form of puzzle, joke, story, question-answer, etc) This will definitely make them feel left out and sad. So they will say sorry and join you back, but as a good student this time.”

“But what if they don’t come back? What if they simply sit aside? “, asked Harsha, one of the volunteers.

“Then the teacher should take the lead. Ask that student, after having some with other children, that would he like to join them back now. Thus children should be made realized, in an interesting and more impacting manner, about their mistake and importance of discipline. Just scolding and beating wont work.”

Imposition is again another way of disciplining the children, if isolation does not work. “Make them write a particular stuff 5-10 times. They hate it and hence will not toe the line next time.”

“Bargaining is Positive Disciplining. Make deals.”

Ameetha also made the point that there should be no Direct Preaching (for example - “Mallesh, you always come late! Be punctual next time.”). It won’t work at all. This message should be passed on to him through a story that involves a character whose name is Not Mallesh but his traits are similar to him. While listening to the story, Mallesh will automatically relate himself to the similar character in the story and try to listen and learn till the end of the story. This Indirect method of preaching will also not make the child feel humiliated in front of everyone. (Its surprising to know that even children have ego problems) The negative to positive transformation should be done through the story. Stories are the powerful medium to bring about the self-transformation. (Even we adults will agree with this point) We can even make and tell the simple stories to put across a point.

“Don’t worry whether you are a good or bad story teller! Get them into the world of imagination. Introduce 5-10 key English words in the Hindi/ Marathi story and explain them their meaning during and after the story. Let them narrate this story to their friends. Let them get the attention from the world. Let them present the things before the world in their own way.”

She also emphasized the importance of Action Songs and Animation. She admitted that she took 10 sessions to just get rid of the stiffness of the children. She introduced the wonderful ice-breaker kind of action song – “Names, Names, Names. We all have names. You say yours and we all will say the same” The underlying rationale behind this specific game is that everyone loves to listen to their names, esp. when some one else says it. And in this game, every other child speaks aloud the name of the host child one after another. So definitely, a big booster to the self-esteem of the child! She said this one was always one of the most favourite games among her group of children.

Amruta expressed the difficulty of teaching the slow and fast learners together in the same group. Even children may be of different level/ learning capacities though they may be in the same class.

The solution to this problem lies in the proper identification, segregation and grouping of children.

Ameetha insisted that the Motivational Techniques for the children should be Always ON.

She then touched upon the most critical element in the effective teaching-learning process. “TONE”

Sadanand asked, “Some times we really have a crappy day and some how cant deliver our best to the children.”

“Throw out your frustrations and irritations before stepping inside this centre”, she instructed. “This is the meditation centre, for you and more importantly for these children. These children come here to seek attention from you, to speak so that their teacher/sir will listen to them. And if you enter frustrated and totally exhausted, you will spoil the mood of the entire session. It takes time & efforts to be a good teacher and this can happen only with regular self-reflection. One needs to analyse after taking the session that was the session really fruitful? Did it go the way it was planned? Did he/she do the complete justice to the time of children? “Volunteers, when they come to LEAD to teach our children, need to develop a deep love from their heart.”

Also she spoke about the importance of good team work and coordination. Most important- there should be no room for any kind of ego clashes amongst the volunteers, neither any kind of indiscipline or indecency during/ after the class and even in the class premises. Volunteer should maintain their dignity of a Teacher when they come to LEAD.

Positive strokes should be given to all the children all the time. Ameetha explained this with a beautiful example. If you find a child not sitting properly in the session, you may say,” I love the children sitting nicely in the class.” This will clearly send the right signal to everyone in a positive manner without pin-pointing anyone. “All who behave properly in the class today will get 10 minutes of game time today at the end of the session.” And then the teacher should ensure that the deserving ones really get the stuff as promised and the defaulting ones must lose this fun.

A teacher should try to find his/her student’s pulse. (Mind you, children are already smart enough to do so and they know how to make a particular teacher dance to their tunes) Much of bargaining can be done by the teacher when the situation goes too out of hand. Come down to their level. Connect with them. Sometimes, you can even give 10 minutes to a child saying he get this time to speak whatever he wants to his teacher. Just listen to them, keeping everything aside. Teacher should not hesitate at all in saying, “I am proud of you” as many times as possible to his/her student.

Chaitra, our volunteer put forward the severe problem of ‘Sharing’ among our children. She had observed this during one of the crafts session when some of the children were reluctant in sharing the scissors and gums with their peers. “Good Stories is the only solution that I can see right now”, says Ameetha. “They do the magic that we cant. We need to look for the stories around – books, internet – there is so much of material everywhere now just at the click of the mouse.”

“Give them rewards. Tell them in the beginning that the best performer will get 1 or 2 chocolates (or say 1 eraser) at the end of the session. And tell them that you are ‘Observing’ them. Children will definitely go all the way to grab that reward.”

“How do we handle the utterance of abusive words in the class?” asks a deeply concerned volunteer.

Again the answer was same. “Rewards and Stories do the work! The approach of more rewards to the positive ones is much better than scolding the negative ones.”

She suggested some of the creative rewarding schemes.

“Teacher can express her/his emotion – sad/ crying/happy by drawing the appropriate smiley face on the blackboard. Children never like their teacher sad and hence they will soon follow her instructions to see the smiling smiley face on the board.”

Give stars or smileys on their books. Tell them that they will get an eraser or pencil once they accumulate say 15 or 20 such stars/smileys. Or make them pick up their gift from such a goody bag or treasure box (containing such simple gifts) after the targeted collection. Thus try to make everything wonderment for them.

Talk to them about their favourite idols- be it actors/ actresses / cricketers – tell them how much hard they have worked to reach the level where they are today and earn the respect, fanfare and wealth that they have today. Show them negative as well as positive – like good restaurants and smaller eateries, good schools and the municipal ones – show them the dreams, goals and tell them that they can realize those if they work hard. Show them the steps that need to be followed to achieve that goal. Make them even speak to the local worker who has struggled hard in his life and managed to earn a decent living today through sheer hard work.

She also insisted upon the following important points:

---Reading sessions/habits

---Good games like as described above and others like Volume Control and even Tongue Twisters (go google to get some cool tongue twisters for children in all languages)

---Newspaper cuttings: Volunteers can cut the relevant ones and bring it to the class, explaining them to the children or even making them read and understand

----Advertisements and Slogans: Again coming back to Dramatics, she underlined the importance of action oriented teaching and learning methods rather than the conventional chalk and talk ones.

Kartha Madam shared one of the good practices followed in our morning batch -- making our children save their money in a piggy bank, a brainchild of our volunteer Patel madam. To our surprise, some of or children had managed to save about Rs.70-80 till now with their contribution as humble as Re.1/- and had even purchased some stuff with this money. “Bahut acchha lagta hai madam. Apne paise se kharidaa hai”, they say proudly. LEAD will soon get the piggy banks for all its children to inculcate this saving habit in everyone.

Arun raised the problem that not all children will accept the fun way of learning. Especially some of our elder ones may find it too childish. Ameetha clarified that we need to plan and roll out the age appropriate fun techniques.

Ameetha humbly ended the discussion saying that she was a Drama teacher in one of the schools earlier and they used to have a specific theme every month. She has some excellent books on Games on various categories and ‘I’ poems and will be soon sharing them with us.

All the volunteers expressed their gratifying thanks to Ameetha for sharing her experiences and tips/techniques with them. Having dawned upon with this precious wisdom and knowledge, its time for all the volunteers to now gear up and ‘Incessantly IMPLEMENT’ these suggestions in our daily sessions.

Thanks & Regards

Rupesh S Gesota

1 comment:

  1. This a wonderful article full of insights and practical tips as to how these chidren can be handled...