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Aksharit

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Aksharit is a Hindi word board game created by Madrat Labs.
For familiarity sake, let us call it the Hindi Scrabble.
It is available for purchase through Flipkart and Amazon.

Every friday is game night at home. That was before Aksharit Chotu. Now Chula and Meija have taken to it so much that they play for about 40 min, everyday, before they go to bed.

Though Tamil is our mother tongue, we end up speaking a lot of English at home. Living in Hyd, we picked Hindi as the second language. Naturally the children felt very disconnected with Hindi. Chula is the kind who needs to observe something for about 100 times before she gains the confidence that she will do a good job at it. Hindi class at school was two classes/week of spoken Hindi(total immersion, only Hindi, no English and the children truly believe that their Hindi teacher does not know even a bit of English) and two classes/week of Hindi alphabets. The child spent the first week ignoring her Hindi teachers. When she figured out that Hindi was there to stay, she didn’t want to go to school any more. She declared that she will tackle the rest of her life with grade1 knowledge.

The husband and I were looking for ways to make Hindi fun for them and Aksharit has certainly done that.

With Aksharit Chotu, you get a two sided board – a blue side(words without matras) and a pink side(words with matras). You start with the blue side because it has words without matras. There are a set of blue tiles that go with the blue side. Board has  a set of words laid out in cross word pattern. The bottom part of the board has a track with consecutive numbers in increasing order. There is a START and a FINISH. Every player starts with a pawn representing them in the start position and five tiles each. If you see the letter in your kitty on the board, you place the letter on the board, in the order the letters have been written on the board. Suppose you get the last letter, of a three letter word on the board, then you cannot place the letter on the board and wait for the first two letters to be placed. As you play the game on the board there is a certain way you move your pawn from START to FINISH(this is explained clearly in the rules). The person to reach the FINISh first is the winner.

What we liked about the game was that the instructions were simple to follow, the game was a breath of fresh air, well thought out and executed and encourages children to learn language in a fun way. I would recommend/gift Aksharit to friends and family.

Check out the coverage on Hindu about the good people who created the game.




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“Children live through their senses. Sensory experiences link the child’s exterior world with their interior, hidden, affective world. Since the natural environment is the principal source of sensory stimulation, freedom to explore and play with the outdoor environment through the senses in their own space and time is essential for healthy development of an interior life…. This type of self-activated, autonomous interaction is what we call free play. Individual children test themselves by interacting with their environment, activating their potential and reconstructing human culture. The content of the environment is a critical factor in this process. A rich, open environment will continuously present alternative choices for creative engagement. A rigid, bland environment will limit healthy growth and development of the individual or the group.”

— Richard Louv in THE LAST CHILD IN THE WOODS

Rich natural environment = sand pit or water table.
Rigid bland environment = ipad, TV.

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Lesson Plans

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Edited to add: Submitted post for Shruti’s Artsy-Craftsy June 2001 Folk art challenge.


Artsy-Craftsy Challenge

I have done numerous lesson plans for course work. Two years back, one such lesson plan was on Tulika’s Sameer’s House, an all time favorite at home. That is when I realized how today’s kid’s-lit is so versatile and can be integrated in to a classroom setting. The seed was sown.

For CROCUS 2010, my category assignment was arts and crafts. For this I decided to do a post on how Warli can be integrated in to a classroom. Check out my post at Saffron Tree. I am eager to hear back from you all.





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Gandhiji’s Birthday

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Gandhiji’s birthday is a big deal in our school. We start with International Peace Day on Sept 21, then we do Pennies For Peace, then we talk about Gandhiji – the peaceful warrior and end the peace/non-violence theme by celebrating United Nations Day. Our school is closed for Gandhiji’s birthday every year.

This has been our routine for the three years we have been with this school. But the girls are growing and this Oct 1st and Oct 2nd we had a lot of talk about Gandhiji at home.

Mieja’s questions:
Did a english man shooted Gandhiji?
An Indian man did? But, why Amma? Gandhiji is the father of India. Why would the ‘goat person’ kill his own dad?
Did Gandhiji die in the darkness or something? What time of the day was it?
When he was shooted, how did he fall?
Why is he dressed like that? He has no shirts? Was Gandhi poor? He had no money to buy shirts? Is that why he is naked?

Chula’s questions:
Why do you say Gandhi Jayanthi Amma?
Is it like Krishna Jayanthi? Does Jayanthi mean birthday? Chadurthi is Ganesha’s birthday too. So why are we not saying Gandhi Chadurthi?

Chula had her shower almost by herself and dressed up in a pattu pavadai. Then she came running to me and said that she was ready. When I asked her ready for what, she replied that she is ready to celebrate the jayanthi or chadurthi or whatever it is, demanded why I haven’t set up Gandhiji’s picture, decked it with flowers and wanted to know what special Gandhi food I had cooked.

I promised her we will do something special in an hour and quickly planned some art work, books, songs and special food.

The food part was the easiest – peanut sundal and milk. One more thing to love about Gandhi, it is so easy-peasy to prepare his favorite food. Chula wanted to sing Ragupathi Raghava, so we did that. We read Marching To Freedom By Pratham, (special thanks to Chox aunty for sending  special books to the girls) and Dandi March is making quite an effect in Mieja’s mind. I can sense questions brewing. We also have Picture Gandhi by Tulika, The Story Of Dandi March by Tulika and Gandhi: His Life In Pictures. We thumbed through all the books.

I have to admit that I was a little lost for the art part. Then I decided to talk about how simple lines can form a drawing, profile vs front view. I showed then the famous question mark profile drawing of Gandhi, how such simple lines can be representative of Gandhi. Mieja wanted to draw and Chula wanted to write an essay. So this is what we ended up doing.

I had been wanting to introduce the liquid water colors that I had purchased a few weeks back. So I did white on white crayon resist and told them that if they paint the canvas they will discover a surprise. They were kicked when they saw Gandhi on their canvas.

They wanted to experiment on crayon resist and this is what they came up with. They can draw themselves with long hair and long curly eye lashes even when they cannot see what they were drawing. LOL!





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Pennies For Peace

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Part 1 of 3 here.

(Part 2 of 3 follows)One fine day, at school, the teachers talked to the children about Afghanistan. They talked about the devastation, lack of schools, necessity to educate the children and things like that. They also showed a short movie clip and images being powerful than words, the movie really drove the point home. At home I heard stories about how the children do not have classrooms, they do not have food, some times they don’t have mommies or daddies, and how some mommies and daddies are building schools and how we can help Afghanistan by giving them our pennies. The seed was sown.

On a Saturday morning we went on a coin hunt and dug out all the coins stashed away at the most unsuspecting places. Chula and Mieja have loosely heard the term money, but do not know much about it. So I had a sudden spark to teach them the various money denominations. So we made different piles, one with pennies, one with nickels, one with dimes and one with quarters. Chula was able to pick up a coin, read the denomination and put it in the appropriate pile. For Mieja, I first showed her how to compare the coin in her hands with a coin in a pile and when she placed it in the right pile I said, ‘That is a penny’ or whatever was appropriate.

I noticed that Chula made two piles of every denomination – two piles of pennies, two piles of nickels, two piles of dimes. When I asked her what the two piles are for, she said that one was old and the other was shiny and she proceeded to tell me that she was going to throw the old pile in the garbage because…well they were old. So I had to explain to her that we could still use the old coins because it has VALUE. She was puzzled. As luck would have it, we had a bake sale by our junior high students in our school. They lay out their goodies at 2.30PM sharp and target the kids skipping out with a parent and ‘stressed-out-I-need-sugar-N.O.W’ teachers. I strongly suspect that they make more by selling to the latter category! Okays, at the bake sale we bought two pieces of banana bread for fifty cents each. I gave Chula five old pennies, a shiny nickel and four shiny dimes. She handed it over and got a slice of banana bread. I asked her if they accepted her old pennies or asked her for new money. Even if she only kind of got that concept of value, I was sure she wasn’t going to throw money in to garbage *whew!*

One of the days that followed, we were a late for school and I was getting in to my irritable self and I snapped at the kids and Mieja reminded me in her usual loving and kind manner, “I am not your friend. I am not listening. I will scratch you and run away with appa and akka and go and live in a different house.” So I launched a lecture on how it is my job to be in my classroom at a precise time, we are all working for money, without which we will not be able to buy anything, even for this other house she was going to live in her appa has to work for and he needs to be ON TIME for that work. Okay not the best way to teach that money does not grow on trees. But soon, I will find a sensible way to make them understand this concept.

Now, HOPE accepts donations in our neighborhood on a regular basis. I give away things like the children’s books, toys, puzzles, clothes etc. I have been doing this for the past three years. All of a sudden, Chula made a connection and asked me if all this stuff is going for Afghanistan. I clarified that people in need are all over the world, not just in Afghanistan and we help in some degree that we can. This she hasn’t completely understood because she has seen images of Afghanistan and none like that in the US. So she continues to believe that the donations we are making for the holiday toy drive our school is doing and the canned food we buy for second harvest are going to Afghanistan. Every day she wonders loudly, “May be teacher X will go to Afghanistan to give the children without mommies and daddies the toys/soup.”

Pretty soon, there will be questions about poverty most importantly, ‘what is poverty?’, ‘why are some people poor?’ etc. I do not have an answer for them right now, but I am sure, I will come up with one at the time of need.

Correlating my thinking process and how the children responded I could come up with a web, that roughly looked like this.

PenniesForPeaceCurriculumWeb

Disclaimer: This was mentally mapped in 6 minutes and by no means a comprehensive list. It varies much with the personality of the adult and the personality of the children.

But the point is one simple seed like Pennies for Peace has lead to something called a ‘curriculum web’.

Links

Pennies For Peace

Part 3 of 3 on teaching styles, learning, broad learning Vs deep learning, how children for associations.

[tags]Pennies for peace, Afghanistan, Curriculum web, teaching children the value of money, preschool curriculum for money[/tags]




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