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South Asia Regional Schools

January 2002

Various themes - Participant diaries



Lonavla - Introducing English at Primary: Approaches to Teacher Training

Day 1 - The Communicative Approach: Linguistic Imperialism?
The problems of primary teachers and their trainers

Reporters: Hyacinth Pulickan and Hitesh Chandra Bhakat

On the pleasant sunny morning of 18 January 2002, we assembled in the conference hall by 9.45 am, eager to start the ten day programme. Mrs Eleanor Watts, the Course Director, and Mr Paul Smith, director of the British Council, West India inaugurated the seminar by welcoming the participants and emphasising the fact that English was a world language and was rightly owned by all speakers of English. Paul Smith introduced the British Council and the Hornby Trust and spoke about the cultural ties among countries that help to promote peace and understanding among nations. He then invited seven people which included the resource persons and the sponsors to light the lamp and declared the seminar open.

The morning session began with Eleanor Watts rearranging the entire group according to their birthdays. She then presented an outline of the changing ideas in ELT over the past century. Participants were then given an exercise on rating the greatest obstacles faced in communicative language teaching. She summed up her session by discussing macro and micro level initiatives engaged in communicative language teaching.

The post-lunch session was taken by Dr V Saraswathi. She asked the participants to introduce the persons sitting next to them. Participants were also asked to share their experiences of the best teachers of their lives. She emphasised the importance of attitude over knowledge by a trainer and asked the participants to discuss the problems faced by teachers and suggest solutions to these problems.

Day 2 - A new way of looking at demonstration lessons: a humanistic perspective
A reflective paradigm: pedagogic imperialism?

Reporters: Geeta and Vindhya

Now there is an increasing need to shift the focus towards attitude development in teacher trainees. With this in mind we looked at the possibility of introducing a humanistic approach to training teachers and the pros and cons of demonstration lessons at the primary level.

In general the morning session generated interesting ideas on crucial issues related to teacher training at the primary level. The issues however needed further discussion by tapping the rich reservoir of experienced teachers and teacher trainers of the primary level - maybe outside the formal setting.

Discussions were held on making all participants more vocal and interactive. We reached a consensus on giving opportunities to each individual to share his/her expertise.


Bangalore - Using IT creatively in the classroom

Days 1-4
We then assembled in the auditorium for a presentation by Gavin on the uses of the Internet in teaching and the skills teachers would require in order to use it. He started with an activity: we were shown some ambiguous headlines downloaded from the Net and we had to try and figure out the story and predict the vocabulary that was used. We got some amusing and pretty off-the-mark answers, but it opened our eyes to a very simple but interesting way to generate a language and vocabulary exercise in the classroom.

Nic Humphries, First Secretary of the British Council spoke to us about what the British Council is trying to do in India and of some of its various activities. He also explained to us what ELTeCS is all about, and I should think most of us have decided to become members as soon as possible.

There was an offline discussion session where all the participants were eager to talk about the explored areas. Some of the participants were anxious about the practicality of Net-based teaching and learning, especially in an Indian classroom. Here Mallika could substantiate how technology has become an inevitable part of human life and India also cannot be away from it. So we expect classrooms where we can apply our new learnt strategies in the near future.

During the afternoon session Dr. Prakash helped us to give serious thought to 'writing' and 'developing writing skills' among learners. His class was clear and systematic and took the participants to a higher level of thought. During the class he explained writing as a cognitive process and how it functions as a reinforcing activity for the already learnt language items. The steps of a good writing attempt and the importance of each stage of the process along with the relevance of feedback, redrafting and editing were discussed thoroughly.



Puri - Let the children speak

Days 1- 5
The ten day long British Council-Hornby ELT seminar on 'Let the Children Speak' got off to a smooth start at the picturesque Hans Coco Palms in Puri on 18 January 2002. Set beside the roaring and foaming sea, Hans Coco Palms at present houses a group of 17 participants and 2 resource persons. The resource persons are Sue Sheerin , Director of the Language Institute of the University of Sussex (UK) and Suchita Srinagesh , an ELT professional who earlier worked in SCERT, Bangalore. The seminar was set in motion by Sujata Sen from the British Council, Kolkata.

The seminar has so far focused on the characteristics of speech, of fruitful communication and of the importance of speaking skills in our daily lives. The seminar has also focussed on those qualities that distinguish speaking from the other productive skill, that is writing. Participants at the seminar have been exposed to various classroom activities designed to develop speaking skills among children.

The participants at the seminar include schoolteachers, college teachers, curriculum designers and material producers, teacher educators and professionals teaching communication skills to corporate sector employees. They hail from different parts of the country. There are also two participants from Nepal and one from Sri Lanka.

Over the next few days the seminar will focus on the importance of listening, pronunciation and how to integrate language skills through games and activities. Participants at the seminar have the benefits of learning not just from the experiences of able resource persons but also from the experiences of one another. And with the sea, the foam, the long sea beach stretched in front of us, Puri offers much that is yet to be learnt and explored. The cool night breeze touching the gardens of Hans Coco Palms seems to revive memories of Mathew Arnold's 'Dover Beach': "Ah love let us be true to one another". But unlike 'love'- in the sense implied , ELT professionals at Puri have another 'love' to be 'true' to - their discipline, which gives to them a purpose; and the salt, the breeze, the clouds all beckon with outstretched arms to explore the beauty and joy of it all.



Chandigarh - Successful Strategies for IT in the Primary Classroom

Day 5
Mr Graeme Reid & Ms Meera Balachandran

We started the day off recapping the previous day's class with a discussion on how students learn. We looked at the three main learning styles visual, audial and kinesthetic and concluded that our students all learn in completely different ways and although they seem to learn something from our classes, it is not always what we want them to learn. Is this a bad thing? We decided no! We were then asked a few questions by Graeme about how long people have been learning languages.

"Thousands of years," we replied.

"And how often do teaching methods change?" he returned.

We answered, "Every five or ten years." Although these methods change quite frequently we concluded that students still learn regardless of what the methods actually are, therefore the teacher actually 'hinders' the student from learning. The teacher is therefore responsible for helping and directing the student to find his own pace and learning style.

'Imagination is more important than knowledge.' - Albert Einstein

Day 9
It was a whole day spent in the lab. Working, working, working and just not stopping. Graeme kept asking us to relax but no one wanted to since so much work was pending. We slogged at our web sites, activities, songs, stories, budgie messages and everything. The people who were to collate the work kept pushing us and making things difficult, but we enjoyed all that stress. Meera took a brief session on the integration of technology in the school. Timetabling, teacher training, student projects were discussed and shared. One point made again and again was that computers are not magic - teachers are.

"As I am from the Government school, it will take time to bring the computer revolution there, but will certainly relate teaching to the computer and technology as well as I can. May God give me more chances like this so that I will be able to update my knowledge -at least to some extent."
Monika Chopra

"We were given the freedom to make mistakes! That proved to be really helpful as we learn more, if we learn the hard way... I still have lots to learn."
Deepali Tolia

And after School is over - Hornby Follow-up (one of many postings on ELTeCS SOUTHASIA-L)

After the Hornby summer school 'Training the trainers', the participants decided to try out some of the activities in schools near them and post their experience to ELTeCS. This week the participants are trying out a role play activity in which a gorilla (or other animal) goes into a restaurant and asks for food. Maybe you'll feel moved to try it out in a classroom near you when you've read Madhumita Guha's perceptive report?

Eleanor Watts


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