Our first day at Muktangan, Elphinstone School was spent getting to know our students in the 6A and 6B classes we would be teaching. We were welcomed with excitement and curiosity, as the students were looking forward to taking a break from their long school day to meet us. Because there were six of us volunteering, we were able to split each class into groups of 5 students. Over the next few weeks, we were able to make personal connections with those 5 students, cater to their educational needs, and offer individualized attention.
Our first activity with the students was beginning our class book, “Babayan and the Magic Star” in the students’ library period. Volunteers both read aloud and encouraged students to take turns reading. In 6B Aayush eagerly lead his group in the first chapter of reading. Though he read confidently, he had a tendency to mispronounce difficult words such as “iridescent” and “invaders”. Most students had a similar reading level to Aayush, but all children were showed support by helping their peers pronounce words as they formed a camaraderie on their journey to mastering English.
When reading we split our class time between reading aloud and discussing comprehension and vocabulary. I found that students, with a little bit of help, were able to complete the reading, but struggled when it came to answering questions about the meaning of words and the story as a whole. As we transferred to reading to the discussion, students began to lose focus, beaten down by the hours of lectures both ahead and behind them. It took a few days to find a tactic that would spark their interest when it came to comprehension. I found that my groups, while eager to help one another answer questions and pronounce words, were even more motivated by showing off their knowledge. I asked each student to present a question to the class concerning the chapter we had just read. Then, they would select a student in their group to answer the comprehension question and explain the answer if no one knew it. This gave the students a chance to interact with one another and work their way to understanding instead of listening to me explain.
We found that much of 6A and 6B’s school days consisted of lectures. They were only awarded a glorious gym period where they were able to run and jump in a room on the top floor. Needless to say they responded well to engagement and hands-on activities. For our science lesson, we kept this in mind and presented the students with a battery, a light bulb, and a few wires. After a brief introduction to the lesson and a review of the materials, we instructed the students to figure out how to make the light bulb light up instead of telling them how to do it. While it took a bit longer to form the circuit, they were able to draw a lot of satisfaction from getting the light bulb to light up without help. Madhuri in 6B, who realized that she needed to change the direction of the battery in order to supply power to the light bulb later told me that everyone thinks boys are better with technology, but girls are smart, too. I was glad that Madhuri was able to take this important realization from the lesson, that coming up with a solution in her own had given her a newfound confidence.
While our classroom control strategies did not always run as smoothly as we would like them to and our lessons were not perfect, our focus on smaller groups and hands-on activities gave us the opportunity see the students grow and expand their knowledge, as well as see how much these students learning and Elphinstone School. After speaking with Liz and Sunil, the founders of Muktangan, I was all the more impressed with the passion for exploration and knowledge that the school and teachers have instilled in their students. It was now without this passion that we could have conducted such lessons with the students and sparked their interest.
Haiku by Kavya
What does this word mean?
Does the battery go here?
Explore, create, solve