A few years ago, when I was in the 8th grade, I volunteered at Olcott Memorial High School, which is a school in Chennai that is funded by the Theosophical Society of India. To quote their website, the school’s goal is “social change through the education of the underprivileged”. I noticed while I was there how much the students were struggling to learn English because they did not have any exposure to the language outside of school, the teachers themselves were not very fluent, and on top of that, they didn’t have many resources, like books, that were actually relevant to their lives.
This is a problem because while students can learn subjects in Tamil, and be good at them, it has been proven that students who went to Tamil-medium schools have a lot of difficulty getting through college or finding jobs without being fluent in English. In fact, a majority of higher-paying jobs require a proficiency in the English language.
My goal since that trip to India has been to come up with a solution that would help students get enough practice in the basics of English at a young age, so that they have a foundation that they can build upon throughout their schooling. Basically, I wanted to give students fun books and activities that are easy for teachers to administer and helpful for the kids to learn.
This is why I started English Kadhavu. Kadhavu in Tamil means a door and by helping these students through English kadhavu, we hope to open the door of opportunities for them.
When I first started this project, I was focused mainly on creating online activities that students in India could use and play with in their computer labs. I realized, however, that while Olcott may have a computer lab, not all schools, especially in rural areas, do. So, it would be a lot more helpful to create physical activities, at least alongside the flash ones, that can be sent directly to the schools. What I’m working on now is “book boxes”, which contain a story that focuses on one particular unit of the students’ government assigned textbook (for example, parts of the body), and activities that go along with it for students to get practice in things like sight reading, vocabulary, sentence formation, and phonics.
While I’m in India for the next month, I’ll be user-testing a lot of the things that I’ve created in some schools, including Olcott Memorial High School, and others that I’ll talk about more in later blog posts.
So far, here’s what I have in the first book box that I’ve created, focusing on body parts (I’ll try and post better quality pictures after my camera charges):
- The Book (I’ll include a link to the book when it’s up on the website): Our goal is for the books to be fun to read, and also relevant to the student’s lives. This particular one is about a student who’s dozing off in class and imagines his teacher with multiple limbs, before his friends wake him up and he realizes it was just a dream.
- Poster Activity: The poster activity is intended for vocabulary practice. The goal for this game is to match the names of the body part to the corresponding part on the picture. We used velcro to make the cards stick to the poster.
- “Silly Sentence” Formation Activity: The sentence formation game involves sticking magnets onto a board in order to form a sentence. The sentence structures are pre-formed: “He/She/We/They/I _ Have/Has _ Number _ Body Part”. The color on the sides of the card is to check for grammar – for example “He” and “Has” will match up, while “He” and “Have” will not. Not only will it help the students learn which way is right and wrong, but this will help the teachers check their work.
This is correct:
This is incorrect:
- Flash Games (I’ll include a link to the flash games when they’re up on the website): The goal of the flash games is to provide more fun activities for students to play either as a class or on their own, depending on the grade level. For first graders, it makes more sense for the class to play the games together, as he students may not understand the online directions. There’s a learning activity and game for both phonics and vocabulary building, and a video of me dancing to the song “Heads Shoulders Knees and Toes”. We’re probably going to change this soon, since I’ve just learned that they sing a different version of the same song here in India.
Please feel free to let me know what you think of these activities, and give me suggestions of things that I could add! My goal for this trip to India is to make these boxes as effective as possible, so that I can start making more of them and sending them to more schools around India.
I hope you enjoyed this blog post. Regardless, you’ll be hearing more from me soon 🙂