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Mobile Outreach Program
Writing with meaning – an incident from Mobile Outreach Programme (MOP) at Tonca
September 30, 2014
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Written by Liza Cherian

The red Bookworm van is greeted by a group of children who smile and run towards us. They are all eager to help us to carry the boxes of library books and bags with their activity books. These skinny little children are really strong, managing to take the boxes and run towards the temple.

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This temple is where the MOP meets at Tonca- a small room, with a few cement benches built into the wall and an open space where the mats we’ve brought, get laid out. A small scuffle begins about who’s going to lay out the activity books on the cement bench. Once its sorted out, the children go and collect their own activity books.

Barkha read a story about Five Silly Fishermen – a funny story about five fishermen who go fishing, and are tricked by a little girl to give her all the fish they have.

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After the story session, the 15 children, ranging from about 6-12 years who were present were asked to write five words from the story and make five sentences with those words.

As I was looking at their writing, I realized Chaitra w asnot able to even write the words without help, so I decided to sit with her through their effort…so with help, she wrote, five, fish, men, the, line. These were her words that she remembered from the story read aloud.

Then I asked her to write a sentence. Blank looks. That’s when I realized she didn’t know what a sentence was. After telling that it’s a group of words joined together to make sense, I gave an example – ‘I like to eat fish’.

Then asked her to write it.

She started writing it, and I went along to see some of the other children’s work. Got engrossed with seeing some of the older children’s writing.

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A few minutes later when I went to see what Chaitra had written, to my surprise, Chaitra had not written anything- and was just sitting there, thinking. She didn’t write for some time, and when I asked her why, she looked at me, shaking her head, saying- “fish nahi accha lagta” (I don’t like fish)!

Trying hard not to smile too much, I asked her to write ‘I don’t like fish’, which she proceeded to do, at once. She had no trouble with writing that.

Another learning for me today.. I realized – she couldn’t just make up a sentence that was not true for her. The sentences have to be very real to their lives.

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