Local Language Module

Gyan Shala recognizes that when a child comes to it at an age of 5+ years, she already has a fairly developed understanding of her first language, though only in oral, not the written, form. We accept that the first priority of a language module in a school system is to move from oral to written mode of language, and, therefore, its primary purpose is to help the child ‘learn to read’. Gyan Shala, however, also recognize that the language is a primarily an instrument for communicating a meaning. Therefore, ‘reading to learn’ is as, or even more, important as ‘learning to read’. Developing the language module in a manner that optimally combines the two tasks, i.e. learning to read, and reading to learn, in an optimal manner, is recognized as the primary and an ongoing design challenge for local language curriculum.

Gyan Shala will aim that a child learns to recognize all alphabets and learns to read/ write individual words with meaning in a short age-appropriate text, by the end of the first year. In the second year, the focus will shift to understanding the meaning of a text and writing a text to communicate some meaning. Even the first year language module is so handled that the child starts internalizing the inherent concept that a text is linked to some meaning. By the end of the third year, Gyan Shala will aim that a child can read a new simple text with comprehension, have substantial sight memory of words needed for effective reading, and also write a simple text, such as a letter, story, narrative and a report, using words common in her/his context. In the third year, local language newspaper is used as the basic text for a part of the year in the classroom, so children become comfortable in reading with comprehension an unfamiliar text of relevance to them. Throughout, an emphasis is placed on using such a text that is appropriate to the context of children, and interesting to them. The text of different variety is used, including short narration, story, poem and rhyme.

Components of Language class work

Gyan Shala classes have four types of exercises in the local language module.

  • Storytelling/ listening (10 minutes/ day- for the whole class) that focuses on linking meaning to the text and its communication.
  • Subject teaching/ learning (15 minutes/day for the whole class). In the first year, this focuses on explaining the shape/ sound of alphabets, the pronunciation and writing of these, and using the words in a different context. From the second year, this is used for learning to decode/ interpret the meaning of a text and to answer questions based on the text.
  • Worksheet (15 minutes- individually work by each child). These provide exercises to the children to practice the lesson learned in the subject teaching and story listening modules.
  • Group tasks/ activities (10-12 minutes- for each group of 6-8 children), this reinforces the teaching session and worksheet exercises.
  1. Storytelling/listening module

Gyan Shala team has composed text stories based upon a set of chosen picture-books, eight or nine for grade I and II each. Typically, each picture frame carries either one or two sentences text with the total story having 20-30 sentences only, for grade I story. In grade II, a picture frame may have 2-3 sentences and the whole story up to 40. In both the grades, these sentences are kept only 3-6 words long, at most, and many of the sentences are often a single clause. So far, Gyan Shala uses books published by the National and Children Book Trusts (NBT & CBT) but superimposes its own text to prepare its storybooks in children’s local language.

One story is used for 2-3 weeks, and each day of storytelling covers 1 or 2 picture frames. While telling the story, the teacher uses the picture to describe the situation, helps the children to internalize the meaning of the situation depicted in the picture, focuses attention on a chunk of meaning/ expression, and then links this chunk to the 1-2 sentences/ clauses written on the pages. The purpose is that the children should be able to understand the meaning of whatever is written, in its total context. The relationship of the sentences/ chunks of meaning on a picture frame are linked to those on the preceding and succeeding pages and thus the total story is told, as a series of chunks of meaning embedded in the sequences of picture frames. Children’s attention is drawn to matching sound with the shapes of words, but the focus is not on explaining the meaning of a word, but on linking the whole clause/ sentence to a chunk of meaning/ expression.

In the 3rd grade, Gyan Shala uses standard textbook prescribed by the government for its primary system. The storytelling module in this grade is used to read/ understand the text/ lesson given in these books. Typically, a story/ essay/ poem is divided in para/ couplets. On any day, a given para/ couplet is covered in the class. The teacher is trained to divide the para/ couplet into not only sentences but also small clauses. Children, by then, have learned to identify the shape of letters/words and read the words. They are now trained to read a sentence as composed of clauses, with each clause itself containing an independent chunk of meaning. More than one clause read together completes the meaning of the sentence. Many sentences together complete the para/ couplet and many of these together than complete the essay, story or poem. For around 40 percent of third grade, a local language newspaper is used as the core text for language module.

  1. Subject teaching module

In the grades I, the subject teaching session is held every alternate day. Typically, one word from the story being covered is picked up and children are taught its shape, sound and meaning. The words are so chosen that over the first year, all the letters in the alphabet, both consonants and vowels, get covered in the chosen words, and these describe not only a range of objects but also common feelings/ thoughts/intangibles. While explaining its meaning, its application in many situations is illustrated and its difference from other similar or opposite meanings/ words is pointed out, which becomes the foundation of synonyms and antonyms. Special attention is paid to the stroke pattern for writing the word correctly/ neatly.

On completion of a story, one week is devoted to teach the reading, identifying, writing, and using a set of basic alphabets that have been covered in the words taught during the story module. The general nature of an alphabet is illustrated by showing its use in not only the words covered in the story but in many other familiar words. All basic alphabets get covered in the grade I itself.

In grade II, the subject teaching session is held five days a week. The explanation of words meaning and application continues on the above pattern, but in addition, the application of antonyms and synonyms is illustrated with greater depth. An attempt is made that children start putting together the meaning of different sentences to make sense of a whole para, to understand the topic, issue and context. This, in turn, should enable the children to answers simple questions that can be framed to elicit their understanding of the contents of the text.

Children are taught to use punctuation marks and writing of words with proper spacing. They are taught to write up to five sentences on a topic, by illustrating that any topic/ issue has many aspects, each of which can become the subject of one or two sentences. The proper structure of a sentence is explained by giving examples of correct sequencing/ ordering of different words, including the object, subject, verb, adverb, proposition etc. The changes in sentence structure with past or present tense, with singular or plural subjects/ objects, and gender changes are explained. The order of alphabets is taught so children could arrange the words/ letters as per alphabetical order and search for the word meaning in a dictionary. The concept of joint word is explained which is a distinctive feature of Indian languages.

In grade III, the subject teaching is held all six days a week. The understanding of all aspects covered in grade II is deepened. Children are encouraged to give longer and detailed answers to the questions based on the text, and explain the cause-effect relations. The common phrases used in the text and their application in other situation are covered.  Children are trained to write alternate stories based on a sequence/ set of pictures. They are asked to use given two words together in a sentence and replace a set of words with a single word (traveler for one who travels). Children are given greater practice in using a dictionary and understand/ use idioms and literary/ colloquial expressions. The writing of essay, letter and application to some public authority is taught, both in terms of format and content formation. Last, children are taught to write a report based on observations and data/ information available in newspapers.

  1. Worksheet exercises

Children typically complete one page each day. In every grade, each child gets four volumes of worksheets, each volume containing around 60 worksheets.

In grade I, the first and primary purpose of a worksheet is to give children a practice to read and write the whole word and identify it in a cluster, thus building site-vocabulary. In doing writing practice, children start writing on a dotted shape and move to free-hand writing. The size of the font starts at 24 and reduces gradually to 16. In the beginning, children write just one word, but later they are asked to write a clause of 3-5 words. Regarding the basic letters, the practice entails relating its presence in a word with the place of sound in the pronunciation of the word. They practice identification of alphabets both in written and spoken form. Some exercise of filling in a word in a familiar clause/ sentence is given.

In grade II, the worksheets are mainly to enable children to provide a written answer to written questions based on the text covered in the class. Later, they are given a new text on which they should be able to answer simple queries. They are asked to identify the antonyms or synonyms from alternatives available, while later they are asked to recall these from memory. Children write/compose up to five sentences on a topic/ theme covered in the class, and writes a similar picture-frame description. They are asked to use phrases. Children are asked to arrange words in alphabetical order. Children are asked to modify the structure of a sentence as per changes in tense, gender, and numbers.

In grade III, children are given questions based on the text that requires a long answer. Different types of material are given to children for this purpose, which could be a marriage invitation, invitation for a competitive event, advertisement or typical story/ poems. Children should be able to fill gaps in an incomplete poem/ text taught in the class. They are asked to write longer and more elaborate stories from a set of picture-frames, essays, letters and applications. They write 6-7 sentences on a topic covered in the text.

  1. Group activities for language practice

Group activities are meant to repeat and reinforce the exercises covered in the worksheet or taught through subject teaching. Group 6-8 children complete the task assigned by the teacher who provides feedback and helps correct the mistake if any.

In grade I, the main group activities include reading/ identifying from a set a word-card that is called by the teacher and then speak up to two sentences by using the word. In another activity, they are to identify and pick up all the words in a clause and compose these in the correct order. In another activity, children are given a topic on which they speak or ask questions, in turn. Children compete in telling the antonyms or synonyms and take dictation of words covered. Children sometimes also compete in locating the word/ clause spoken by the teacher from the given text. A similar competition is held in reading a new word, by using alphabetical pronunciation. Children compete in groups in finding words that start with or include the given letter. Children provide picture frame description sometimes with supportive prompts by the teacher.

In grade II, most of grade I activities are repeated with greater complexity. They also make a story based on a picture set. Dictation is given of full sentences along with punctuation marks. An unfamiliar text is given for children to read and answer questions thereof.

In grade III, the above activities continue at a higher level of complexity. For example, children are required to make a chain story. Dictation is given for full paragraph and reading practice covers the text written by other children, not only the printed version. Reading and comprehension of news-papers headlines are undertaken. Use of a dictionary is practiced. Greater emphasis is on reading of various types of text material, with emphasis on the use of punctuation marks.