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Methodology – De-constructing the learning process

Baseline test

Quick assessments of the language reading skill – standardized testing tools with similar levels of difficulty were used across classes to understand the child’s reading capability. The assessment was carried out by the teacher and documented, thus to monitoring progress through the course of the programme.

The categories were simple:

1. Zero: Able to identify very few (<25%) of the alphabets in the reader. Near nothing reading ability.
2. Letter (alphabet) readers: These children do not read a whole word but alphabets in words or alphabets by themselves.
3. Word readers (can read most simple words but do not read a sentence as one connected string representing a thought.)
4. Sentence readers (fluent with sentences with simple words with all complexities of usage of consonants and vowel signs) Here the child has a sense of reading a sentence and a set of sentences that are linked.
5. Paragraph readers (very fluent with at-least age appropriate reading material)

The technique

Conventional teaching follows a slow progression – from alphabet to word, slowly to simple sentences and finally to paragraphs. The accelerated reading programme reverses this process. The new technique starts with ‘reading’ – (bordering at imitations of reading, as children do in homes where they are read to regularly) from the very first day. Children imagine & wonder trying to make sense of what they see. They stumble, ‘read’, guess what the words may be, try and make meaning of it – eventually learn to read; provided adults/teachers do not interfere with criticism or over-enthusiastic assistance. Adults just need to give a smile of encouragement, nudge the child towards the answer without actually answering, and ask an occasional question to help the child correct himself/herself.

The technique is neither complex nor does it involve expensive teaching material. A set of reading cards designed with careful content is all that is required. A fortnightly assessment monitors the child’s progress or lack of it. The teaching materials include sets of story cards with illustration, alphabet charts, and a set of alphabet cards.

Teaching/ Learning materials:

Four types of teaching learning materials are used

I. A bunch of alphabet cards- one card per alphabet, which children can take home and bring back to the class. (Zero level)

II. The “kaagunitha” chart – one chart for each child. This has consonants in the first column and each row starting with the consonant shows how vowel signs are added to the consonant to make letters for each sound such as ka, kaa, ki, kee, ku, koo, kay, kai, ko, kow etc.

III. Lots of sentence cards (about 20-30 sentence cards/20 children class) or papers with 3 line simple sentences without “gunithakshara” and “otthakshara”.

IV. A set of 45 simple stories printed on separate sheets, slightly higher degree of difficulty than the simple paragraphs. Each story has 4 illustrations. Each child gets one set of story cards. The teacher has the same story card in a bigger form factor.

 

 

 

Accelerated Reading Programme Class in progress.

Activities:

Four main activities constitute a class:

1. Reading a 'story'

The teacher begins by showing the illustrations on the card to the children to trigger their imagination. The writing in the card is covered using another sheet of paper. Children begin by guessing the story, interpreting the illustration in his/her own way. Four or five of them are given a chance to tell their stories but the teacher makes no comment on their version. Then the teacher volunteers to narrate the story using words printed in the story card.

a. The story cards are given to the children - each child has a story card, and the teacher asks, “Who would like to read like I do?” and reads the story clearly but calmly without dramatization. The teacher reads the story once - loud, pronouncing each word clearly and pointing with her finger to each word as she reads. Children watch, observe by pointing their finger on the particular words.

b. Now it is the children's turn to attempt to read. Some children raise their hands while others don't. Every one is given a chance. When one reads the others look at their own cards. The teacher does not correct the child even if blatant errors are committed. But as the days pass children mutually begin to correct each other when mistakes are made. Even the children who were shy to volunteer and read now ask to read. Once they come forward, they are given 5 minutes to consult their friends and learn. This facilitates peer learning making way for a unique social reading bond to be formed in the group. Children with lower reading levels often try to imitate their teacher or peers while trying to recall the exact words of the story. Of course, on day one, the finger is pointing at different places but the children help each other and learn.

c. A new story is picked up every day rather than waiting for everyone to 'master' the previous story.

d.

 

 

Teacher ensures that every child reads the story card

 

 

 

2. Using the Kagunitha chart:

a. The teacher asks the children to listen carefully as she recites the sequence of sounds derived from consonants and then asks children to try the corresponding sequence with other consonants. The children are also asked to read vertically and horizontally from the Kagunitha chart.

b. The teacher selects some simple words from the story. A word is said and the children are asked to identify the alphabets in the Kagunitha chart. Eight to ten words are selected each day.

c. Similarly, a word is given and the children are asked to find it in the story. This helps in familiarizing with the alphabets.

d. The children who do not know consonants are given a few (any) alphabet cards to take home so that they can learn to associate the sound with the shape. Within a few days they know how to use the Kagunitha chart.

3. Zero level Readers
Readers repeating specific letters are given to children in the 0 level group. These children are made to identify the repeated letters and asked to prepare flash individually. The helps children with no understanding of letters to get familiarized with the letters.

4. Role-play
Children are asked to act out the story choosing characters of their liking. This kindles the creative quotient and makes the entire 'learning to read' activity fun and interesting.

The class is often composed of children of different age groups and learning levels. There is a possibility of some of them not coping well for being irregular to the sessions or fear of being verbal in a big group might stop them. These children are grouped together and the teachers plan additional activities with them after the scheduled daily classes if found feasible and useful.

The steps detailed above essentially form a broad framework. The methodology is flexible in nature. Teachers are given the freedom to modify the steps involved to suit their need.

Definite Pointers to success

  • Individual opportunity for each child to read
  • Heterogeneous (mix of all reading levels) class facilitates peer group learning
  • Free time for children to copy, discuss & learn from each other
  • Finger pointing – a must when children read
  • Kagunitha exercise, flashcards important to reinforce knowledge about alphabets
  • Noise, chatter, indiscipline in class kindles learning & creativity; teachers must guarantee a free learning environment.
  • Teachers must not CORRECT/ ccriticize the child
  • Through the programme a set of four formats are filled in by the teachers.

    Format 1: Details the baseline assessment of all children in the school

    Format 2: Classifies children class-wise in 0 (Zero), L (Letter), W (Word), S (Sentence), P (Paragraph) reading levels

    Format 3: Segregates children eligible for the programme (0, L, W)

    Format 4: Brackets 20 children together to form 1 reading group (combination of 0, L, W level children)

    While the first 3 formats are filled in prior to the programme, the fourth one is subject to change every fortnight as reading levels are periodically assessed & updated. Two mid programme assessments (15th card & 30th card) are carried out to monitor the progress. The final assessment at the end of the 45th card furnishes the total programme value indicating the quantum of success and the percentage change in reading levels of children.

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