Sunday, January 29, 2006


CASW- Session 2

Well, here we are after our second CASW meeting!(a meeting attended for a brief time by Tara Kini-who was unfortunately called away by an insistent phone!). we were- seasoned members at a session facilitated by mr. Amarnathan.

The first presenter- Mohua

Context- An integrated unit in Art and SOS, where she tried to integrate the elements of Design Technology (pop-up cards) with a unit on 'explorers'. The attempt was to encourage children to bring to life the journey of explorers on giant sized maps( a sample was shown) using miniature pop-up cards to depict important events.

The problem: Studnts did not apply the skills effectively in designing the pop-ups for the map eve though during the early learning phase they brought forth marvellous examples of pop-up cards.

The key questions
What could have been done differently to get the children to apply principles of art and DT more effectively?
Would assessing application of skills have led to more motovation on their part?

Well- I needed to clarify two things after Mohua had explained the context- (1) Was there any discussion on what was to be done using one explorer as an example? and, (2)Did the students also practice making the miniatures before doing the actual presentation?

Mohua clarified that some discussion had gone into the process and that the students had been shown miniature samples and that some students had made miniature cards. She also realised at the time that many students had lacked skills like paper folding( many did not know how to make paper boats etc.)

All of us agreed that an enormous amount of thought and work had gone into the unit.There were also many suggestions from the various members. Many felt that the time period of 1 month was long drawn out and that this could have led to fizzling out of interest. The influence of external factors cannot be ruled out (holidays, absenteeism, student dynamics) and also the tendency of students to become so involved in one aspect of the presentation to the detriment of the other(in this case the sos part- tracing of the route rather than the art part- depicting the events )Setting out clear task expectations, and assessment criteria were also felt to be essential.

The collaborative strategies that were arrived at were:

Relating the topic to the context of the students - observation , explorers who arrived in india, field visits to develop greater understanding and interest ( a visit to Kerala!!!-Jew Town -Synagogue/Vasco da Gama Church - see the sun setting through Chinese nets at Fort Cochin- made me feel quite hoemsick I might add!)
Checking on preskills- ensuring that the students possess all the necessary skills to undertake the project at hand.
Self assessment tools both for process and product

I think the session was learning experience for all of us. To me the unit seemed to have vast scope for cross-curricular integration - learning about the literature of the time in addition to the historical changes , the movements in art, theatre and the discoveries and inventions ( a sudden image of students designing sextants and plotting a route based on the position of the stars - Wow!)

Well Mohua too has lots of food for thought. I am sure that the next integrated unit will bring her more satisfaction and success!

The second presenterDr. Maheshwaran

Context-A seminar series for students of 11S in Bio aimed at interactive learning.1 month preparatory time with concrete guidelines for a 45 minute powerpoint presentation. (30 minutes presentation ,15 minutes of interactive debate/questioning by peers and teacher

The problem: The sample that Mahesh showed us was one that he thought worthy of being considered a benchmark.

The key questions

Would the sample be considered a benchmark by others? our perspectives on it.
Could it be considered a benchmark at national and internationallevel?

My feeling was that the methodology that Mahesh had followed was excellent, even the concept of benchmarking and the way he had set up clear guidelines for the students was in fact remarkable. My question however was on how original the students work was? (This was in relation to the fact that the student had downloaded some of the material for the slides from the net)This was shared by Srini as well.

Another question about benchmarking that I had for Mahesh was wether he had been able to compare the sample with other benchmarked material.Unfortunately, as Mahesh remarked not too many samples could be found.All the participants did feel that it was Mahesh's modelling- over several lectures- of what constituted good presentations that the student wa able to design an effective presentation on his own. Neela was absolutely right in saying that the oral presentation that went with the powerpoint would have been of tremendous importance as it would have described to us how effective the student was in putting his point across to his peers.Srini's added point that the benchmarking should take into account the amount of information the peers were able to garner from the presentaion was felt to be extremely valid.

I did feel that the issues of copyright and originality need to be sorted out before the actual benchmarking process could start. (Setting up of certain criteria or rules to say that a student's work cannot contain more than say 10% of downloaded material )I did also feel that a collaborative decision (dept wise)could be taken on the setting of benchmark standards (even so far as going to say that we may need different benchmarks for different levels!)and then think about national /international benchmarking.

We also jointly felt that it is upto us to do the spade work that is necesary to set up these standards- the first being to find out whether there are any agencies or institutions that publish such standards-nationally/ and then maybe to look at publishing excellent samples of student work on the school website!

Mahesh's inclusion of the term 'emotional intelligence' was very heartening- a way of teaching his students how to respect the presenter and his time both in manner and speech -That was AWESOME!(Sorry- had to shout!)Hat's off to you Mahesh!

Mahesh's reflections showed that he was taking away a lot from the session and that we can look forward to more and more wonderful presentations from his students.


All in all a more relaxed session- the rigidity of the process does not seem so limiting now. In fact we even found time in-between sessions to share nostalgic notes on that evergreen topic- "when we were young' and "today's children"! Coming to the session after a morning spent with tiny tots (prep-readiness) who just amazed me with their confidence and complete absence of fear was, I think partly responsible for the bubbly mood I found myself in!

Friday, January 20, 2006


CASW- Session 1

The first CASW meeting of Group 3 was held in the Computer lab on 18-1-06. The presenters were Srinivasan and Anitha. Mrs. Dharma Kannan kindly consented to be the facilitator.

The first presentation was by Srinivasan

The context: A trip to Bandipur by std 9D students as part of DOD week
The objective: to create an awareness of civic ans environvental issues and to awaken a sense of social responsibility.
The process: conversation with an expert (audio recording) followed by a socratic seminar, role plays etc, interspersed with other activities.

Key questions: How to carry on further activities to consolidate learning?
do life skills need to be assessed? If so, what tools could be used?

Many pertinent questions were asked during the clarifying stage, which were helpful during the discussion phase. Many ideas were expressed. The crux being that students require practical exposure to such issues and that continued reinforcement would be requied even after they returned inorder to consolidate learning. It was also felt that students must interact closely with social activists and should be aware of the legal issues. Another point for consideration was that Srini could use current events to spark off debates or discussions in class.Identifying areas where intregration is possible with other subjects was another suggestion.

It was jointly agreed that while life skills do need to be assessed, they are intagible and cannot be assessed withe grades or a number. It is an on-going process and the effects of life skills training may take years to amnifest themselves.

The presenter was certianly provided with ideas to take away and implement . We will know what has worked when Srini returns after his next DOD trip!

The second presentation was by Anitha

the context: Peer teaching by students of std 9
The process: students present their understanding of the topic in pairs by means of a powerpoint presentation
Guidelines for the process were provided to the students.

Key questions: Will peer teaching work for any topic?
How can students be occupied fully during the presentation.

Several interesting ideas were thrown up during the discussion. While the consensus was that peer teaching is an excellent teaching/learning tool- it may not work in all contexts and with all topics with all students. A lot of thought and planning has to go before a topic can be thrown up for peer teaching (issues like background knowledge, heaviness of content, nature of peer tutor) It was felt that for peer teaching to be effective, the students should be active participants in the process.

As for keeping students occupied, it was felt that graphic organizers, worksheets or key questions would help them focus better.Peer assessment issues also came up during the discussion.Giving the students clearcut assessment criteria / awarding them points for good questions were other ideas.

Anitha has a lot of ideas to choose from and implement when she has her next class of student presenters. We will hear from her at the review.

Lots of great ideas came up. Many were learning experiences for all of us. The protocol while seemingly following a rigid procedure actually sets both the limits and the platform for discussions. the time limits set for each and the time given to the presenter to develop his context and reflection is actually a great idea. (initially I did find it irksome!! to be silent while the presenter said something I did not personally agree with.... But on reflection I realise that it gave both the presenter and the participant time to consolidate their thinking.) All thanks to Mrs. Dharma Kannan for acting as the facilitator at such short notice!!!

Thursday, January 19, 2006


Web tools...

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Web tools.....hmmmm.... let me see.... Terrifying at first.... interesting once I got the hang of it. (Blogging could be addictive!) I've enjoyed blogging... read a few blogs outside of PPSE... Amazed at the variety (There's even a blog that has all sorts of knitting patterns!!!! ) ... and love it as a reflective tool. Brought back lots of memories.. the personal diaries that were part of my growing years... and also as a vehicle to express my thoughts to all and sundry (padho ya na padho... Mujhe yeh kehna hai!) Enjoyed the discussion board too. But it usually ended up in f2f (Thanks Suchi . for the new adition to my e-vocab) discussions with Mohua/Koshy. Maybe it works better when it is used by people who don't see each other during the course of the day. (the f2f discussions however were great fun!)

As educational tools- considering the group of kids I work with... continued participation could be a problem. Need to think in terms of modifying the method... Miles to go before it can be applied practically!!!!

Seriously however, the blogs are highly personal reflections and would probably very useful in a literature session- think of the posibilities...... students give their take on Shakespeare/keats or Eliot with gay abandon! But the matter would have to be something that they could relate to and be able to express. Since there is no one leading the discussion, you can never say where it would go! The other would be the quality of expression. Not all students may be comfortable putting their thoughts out there for everyone to see. However, I wonder whether it would be as suitable for science or math content. (Ideas anyone?)

The discussion board on the other hand, seems to me to be highly suitable for moderated discussions. The students have a point on which to focus on and can be led back if thoughts tend to stray. It would offer differring viewpoints on the same topic. Summing up of ideas, leading students on to new paths and offering feedback would be possible on a discussion board.

Though I have been commenting on blogs and discussion boards as if I were a professional,I must confess that a lot more of thought and perhaps training is required before I can actually use it as an educational tool.

Shuchi said...
Very well put, Raji! Just to comment on your use of blogs for education - perhaps school/class blogs could be put up on a specific topic that the teacher assigns (as opposed to being a free format thing). That might prevent them from going all over the place (if that is not a desirable outcome, i.e.)

3:56 AM
# posted by Raji Nair @ 6:30 AM 1 comments


Down Memory Lane.....

Monday, August 22, 2005

Like Koshy I too have finished the 'basic minimum requirement' for the discussion board. While I wait for others to finish their posts (Ahem! Haven't you seen my halo?!) I thought I'd just describe a few experiences that came to mind as I was writing my timeline.

Well... there was this boy... Around 13 years old, hyperactive, intelligent , quarrelsome(he was credited with flattening his father's entire plantain crop -with an axe in a temper)- he would run away from home at the drop of a hat. And return a few days later none the worse for wear. This had become almost routine and the parents were at their wits' end when they brought the child in for assessment. On assessment it was felt that the child would fare well with medication and remedial classes. Guidelines were given to the parents .(the father was very result-oriented and had taken to thrashing the boy for his poor grades). But,the running away continued, the mother was in despair. We, the teachers were in despair. The child was called in... spoken to .. but he still ran.. Each call for an appointment was met with tense expressions"Oh, God! What's he done now?". Then a lull..... Six months later- progress report. Mother claims gleefully,"Madam, he ran away again, but this time, he took the medicines with him!" Success??? Well sort of.... because we heard later that the temper tantrums had reduced and that he had stopped running away.

This one- a girl , same age group as our runner. Family consisting of dad, stepmom, elder sister and baby stepbrother. Reason for referral- poor grades, emotional isues.Parents- mom with tears in her eyes , talks about the child's atttitude towards her or rather the change in attitude towards her. Initially, the child was accepting of her and responded with affection, but this gradually changed. Reason- comments by some insensitive teachers.... the unsaid more than the said.. the expression, or a roll of the eyes when the child did not bring in some work or did something wrong- comments suggesting that this happened because her "real" mother was not around to take care of her !This led to the change in attitude and the falling grades.

Both examples are from my earlier place of work. But, they could be true of any kid anywhere. The first instance was one where both the home environment and emotional difficulties formed the context of learning and the second were the school context led to changes in perception and interfered with learning.

# posted by Raji Nair @ 4:34 PM 1 comments
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ppsemohua said...
Amazing!! The state of the mother's


Time line of my teaching practice

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

How contexts have changed and how it has affected my teaching

Fresh out of college, brimming with enthusiasm, I took up the post of a spoken English teacher in a little institute in Kochi, Kerala. Needless to say, I had no clue as to what I was doing, had no ideas about what it took to be a teacher. My “students” , many of them older than me,were mostly gulf aspirants who just wanted to learn enough English to get by. I found I could not relate either to the context or to the content ( I was not inspired... the task seemed mundane )and so , with all the arrogance of youth, I bid good bye …..

A few years later, married, living in Calicut, bored.... I landed myself a job as a lecturer in English for the MA course in a private college. Wow! This was my dream job. I still had no understanding of the skills required for the job…. But I was enthusiastic…

I had to teach two disparate groups of students. The first years : fresh out of college, the boys; most of whom had chosen English literature because they thought it was an easy subject (time pass while they wrote tests and applied for jobs), the girls ;who were just whiling away their time as their parents sought the perfect groom…. The second years on the other hand were all in their forties, school teachers of 15 or more years of experience, who were trying to complete their masters so as to apply for posts in the newly initiated plus two classes…They had paid to be taught enough to pass and that was what they wanted…. no frills, thank you!
In the beginning I tried dealing with both the groups in the same way, stick to the topic at hand, and prepare them for the exams…. But I realized that I was making no head way with the first years. They seemed distracted and uninterested in the array of information I was presenting to them. I realized that many things that were spoken of in literature had no relevance for them, they could relate to Romeo and Juliet perhaps but not to an Emperor Jones… They needed to talk, they needed connectivity, they needed, out of necessity, my teaching methods changed for this group.....then , the bouquets came...... Looking back, I realise that my inexperience with life itself had been a stumbling block in my teaching....

Well…… much water flowed under the bridge; I moved back to Kochi. I was again teaching students of MA in a private college. My personal context had changed....I was a mother....had gone through personal turmoil, seen "the other side of the fence" as it were and could now personally relate to several things that I was teaching ( things that had been mere bookish knowledge earlier!). On reflection, I think this added a new dimension to my teaching...By now I had also realized what was needed to hold the attention of these 20 somethings..…how to use examples from reel or real life incidents to illustrate my points so as to make it relevant for them.... to make learning solicit their opinions and comments....

Then my life went into tailspin! I learnt a new term- Learning Disability. It had great personal meaning and relevance for me. While still teaching part time, I did a course in special education and was offered a post in the same institution (a multi-disciplinary centre for diagnosis and remediation of developmental disabilities). It was the most challenging yet exciting phase of my life. Everything that I had done until then seemed to pale into insignificance in comparison. Everyday brought with it new challenges and new knowledge. I learnt to deal with children from different social strata, with a range of disabilities , age groups- retarded, learning disabled, autistic, spastic….Contexts changed everyday…. …the parents- pushy, helpless, illiterate, highly educated.. all brought with them their own emotional and social contexts…. To explain their child’s difficulties to them required modification of the content… to each in way that would be acceptable and understandable (Sometimes, my emotions would get the better of me..... how do you tell a mother that all three of her children suffer from various degrees of retardation...?). Dealing with them gave me a new perspective on life... the bravery... the sheer courage some showed in just going from day to day.... made me feel that my problems were miniscule.... a mere speck... in comparison. The saying "I wept because I had no shos till I met the man who had no feet" was literally, figuratively, metaphorically being replayed..... My personal context made the work more meaningful, more relevant....
Remedial classes for each child required us to focus on the background, the difficulty level, and the emotional state of the child. Content had to be tailored to suit each child. Even the way I spoke to different children varied, my accent, the words….. These experiences showed in interactions with my own child..
There were sensitization programmes for teachers and parents. Content was re-arranged, cut, shaped, to suit the need, one way for parents, another for teachers....
Here, I learnt valuable lessons in empathy, patience, understanding and teamwork.....
I changed, grew.... perspectives broadened, emotional corridors widened.......

A change in my circumstances brought me to MAIS. It was with a heavy heart that I left the Child Guidance Clinic, but MAIS has been an equally rich experience....Though I still deal with students with special needs , the physical context has changed. The context in which education is imparted has changed ,the background of the students and their level of interaction is different. Learning disability has become the focus of intervention.I deal with the same set of students and their parents every day.......But the challenges remain …… content still needs to be tailored to the personal demands of the child. Learning new things everyday..... hurdling new obstacles.......

# posted by Raji Nair @ 1:31 PM 8 comments

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mahesh said...
Hi Raji,
Nice feeling to be part of your journey. Your journey reinforces the sifnificance of living by and being aware of those momentary experiences that change one's life forever. If you had not been aware of the issues of learning disabilities, your life would have been like any body else's. Nice learning for me: "always be alive and aware"

1:14 AM

joel said...
It's nice to know about your journey and also like to know why you have decided to educate learning disability students.

9:17 PM

a.v.koshy said...
raji, you write in a beautifully flowing style, enjoyed reading every bit of it , looking forward to hearing the complete story before commenting more on the content...

12:11 AM

Geeta Kamat said...
Hey Raji,

It was inspiring to read your blog!

9:34 AM

sandra kunder said...
A wonderful 'guided tour' of your personal journey Raji. Keep going!

9:37 AM

Balakrishnan said...
Blood on the blog!
I am sorry if I am reading too much in your time line.
I am adding your response to my posting with this time line and I am tempted to think a bit more than the flow of the text and the nice reading otherwise attributed to it. One more thing I noticed is that, there is no real ending to your posting. It continues or remains as unsaid. All the best!

10:38 PM

Tara Kini said...
I just wonder if all of teachers should be involved in learning assistance (teaching learning disabled students) at least for a couple of years in order to understand the teaching learning process and develop empathy!

7:34 AM

Shuchi said...
You do done a wonderful job of expressing your timeline as an engaging, personal narrative - it flows very naturally (this is on response to a small f2f chat about your apprehensions about your writing style).

Your changing contexts have come through well - contexts of your students, their parents, and above all, your own changing stations (figuratively speaking) in life.

I agree with Tara - it would be great if all teachers could become familiar with some basic strategies used by learning specialists in order to appropriately engage every child in their classrooms.

1:15 AM


A Learning Experience

Saturday, July 30, 2005

As a teacher, I empathise with my students and try to understand their emotional problems in addition to their academic problems. However, in one particular case, I was concentrating so hard on the academic aspect that I had paid very little attention to the emotional aspects.

I had called the student in on a Saturday, to work with me on a one on one session as there was a test on the following Monday. It was to be a three hour session, with breaks in between. After about an hour of concentrated(?) study, the student asked(begged would be a bettet word) for a break. Spying, a Scrabble set on the table, the student asked if we could play the game. I readily agreed (I needed the break too!) As we played, the student in question made a word that made no sense to me. We argued.... "hey! , no making up words of your own!" "Miss, I swear to god, I heard this on cartoon network". "You sound like my son, he does the same whenever we play Scrabble!" and then the bombshell!!!.. "Miss, your son is very lucky" and my flippant rejoinder, " Yeah! he gets to learn math from me!" "No, miss. He's lucky he has a mother who can play scrabble with him." Good God! There I was, all of my superior wisdom and experience fallen flat. Not knowing how to respond to the innocent remark of a twelve year old.

This however, turned out to be a major breakthrough in my relationship with the student. A private person who had never mentioned any personal tidbits... Slowly I began to make more opportunities to discuss the students interests and aspirations during my sessions. I began to concentrate more on the emotional aspect than on the academic.Talking about hobbies brought a glow to the child's face. I was even able to teach ratio and proportions using the context of this hobby....... Even the need for learning the topic could be conveyed by associating it to the hobby. Both of us became more relaxed and the sessions became more enjoyable.

Understanding the emotional state and circumstances of a student affects the planning process, the mode of delivery and even the time you choose to spend on an activity.Though I did not connect it to terms like context and content,I realise now how the context influenced the content.This experience has also made me decide to take time off and concentrate on the child before me (his or her interests, hobbies, likes and dislikes.......) even before I think of his or her academic needs.

# posted by Raji Nair @ 3:16 AM 3 comments
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Shuchi said...
Raji!!! What a beautiful story and colorful, too! (I am so glad you experimented with inserting a picture as well playing around with the formatting.)
All students bring an "emotional" context into the classroom that affects the learning and what you teach and how you teach it. The fact that you recognized this issue and addressed it by designing the curriculum accordingly is awesome!
I guess this is the challenge for all teachers who wish to be sensitive to the backgrounds of their students - a challenge that becomes bigger when one is working with big numbers of students.
Well done on the blog, Raji!

2:19 AM

Tara Kini said...
Raji, I was moved to tears when you narrated the comment from your student. I, too, have very often ignored the emotional needs of my students when I have got carried away with the academic aspect of the lesson. It is this attention to context that makes a teacher special. It is this going the extra mile that enables a teacher to make a difference in a child's life and it is this that makes all the toil of a teacher's burden so completely worthwhile!

PS: I love Scrabble too! Shall we have a PPSE scrabble session?

11:36 PM

udaykarpur said...
i fully agree with you, as teachers we always have to carefully pay attention to the emotional needs of our students which enables us to teach them in a better way!!

12:24 AM

Wednesday, January 18, 2006



Special Education
"If I cannot learn the way you teach, will you teach the way I can learn."

(Have to find out who's words these are, but they describe perfectly how any student in the classroom feels)

Now, the teacher:

I have come to the frightening conclusion that,
I am the decisive element in the classroom.
It is my personal approach that creates the climate.
It is my daily mood that makes the weather.
As a teacher I possess tremendous power to make a child’s life miserable or joyous.
I can be tool of torture or an instrument of inspiration.
I can humiliate or humour, hurt or heal.
In all situations it is my response that decides whether a crisis will be escalated or de-escalated, and a child humanized or de-humanized.

Dr. Hiam Ginott

(A frightening though isn't it...... holding this kind of power over any one.)

If we put an understanding of the elements of both these quotations together, I think we will arrive at the perfect classroom....... Ideas anyone?

# posted by Raji Nair @ 1:07 AM 7 comments

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tara said...
Raji, I liked the slogan you havce posted on your blog.

As for losing hair etc., not to worry - in a week's time you will be talking about blogging as if you have been at it all your life!


3:29 AM

a.v.koshy said...
that's a fantastic quote.

1:52 AM

ppsemohua said...
What a Quote!! Whose was it?

10:35 PM

ppsemohua said...
What a quote!! Whose was it?

10:35 PM

ppsemohua said...
What a quote!! Whose line was it anyway?

10:35 PM

sandra kunder said...
Would love to brainstorm with you to arrive at practical ideas!

6:39 AM

sandra kunder said...
Would love to brainstorm with you to arrive at practical ideas!

6:39 AM

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