Perry Anderson and Tristan Gavin
I arrived in Jaipur last Friday after a long day-and-a-half of plane travel. I was made feel incredibly welcome by Ankita, Julia, Bhim, and the Tushita Office as I was helped through paperwork and settling in. After a weekend of tentatively exploring the city with Julia, we finally got to see the Foundation on Monday. Through the hiring process and conversations with my friend Caroline, who worked here, I have heard a lot about the foundation for the past year. Still, there is only so much you can understand through conversations; seeing it for myself helped tie it all together.
This week at the Foundation I primarily observed the different classes to meet the students and teachers of each level. As with the Tushita Office, my welcome to the Foundation was incredible—the teachers and staff were all kind and open. Once the kids arrived, it was inspiring to meet such polite, curious, and eager learners. I have never been called “sir” so many times in my life. Through helping students and leading lessons in the second and third batches most days, I also was able to understand them as learners. Students are already strong spellers and have an incredible ability to intake and store learning material. One thing we spoke about as teachers this week is working on a way to assess and record what students already know. As someone coming into the classroom, it is difficult to know at first where students’ English is already strong and where it can improve. Much of my experience in New York City was geared to measuring and maximizing student growth and I am hopeful to be a part of creating systems of learning profiles for each student in my time here.
My favorite time of the day was just after third batch when, in the playground as the sun was sinking over the Amer hills, the kids shared their interests with anyone close enough to hear a lesson on proper badminton form, flying a kite just right, dancing without rules, and of course bowling a cricket ball with good pace. While many of the activities (kite flying, cricket, and badminton) are new to me, the childish energy and ebullience at of the end of a long day is something I have seen in children all over the United States. Clumsily swinging at bowls from various students, I was reminded why I love teaching: kids are kids. Whether in New York City, California, or Amer, kids just want to learn, share, and be heard; I am humbled and inspired by the opportunity to share that journey with them for the next few months.
After a Sakranti filled with kite flying and delicious food, I returned to the Foundation this past Monday ready to teach class. I planned my creative writing curriculum in September, so I had to make some slight adjustments over the weekend after meeting the students. Primarily, I felt that the Daisy class, whom I will teach three days each week, needed some extra practice with grammar. Wanting, however, to teach content as well as skills, I planned for activities that would allow students to create, while also practicing grammatical sentence structure.
The particular skill I chose to focus on this week was subject and verb agreement, which lent itself very well to class introductions. On the first day, after introducing myself, we practiced identifying the subject and verbs of a sentence, and conjugating verbs in the first, second, and third person. Equipped with a new or recently refined skill (some students were already proficient in subject-verb agreement), the students wrote about themselves, using careful conjugation of the first person pronoun “I.” The students then had an opportunity to share their writing verbally, before I collected it to learn more about the students.
After class the first day, I evaluated the students’ writing on a 6-point rubric for my own purposes (they did not receive a grade) so that I could collect a benchmark skill level for the students. By analyzing this data, I hope to understand areas of strength in student writing, as well as areas I can focus on. I will also collect and evaluate work twice more in my time hear to measure progress and again diagnose areas I can provide more support.
Based on the students’ first writing samples, I decided the highest leverage area we could focus on was reinforcement of sentence structure. We played a game of Guess Who? where we practiced third person descriptions, interviewed classmates for second person conjugation, and wrote about our families to explore the first person pronoun “we.” In addition to laying a groundwork of sentence structure to carry into more styled writing, the these days helped me get to know the students’ interests and motivations. I hope that the extra groundwork early on will help me better understand the students, as well as give them a structure to lean on and break free from as we move from formal writing into more free flowing prose and poetry.
Unfortunately, my week was cut short by a stomach bug, but I have recovered and will be ready for my first full week. Because Daisy class does not have a first batch at this time, I will also begin teaching Sunflower’s first batch this coming week. I am excited to get to know the Foundation’s youngest learners and work with more teachers.
My third week of Tushita, I continued my work with Rucci’s class and taught Ruksar’s and Rahela’s class for the first time. In Rucci’s class, we spent the previous week going over subject verb agreement and this week introduced adjectives to spruce up our sentences. We learned adjectives as a descriptor for any of the five senses (sight, taste, touch, sound, and smell). To practice, we described Amer in each sense. Students wrote beautifully about their hometown, saying it was beautiful, looked like elephants, tasted like jalebi, smelled like roses, and many more apt and poetic descriptions. The activity served the dual purpose of them learning about adjectives and me learning about Amer–a mutually beneficial cultural exchange. Students struggled most with the difference between describing how something looks and what it looks like. We went over the rule: to describe how something looks, tastes, smells, feels, or sounds, you use an adjective; to describe what something looks, tastes, smells, feels, or sounds like, you use a noun as an indirect object of comparison. After working through this, we combined our comparisons and adjectives to make beautiful sentences like “Amer is beautiful like a gem” or “Amer sounds loud like a lion’s roar, but beautiful like a song.” On the last day we drew pictures to match our writing and read them out loud to the class.
Because we did not have class on Thursday (Republic Day), Friday was my first day with Ruksar’s class. We wrote introductions, working on subject verb agreement (just as I did with Rucci’s class). Ruksar’s class is much more advanced and confident in their writing than Rucci’s so students quickly understood and showcased subject-verb agreement in paragraphs about their interests and their family. Because they demonstrated proficiency so quickly, we had time to play a game called Scattergories, which practices vocabulary and quick thinking in their second language. Because I only see them two days each week and have missed three days, Ruksar’s class is many days behind Rucci’s in curriculum, though I hope that their ability helps to close the gap in the coming weeks.
Rucci’s class does not currently have a first batch, so I have been able to work with the Sunflower students on phonics in the early afternoons. My teaching in New York was with students closest in age to Sunflower class, so it has been a treat to return to the littlest ones. I decided to do phonics with them because I noticed that older students had great spelling when they knew the words, but were lost when they didn’t. I believe that phonics will teach them how to spell words they don’t know, and teach them sounds for better pronunciation. We focused on the sounds of the alphabet (confusingly different than the letter names) and vowel blends. Eventually, we will move onto consonant sounds. The class is full of eager learners and I have been making games and fun activities to keep them engaged.
In teacher session, I showed the teachers what I was teaching Sunflower class so they could use it in their own class. Very quickly, we realized the teachers, too, could benefit from the phonics. We went through the sounds and I lead a workshop on coaching students on sounding out words in reading. The teachers said that this is something they want to continue, so I will gladly continue to share my teaching practices.
Jaipur continues to be beautiful. We have seen Amber Fort, watched a movie at the Raj Mandir, ventured into the world of street food, and frequented cafes to work and study. I look forward to seeing you this week.
Rosenda, Jan, and Isabelle visited.
After a lovely visit, Foundation fell back into its regular rhythm this week. While I continued phonics, I have been searching for ways to introduce Creative Writing content aligned with the skills being taught. Last week, we used letter sounds to make syllables, but this week it was full words. For Rucci’s and Ruksar’s class, this was onomatopoeias. Onomatopoeia quickly became a favorite word of students, who proudly said the word to every adult kind enough to listen. Onomatopoeias, or sound words, are a great way to incorporate phonics because they rely entirely on letter sounds.
I always introduce onomatopoeias as superhero words. When superman flies, the comic books say “woosh.” His punches are indicated by a “bam” or “kapow.” This caught many of the boy’s interests and led to many, many more examples from the teenage boys in Ruksar’s class. For students less enthused by comic books, animal noises were the best way to explain onomatopoeias. It was fascinating to hear students imitate, then attempt to spell, elephant and goat noises.
As students grew their understandings of onomatopoeias as a phonetic spelling of what we hear, we played games where students made sounds and we all tried to spell them. We also went on to spell just about every sound imaginable: water dripping, rain, thunder, kachori-cooking, and so much more. The activities successfully reinforced the letter sounds we were learning.
The trajectory of the week built up to a poem about the sounds of their homes. Each student wrote 5 descriptive lines describing the sounds they can hear at home, including illustrations and, of course, onomatopoeias. This was a big task for Rucci’s class, but they demonstrated the skills we practiced quite well. In Ruksar’s class, students really let their unique voices shine through. Palak described her younger brother’s crying in the night (“wa-wa-w-w-wa”), Sohail described the sound of his father’s bike as he got home from work (“vroom-vroom”), and Fardeen, whose father is a florist, described hearing the cutting of flowers (“tch-tch”). The students were more creative than I had seen in my weeks with them.
In Sunflower class, we are still reviewing basic letter sounds and have been focusing on “breaking down” three-letter words. Given a word like “mat,” most students can tap their arms articulating the separate sounds of the word “mmm, aaa, t-t-t, mat.” After breaking down several words with one vowel sound, we would spread out bananagrams tiles and spell words based on the sounds. This way students are learning to recognize and produce sounds. Falak, Muskan, and Aarish are particularly quick learners and can spell any three-letter word you throw at them. For the younger ones (Kohenoor, Abreze), simply recognizing letters is a success as they build their phonic skills. I am very impressed with the speed at which students are mastering spelling. As we master basic vowel sounds and move to more complex sounds, they will grow as writers and readers.
To reinforce the sounds, I try to read a book every day. I spend part of the lunch time finding a book that contains a high frequency of the sound we have been practicing and have students help read along. After reading, I also like to practice speech with the students by asking questions about the book. This week, we focused on responding to “can you” questions. Students got practice with subject verb agreement, syntax, and confidence in their abilities. Even the youngest students were proudly declaring “I can say my letter sounds.” Even outside of school, Ruksar says she has seen a difference in Falak, who is practicing at home and taking home books to read using her letter sounds.
This week I focused on rhymes and couplets in my two higher classes, and continued phonics and conversational English with the Sunflower Class. In Lily and Daisy Class, we made the leap from letter sounds to rhymes–a leap that leveraged phonic learning and applied it to a new content area. I taught rhymes as words with the same ending sounds. We played games to find rhymes with common words. One misunderstanding that quickly arose was the difference between words with the same spelling and same sounds. For example, many students would list “cat” and “eat” as rhymes because they both ended with “at.” Pronunciation was also a challenge, because to some students, “fat” and “pot” were pronounced with the same vowel sound.
In attempt to clear things up, I read The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Suess and had students identify and record rhymes as they heard them. I definitely overestimated the ease of this task: Suess uses a meter with the rhymes falling at end of every other line, something easily predictable to a native speaker but more challenging for students. They did, however, develop an ear for the rhyme and through the reading of the book learned how rhymes add structure to poems or songs. On Valentine’s Day, students the second line to classic “Roses are red…” couplets. One of my favorite responses came from a sibling pair–Ubead and Kashish–who went very different routes with a “Roses are red, it’s Valentine’s Day” lead-in. Kashish completed the couplet, “I love you dear, I must say.” Her brother responded, “Oh, my dear, go away.” By the end of the week, students wrote quartets about themselves using rhyming words. Poems brought out a lot of silliness from the students we don’t always see, and we will continue to work on them in the next week.
In Sunflower Class, we read a lot of Dr. Suess, as well. Dr. Suess books are great because the words it uses are phonetic, the rhymes make it silly and easy to understand, and the vocabulary is basic, but creative. In Green Eggs and Ham, for example, Suess only uses fifty words. He also focuses entire pages on vowel blends, like the “oa” which makes a long o sound in “I do not like it on a boat, I do not like it with a boat.” The children love Suess books for the pictures, sing-songy sound, made up words, and ease with which they can read it. For pronunciation practice, students repeat each line after I read it, and many students scoot up to sit right in front of me and read the words along with me. For some of these students, these are phonetic words they can read using letter sounds they have only practiced for a few weeks. We also did some practice with our left and right, playing “Simon Says” and doing the “Hokey Pokey” to practice. The kids always beg to play “the banana game,” which is a game Perry made up where the children spell words that the teacher orates by using Bananagrams letter tiles. Almost all kids in the first batch are able to spell one syllable words using the letter sounds they have learned.
Perry told Lily, Sunflower, and Daisy Class they should all take home a book to practice reading aloud and many took Dr. Suess books they had read to them this week. Watching them follow through and check out books was heart-warming and inspiring. I can’t wait to ask the kids about the books on Monday.
It was a short week due to Mahar Shivratri on Friday. As such, Perry and I spent two days with each of our classes, switching on Wednesday, rather than Thursday. Our focus on rhymes continued with a focus on rhyme patterns. Students wrote couplets using the “rhyme families” they compiled last week, which now proudly line the classroom walls. From their couplets, they wrote their poem in AABB, ABAB, and ABBA rhyme schemes using the same lines. Students were very quick to pick up on the pattern. Some wrote beautiful poems, the patterns of which reflected the cyclical nature of time. For example, Aqib in Ruksar’s class wrote, “Every single night/ the boys go out and fight/ Every single day/ the boys get up and pray.” The poem’s meaning shifted with its rhyme pattern.
As students became comfortable changing the pattern of their rhymes, we moved on to limericks. Limericks, named after the town in Ireland, are short poems with an AABBA rhyme scheme, prescribed syllables, and a silly tone. Students did an incredible job in both classes counting syllables and matching the rhyme scheme. Striking a silly tone was more of a challenge. Most students struggle with sentence structure and thus have a hard time ending sentences with their rhyming word. To compensate, they write simple sentences with a subject, verb, and occasionally a noun or adjective. They shy from prepositions and articles. To adjust the number of syllables, they elongate the subject by describing family members or friends. While their poems met the formal requirements, they read disjointedly with numerous subjects. Moving forward, we will continue with rhymes but try to reinforce sentence structure by expanding our predicate.
In Sunflower Class, we have fallen into a nice structure of phonics, read alouds, phonetic spelling, spelling games, and conversational practice. Between each of these is always a song or dance. The kids are becoming great spellers (of 3-letter words, especially). Since teaching all of the letter sounds, we are focusing on word endings, and all of the words that share each ending. For example, last week, students focused on words with -ad, -an, -at, and -ag. By isolating an ending each day, the kids changed the start and spelled around fifteen words per ending. They got very good at coming up with new words with each ending. The greatest success of the week was Kohenoor, one of the class’s youngest learners, spelling her first words. This coming week, students will work on endings with the short e and short i sound: -en, -et, -eg, -in, and -it. Slowly, but surely, we are building our way up.
Perry and I took advantage of the long weekend to visit Jodhpur, where we ate our weight in sweets and got sunburnt sitting on rooftops drinking mango lassi. It was our first of many weekend excursions, but made us eager to get back to Jaipur.
This week we continued our work with phonics and word deconstruction with each class, applying our skills to reading. The Sunflower Class is slowly making their way through all the 3-letter words we can think of, tapping them out on their arms and reading them in simple picture books. I searched the library for readable books for the youngest readers. Many of the books we have are amazing books, but too high of a level for even Rose Class students to be reading. For the Sunflower Class, I came across a packet of “Early Readers,” which are phonetic books with small words and one sentence per page. These books are an incredible resource and even have the focus sounds (ee as in three, ar as in park) written on the backs. With these books, I had a class of 16 Sunflower students reading independently while I made my way through the class to read with kids one on one. This sort of reading instruction is invaluable and even the lowest students were able to sound out words to read each page. I showed the class a “trick” of covering up the ending of words with a finger to read it one sound at a time (c-a-t… cat). While the students read the books very accurately (I think the Sunflower Class might be some of the best readers at the Foundation in short time), their understanding is notably behind their decoding. I mixed in Read Alouds of more challenging books with comprehension questions to help challenge their thinking while they read. Aarish, whose favorite part of the day is typically making animal sounds before class, sat still for 10 minutes, tracing each word with a finger before announcing, “I am done with this book,” and asking for another.
Reading the same books with Daisy and Lily class is something I was originally hesitant about. The books are what we would call Dick and Jane books in America, alluding to a popular series about characters of the same name and simple plots (“See Dick run. Jane sits as Dick runs.”). Despite my fears that the students would find such simple books boring or demeaning, they loved them. Imagine finally finding a book on your just right reading level after struggling to understand more complex texts. Students were surprised to find that the phonics skills they had been learning were’nt just applicable, but also incredibly successful in increasing their reading ability. Students begged for more books and looked forward to reading time. I supported student reading by having them stop and sound out tricky words and asking questions about each page. Fardeen, who is fifteen, proudly handed me a book called Wrong Knight, which used words with silent letters to tell the tale of a knight who preferred knitting to fighting, and declared it, “The Best Book.” Other students begged to read “No More Milk,” the story of a cat who runs out of milk. Despite the simplicity of their story arcs, these books have spurred curiosity and imagination in the students. There are 36 Early Reader Books in this set, with one copy of each. They are an incredible resource and any more we could get would help expand reading. This is something I worked heavily on in New York and think is the best way to apply the skills.
I am excited and inspired by the early successes of so many students at learning and applying phonics. I think literacy and empathy are the two most important skills learned in schools. Literacy opens up the world to you and empathy helps you understand it. Students who can read can understand different perspectives, connect with people around the world, and be lifelong learners. Phonics is only a building block. Perry and I did not teach students all of the words in each book, but we gave them a foundation to explore it for themselves. I like to think of phonics as an apt analogy for any instructional practice: by giving someone tools and support, their agency guides their own learning. Much of what students expect from their teachers is rote learning, but their exploratory learning is rewarding and has far wider applications. I am excited to see how far we can take their literacy in two more months, and hope it sparks a love for reading that continues long after we leave.
Our week leading up to the holiday was very productive, including the rollout of our language assessments. Overall, things went incredibly smoothly. By testing one class each day, we only lost one instructional day per child. We had two teachers lead the writing assessment while two more pulled students out one-by-one to answer speech questions and take phonics/reading assessments. We were able to grade most of the assessments in extra times throughout the week. Perry and I took home the Sunflower Class assessments to finish up over the weekend.
The tests seemed to do well to achieve what we set out to do: stratify students by their skills and highlight areas of needed focus. The writing and speech assessments showed a really accurate distribution of students ranging from Lalit’s “Approaching” proficiency down to Kohenoor’s “Beginning” level. We also now have hard copies of their writing and speech samples to show future volunteers. One challenge we faced was trying to remain objective in grading students. Many graders wanted to write that students understood questions when their answers did not reflect understanding. We graded the students very strictly on the rubric so that we can witness their growth. While Lalit was a top performer, he still demonstrated the need for improvement.
In the coming weeks, it will be good to look into our assessments and reflect on trends. Already, we discovered that many of the oldest students struggled to understand the question “How would you describe your school teacher?” This may be a result of focusing on more specific content and not addressing grammar deficiencies with our top students. We also have a lot of students struggling with past and future tenses, something we can aim to work into curricula moving forward.
The reading and phonics tests were much more straightforward to grade. Each had a percentage score that determined whether or not a student passed. Most students showed great growth in phonics but struggled with vowel sounds or “j” vs. “v.” A few students in Sunflower still need to master their letter names. This will be great in guiding instruction. On the reading assessment, most young students who passed phonics struggled with some of the harder words. Muskan was the closest Sunflower student to passing with an 80% accuracy rate. The difficulty of reading assessments was something we anticipated and allowed for growth. I titled the first reading test “Level 2,” declaring any student who has yet to pass it a “Level 1 reader.” My idea behind this was that Level 1 would be beginning readers still working on sounding out words. The leap from phonics to the Level 2 reading test was large, however, and we discussed writing a level 1 reading passage to affirm the beginning readers’ abilities before putting a tough passage in front of them.
It will be exciting to organize our data and further analyze it to drive instruction. I anticipate further changes as we strive for accurately diagnosing learning gaps and addressing them, but am pleased with the success of our assessments.
What better way to celebrate finishing assessments than to dance and play with colors? Holi was an amazing day of play and laughter highlighted by students made almost unrecognizable by blue cheeks and pink hair. I think my hair will have an auburn tint for the next few weeks, but I had a wonderful time and loved watching the kids enjoy themselves.
This was a short week following a long Holi weekend. After so much focus on reading accuracy through phonics, we did some work with reading comprehension in Lily and Daisy Class. To do this, we began by summarizing teacher-read books and scaffolded our way to independently reading and summarizing level-appropriate books.
On great thing about read alouds is that you can read books above the reading level of students, allowing for richer content than Early Reader books. I read Where the Wild Things Are to Daisy Class on Wednesday. To help them understand the book, I had them divide a page of their notebook into six panels and I stopped six times throughout the book. Each time I stopped, I asked questions about what had happened in the book, then asked the students to draw what happened in one of the panels. Then, after finishing the book, I had the students write one sentence captions for each picture they drew. Using chronological sentence starters provided (“first, then, next, after, later, finally”), they used their drawings to write a six sentence summary of the story. Some students struggled to focus on broad ideas and wrote about very specific actions with little contribution to the plot (“Max name was on the boat”). These students tended to rely heavily on the pictures, and not the words. Pictures can be used as a crutch for language deficiencies, which is why we used student drawings to summarize the book in the first place.
The next two days, I had students read independently and create summaries of their books. They again drew six pictures and included six captions to describe the plot. Many students did an excellent job and we made full-page drawings and colored them to present as book reports. While we still had some difficulty establishing the scope of the plot (focusing on small details), I saw genuine understanding for the students.
On my only day with Sunflower Class, I pulled students out of the class one-at-a-time to work with them in more targeted practice, while Rahela taught th class. With these students, I reinforced skills I noticed they struggled with on our phonics assessment. I also introduced more challenging phonics sounds for the advanced students. These sessions were really valuable for supporting students and something the extra teachers in classrooms could do regularly.
This week Daisy and Lily Class wrote stories. We used the same 6-panel technique from the previous week’s reading comprehension to plan stories. Students selected a character and setting from bowls, receiving random pairings like “goat on the moon” or “snake at a wedding.” From there, students imagined a problem that might occur in the story and a solution. Then, they quickly sketched 6 drawings to develop the plot of their story. After that, they wrote 6 sentences for their story using chronological transition words (first, then, next, after, later, finally). Students practiced using the past tense and added details to their stories when they finished early. By the end of the week, the students had complete stories that were sweet, silly, and sad. I was particularly impressed with the creative solutions students came up with to their stories’ problems. We also practiced the past tense by picking characters and settings, then telling a story in a circle, each person saying one line at a time. The students’ stories were well-written and creative, but still very dependent on supports. Next week, I will let students write their own stories without as much structure involved, to see what they are capable of imagining.
In Sunflower Class, we have been focusing on vowel sounds. Students are very competent with consonant sounds, but struggle to differentiate vowel sounds. One reason for this is that I can describe or show how to make consonant sounds with parts of the mouth (“m” is a closed lip hum, for “f” you place your teeth on your bottom lip), whereas vowels are entirely dependent on sound without visual differences. Also, accents play heavily into vowel sounds. Many students pronounce “bought,” “bat,” and “boat” the same. We practice vowel sounds by building words with each sound, listening to vowel sounds in read alouds, and reading books with the focus sounds. Something I have noticed is that students rarely mispronounce words they recognize in reading. Aarish, for example, will read “dig” as “dag,” but pronounce “big” and “pig” perfectly. This may be the result of students reading above their vocabulary level. Understanding words involves look, sound, and meaning. For students who lack the meaning aspect, the looks and sounds of words can feel foreign or patternless. We will continue to read books to the children to grow their vocabulary while they continue to grow as readers.
Perry and I have now been here for 3 months. This week was shortened by a holiday, and included a visit from Princeton, NJ high schoolers. We planned games and activities that could involve the high schoolers but also continued what we have been focusing on in class. For the Sunflower Class, this was games practicing questions and answers. They also did partner reading, where students got to listen to and coach each other while I made my rounds to do the same. This took some intentional pairing but worked very well and the students were great coaches for sounding out words their partners did not know.
In Daisy and Lily, we continued writing stories, with an extra focus on grammar surrounding descriptions. Each lesson began with a grammar minilesson and led to students writing their own stories using the grammar they had learned. Students improved their verb conjugation and verb tenses, and they also got more practice adding articles. To engage high schoolers with our descriptions we played games like Story Circle, where each student tells a line of the same narrative and you try to build a cohesive story. We also played Taboo, where students had to describe a word without using the word itself. This forced some flexible thinking and sentence structure.
This was my last week with Lily Class. In the next week, I will be continuing my work with Sunflower and Daisy, but then teaching phonics and reading to Jasmine. Perry and I will coteach Jasmine one day (Wednesday) each week to model some co-teaching methods and give them some phonics support before summer vacations. We are excited to work together and with new students.
In other news, it is incredibly hot. We prefer looking at the Celsius measurements because the smaller scale tricks us into thinking it is bearable. Iced coffee and kulfi have joined us in this battle.
These weeks we made the switch to Jasmine Class. It was nice to meet new students (there are only 14), but also to get them the same phonics supports that the rest of the students had. The Jasmine students are, in many cases, close in age to some of the older Sunflower students. They are quick learners and at a strange stage of reading where they have memorized some individual words, but not knowing the sounds that make them up. In most cases, I think the batch of Sunflower students we have worked consistently with are outreading their older Jasmine peers, but that may change soon. They have blazed through vowel sounds and small group sizes allow for us to work individually with some of the struggling learners. Perry and I cotaught Jasmine twice, demonstrating multiple coteaching strategies that we taped to talk about with the teachers. Station teaching drew the most interest, and Ryhela and Firdous have already began using it in Sunflower to work in smaller, leveled groups.
In Sunflower, we took a break from phonics (though continued daily reading) to focus on body parts. We played LOTS of Simon Says, did the Hokey-Pokey, described multi-limbed monsters, and sang Head-Shoulders-Knees-and-Toes. Students designed and presented their own monsters to the class, describing their numbers of body parts and what colors they were. Perry and I have both noticed a dissonance between students reading and vocabulary levels. Though many students can accurately read books that would be age-appropriate for native speakers, they lack the vocabulary to understand. We always read a book and are teaching vocabulary minilessons daily until the end of the year. One hour per day is a small amount to learn a second language to fluency, so we try to make it count. We have seen huge growth from the Sunflower kids and are excited to follow their growth from afar as they continue to flourish.
In Daisy class, we began a read aloud book (Dinosaurs Before Dark). We stopped regularly to write character descriptions (present tense), summaries (past tense), and predictions (future tense). Students still look expectantly for Hindi translations, but we have tried to teach independence and have students trust their English skills and our explanation skills. The range of understanding in Daisy is wide, but their writing has greatly improved and they enjoyed hearing a more advanced book than the phonics books they can independently read.
Perry and I visited the Taj Mahal and have been generally trying to maximize our dwindling time in India. We are already dreading saying goodbye to the kids, but are enjoying our time with them and how fortunate we have been to work with so many of them in our time.
Our penultimate week at the Tushita Foundation was much like many others. We taught phonics in Jasmine class, learning new vowel blend sounds and how to differentiate them. We applied these skills by reading phonetic books and playing spelling games. In Sunflower, we built a city. We have been pushing vocabulary in the last few weeks and taught different aspects of a city and their functions. Students could explain who works where in a city and where to go for particular goods or services. Then, all students designed a building for Sunflower City, applying their new knowledge to an art project. Daisy class continued to practice comprehension by listening to and writing about a Magic Treehouse book. It was their second book by the same author and they were much quicker to understand it this time around.
In teacher session, we reviewed phonics in hopes of the teachers continuing that curricula when we leave. We are also thinking of ways for the teachers (and students) to continue their English development over the summer. Audiobooks and music are great ways to get used to hearing conversational language, and Perry and I are looking into leaving something behind for teachers to share.
We took class pictures on Wednesday. The children showcased a wide range of expressions for photos: from Aarish’s ear-to-ear grin to dozens of expressionless stares. The pictures came out cute and we had students take “silly” pictures to capture their personalities. We will miss them greatly and are excited to have some good mementos.
We are gearing up for an excellent final week of reflection, celebration, and the inevitable goodbyes.
In teacher sessions this week we were able to do a variety of learning styles. Early in the week we started class as a large group, then split into two groups where I reviewed grammar with the assistant teachers, Virendraji, and Tilak while Tristan did more complex grammar with the others, and then we rejoined to do large group work. It worked well and gave the assistant teachers a chance to practice simple grammar while the others worked on more complex tenses or speech. I especially enjoyed joining together as a big group for the last part of class because I think learning from each other is one of the most important things for early language learners. This coming week we are changing the teaching schedules so we will be working with new people and also a few new classes. I will be leaving Lily to Ruksar and Jyoti and joining Shalu and Pooja in Jasmine for the first half of my week.