Tuesday, February 28, 2006


CASW 3 - Other presentations

Mr. Amarnathan and Neela , both presented their student samples. While Mr. Amarnathan wanted to know how one could develop a love for language in children , Neela looked at extension of s particular student's work including modes of assessment.

Both the language teachers gave us detailed background material on the kind of work that was being done.

Mr. Amarnathan's key question:How do we make language learning empirical and relevant to life in the process of developing listening and speaking skills and raise the state of language learning from mere academic survival to a living experience?

Due to the absence of a co-teacher,I was unable to attend the session in time and so missed out on the audio recording provided as sample. However,I was part of the participant discussion. Many suggestions were provided in addition to the ones that the teacher was already carrying out. With respect to his key question,I think Mr.Amarnathan has his work cut out for him. English is perceived as a global language and the means of technological communication, added to this is the over-riding Americanisation (canI say of the world?).Children and adults are so pre-occupied with learning the latest slang and being considered 'with-it' that they do not bother with their mother tongues.They find it easy enough to communicate with everyone around in English.(this includes the maids,drivers and the like).

Neela's key question: Considering that the student has shown great progress. Should she extend him in all four areas (viz-reading, writing, listening and speaking)or should she spend more time on lessons giving him guided practice towards making his written work flawless?
The implicit question being -Should assessment be summative or formative?

The immediate reaction to her questions was that the student should definitely be given opportunities to read/write/listen and speak more.And of course,it went without saying that assessment should continue to be formative rather than summative.Anitha's suggestion was that the students writing work could follow different formats each time so as to make it interesting.I felt that extending the student in listening and reading would lead to improved writing.

The two sessions dealt with the learning of languages from two perspectives and made for interesting listening.The spirited (with Mohua around ,it can never be anything less than spirited!)discussion on the topic of language learning was proof enough!


CASW 3-My presentation

The third CASW presentation has come and gone in a whirl! I was presenting my student work and to cap it I had just that morning received feedback on my essay -the two factors were enough to make me slightly light headed.

I would like to begin with my own presentation first.


Student of Std 6, receiving learning support in Science.
One pull-out class a week (during second language as student has language exemption).Student stays back after school for extra classes if and when required.
Requires clues to help link previous learning to new situations.

Limitations in current set-up:

Student is not on modified curriculum-hence has to do same work as peers. No modified question paper/assignments.
Home support-negligible
Student’s inherent difficulties with comprehension, recall, writing, interpretation and analyis

My key question:

What strategies can I use to make my teaching more effective and the student a better learner?

The questions during the clarifying round focused on the kind of support provided, the number of one-to-one classes and the difficulty level of the student.

The participant discussion focused on teaching methodology to be employed. One issue that was raised was related to the loss of self-esteem in students with LD due to pull outs, another was the necessity to identify software suitable for such students.

Strategies mentioned included using visual modes of teaching, using flashcards and recorded lessons. Another pertinent point was to use previous learning situations- to see what helped the child to understand and recall a particular concept and use it in teaching new topics.

The strategies that were suggested are being put into practice at different stages. This could be due to the fact that I teach in a one-to one situation,my entire focus is on the one student and the individual needs and the way the child learns becomes more clear as each session progresses. Coupled with this is the fact that other teachers who work with the same student (from my department) as well as the counselor are able to provide me with feedback on the student's learning-including strategies that they have successfully used. This actually means that I end up fine tuning my teaching methodology constantly.

My response to the issue of loss of self esteem was in the nature of anecdotes. The memory of one student’s answer to his friend’s comment –“Miss Raji is here to help you because you’re dumb”. “No, she’s not here because I’m dumb, but because I have difficulties in organization and writing. She helps me with that!” (I nearly jumped with joy at that!) The point is that when the student is confident and sure of why the help is provided, they do not look upon it as being damaging to their self-esteem. I do admit that a great deal of sensitization is required – for the student, peers, parents and teachers. Viji Sampath, Neena John and Anne John had presented a paper at the BDA Conference last year that dealt with the very same issue. Their research into this issue clarified that acceptance of learning support follows a curve- in smaller classes students are more than willing to have learning support teachers around,when they step into high school there are issues of peer pressure which may cause them to say no to the support.But, interestingly,once the same students reach say 9,10 or higher, they realise on their own the importance and need for the support and ask for it on their own.

Another topic that came up during discussion was to do with technology. Mohua had suggested the possibility of looking at software that could be used by students with LD. The department has looked into it, identified a few and held a presentation for parents. We hope to take it further by actually installing it on a few of our school computers.

I do not know whether my key question was too generic to be answered with concrete examples. Maybe, as Tara pointed out, a more pointed question would have brought out more. Suggestions anyone?

Monday, February 20, 2006


Reward and Punishment- a short long story

My responses to Tara's discussions on her posting has been so long that I thought I'd put themon my blog. (Makes sense!)

I have been reading with great interest the various comments on the rewards/punishments system to increase motivation (including Tara’s tongue-in-cheek comment on consequences for exceeding the word limit!) I remember from my school days a teacher who was himself the motivating factor in developing an interest in a particular subject. Thomas sir , who taught me in the IXth and Xth what an English teacher!!! He made poetry come alive-made me realize that poetry goes beyond rhyming lines and helped me see the beauty of it and I began enjoying the English classes. It was his evident enthusiasm and love for the subject coupled with the fact that he was one of the few teachers who would go a little beyond the prescribed syllabus that motivated many of us. I can also recall a History teacher who read out from the text and put us all to sleep (either that or we had lively games of noughts and crosses) I dislike the subject till date.

On the flip side I can also remember from my experience how small rewards did help kindle an initial motivation which gradually turned into a genuine interest in the subject. While working in Kochi, I had to teach math to a student in the VIIth std. A child with Learning Disabilities, he attended a CBSE school and came to me with a very familiar sentiment -“I hate math!” No matter how patient I was, or how many times I tried to explain concepts –he remained adamant-it was too difficult, dull -"who needs math any way". Repeated failure in school due to his disability had led to a complete loss of interest in the subject.After a few sessions, we worked out a system. For every 15 minutes of concentrated work, he would get 5 minutes of free time. Many chapters later, I was still facing a losing battle in terms of his motivation and interest in math. His marks in school tests continued to be dismally poor bringing on another spree of “I hate math!” My plan did not seem to be working; his eyes would be on the clock. But gradually he began concentrating a bit more. With an exultant-“Miss, its time!” demanding his free time. Till for a chapter on ‘Exponents’ he became so engrossed in understanding the strange rules and numbers before him that he did not ask for his free time! The next test result was amazing -from digit marks he had progressed to 60%. That success made him realize that he could perform well in math. From then on things improved dramatically. In the 3 years that I worked with him, I did not hear the ‘I hate math’ again. (He passed his board exams with 80% marks in math).

while the reward of free time encouraged the student to sit in one place and listen to me, he needed a lot of verbal encouragement to figure out the whys and whats of topics he was learning. being an extremely intelligent child, he would sometimes floor me with questions and I had to think on my feet to provide suitable answers. In this instance I do believe that what the student needed was a trigger- to set him on the path to success and if the extra time was an incentive....

12:56 PM

Raji Nair said...
I agree with Dharma totally- sanctions and punishments breed resentment, actually leading to loss of motivation. It sort of translates into-"I don't like the teacher,so I don't like the subject she teaches." And yes, a word of encouragement or praise goes a long way in getting better results. An "I am so glad that you have taken the effort to write neatly" to a sloppy, untidy student will ensure that next time he takes a little more effort.
And yes, feedback should be accurate and focussed on what exactly the student needs to do to improve his or her performance. Feedback should also point out what the child has done well. (one word -"jnanashunyam" from Ms Soubhagyavathy my music teacher in school for singing a wrong note-left all hopes of a musical career shattered!Don't even dare hum in public now!)
I am running on .... should have put all this on my blog methinks....

8:06 AM

Tara Kini said...
Raji, your posting is very interesting. The 5 minute free time is a great incentive because it helps kids who have short attention spans. In fact, if I am not mistaken, do we all not concentrate best in 10 minute bytes? In a class, I have found that planning one activity for a maximum of 20 minutes works best. For the PPSE contact sessions, we could see the drop in energy if a discussion went on beyond 15 minutes. So yes, I would go with a 5 minute break full heartedly even for a group of focussed individuals!

12:53 PM

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?