The other day, I gave mid year exam papers to the children in my class. (I can’t believe that 4 months are over and my champions are already half-way into their 2nd grade. Teacher in jitters !) The first paper they got was a differentiated reading comprehension (RC) paper. Different set of kids got different set of RC papers based on their progress levels. At the end of the paper, Muskaan – one of the cutest and brightest kids in my class – raised her hand. When I went to her, anticipating a doubt, she asked me “Bhaiya, why you ask question you no teach?” ! Trying to understand her question better, I asked her to explain in Hindi and she said that I have not asked questions from lessons I never taught. She was expecting questions from the prose and poetry lessons – you know, those that are given at the end of a lesson in a textbook. As you’d know, my children, like millions of Indian children, are used to the rote way of learning. A typical lesson in the English text book is taught this way – teacher reads the lesson, kids repeat, teacher writes questions and answers on the board, kids copy and mug the answers. In the exam, same questions are asked and kids just cough up answers. I did the same till my 12th standard exams – even for Maths ! “Out-of-syllabus” is a shield phrase for millions of kids from getting beaten up by parents and tuition teachers !
Though startled by Muskaan’s question, I sat next to her and explained some questions, relating them to certain games or dramas we did in the class while learning that objective and she started recalling them. That didn’t help her score better because her reading comprehension is still weak.
This is one of the major challenges I am trying so hard to address – reading & reading comprehension.( Even in the United States, reading is a major national challenge). The teacher has to come up with (or copy) creative ways to teach words, get the kids excited about reading, supervise and coach their reading, frequently assess their reading comprehension and encourage those who are lagging. When I see this in my classroom, sometimes I can’t help but wonder how on Earth I got interested in reading. I studied in low income schools, where, as far as I remember, no teacher ever used anything remotely creative or was so invested in getting the kids to read or write English.
And, half-year into 2nd grade, I have some kids who can’t yet match all capital and small alphabets.