Vineetha from the Partnerships team talks about the first StoryWeaver workshop of 2019
The best part about being in a room full of educators is the stories they always have to share. And, what makes this even better? A room full of educators in a workshop on, yes, stories.
This January, we hosted the first StoryWeaver workshop of 2019 at the Pratham Books office in Bangalore - a day full of classroom stories, sharing, and smiles. Workshops are a great opportunity for us to interact with educators from across organisations who can help take the magic of stories to more children and classrooms.
This workshop had participants from a range of organisations - from curriculum designers to CSR professionals to project coordinators to teachers, both young and experienced. What they all shared was their love for books, their belief in the power of stories as resources in classrooms, and an excitement to take the learnings from the workshop back to the children they work with. We had participants from Parikrma foundation (who run an end-to-end program where children receive education right from kindergarten to college), Orchids school, Naasih public school, BrickWork Foundation, and Youth4seva (who support schools, destitute shelters, government hospitals and other organizations in the social sector through their volunteers). As participants joined us at the brightly coloured Pratham Books conference room, the venue of our workshop, I could observe how keenly they were looking to absorb everything they could to take back to the classroom.
As we started the session with the story No Smiles Today, I couldn’t stop smiling as I saw the participants enthusiastically participate in the discussions. As people who often have to don multiple hats in the classroom - teacher, mentor, guide, parent, confidante, I couldn’t help but notice how deeply they were immersed in their new roles for the day - that of students. It was wonderful to see their eyes light up when they saw a story they liked, their animated discussions when they had something to share, and the smiles on their faces as they spoke about their students and classrooms.
In the next session, we began exploring how the content on StoryWeaver could best be used in the classrooms to improve learning, increase engagement, and create joyful learning spaces. Through my journey as a teacher, I had often found myself underwhelmed and overwhelmed at the same time - underwhelmed by the lack of contextual reading material for my students, and overwhelmed by the work there was to be done to bridge that gap.
Even on StoryWeaver, I could see how a new user could be overwhelmed at the prospect of browsing through over 11,000+ stories. Through our workshops, we’re trying to understand what exactly teachers are looking for and to make that process faster and easier. Many of our features such as Lists - a section on StoryWeaver which has curated sets of stories, categories, and themes such as Lifeskills, Humour, and more, have come about as a result of our interaction with the educator community. Another challenge that most teachers face is handling the different reading proficiency levels in the same classroom. One of the participants from Parikrama shared how her guiding principle through 11 years of teaching has always been to not leave a single child behind in her classroom and to ensure that she does whatever it takes to cater to every child’s unique needs. Participants agreed that the Re-level feature on StoryWeaver is a great way to differentiate instruction in the classroom using different versions of the same story, so children at the same cognitive level but different reading ability levels are still able to enjoy the same story.
As we explored the different categories and themes on StoryWeaver, it was heartwarming to see how educators were looking for resources to raise more sensitive children and create inclusive learning spaces. One of our participants shared how fun stories like the GIF story, Gappu Can’t Dance, can be used to discuss difficult topics like bullying, and also to touch upon diversity and acceptance in the classroom and beyond. Another participant shared how stories like Angry Akku could help integrate aspects of Social Emotional Learning into the curriculum.
Another aspect that really shone through was how participants come up with cross-disciplinary use cases for the same stories. So, for example, the story, When Will Amma Be Back, could be used to integrate concepts as diverse as reading time, numbers, and even grammar concepts like verbs. Participants working with young children remarked how the Readalong feature could be a great way to build reading fluency while also teaching more advanced concepts like punctuation, intonation, and reading with expression.
Once the participants began working on their own stories, the space was buzzing with ideas, suggestions, and questions. As they created their own stories and translated existing ones, they debated the choice of words and their reasons for why a certain word should or should not be used. For us at StoryWeaver, these sessions are enormously helpful as the educator lens has been critical to developing and guiding some of the most popular StoryWeaver features. By the end of this session, as participants shared their stories and saw their published stories show up on ‘New Arrivals’, we knew this had been an afternoon well spent for all of us.
All through the day’s session, I couldn’t help but notice how big a role stories play in our lives. As the academic year comes to a close, we would like to thank all our wonderful participants for making these workshops an amazing learning experience for us and more importantly, for helping us take the magic of stories to children across the country.
If you are interested in hosting a similar workshop for your organisation, drop us an email on [email protected]