Showing posts with the label worksheet/activity based

Attempts at resolving epistemic and pedagogical dilemmas in social sciences

History and other allied social science disciplines are basically abstract and amorphous knowledge enterprises. While making it too empirical and tangible often means presenting society blanched, and leveling out much its complexities and emptying the various socio-cultural and economic processes at play. Presenting society in such encapsulated, discrete, atomistic form has its takers too and our flawed school textbooks set off such takes on society, its past and present on impressionable minds, something majority of us are unable to shake off. On the other hand attempting to make social sciences more holistic, embodied is not simply a matter of method but more fundamentally an understanding of the kind of knowledge frames required to understand society. Thus here matters of ontology and epistemology also need to be grappled with. In such a sense then philosophy and social theory play an important role in giving direction and unraveling its constitutive elements - let it be histor

Tribes, castes,...their evolution, culture and problems...

Introduction - This relates to the chapters on tribes in the NCERT history textbooks. Often for young and old the word tribe has strong symbolic associations and much of it is as adjectives like ‘uncivilized’, 'uncultured', ‘primitive’ and more severely ‘barbaric’, ‘savage’.   Though many of these attributes do have a historical significance, in the discourse of commonsense these features carry strong negative connotations. These chapters in NCERT books - 'What books and burials tell us' ( Class VI TB), 'Tribes, Nomads and Settled Communities' (Class VII TB) and Tribals, Dikus and the Vision of Golden Age (Class VIII TB) seek to present a much needed corrective. But rather than dealing with these chapters separately in classes VI, VII and VIII,  it can be done as one long unit for a more comprehensive and contemporary understanding of tribal issues. The word tribe is a very loaded term and therefore I have tried to qualify the word often, though no

Understanding urbanization, social change in medieval India

The class VII NCERT history textbook Our Pasts has a very interesting conceptualization of chapters. While the first few chapters i.e. 2,3 and 4 deal with the political history of medieval India in a more conventional fashion the remainder of the chapters dwell on the social, economic, religious and cultural changes that unfolded in the same period of time. The latter chapters are in effect further elaborations of the first few where it seeks to unravel the processes that shaped medieval India. In that sense the chapters dovetails rather seamlessly into one another. But at another level,  not just the continuities in the chapters but such an arrangement of chapters in a textbook, which is largely thematic, in itself may be puzzling. I have tried to look at chapters 6, 7, 8 and 9 i.e. Towns, Traders and Craftspersons; Tribes, Nomads and Settled Communities; Devotional Paths to the Divine and The making of Regional Cultures as one unit. A synopsis of these chapters - To summarize

Facilitating understanding of architecture for children in its social and political context – Rulers and Buildings

There is this fascinating chapter in Our Pasts, the NCERT history textbook for class VII titled ‘Rulers and Buildings’. It tries to contextualize art and architecture in terms of its political and social import. Number of important features are highlighted to underscore the fact that monuments and buildings were built by monarchs across India , across religious denominations to make political statements. Some of the aspects that this chapter highlights are the following (the last one is my own reading which can also be added since coins can themselves be seen in terms of its artistic attributes) : a. Access, controlling and facilitating water supply…. b. Building places of worship, palaces and monuments in all grandeur which invokes the monarch’s claimed proximity to the divine … c. Incorporating symbols and methods of architecture from different cultures to indicate accommodation and tolerance…i.e. use of brackets in pillars by Mughals which was influenced by the brackets seen in

Understanding Cholas - thru contextualization...

This was yet another effort to contextualize certain epochs and specific events that transpired in such epochs - let it be accomplishments of a monarch in a battle, construction of monuments, development of arts etc. In this instance it was to bring about the wider social, environmental and economic processes to relief to the advantage of students of class VIII in the school I was teaching some months back. We had taken them to what was during the reign of medieval Cholas i.e. Chozhas, an important urban centre i.e. Thanjavur, which is located in the Kavery delta region of Tamil Nadu. Today as well Thanjavur is an important town and headquarters of its eponymous district but continues to derive much of its fame and glory from its medeival past where its famous Brihadesvara temple built by Rajaraja Chozha occupies centre stage. Incidentally this year also marked the 1000th anniversary  of the temple celebrated by government with a 1000 member dance performance within its precinct. (whic

Helping children to visualize ancient India

Photo-prints of murals/frescoes at Ajanta, copies of which were given to students According to more progressive pedagogic wisdom, children are supposed to learn and understand better if the teaching process is made more hands on. Over the years i have been trying to do precisely so with history. But one is not too certain if making history more experiential in itself brings about learning in terms of reasoning, identification, analysis and application. I suppose such learning is predicated on certain measure of language skills, observation skills and listening skills.

Understanding material culture through a simulated archaeological dig

I'm always endeavouring to make history as experiential and as contextual as possible. And I continue to believe that history is all about understanding issues, themes and concepts that affects one's social, economic, political and cultural existence by placing them in context of time and space.

Helping children to understand Harappan cultures

Attention to drainage and sanitation on the one hand and emphasis on town planning on the other were two of the outstanding features of the Harappan cultures. Now the challenge is bring out these unique aspects to a students cognition and understanding. I was trying to figure out hard and help my dear colleague Sarada and then I hit upon these two activities, which in my view brings to relief these two singularities. In the first worksheet I have given pictures from Harappa and Mohenjodaro of their drains and along with it a clip art picture of a person who is sick. The idea is to drive home the point that most of the illnesses in the past (and present as well) are caused by poor sanitary conditions.

Attempting to teach religion as political - any ideas?

As it happens I'm currently dealing with different religions such as Buddhism, Christianity and Islam from classes VII to IX. This is not the first time that I'm dealing with religion as such. Every ancient civilizations that we deal with always has a section on religion i.e. Egyptian Gods and Goddesses, Greek and Roman Gods and Goddesses etc.

Helping children understand and contextualize classes

While dealing with the period of revolutions for students of class IX which includes the French, English Revolution and the American war of independence, it becomes important that a child develops some understanding of classes. At one level classes are determined by the means through which groups of people earn their livelihoods. Classes are embedded in the lifestyle in which people experience themselves, project themselves and indeed identity themselves with. In other words class background of people can be identified on the basis of culture, ideas and the material life in which people socialize.

Looking at temples historically through theatre

The king peered at the staff which the priest wielded with flourish and listened to his words carefully: "Listen O king! If you seek to legitimize your rule and gain acceptance amongst the people as someone who is indeed a legitimate wielder of power and not a thug who has usurped political power, you can make use of religion to achieve this end. You exploit religious sentiments of the people and coupled with the blessings of the priestly class, er..., " the priest pauses sheepishly, "that is me, who can attribute a warrior status (kshatriyas) to you and all members from your community, people will start accepting you as the king."  

Using dumb charades to connect...

For those eager to see me in 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?

Attempting Mauryas

The pillar edict at Lauriya-Nandgarh, Bihar in Brahmi Tried using this activity worksheet (click here ) while dealing with the Mauryas and Asoka. The idea was to help children relate to Asoka's dhamma and make it personal for them and secondly I wanted to underscore the ethical aspect of Asoka's dhamma (and Asoka dhamma was basically a means by which Asoka sought to administer the empire) in contrast to the rather instrumentalist notions embedded in the Arthasahstra. I generally approach the Mauryan period more on the basis of the framework of Prof R S Sharma and less of Romilla Thapar. Prof Sharma, as one would expect from him, gives a materialistic view on the factors that lead to the strengthening of the Mauryas. Iron and its widespread use and Magadha's nearness to the rich iron ore deposits in the Gondwana belt gave Magadha that edge to dominate as a janapada over the other janapadas in the Indo-Gangetic belt.

Trying to figure out the new NCERT history books - another critique and an effort

The new NCERT history text books across standards VI to X present a different kind of challenge to teachers like never before. History has been reworked from the three Rs - Read, Recall and Write to the three Cs - consider, conceive and compose. In itself this is great but in the process teachers and students have been saddled with other kinds of problems.

Chronologizing history visually

It can be be argued that History is essentially about time. History is conceptualised through time. It is in time that history becomes. Indeed history is time. But to get this fundamental albeit abstract idea to children at middle school level is naturally not easy. How does a child get a sense of time? Though we have this rather Orientalist conception of time standing still in India, we can use a visual time line to help children to draw some connection between art, artifacts, architecture on the one hand and the time frame these latter belonged to, on the other. In other words a child by looking at an image or any material, work of art, architecture, coins etc, is able to connect those images or things from a particular epoch in the past and by contrasting these images over a period of time the students perceive historical change.

Familiarising feudalism for children

Painting of De Limbourg brothers, 15th century, which shows serfs involved in agriculture in a feudal manor. One can see the lord's castle in the background Most of the history books in India rarely and hardly use the word feudal to describe medeival Europe and India. And even if they do so the chapters hardly delve into medeival period's distinct socio-economic and political structure. In fact till the beginning of colonial period Indian history is basically represented as a linear movement of different political dynasties from the ancient period to the pre-modern or till the advent of the colonial period. That the political set of the Mauryas was distinct from say the Rashtrakuta or Chola period is hardly highlighted, much less understood.

Contextualising religion

Giving the context for the text Trying to problematise religion for children (grade VIII), I experimented with something new. I had to deal with Reformation and at a later stage I also have to deal with Bhakthi movement. The urge was to help the kids get a concrete understanding of religion that was not simply in the realms of the mystical or religion as an entity that all of us had to treat in very reverential terms but the effort was to help the children see religion serving some concrete utilitarian needs. And when those needs were not met, religious practices of the people witnessed lot of changes. The point was to demystify religion.

What really caused Europe to rise and grow?

After a while.... The Background Based on my recent teaching of Rise of western Europe in the classroom for students of class VIII I would like to make two important surmises - what ultimately helped Europe to tower over other existing prosperous civilizations were intangibles like enterprise, cunning, deviousness, proselytising zeal and secondly the technological changes that swept Europe over the period of 300 years starting from the 15th century to 19th. While we tend to see only the industrial revolution as heralding a technological revolution and changing the world for the better (or for the worse??)the first technological revolution was seen in the realms of marine transport i.e. changes witnessed in shipping, the kinds of ships made - multimasts, multi sails, mariners compass, maps, astrolabe...the works. It was this geographical revolution that paved the way for the rise of Europe. While the latter revolution saw the rise of Europe and Spain, the Industrial Revolution saw the

Hot stuff!!!

Introduction - What connects biriyani, a mobile phone operator and a music channel?? As disparate as these may appear to be, an aspect that is essentially gastronomic in nature but has rather varied connotations and uses, spices have more than anything else in world history shaped much of its course and outcomes. Wars, conquests, literature, science, religion and of course food – stuff that constitutes history’s subject matter, all have at one point of time had to contend with spice’s aura, charm, mystique and its imagined or real medicinal/gastronomic properties.

wars, battles, conflicts, belligerence....