Saturday, August 4, 2012

Experiments with Education: History I didn't know - 1

In 5th grade, we decided that we cannot compromise on students' content knowledge anymore. Irrespective of their language skills, there are things that they need to know about the world and their past. Keeping this in mind, I have been focussed on teaching Science and Social Studies extensively this year. History was never my favourite subject in school and I feel that a huge part of the reason was how it was taught. Pretty much the same for Geography.

Currently, my focus in class is on building student interest. Make these subjects come alive. To quote Antoine de Saint-Expury:
“If you want to build a ship, don't drum up people together to collect wood and don't assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.”
Instead of memorizing dates and thinking of history as a fact-book, my aim is to give them stories that they remember and put events into perspective. So, there has been a lot of reading about colonialism and their arrival in India. I have come across many things that I wish I had been told about when I was reading history.

  1. Most of these so-called explorers and discoverers were savages. Vasco De Gama was a brute. All this time, I had grown up with a perspective of him being a gentle scientist like creature who liked ships and sea. As wikipedia points out -
    "On reaching India in October 1502, da Gama started capturing any Arab vessel he came across in Indian waters, most notoriously the Miri, a pilgrim ship from Mecca, whose passengers he had massacred in open water. He then appeared before Calicut... He also captured several rice vessels and barbarously cut off the crew's hands, ears and noses, dispatching them with an insulting note to the Zamorin."
  2. There was a great Maratha admiral called Kanhoji Angre. He fought off the Portuguese, Dutch and the British all his life and being undefeated till his death. A true rockstar! He is also referenced in the Pirates of the Caribbean. Wikipedia quotes: 
    1. "On 4 November 1712, his navy even succeeded in capturing the armed yacht Algerine of the British President of Mumbai, William Aislabie, killing the chief of their factory and making his wife a prisoner. The yacht and the lady were released on 13 February 1713 for a ransom of 30,000 Rupees."
    2. Laugh aloud moment - "...on 26 December 1715, Boone made several attempts to capture Angre. But instead in 1718 Angre captured three ships belonging to the British leaving them to claim that Kanhoji Angre was a pirate."
    3. Awesomeness!  "1721 - British and Portuguese jointly attack Alibagh, but are defeated."
  3. History is full of fascinating stories and the legendary pirate Henry Every is linked with Aurangzeb in India. He made the richest heist to be made in the history of piracy when he captured the Ganj-i-Sawai of Aurangzeb's fleet. To appease the Mughal emperor, East India Company and the British kingdom was forced to conduct the first known worldwide manhunt happened for Every. More details on that story here.
So far, the stories have generated interest. I have trouble finishing my lessons because of the barrage of questions. I have to keep reminding myself that being asked questions incessantly is a good sign. Teaching history is turning out to be a fascinating learning experience for me. 

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Experiments with education: Open Period Excitement

I have just started my second year of teaching. As any teacher will tell you, one year experience is nothing to brag about. Anything we do in the classroom (even if tried and tested by others) is always an experiment because the students and their mood is always different. This series is probably going to have short posts on what we are doing in our class and school. The first one is about our open periods.

Starting this year, we have kept a few periods for other things apart from teaching regular content. One such period is the 'Open Period' which happens once a week. Even I am not quite sure of the definition but I envision it as a period where we learn about things we are interested in (basically something more than the textbooks about fascinating things). So we take a poll and come up with a topic and then, we learn about it the next week. The kids have taken a liking to this period faster than I thought and there's a buzz in the air when I walk in to the class. I think the related colour printout on the wall has something to do with it. :-D

One of these weeks, the topic was 'Why do people hunt tigers?' 
I was very impressed that kids asked me this question. It went in with our theme of "ANIMALS" for this unit. I am really proud of the handout that I made for this period (*Pats self*). I was able to integrate the Science and the Geography  topics that we had been studying in the week. Five senses in science and National Parks and wildlife in Geography. NCERT and google were the main resources used. 

Images of the handout are below. Feedback and suggestions are most welcome.  
The colour printout depicting the magnificent Royal Bengal Tiger along with the hunting and poaching
  Talking about the senses of the Tiger + A colouring sheet (yay!). Sometimes I feel that the only thing they take away from the lesson is the drawing sheet. Sigh! On the other side, there's information and relation with geography.