Using dumb charades to connect...
For those eager to see me in action...here I'm! One thing that I have been noticing is the reticence and indifference of a sizeable number of students in most of my classes. Are these kids listening and if they are, is their listening and observation good enough? And another thing I wanted to ascertain was maybe the kids do understand stuff but they cannot express it in very articulate fashion either orally or in print. Third - how do I appear as a teacher? my diction? body language? my lingo? Am I communicative enough as a teacher? How effective are my teaching methods?
To bring these "passive" kids right into the heart of the teaching learning process I ended up using methods that involved using a child's kinesthetic and physical energies towards which a child has natural proclivities. Children had to use their kinesthetic ability to put across their cognition, recognition, understanding of concepts, individuals, process, events, places etc. All this goes by a more simpler name: i.e. dumb charades. Here I used dumb charades as an reinforcing activity - names, terms and events which we had dwelt on for the last one year in class VII I sought to reinforce. In dumb charades by breaking up the words, which as such remain just that for many kids - words, without having any contextual significance, I thought/think that it offers kids means by which they can reconnect to these words in a fashion which makes sense to them. Once the basic ground rules and common gestures were accepted it is up to the kid to make meaning of it and that too using body and sign language.
But did it? I notice/d few things - for many kids names like Gandhara Buddha were just that - names. Ditto for places, events or even concepts. For example when I whispered Pelopessian wars I got blank looks. Either these kids had forgotten or they registered nothing (the whats, wheres and whens) of the Peleponessian wars or Gandhara Buddha in the first place. Secondly words remained words. Kids were (as you will notice in the recording itself) trying to deal with the word phonetically and not with the meaning or association of the word. For example the child pointed me out to deal with the word "surplus" (Sir and then a + sign)...and another girl pointed to her socks to help her team mates crack the word "Socrates". It was clever but they were not as such dealing with the ideas or event the person is associated with or meaning of the concept or the historical context in their sign/body language. Well at one level that is what dumb charades are meant to be, is it not? And as you would notice I gave a similar demo my self. But in the end I was looking for more and hoped that some kids would transcend to do something more substantial. Guess I should have also given a demo where they attempt to look at the word not phonetically but more contextually. Will need to factor this in next time around I use dumb charades as a pedagogic tool.
So was this attempt of mine wasted? For my contention is the children need to internalize ideas and understanding and using such "brain based" methodology while at one level helped them to reconnect externally to certain names, events and places, it did not really reveal their understanding. Kids of course enjoyed the whole exercise and even those "smart" ones whom I had excluded out of this exercise wanted to be in the thick of it. But then, simply because children are having fun can that be seen as a learning exercise? Guess very often we confuse the two and activities that we have to offer hands-on learning to kids gets "reduced to fun".
But given the fact that this exercise of mine was confined to those "passive", "non responsive", "dull", "disinterested"...(the works)lot and also given the use of body language and "fun" they had in the process, in some future date I hope they would once again revisit and reconnect with the same terms, names, events from Ancient Greece, Rome, Buddhism etc with far deeper understanding and meaning.