Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Measuring Smiles in the Classroom

Aparna is the Programme Head of the Learn, Out of the Box Programme

A few weeks ago I sat in on a Science class at a government-aided school - Mulund Vidya Mandir - in Mumbai. The 6th standard classroom is on the 2nd floor of this fairly large school building. Mulund Vidya Mandir is one of our high-performing schools. Both the Science and Math teachers are young and very comfortable with technology. They not only use the audiovisual aspect of the WebBox, but have also successfully integrated many of the activity and discussion ideas into their classes as well.

The classroom is quite different to many of the other schools I have visited – one of the inside walls is made out of glass, such that you can see into the class from the corridor and more importantly vice-versa.  Large windows allow sunlight to flow in, and also allow students to look out on to the road. The classroom is filled with small benches that seat approximately 3 students each – accommodating about 45-50 students in all.
The lesson being taught was from the chapter Measurement. The objective of the 35 minute class was to introduce the concept of standard measures and for students to recognize why, and where, we use them. The class flowed smoothly with the teacher incorporating numerous different types of learning activities including audio-visuals, questions, group activities and note-taking.

The teacher began with an introduction on different items used to take measurements – asking students for examples that they may have seen at home. This introduction led into the following video of Millie and Chotu using their arms to measure the length of a table. 

The teacher stopped the video and asked the students to measure their desks using their palms – mirroring the actions of Millie and Chotu. The students were excited by this and immediately began measuring – they, of course, soon realized that they too got different measures for the same object.

The activity served as practical learning.  Students, themselves, realized the use of a standardized measure. When measuring their desks with their palms – they all got different measures because of the variation in the length of their palms. However – using a ruler they all arrived at the same measurement.

As you can see in the video, the students were completely engaged in the activity. Although there is a lot of noise within the classroom, it is from students actively participating in the given activity. Additionally, if you observe the teacher – she walks around the classroom interacting with different groups to ensure they are on the right track.  

The teacher then followed up with another activity – one that is popular in Pratham trainings – Measuring Smiles!  The purpose of this activity was two-fold; firstly for students to recognize the difference in measuring straight and curved objects, and secondly to practice using measuring tools. When observing this activity – I noticed a tremendous amount of peer-learning. Students were discussing amongst themselves why you need to use a string to measure a smile and not a ruler.

The teacher then concluded the class by summarizing the learnings – to ensure that students actually take away from the activity. Additionally she assigned relevant homework which encourages students to practice what they had learned.

This perhaps wasn’t the “prefect” classroom, as there is always room for feedback and growth. However I was amazed by how the teacher integrated the WebBox quite effortlessly into her classroom – and managed to keep the students engaged throughout.  The teacher was well prepared, she had planned the order and structure of the class before-hand and even asked students to carry the necessary materials.

She was able to use a range of interesting learning activities within the 35-minutes – to create, in my opinion, an effective learning environment. Moreover the teacher was able to accomplish all of this despite numerous challenges including high levels of noise from outside of the classroom, a high student-teacher ratio, and numerous distractions including myself visiting.