In Black and White

In Black and White

For more than a century, blackboards and chalks have dominated classrooms across the world. Even today, the blackboard remains a major form of visual communication in classrooms, right from pre-primary through senior college.

Rohini Rassal, Principal of Saraswati Vidya Mandir’s pre-primary section says, "Black board is extremely important for small children as they tend to learn most through observation and imitation. Visual aid is most important when teaching children aged between 3 ½ to 4 ½ years." Thus, when learning to draw or write an alphabet, young children observe the movement of teachers’ hands – from where they begin and where they end – and gradually acquire these skills themselves.

But despite their popularity, a few schools in Maharashtra are giving up these chalkboards in favour of a new, child-centred, activity-oriented pedagogy. This is specially so in case of pre-primary schools, as it is being increasing recognised that little children tend to learn better through play.

No wonder that despite the initial reluctance of parents and teachers, the pre-primary section of A K Joshi School in Thane has done away with blackboards and benches. They have instead adopted what is known as the play-way method of teaching. Rote learning, written exercises, writing on the blackboard and the traditional learning of the alphabet are out. Instead, the emphasis is now on activity. The new method of teaching attempts to develop the student’s natural inclination to learn by offering greater freedom, making learning more fun than work, creating natural learning experiences; in short, on teaching children to "learn how to learn" in an enjoyable sort of way.

Aparna Bhole, Head of Department of Pre-primary section defends this decision explaining that the motor skills of a child develop only after the age of six. Therefore any attempts to force younger kids to learn to write invariably lead to undesirable outcomes. Such children usually develop poor handwriting, get sore fingers (due to undue pressure) and as they grow up, they tend to lose interest in writing, perceiving it as a difficult task.

Since the last couple of years, pre-primary students of A K Joshi are learning through participation in real activities. They have subjects such as arts, science, language, maths, daily living and physical training. Bhole adds, "We teach them simple truths. For example when teaching science, in order to teach little children about the properties of water, we bring buckets of various shapes and colours and then put water into them, transferring from one bucket to another, thus demonstrating the shapelessness and colourlessness of water."

Apparently, children are learning faster and better through such involvement. Even normally hyperactive, mischievous and troublesome children remain busy in themselves. Instead of passively watching the teacher, or silently trying to emulate what’s written on the blackboard, children here learn simple truths such as how curds are made from milk, or how is a roti prepared – from kneading of wheat flour to actual baking.

Going by the response of the parents, the progress has been outstanding. Students seem to love this form of learning. They love the freedom as against the limited movement they are allowed in traditional, blackboard-intensive methods. One parent excitedly corroborates, "My son has started identifying shapes. Everywhere he looks, he can see a square, a triangle or a circle. He knows that, ladoos are spherical, whereas rotis are circular. It is quite an achievement for a four-year-old."

The success of the play-way method of teaching can be attributed to one basic truth: Play is to a child what work is to an adult: it is what they do. It is through play that children learn about their world and the things in it. Play allows children the chance to explore their environment, to learn how it works and how they relate to it. A child can express feelings and emotions through various types of play activities far earlier than they can express them in words.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *