How each day is a new lesson for me

30 Jun

The need for open ended assignments at home and in school

Every child has an innate sense of being able to relate to the characters in the story being read or an anecdote being narrated. This is often observed in classes where the teacher asks the children to postulate the ending after narrating only half the story or gives ample room for the kids’ freedom of imagination by asking what do they think would have happened if this were not the ending. This is also found in houses where the grandmother narrates a story till the point where justice has to be meted out to the aggrieved and the child is asked to pronounce the judgment as if she were the judge.

Being given the choice to change the course of the story allows her to develop a sense of responsibility towards the characters. She also feels vindicated as she has mentally  taken sides with some characters. She feels that it is her story now. She gets a feeling of having created something and her confidence level will soar  high.

In the classroom this is used as a part of group discussion  especially in lower classes. Today, I narrated a story and asked: What do you think would have happened if X had gone home straight after his work? I was not only surprised by the varied answers I got but also by the totally inventive ones from the usually reticent ones. They came out with fantastic ones which an adult can’t ever think of.!

This sort of behaviour never stops making me wonder. Now I have been teaching from twenty years but I am  thrilled to see such responses.   This is a big reward and it keeps the spirit going in spite of the body acting mulish. The day was especially busy, but this last minute perk-up was a tonic. I had to stay back longer than usual due to a meeting and the surprising thing was I was relaxed and tolerant.

Some areas where I feel one can give such open –ended tasks to young kids are:

o       In stories found in the language textbooks/other storybooks

o       In kids’ serials watched on TV

o       In popular ‘family’ movies

o       In mythological  stories

o       In biographies / autobiographies

o       In anecdotes of famous scientists

                An extension of this activity could be:

o       writing out dialogues of the changed ending

o       enacting it out

o       organizing a debate on the merits of different endings

o       hypothesizing as to why the author found this ending most suitable



16 Responses to “How each day is a new lesson for me”

  1. greatunknown July 1, 2007 at 10:54 am #

    Hats off to your effort neela! You’ve truly perfected the nuances of teaching wonderfully well. Believe-you-me, many children will carry forward such interactive experiences for the rest of their lives.

    I travelled out of town a few days ago and on my return journey got talking with a professor of maths from IISc who lamented the lack of the power to critique in students.

    I said that it could due to self-centred teachers who may have not allowed these students to think for themselves when they were young; and added from personal experience that a teacher can make or break a student’s zest to garner knowledge.

    It’s indeed heartening to note that you provided the necessary freedom and space for the children in your class to spell forth their ideas with fear or let. That speaks volumes about the kind of person you are… one who is never averse to free dialogue and discussion even though the points of view may not always be to your liking or expectations.

    Excellent… I am proud of you… this student of life, for life!

  2. neela July 1, 2007 at 12:15 pm #

    Thanks. Credit must go to my parents and teachers.

  3. bachodi July 1, 2007 at 1:48 pm #

    ” In mythological stories” and “storybooks” can be dangerous. When i was in primary school. There was a lesson on women sacrifice and maha satis. what message can you give to kids with Mahasatis ?

  4. neela July 1, 2007 at 4:41 pm #

    come on, bach, a story narrator ‘chooses’ stories keeping the audience in mind before narrating it.
    even textbooks are made keeping these things in mind-alva. maybe the story you mention may have been overlooked.

  5. neela July 1, 2007 at 5:11 pm #

    We had a lesson on Raja Ram Mohan Roy-one of the extension activities was-are there any social evils now in our society? Discuss how you would eradicate them.

  6. rk July 2, 2007 at 2:49 am #

    how i wish i could sit in your class!
    i love these posts you write on “teachers-students-parents-kids”.
    best wishes

    (y’day’s blore mirror featured the post on DD characters written by Vani. isn’t that wonderful?! she felt great to hear the news when i called her in the morning and sms-ed the news to a few blog pals.)

  7. gmohanprakash July 2, 2007 at 8:36 am #

    Dear teacher,
    Hope myself and son can attend your class – it sounds and feels so interesting…. do pls share these work expereiences, tid bits anything for that matter which will help us readers. Do start another blog if its dilluting your focus.

    The fact is parents miss out such valuable inputs from teachers due to many reasons and I would love to indulge in different methods,techniques if they are told.

    Valuable post for me.

  8. destinationsrik July 2, 2007 at 11:26 am #

    Hats off to you teacher!!

  9. neela July 3, 2007 at 2:12 pm #

    makkaLade spoorthi…
    devarade prerane…
    tande -taayiye maargadarshakaru.

  10. neela July 3, 2007 at 2:16 pm #

    yeah,rkji. I too fely very happy.I spoke to vani. felt once again that she missed her vocation. She should have taken up writing full time. I have been telling her since the time she was in her high school.
    thanx everybody for the encouragement.

  11. Anand Balaji July 4, 2007 at 6:59 am #

    Hey I too saw the B’lore Mirror piece! Loved it:)

  12. mouna July 4, 2007 at 1:22 pm #

    superb neela!! it’s a pleasure knowing a wonderful person like u! your students are blessed to have you, how i wished i could go back a few years 🙂

  13. neela July 5, 2007 at 4:22 pm #

    My comments on’ greatunknown ‘are going to spam.

  14. Anand Balaji July 6, 2007 at 4:55 pm #

    Gawsh! I dunno why… lemme do the needful:)

  15. | Balu | February 8, 2008 at 8:43 am #

    Hi nice post… Kinda have this ability to think out of the box which they loose as they grow up!

    Once I did an internship in ad agency and almost every one working there confessed to how their kids have inspired ideas which became ads later on!

  16. neela February 8, 2008 at 3:41 pm #

    @ Balu : welcome to bluwheel.
    thanx. Yes, as kids progress in school their imagination is lost along the way..

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