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!

dear raji, it was so nice to read how you were excited about the possibilities of integration a topic like explorers could lend itself to. I too felt the same way about a lot of stuff in my first two years in aditi. But then i also used to get bogged down after trying it out and getting the kids to do it and "get" it. It was then that I realised the folowing -Integration, especially if you are not a class teacher and go in only for one subject, needs a lot of ground work in terms of having an exact idea of student abilities, strengths, weaknesses,inclinations and class trends.This requireds the class teachers to be in good sync and constant touch with the concerned subject teacher. On top of this awareness, if there is meticulous planning and execution, then I think any idea- even those ambitious and romantic sounding ideas can be used in integration
dear raji, i thik al ot of important points were touched upon there. the era of the individual teacher seems to be over and we are hastening its process... both topics were relevant ... thanks for the bird's eye view....
Dear Raji,
I really liked to read your blog. Your home sickness would have helped you to think more about emotional intelligence.
Dear Raji,
You have given a brilliant overview of both the presentations.Its great to see that all of us are excited by the prospect of integration across subjects.
Yes, Raji, your response to the CASW sessions has sparked off much thinking it looks like! I would agree that departmental benchmark portfolios are a great necessity in order to set up standards. That was something we often talked about in the science staff room but never got down to doing.

I would also agree with Neela that integration with different disciplines does need coordinated planning between different teachers, but the more teachers collaborate, the more effective and richer will be the material created for the learner.
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