Bookworm was invited to to conduct a Library Training Workshop for the Bal Mitras under the QUEST (Quality Education Support Trust) . Bookworm represented by Sujata, Milan, Niju and Eva (RPs) conducted the workshop for 2. 5 days for 17 Bal Mitras and 7 others (representatives of Janseva Mandal and Janarth Adivasi Vikas Sanstha, QUEST Project Officers.
The thrust area for this workshop as outlined by QUEST was to
Enhance the Bal Mitras understanding of books
Effective shared reading and read aloud activities
Increase the range of library activities
Mode of the workshop was dual:
Sessions with the Bal Mitras in workshop mode as direct participants.
Sessions with the children in the Ashram Shaala Bal Bahavan as demonstration sites, where Bal Mitras were observers.
Anticipated Learning Outcomes:
How to select a book for Read Aloud
How to plan for Read Aloud
Possible ways to conduct Read Aloud Sessions
Developing meaningful extension activities after Read Aloud
Prior Knowledge and Practice:
Bal Mitras shared that they have been practicing Read Aloud during the Bal Bhavan sessions. Also some books from QUEST and other publishers have been enlarged and spiral bound for better visibility in the large classrooms ( during Read Aloud) These practices have been put in place following the SRTT supported workshop on Language and Libraries held in Goa in April 2011.
The approach for the workshop was to demonstrate and provide a lens for observations, reflect on demonstrations and then dialogue about the aim and objectives and method of Read Aloud during the Library sessions.
Key ideas shared and understood:
The place for Story
The workshop on Day 2 opened with a central theme of placing the story as an extension of life. Individuals make stories. They are not abstractions sitting out there in print and need to be accessed mechanically. This was constructed through a collaborative group activity. The theme of the activity was Dhadgaon and each group (5) chose some aspect of Dhadgaon that they wanted to share from their perspective.
The activity allowed the RPs to get to know the groups more intimately. Their own knowledge, collaboration in the group, skill set was immediately evident on careful observation. The activity allowed the group to talk about what they know and to introduce their context and development to the visitors through a read aloud – show and tell format. The activity also allowed the participants to engage immediately in the creative idea of ‘making books’. The whole process allowed everyone to understand organizing material, layout, display, cover, title, publishing details and the ways in which an activity of this nature forms immediate connects with print and context of the reader. The possibility of making thematic books was initiated.
1. Pre Story Preparation: How to select a book for Read Aloud
This was constructively understood through the session with the book Malli by Jeeva Raghunath. The text narrative appeared to be abrupt and dissected. This allowed RPs to talk about how narratives are of 2 types in Picture books, visual and textual and experience running alongside both these. Govind felt that the experience of buying something for an uncle was outside the experience of a child and therefore might create disconnect. This allowed the RPs to reflect on their own attitudes to story, their understanding about children’s worlds and the idea of a character and how one arrives at conclusions by drawing on implicit understanding from the text.
That Bal Mitras have more clarity about the reasons for book selection came through during the lesson planning component of the workshop. From a range of books displayed in a small library selection style, Bal Mitras working in 3 groups chose
Where is the Sun?
My Grandfather’s Stick
Reasons for selecting books were
Immediate connect with the context of the children
Less text, vivid illustrations that will capture imagination
Folk tradition of storytelling with repetition which children will get
New experiences which children may not have had but which the story brings to them.
Books triggers imagination and creativity
Variety of Narrative Styles in books.
The deliberate selection of books that were shared with the Bal Mitras allowed the reflection on narrative styles.
Rooster and Sun
My mother’s Sari
Bal Mitras were able to see how there may be a leaning to one kind of a story and it can dominate the book selection but then reduce exposure and possibility to only one kind of story grammar. How in choosing different types of narratives the scope for placing range of literature begins to widen automatically.
The deep and immediate connect with the seemingly simple book, My Mother’s Sari showed the participants that how narratives, both text and visual though simple can elicit deeply profound and emotive sharing that become powerful literacy and learning material. This session reinforced the idea for variety in a library collection.
2. Drawing participants into the Story
Suggestions to create an atmosphere, introduce new characters, contexts and vocabulary and ‘talk’ about the theme of the story.
This was done repeatedly in the demonstration sessions and participants were able to draw these ‘activities’ out quite naturally. In doing this they demonstrated that they recognized the how and why ‘mood’ setting for a story builds on the story read aloud. Strongest link seemed to be emerge from the song component. It was an organic process to see how the rich culture of songs amongst the community could be used to build the theme/setting/vocabulary for the story that would emerge. This lead to some new lyrics being written for Read Aloud Lesson Plans quite spontaneously.
‘Talk’ was reinforced as a legitimate activity linked to literacy. Drawing on experience of demonstration sessions, Bal Mitras recognized how the seemingly ‘silent’ tribal child has responses and opinions and can be drawn into ‘talk’ about a story even before it is read. In this way, the knowledge and understanding and experiences that children already have are made legitimate and are linked closer to the story. Discussions on nature of questions, what can be asked before and after a story, why ask some questions and not others, how to keep suspense and interest alive in the story were all drawn out from the observed demonstrations and were listed out.
3. Read Aloud: How and Why
Bal Mitras were already initiated into the act of Reading Aloud and all engage in the process during their Bal Bhavan calendar. The new learning from the demonstrations was in using ‘voice’ and expression to convey the tone and intent of the story. Using enlarged books for large groups was riveting to the Bal Mitras and also observed as a way to draw the children’s focus in the Bal Bhavan classrooms. Sharing the big book as a pass- around activity to encourage more specific engagement with the print and illustrations was found to be a big positive aid in the reading and story process.
Pausing at crucial points to encourage participation, asking listeners to predict, anticipate and make guesses was also recognized as an important and new way to draw listeners into the story. It was also shared how this has strong links to the reading process itself.
Link with book selection and the mechanics of big books was briefly reflected upon.
4. Extension Activity
Including post story discussions and the range of reinforces to literacy and learning.
Through demonstrations, planning lessons with the Bal Mitras the range of possibilities of what to do when the story read aloud is over were shared. This was a totally new area for the Bal Mitras and was met with great excitement and anticipation. Some key learnings shared here were that the extension must never take away from the story. It is not intended as a testing/ assessment exercise but rather to reinforce the story and link it to literacy and creativity.
Activities from oral recall, matching games, act and tell, asking and answering questions, likes and dislikes were demonstrated and reflected upon.
Concrete activities from paper pencil drawings and labeling, to display charts, group activities around a story, creative displays from a story with organic writing, making props and linking to story and literacy were all explored and done during the workshop.
It was clear that some concrete understanding was in place as Bal Mitras added interesting suggestions to extension activity ideas like – dumb charades, crafting the props for the story, taking children out to have a direct experience then returning to write about it, drawing and labeling in their own language, making small books around a theme and adding to the ‘Pustak Peti’. It was suggested that Bal Mitras start scribing for children who are able to talk about their drawings but are yet to acquire literacy skills.
Bal Mitra group is a very motivated group that is eager to learn and innovate. Despite language barriers and cultural hurdles the participants made every effort to understand, actively participate, share and immediately incorporate newly learnt suggestions and ideas.
The impact of this brief workshop was further strengthened when post demonstration in the Bal Bhavan had a Bal Mitra share how he was skeptical of the chosen story impacting the children but how actively they participated in listening, talking, sharing, doing, remembering and the visible pride in being story participants made him realize that story selection must be looked at differently.