Fostering bonds with students through stories

Posted by Menaka Raman on June 28, 2017

Riddhi Dastidar recently joined Pratham Books as Outreach Manager. Here she writes about our recent workshop in Delhi, with Humana India.

On a scorching summer day in June, we found ourselves in the winding bylanes of Kishangarh in Delhi, looking for the Humana India Office. We entered to wooden floors, quiet reading spaces filled with books in multiple nooks and a massive German Shepherd dog draped languorously across the gate to welcome us in.

Humana People to People India is a part of Humana International's network of 31 organisations in Europe, Africa, Asia and the Americas working across a range of issues from from health to microfinance. Our overlap in interest comes from their work in Education.

HPPI's educational programmes aim to equip people with knowledge and skills to break the cycle of poverty and fulfill their potential. Their five programmes are Necessary Teacher Training Programme (NeTT), Academy for Working Children, Girls Bridge Education, Step up Centers and Prarambh. NeTT and Prarambh focus on incubating quality teachers.  Humana had invited their NeTT master trainers from different states to spend the day with us to know about StoryWeaver and how can it be used to bring in a reading culture in the classroom, as well as serve as a resource pool for our teachers. We also had trainers from other organizations like Stir Education and Pratham who added to the diversity of the group.

We started by getting to know the workshop participants a little better by discovering their hidden talents. Someone mentioned they were good at working with special needs children  while another teacher found travelling interesting. Stories give way to many emotions and what better way to establish that than to begin the session with a story? The audience giggled and winced and tried to come up with a solution to Bheema’s problem in the process realising  with us how important stories are to classrooms!

How stories help kindle curiosity and develop lateral thinking in children.

After we walked through how StoryWeaver works, our philosophy of reaching as many children in need as possible in their native tongue, and hence our embrace of Creative Commons, it was time for the teachers to get their own hands dirty. They practiced curating lists of stories on specific themes (from Math concepts through biryani making to a Level 1 reading on Traffic lights). They got into groups to take a stab at translating stories into Hindi and finally even creating their own story from our set of open illustrations.

To break down the concept of ‘filters’ on StoryWeaver to help select the desired kind of tale we drew a parallel to online shopping - Amazon and Flipkart being commonly recognized.

An interesting story we explored brought out the critical role illustration can play in a book. We read 'दीदी का रंग बिरंगा खज़ाना', and the teachers pointed out that as Didi became happier, the book bloomed from black and white into colour - hence even a child struggling to read the words would be able to grasp what was happening!

By the end of the workshop we had a couple of first-time story-writers in our midst. The teachers were beginning to share the challenges of balancing something as ‘inessential’ and essential as  the time to read for joy in class with the demands of administrative work and completing the syllabus. Waseem, one of the trainers from Stir mentioned that the main reason we work is actually the children. Very often lost in the pressures of checking very real demands and tasks off the checklist, we forget the heart of it - which is the relationship being built with the child. He pointed out that stories could be a great option to reverse this disinvestment and foster strong relationships.

We came out of the workshop with many of the teachers coming up to us to ask for follow-up training with their organisations, and excited to see how they would go on to integrate stories into making different kinds of academic learning interesting - be it learning about division through biryani or just taking 20 minutes out of the day to Drop Everything And Read!

To see more images from the workshop, click here.

If you would like us to conduct a workshop with your organisation, drop us an email at storyweaver@prathambooks.org

 

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