CISCO makes Math fun.

We recently pulled out all the contents of Ganitha Kalika Andolana’s big White Box for you. It has a beaded rope, tape, blocks, foamed goodies, measuring tools, and weighing balance etc. In a nutshell, everything a child needs to understand every Math concept in his/her syllabus.

But explaining each concept is no nutshell of a job. It’s creative, challenging, easy and tough, all at the same time. Which is why, we decided to come up with as many ways as possible for the teacher to use as ready reckoners, while teaching Math.

And what made it better, our friends at CISCO Bangalore, decided to huddle together one day and brainstorm for us. Eager yet cautious faces greeted our entire team, as we began the fun afternoon. The sheer magnanimity of the things being pulled out of the box seemed to deter them at first.

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But once they got the hang of the entire kit, the place was abuzz. The entire group was divided into three large groups. Team A had to come up with pictorial representations for addition, subtraction, multiplication, division and number counting using the abacus, beaded rope and base ten blocks. Team B got Fractions and Decimals, while Team C tackled Geometry.

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What followed was a few hours of excited squeals, quiet pondering, hushed discussions and noisy exclamations. Each team further divided themselves, so that they could come up with as many representative options as possible.

“It’s the most interactive session we have ever had” said Blessie, the chirpy and ever helpful team member of the CISCO volunteer team. “But a lot of the credit also goes to our leadership team. They push us a lot, “ she added without being able to pry her eyes away from the coloured blocks.

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It was amazing to see how 30 odd adults became a class of 30 in no time at all. While one team was busy dunking the foam strips in water and having fun, another was busy experimenting with stick figures. And yet another team was deep in discussion, ensuring theirs was the best 🙂

And the most exciting part for us was the fact that we actually got a great number of options to choose from, at the end!

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Soujanya, who has been interning for around 5 months was a little intimidated with the colourful yet unknown things overflowing from the white box. “It took us a while to get the hang of how different things are used, but on the whole, very interesting.” And so she continued adding the finishing touches to her group’s presentation.

A brainstorming session of this kind was an excellent way for this enthusiastic bunch to also experience the Math kit first hand. And a lot of them actually realised how challenging it is, to think at a 4th grade child’s level.

Sachin, who has taught in government schools before, confirms that a pictorial way is the most effective method of retention. He adds, “This sort of system with a pictorial representation of concepts helps schools where teachers are fewer in number, and they multitask. Many of these concepts can also help the kids directly.”

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As the session drew to a close, the teams got busy documenting their ideas.The last team that remained was a particularly interesting one. Khyati from that team, who has been with CISCO for a couple of years now, is from a government school herself.

Her excitement with an assignment like this is definitely above anyone else’s. While she was one of the lucky few to actually get a scholarship from Udyan Care, many don’t get that luxury. “Which is why, I am a part of the volunteer group. I want to give back to schools like mine, where getting a sound education is difficult.”

Reasons big or small, it was heartening to see so many people come together for the sake of education. And we thank them all for their time and effort in helping us take that one step ahead. Looking forward to many more brainstorming sessions. 🙂

You can see how the entire afternoon spanned out here.

A Visit to GLPS Ilathore

Nalini NK & Suman Nadakarni of the Resource team visited GLPS Ilathore, in Sadahalli Cluster of Devanahalli Taluk.  This is an account of their experience at the school.


  This school is situated in the interior and is around 3kms from the Devanahalli Main Road. The transportation facility to the school is somewhat limited, as the buses travel once in 2 hours and therefore people here either walk, or take 2-wheelers. We reached the school at around 10.30 am.

As soon as we entered the school campus, we were surprised to see the environment inside the school. The school compound is well built. There are trees planted on both the rows of the ground periphery, which houses a beautiful small garden in between.  The school premises are kept very clean and tidy. The floor of the classrooms are made up of tiles and look very attractive and shiny. The school has separate toilets for boys, girls and staff members.

When enquired about the environment here, the Head Master Mr. Shivakumar said that it is a result of the great support and farsighted vision of the SDMC President, members and parents.  Also, each classroom is decorated with TLM materials in a very neat and orderly fashion.

We then visited the Nali-Kali Class. What we observed there stunned us with excitement. The walls of the classroom are divided into small rectangular spaces, which act as a black-board for every child. The Children write on the board, erase and re-use the space and hence making learning not just effective but also a lot of fun. The same pattern is followed in all 3 Nali-Kali classes. The teacher Rajeshwari is a calm and a very enthusiastic lady, and hence is able to pay individual attention to every child.


As we were passing by we saw that class 5 was self-handled by the kids. The children seemed quiet. The class leader was reading a lesson aloud and the rest of the children were following her enthusiastically. The Head Master, then said, that every class in this school followed a similar pattern.    

Outside the classrooms, in the verandah, the school has a small Library which houses story books, newspapers and magazines. The children whenever free visit the library corner and spend time in reading. On the other side of the verandah, there is a cupboard with shelves, where the glasses and plates are kept. After, the children finish their lunch; the utensils are washed and kept in the shelf, vertically allowing the water to dry up. Also, there are sufficient number of plates and glasses for every child in the school.

The Children are enthusiastic and very eager to learn. The teachers also are very supportive of the children. Identity cards are given to each and every child. Both, English and Maths programme are running well in this school. The children are grouped, and then encouraged to use the Teaching Learning Material (TLM) in groups, hence allowing group study and also imbibing traits of teamwork and leadership. Math is been taught in the school using Akshara’s TLM, teachers and children both thoroughly enjoy teaching and learning math this way.

Dr. Annapurna Kamath’s Perspective on Akshara Ganitha

Dr. Annapurna Kamath is the Content developer and Master Trainer for the Akshara Ganitha programme. She shares with us her views on the importance of Mathematics and its learning.


Dr Annapurna Kamath conducting a training session

Please let me have your background. What do you do? How long have you been in your profession?

I am a Doctorate in Computer Science and Applications. With an M.Sc in Computer Software, I started my career in the IT Industry and then moved to academics as I am passionate about teaching. I have been using every opportunity to teach since my college days. I worked as Associate Professor and Head, MBA Systems Department, at Mount Carmel Institute of Management. Then I moved on to Head the MCA Department at Mount Carmel College. I was responsible for establishing the Department. Then I took a break and got into early childhood education. I had been pursuing this part time through Shishulok – The Child’s World – a child resource centre, when I was working with Mount Carmel as I loved working with children. This was a weekend programme then, which I made into a full-time centre after quitting my job at Mount Carmel. 

Working with higher education I felt a need to lay a strong foundation at the foundation level and also make learning fun so that children look forward to learning rather than come to schools and colleges because it is the norm. There was a lack of enthusiasm to learn in students and their only goal was to score, which worried me. Shishulok was operative as a full-fledged centre for about four years where I offered day care, infant/toddler/preschool programmes and also ran an activity centre. I worked with a lot of young children trying to make learning fun. I eventually converted this into a part time centre. Now I only offer announced programmes and have discontinued the full day programmes.I conduct programmes for parents and children and educators. We also have a private charitable trust called Satya Foundation (www.satyafoundation.in) through which we work in one area across verticals. As part of this I work with anganwadis and government schools, in vocational training for women, the environment, and community projects. I have been teaching since 1998.

Please tell me about your relationship with Mathematics. How passionate are you about it? What are your experiences with it?

I would say I am passionate about Mathematics. Mathematics has always fascinated me. When I worked in the higher education level I found that many students do not like Mathematics as they are not interested in it, and sometimes do not understand it as they are unable to visualise it or relate it with real life. This makes it the most dreaded subject. This is when I felt the need to focus more on foundation Mathematics. With the early childhood centre, I started focusing on making Mathematics fun for children by teaching using multiple intelligences and also in a progressive way by focusing more on understanding and application than drill work. This started my journey with Mathematics at a teaching learning level. In 2004 when I registered for my PhD in Computer Science and Applications, I chose Mathematics-related work as my topic of research. The topic was:The Design and Development of a Learning Model to Optimize Mathematical Pathways using Mathematical Modelling and Computer based Techniques. This involved using an effective teaching environment, the right methodology and strategies in classrooms to teach Mathematics; the use of assessments to collect data; and analysing the data to refine the learning model.  Thus began my close association with Mathematics.

Why is Mathematics important? What, in your opinion, is its connection to life as we live it?

Mathematics is the backbone of all disciplines. Everything has Mathematics in it and we use Mathematics in some form everywhere. Where there is a need for accuracy and precision we need Mathematics. Survival calls for a minimum knowledge of Mathematics – buying, selling, money management, banking, saving, insurance, all have Mathematics in them.  Hence, Mathematics is an all important subject which has unique features:It develops the child’s reasoning power;sharpens their intelligence;makes their thinking clear and exact;develops their ability to make numerical calculations; and forms the basis in the study of all subjects related to science and commerce. 

Why do you think Mathematics is a must for children, particularly government school children? What are their problems with it? 

Mathematics is a must for all children as it is an essential ingredient needed to lead life. All children, without an exception, have problems with Mathematics. Mathematics phobia is a very common issue. Children start with a liking for Mathematics in the initial years and then grow to dislike it and also develop a fear for it. Children wait for the first opportunity to drop it and get away from it. This is because of the approach to teaching and learning Mathematics. Mathematics in the traditional education system has been more of a chalk-and- board, and drill oriented, textbook approach. Pencil and paper do not make Mathematics a sensorial experience. Children are unable to experience Mathematics using their senses. They cannot visualise Mathematics, feel Mathematics, and work with it. They are made to learn the procedures of handling it and apply it by repeated solving of problems. Here, a couple of children understand the procedure and apply it; the rest rote-learn it using their own methods of memorization. This leads to them not being able to understand higher order Mathematics or experiment with Mathematics.

For the teacher also making children understand Mathematics remains doing more and more problems of a similar nature till such time that they understand. They are not equipped with tools to unravel the mysteries of Mathematics. Once a child experiences Mathematics by discovering its intricacies, he will start loving it. A teacher/child needs to understand Mathematics and assimilate it so that they can start associating it with all things around them, which is not happening in schools. Children are well versed in solving written problems  and their Mathematics ability is measured by the number of problems they can solve correctly in a given span of time rather than by their ability to see it in things around them and use it in daily life.

Why is it that children in government schools cannot do simple, basic Mathematics? Is it the teaching of it that is at fault? The kind of textbooks? The environment? Or is it that Mathematics is sometimes too complex for them to comprehend?

You will be surprised that children in private schools also face the same problems except that they have additional support through parent-backup and tutors, because of which they cope. 
In government schools there are also administrative issues – 2 teachers for all 5 classes, Std. 1 to 5. Government trainings and meetings, which sometimes means the entire school is left to be managed by one teacher without any help. Realising this, this year they have cut down on trainings and sharing meetings to give more classroom time to teachers.  
A teacher is responsible for teaching all subjects, so the workload stresses the teacher and demotivates her from using innovative teaching techniques, which need more time. Her natural instinct will be to cut down on time. By convincing and reassuring them, they do take that bold step towards implementing new methodologies.
Also, as the focus of the Department of Education and Inspectors who visit schools from time to time is syllabus completion,teachers are also forced to work towards these goals.
Textbooks, though well researched and written by eminent educationists, focus more on drill work and not discovery learning. Slowly, we are seeing a change in this too. This year’s textbooks are more promising.
Infrastructure-wise also teachers have space and TLM availability issues, and time constraints to make their own TLM. So when provided with readymade TLM they are more enthusiastic to use that rather than engage in a do-it-yourself venture. 

Generally Mathematics is made to seem complex as children hear adults discussing their hatred for it, sometimes maybe lightly.Very few adults express a love for Mathematics and work with children to make it seem enjoyable. The general worldly response is that Mathematics is difficult.  Until the approach to Mathematics is changed, Mathematics will seem like a very difficult subject. Until we make a transition from teaching Mathematics for  procedural fluency to concept clarity we will have children who will never be able to appreciate Mathematics. Also, when concepts are clear children will find their way with procedures, one does not have to spend a lot of time with them.

To make Mathematics a success at the school level there has to be a complete change. Change in content (the NCF framework is good);the use of concrete to abstract approach;the use of TLM to make it sensorial;effective teacher training; constant teacher motivation and hand holding till they achieve their goals. 

What do you think needs to be done in government schools to further Mathematics? Surveys show that 8 out of 10 children in class 5 cannot do simple division.

Focus on making children familiar with concepts.  Work with children to ensure they have understood the concept. Develop in children a liking for Mathematics. Make Mathematics seem fun and enjoyable. Do not drill procedures into them and do not punish them by making them solve 10-20 problems of the same kind. Once a child learns to solve a problem, repeated solving does not pose a challenge. Rather, increasing the complexity of the problem and challenging them would not only improve their mathematical abilities but also enhance their interest.

How did you become involved with Akshara Ganitha? 

I was associated with Akshara as an English trainer for ‘Swalpa English Thumba Fun’ through a friend. That is were I met Vikas and we got discussing the Mathematics pedagogy. When I revealed the topic of my research work he asked me if I would be interested in working with Akshara.  The challenge of the task and the reach Akshara Ganitha would have to deserving children prompted me to agree immediately. That’s how I began the Akshara Ganitha journey. I studied the existing Nagu Nagutha Ganitha programme and met a lot of teachers who were using it. We collected feedback from them. There was great appreciation for the Nagu Nagutha Ganitha programme among teachers. Some of the problems they were facing with it were that it was remedial in nature and running parallel to their curriculums, which did not give them enough time to implement it, as syllabus completion was always the priority. They wanted something that would work along with their curriculums. Initially, the thinking was to improvise on Nagu Nagutha Ganitha. We had a meeting with CRPs and teachers of Hoskote Block. During this meeting we analysed the needs of the schools. They were open to the idea of making Mathematics interactive. 
They said they would be happy to use the TLM, but were very clear that they had no time to make them. They wanted sturdy, long-lasting TLM that would save them the time of preparing them. 
They wanted workbooks to be used, but printed ones.
They wanted the new approach integrated in their lesson plans and brought up-to-date with their syllabuses so that they did not have to write the lesson plans and would not have to worry about surprise inspections.
Assessments to help with CCE.

With these inputs we came back and planned the design of a new programme and called it AksharaGanitha, ‘Aadi Kali MaadiTili’. The components, as needed by teachers,were a TLM kit, workbook, lesson plans and assessments. 

What were the aspects you had to focus on with particular emphasis, since it is a programme for government school children?

Provide TLM to teach every concept of lower primary school Mathematics, but keep it limited so that management and handling becomes easy.
Make the TLM kit economical so if they have to buy it tomorrow or the government wants to adopt the programme, cost does not become a hurdle.
The workbook to be kept simple and containing minimum worksheets that cover all concepts so that they are not pressed for time to do them.
Brief lesson plans to bridge the gap between the new methodology and the syllabus.They must be short enough for teachers to read before a class.
The main challenge was to give them a progressive, age-appropriate Mathematics programme for Std. 1 to 5 with TLM, workbooks and assessments that would be easily adopted by the teachers without resistance.

What was the process you followed? Did you visit government schools and talk to teachers and children? What was the Akshara team’s role in developing Akshara Ganitha? Was it a collaboration?

I always adopt a systems approach to any new design and development. I believe that any programme designed has to be finally acceptable to the end user. Without end-user participation,a programme is bound to fail. So our requirements came from the teachers and CRPs and BEO. Now how to package this in an optimal way was our effort.  We used prior knowledge about Mathematics learning, researched hard into different ways in which we could make this effective, sought help from experts, organised workshops with people already working in this area (Vivek Montero and Geeta from Navanirmitti),  made sure no stone was left unturned.

It was a team effort. Yes,collaboration. We had a lot of brainstorming sessions. I would prepare a skeleton and then we would discuss if all were in sync.  Sometimes if Vikas was struck by a novel idea he would do the skeleton and we would bisect and dissect to reach at the final structure. Kishore and Suman would also give their inputs. Suman has worked closely with Nagu Nagutha Ganitha and has field experience. So it has been a rigorous process of exploring, improvising and packaging. Like the TLM, which was not our invention – but what to use, how to use it and improvisations to make them appropriate were our contribution. The lesson plans were designed by us and the workbooks too. The first time Ten on Ten did our workbooks. The next time the team designed it.

We had excellent team dynamics and a wonderful dedicated team. Each one did their bit and under what time constraints and deadlines! Vikas was a wonderful team leader. 

I have worked with young children during my Shishulok days and that helped, along with my teaching experience. Designing programmes, curriculums and new start-ups have always been my strength.

We wrote the entire Teacher’s Manual in English, got it reviewed and then translated it into Kannada with the help of school teachers. As they translated they also reviewed it. So it got a second review. Once the draft was ready I reviewed it again for typographical, grammatical and conceptual errors as I can read and write Kannada and I do review work for publications like Appu Media.

Training again is my strength, so this was again not a problem as I could speak Kannada. Yes, it was an effort to get familiar with all the Kannada terms in Mathematics, but during our Manual journey we also developed our own dictionary of terms!

It was a run against time.  But a determined and dedicated team made it possible to deliver the programme on time. Once it was in the field we did regular studies and collected feedback and refined the programme.

As with the case of any educational venture there is no end.It is a journey of refining and enhancing quality. The show will never end.  Our attempts are to make it better with each day. The first year we focused on arithmetic as it is the backbone of primary Mathematics and made it as complete as possible. We have a little work left with geometry and measurements. 

Our motivation has been the teachers who are working on this programme and give us constant feedback. They are all happy and have accepted it with a positive attitude. They tell us that they are able to understand Mathematics better with the programme and that it is helping them teach better, and that children love Mathematics so much they are becoming good at it. This is our motivation and strength. Our dream and desire is to make AksharaGanitha available to every government school in Karnataka, and the country, so that every child loves Mathematics. Looking forward to that day when this programme becomes a part of the system.

The Pilot ICDS programme project takes off in Malur

A training session in  progress

Educating a child isn’t just a decision but an investment on which depends the future of a nation. This simply means improved quality of life of its citizens and a path of planned development to be followed. With this in mind, the Government of India launched the ICDS programme better known as the Integrated Child Development Service on 2nd October 1975. 

ICDS has come a long way over the years, and now is one of the world’s largest programmes working for the holistic development of young children. It has been instrumental in enabling mothers to care for their young children by providing services and appropriate information, support and guidance. The services provided under ICDS have had a positive impact on the health and nutritional status of children, helped in reducing infant mortality, and created awareness in the community on many issues.

The Anganwadi worker is grass root worker. She is the main link person to the community and the several departments like health local government and other government schemes related to woman and child. These include schemes like Bhagya lakshmi, promoting self help groups, opening Bank accounts, health talks on nutrition for adolescent girls, pregnancy and lactating mothers, immunization of the child and pregnant lady, information pertaining to the birth and death of the child and so on. With all this information she is responsible for maintaining the records, and interacting with the community.

Akshara found that with so much responsibility the worker could not give time to the preschool children in her centre. Most often the children were left on their own and were found wasting their learning time doing nothing. This simply meant that these children were bound to face more problems in the formal school.

According to the child psychologist age 3 to 6 is a challenging phase for children and this is when the child learns to think, recognize and recite. This in turn will help build a foundation of concepts for his or her formal education. Therefore, pre-school eligible children coming to the center are undergoing formal education after a year or two without the basic foundation of school readiness and self help skills. 

 Akshara foundation plans to support a 3rdworker to this Anganwadi to focus only on preschool education of the children in school readiness and skill based activities.
The preparatory phase included getting a permission letter from the Commissioner. Talking to the district level officer (Deputy Director), CDPO about the program they were informed that this will be a pilot program in Kolar district, ICDS project in Malur taluka, and selected 2-3 circles with a maximum of 60 Anganwadis.

The Execution phase included selection of  2-3 circles with a  maximum of 60 villages, identify eligible candidates, train them with curriculum, class room management, how to handle the children with theory and practical sessions and send them to the field.

Eligibility criteria included a girl who would be a student studying her Pre-University course or completed and be a resident of the same village.Apprentice would undergo training of 14 days with salary. Once the training is complete she will be placed in the Anganwadi.

The duration of the training is 14 working days with practical and theory sessions.Once the training concluded the Anganwadi worker will be given a set of TLM to conduct the activities for the children.
Centre assessments would be conducted before starting the program and towards the end of the program.
Child assessment would be conducted in 2 phases namely pre and post assessment to compare the learning outcome of each child. These results would be shared with the mothers in a meeting along with the CDPO and supervisors.

We succeeded in identifying 40 volunteers from 40 villages, out of the total 40 participants, 37 girls completed the training from 11th– 16th February 2013 and they are now undergoing practical sessions in their Anganwadi.  They will again have two days training on the 25th and the 26th of February for the remaining sessions. Though this is a pilot project it shows great promise and will be a beneficial step for both the Anganwadi workers as well as the children.

Maths becomes fun with Akshara’s Teaching Learning Material (TLM)


A bunch of children engrossed in solving a Math problem

Maths at times can get boring, the numbers can simply add to the extent of numerical monotony. Teaching maths can be a bigger challenge if one doesn’t know the right tactics to teach. A lot of research and studies say that many primary students find it difficult to solve basic maths.  So we decided to change the way we looked at and taught maths.

Our in-school programmes where the Teaching Learning Material (TLM) is being introduced welcomed this concept with cheers and smiles. The Mathematics workbooks distributed to children in the class were designed to bring about group learning. The emphasis was laid on two things namely thinking and doing. Children formed small groups of four and five members with one student taking the lead and charge of the group. The students of fourth and fifth standard were also given notebooks to do the sums.

Kerolina, who teaches Mathematics and English to students from I- IV standard at the Government Kannada Higher Primary School (GKHPS), Kodihalli says with a smile that teaching maths would have been a real difficult task without the Akshara TLM.

In Hoskote, this is the second year of the programme and almost 75% of the teachers depend on Akshara’s methodology and TLM to teach Mathematics. At some schools the TLM methods are used twice or thrice a week, while others prefer to use it on a daily basis. While the Devanhalli block has just begun implementing the TLM routine, they are making candid attempts to adopt the group learning methods and techniques.

The TLM programme has been a huge favourite with both the teachers and the students. The Mathematics Programme has definitely made learning and teaching both a fun experience. Lakshmi, the Headmistress of a school in Doddadunnasandra says she has seen a great deal of improvement in her students who now understand the concepts of mathematics with ease.

What makes the Mathematics Programme even more interesting is the fact that apart from learning it is also helping these children build skills like leadership and teamwork. At a school in Atibele, it was wonderful to see the group leaders manage the Mathematic class when the teacher was absent. Not only did they make sure that there was no chaos but also dutifully did the sums and completed the lesson for the day.

With the TLM, teachers also have taken a step towards innovation. Manjula, a teacher regularly conducts Mathematics quiz in the Nali-kali classes. Students who give the correct answers are rewarded with bonus marks. With innovative teaching methods and equally enthusiastic learning the TLM programme has proved to be a boon.

An Objective Analysis of Swalpa English, Thumba Fun

Dr. Kalavathi B.K, who is the Executive Director of Anveshna Foundationhas been the Master Resource Person for Akshara’s English Program since it’s inception. Here, Dr. Kalavathi, does and objective analysis of the components of the programme – the Teaching Learning Materials and the Training Package. Shares her experiences of the lasting impact created by Akshara’s Swalpa English, Thumba Fun on teachers, which enables them to teach English with ease in the classes.
 
I have been associated with Akshara’s English programme for the past 4 years, right from its inception of designing the package to its implementation towards becoming “Swalpa English, Thumba Fun”. It is always nice to see Ms Kanchan Banerjee, the Managing Trustee, taking personal interest in the program and striving to improvise and upgrade it from year to year, based on the changing needs of the target group. Now, let’s do an objective analysis of the programme:

Training package: The package includes both Teacher’s manual and hands on training for the teachers as well as departmental Resource Person (RP)s . The Training manual is very simple with clear instructions to the teacher and the RPs; it has “Thematic Graded Content” which is teacher-friendly, based on inculcating Listening, Speaking, Reading and Writing Skills. It also instructs the teacher regarding the day to day transaction of each lesson very clearly and also mentions which TLM to be used along with the content. The package contains lot of language games and strategies which will enrich the English language environment in the class.
The training is provided in two phases; Initial Orientation and refresher phase. Initial Orientation phase is for 5 days in the month of May and refresher phase for 2 days in the month of October. This is a teacher friendly training using various strategies and interventions in a workshop mode on a one to one basis. The training not only enhances the English Language skills of the teachers but also boosts their self confidence and motivates them to implement the package in the classrooms. It also provides them lot of extra tips regarding implementing the package in the classroom. The Statistics of the English Language Program of past 2 years clearly indicates the success rate of this program and can be validated as it is drawn through a pre-test and post-test design. The program has inbuilt evaluation as the teachers have to plot on”Pragathi Nota” at the end of each lesson.

Teaching Learning Materials (TLM):The TLM includes- Flash cards, Flip over Charts, workbooks, Reading Cards and High Frequency Sight Vocabulary Chart. Each Lesson from the teachers’ manual has been divided into two parts, namely-
  • Rhymes
  • Conversation and TPR Activities.
     
They are supplemented by Stories, Alphabet Phonic Songs, Reading and Writing Material. The rhymes are supported with mobile rhymes to make the teachers recollect the way the alphabet songs and rhymes were sung. The workbooks have been differently graded for classes I, II, III and IV. The material developed has been simple, graded, attractive realistic and suitable to the grass root level- both for the children and Teachers. The print material used is also long lasting and child friendly. Measures have been taken to introduce the vocabulary which is familiar to the rural children. It has been upgraded and improvised on the felt need and feedback received by the stakeholders annually.

My direct experience in the training classroom: The teachers as well as the RPs initially started with an attitude to mean- “Oh! another training!” Later, as they were made comfortable with icebreakers they settled into the comfort zone and got involved in the program. As the training was in a workshop mode with many strategies, they all willingly participated with interest. They found the rhyme sessions very interesting and asked for more new rhymes, they asked for the rhymes between the other activities as a warm up. They enjoyed the individual activities more than the group activities. In their session end feedback they said that they would look forward to more of Akshara English training program as it empowered them to use English in their classrooms. They also felt the workbooks and lessons were simple and realistic. It would help them to transact better as it was graded and attractively presented. They wanted more of Grammar support and to fulfill this requirement Akshara’s monthly worksheets helped them a lot. On the whole the teachers as well as the RPs actively participated in the training. Each one came forward to enact the stories as role plays and enjoyed it. They enjoyed the whole training program and said it was like going back to their school days. It was seen that by the end of the 5th day they were more empowered with spoken English and they also affirmed it by saying that it had built in the confidence and capacity to handle their English classes better, in unison all of them said that they would want this training again and again. They were also in touch with me during the break in between the initial orientation and refresher programs and it has continued to be.
During the refresher sessions most of the participants of the earlier training sessions were present and they said they were looking forward to the refresher training. They said they enjoyed teaching alphabet phonic songs and were equally liked by the children and it made their job of associating the sound –symbol association, easy. They said this training has helped their children more and the children also were motivated to learn more. In the refresher session I noticed all of them spoke in English with confidence though some with errors. I also noticed that the errors had come down.
At this point, I need to share a particular incident which touched me deeply, this happened during the first training program, where I had to train teachers of Bangalore North. The trainees were an assorted lot of all ages and backgrounds. There were elderly people who were about to retire too. The training program was rigorous and all of them had to be treated equally and I did it. The last day, a very senior teacher, who had all the while hesitated to participate freely, and who was not very fluent in English, came voluntarily and told me, “Beti, you are like my daughter and you have done the training very well and this has helped me. I will use it in the class for my children. I pray Allah to Bless you”, and that too in English. My day was made and I was overwhelmed with emotion and this action showed me how successful our training program was. I strongly believe “Action speaks louder than mere words”. Doesn’t this anecdote speak loads about the program?

Response of teachers/ RPs in both sessions:
As I have mentioned in my direct experience, though the teachers and the RPs started with an “attitude”, they quickly realized the simplicity and ease of use and implementation of the program.

They opined :
The way the training was being given (individualistic) had empowered them to speak English and had given them the confidence to take it forward and teach/ train their children/ trainees. The many strategies which were used during the training sessions had given them clear picture regarding how English could be taught in a play-way method in the class. The package was realistic and simple and the training funfiled and interesting which motivated them to actively participate. The rhymes and stories selected were simple and teachable to their students. They also appreciated the “mobile support”. The TPR activities with language games were interesting. The conversation was useful as it involved simple day to day vocabulary. The TLM was attractive and easy to use. The workbooks were well graded with simple but attractive pictures helped them to motivate the children to write.
Changes in teachers by 2nd session:
There was a visible change in their English speaking skills by the second session. They were also eager to learn more English and implement in the class. They asked for clarification regarding the grammar doubts they had collected. They interacted freely and confidently. They shared their happiness regarding how their classrooms were charged with a fun filled English environment and how their children loved the English period now. Their sentence structures had visibly improved.

Interaction with participants during activities:
They found the rhyme sessions and role plays very interested. They also opined that picture reading and story building were highly suitable for their classroom. They said individual activities like pick and speak, dialogue extensions, division of attention activities helped them a lot to enhance their attention and confidence. They found the language web an interesting way to teach grammar and sentences.
They also said that they liked the way hands on trainingwas being provided for each trainee which helped them in carrying over it to the class as well as the training sessions.

Myoverview of the scenario in Mundargi:
We entered the BRC center in Mundargi for the 2day refresher session, only to be welcomed by bright faced trainees who said were very happy to see us back. They spoke in fluent English but ofcourse, with minor errors! Their level of confidence surprised me, each one was eager to share their training experiences as I started asking informally. Infact, we did not need an icebreaker to start the session but as it was in the manual we started, only to get the use of their imaginary money spent in funny ways and some did even say they had spent it on buying books for their school children. They all had used the past tense correctly!

    Next, the class was divided into five groups to share their experiences and each group was asked to brain storm and discuss on- rhymes, flashcards, TPR activities, story telling and workbook, which they effectively did and raised lot of questions, keeping their training perspective in mind and gave their opinions on:
  • How they used the TLM in classroom?
  • Why is TLM important in language learning?
  • Has it helped children learn the English language?

And feedback was collected regarding their usage of TLM and its effectiveness with children. It was surprising to see all of them boldly giving out their views without any inhibition.

The main objective of the refresher course was to orient on reading skills for which the trainees had to use reading cards to blend associated phonic sounds. They clearly asked their doubts regarding blending and enquired why the blend has to be like this and why not like the way they wanted to use, which came as a pleasant surprise to me. It was a proud moment to see the “thinking and assertive teachers” who were showing their professionalism. The session also made the “self” engulfed to reflect and see why a particular activity should be done a particular way, there was also a query regarding the pronunciation of “the” with the vowel sounds and consonant sounds, which was dealt meaningfully and the trainee was contented and happy with the rationale. They also enquired whether we could have a teleconference with them every month to help them further better their English.

The most precious moment was when even the most silent and withdrawn trainee of the previous session had opened up and expressed that the English training program had instilled confidence in him and he had carried it forward to his students and was happy when he saw them speak English with confidence! Isn’t that a wonderful gift?

All good things have to end so did Mundargi’s refreshers session which would go a long way down the memory lane! 🙂