Slowly, from singing our favorite English rhyme to using simple sentences, we started conversing in English during our classes.

When we help children ‘learn and love’ the language in their ways- be it through singing, dancing for an English song, acting out a word, watching short films, or telling a story, it makes a difference in their perspective towards it!

word english standing on the table with globe over wooden background with copy space, education concept

“Which is your favorite subject?”

“Miss, Maths”

“Science, Miss”

“Tamil”

This was the answer from 9 out of 10 children in my classroom. A faint voice finally answered, “English”.

I had several questions running in my mind. I wanted to probe deeper to understand, “why was English a favorite subject only to one child?”. When I asked them, they gave me different answers. One of them said English was the most difficult subject. Whereas the other two children told, they did not find it interesting. One more child responded that he never understood and lastly, a child answered that no one could help him at home. This conversation with the children helped me understand the difficulty faced by the children to learn a foreign language.

On the other hand, teaching literacy was a new area of exploration for me. In the initial phases of my learning circles, I was fascinated to learn how English has to be taken to the children. From getting them aware of sounds to helping them relate sounds to letters and then make connections to their positions.

It wasn’t as easy as it looked on paper to execute a reading fluency lesson plan in a classroom that had biases towards English as a ‘difficult subject’ and ‘not an interesting one’. I tried to discover new ways to make it simpler, engaging, and fun. Students always enjoyed ‘phonics song’ and they engaged better when they saw images on the laptop screen, for example: ‘I’ for ‘igloo’, with a picture of an igloo instead of the letter ‘I’ helped them better associate the appropriate sound with the letter. During our session to identify the positioning of the ‘B’ sound, we played a game to come up with words starting with the ‘B’ sound and the children enthusiastically participated and we almost came up with 15 words. I was amazed to see how they started getting involved with the subject.

Slowly, from singing our favorite English rhyme to using simple sentences, we started conversing in English during our classes. However, the online setup has shortened our duration of interaction with the children, and hence, it posed difficulties to constantly communicate in English. So, how to take this forward to their homes, where they spend most of their time now? How can the gap be addressed by engaging parents also in this process? One way was to give take-home activities that involved having conversations with parents in English and sharing a voice note of the same in the WhatsApp group. Another way was to enable children to ask simple questions to their parents and siblings and use three golden words- Please, Thank you, and Sorry often at their homes. To address the challenge of a family member not being able to respond in English, bilingual take-home activities were created. This way, it helped the parents too. 

7 months into teaching literacy, I learned, what makes the difference is to help children ‘learn and love’ the language in their own ways- be it through singing, dancing for an English song, acting out a word, watching short films during a class, or by telling a story.

I hope someday my children say, “I like English, it is fun too!”, “It isn’t that hard”, “Hey, it’s my favorite subject”. Our journey to loving “English” continues…..!

Wordsmith: Monika Thangavelu – Bhumi Fellow

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