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We all know that introduction of interactive activities in classroom boosts the learning process for kids. It is always advised to introduced a few interactive activities in classroom so that the boredom of a monotonous classroom breaks once in a while. Once I was having an informal conversation with a teacher and we were talking about introducing William Shakespeare for the first time to our students. I suggested an interactive activity and she said, 'These don't work. Kids hardly remember anything once the activity is over and this way a teacher loses control.'
'Losing Control' are we teachers there to exercise our control on our students? Are we there to tell them what to think? No, as Mahatma Gandhi once said, 'Children must be taught how to think, not what to think'. As teachers, we are there in the classroom to encourage the way our students think, to direct them in the right direction without actually exercising our control on their minds.
Was the teacher wrong? No, a teacher is never wrong because a teacher does not work for the income, a teacher works for the outcome. What she might have meant was that sometimes, it gets difficult to maintain discipline in a large classroom during interactive activities but that is no reason to stop. Discipline can be maintained by practice, by engrossing our students so much in the activity that they don't even think of going away from the activity. It takes time, effort and sometimes help from an assistant teacher or fellow teachers to
maintain discipline during activities.
Point is how successful these interactive activities are? I would like to share two instances from my own teaching experience. We thought of introducing Shakespeare to our students for the first time in class. First question was how to raise their interest so that they are actually interested in even listening about him.
Graphic novels, small presentation, movie.... no idea was convincing and the we came up with a new idea. We decided that each teacher would dress up as a character from Shakespeare's novels and share a few things about themselves. Not only this we planned not to do this in a single class because of two reasons one it might take a lot of time for each character to come and talk plus children might lose interest after two characters. So, we decided that each character will make a surprise entry during different classes. For example: I dressed up as Calpurnia, Ceasar's wife and suddenly entered the classroom in the Science class. Kids were surprised, did not have enough time to actually run or make noise, they simply listened to me and were too excited with this surprise. Obviously the Science teacher knew I would be coming and surprising the kids. If some would say, it would have disturbed the Science class - then no because it was all planned and the teacher made sure that she had more or less wrapped up before I came.
The entire day one after another different teachers entered the classroom as different characters to surprise kids. Characters: Othello, Macbeth, The mysterious lady who inspired Shakespeare to write, Calpurnia, Hamlet... I still remember the look on the kids' faces when Othello came or when the mysterious lady spoke.
Kids not just enjoyed the activity but also got curious to explore more. They wanted to learn more about Shakespeare. They were ready with their questions and wanted to know more. It is only after I overcame my own fear of losing control of the classroom that I was able to let my students be free and learn more. It is only after that I had let go off my own fear that my students were free to ask questions. I realised that the fears that control me as a teacher can adversely affect my students freedom to explore. They were now free just like me and boy! they looked happy.
The second one was when I was not able to get them participate in a simple speaking and listening activity. I had to check their fluency with the language and it was getting difficult to make them feel confident and express themselves. Yes, I did have that planned material that checks the way a child pronounces words, understand their meanings and comprehends a text. But it wasn't enough because it was lacked freedom of expression, so I added a question in the end that was to encourage kids to think beyond the text. They did participate but didn't look happy. It was boring - one by one they came to me, one by one they read the text, one by one I marked each word - BORING!
What did I do then? I organised a very small talent hunt show in class... yes, I did this. The kids were hosting the show, the kids were participating and the kids were the audience. They showed their talent, they spoke in English, they looked happy and they learned a lot. They learned some new words, they learned the terms used during a television presentation and it helped to boost their confidence.
These interactive activities not just help children's minds relax a bit, it also ensures that they do not get bored of the routine. They learn in multiple ways during such activities - they learn to overcome their fear or shyness, they learn to express freely, they learn that true education does not mean reading, writing and giving tests - it is beyond that. It means that the children are able to acquire knowledge.
As teachers we sometimes have to think out of the box just to make sure that our students gain knowledge happily.