Thursday, December 22, 2005

Films on education! Fascinating....

Manish Jain -- shikshantar at -- recently informed that Shikshantar is putting together a two-day film festival called "Re-membering Nai Taleem – Real Learning for the 21st Century". As the title indicates, the festival will feature films which inspire new directions for "deepening our imagination about learning societies". The festival will be screened at B.Ed colleges, NGOs, teacher training programmes, educational institutes, etc. around India and Pakistan. Organisers are looking for films which explore natural learning, deschooling, community learning, self-directed learning, alternative education, democratic education, creativity, local knowledge systems, human cognition, consciousness, unlearning, uplearning.... Jain writes:
"We would greatly appreciate it if you could share any films that you have made or suggest some appropriate films that you have come across. If you are interested in participating in or hosting the film festival in your community, please let us know by January 15, 2006."
Contact details: Manish, Shikshantar: The Peoples' Institute for Rethinking Education and Development, 21 Fatehpura, Udaipur, Rajasthan, INDIA Tel:91-294-245-1303 Fax:91-294-245-1949 Films on education! Fascinating...

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Spark-India... explaining an unusual concept (By Sheel)

An interesting experiment from Hyderabad, described below...

Spark-India... explaining an unusual concept By Sheel

Spark-India is a partnership firm started by three women with over 50 years of teaching experience between them in Jan 2003. The Managing Partner Ms. Lakshmi Rameshwar Rao has been a teacher for over 25 years, and has also been in the publishing industry for over 17. Ms. Tanvir Iqbal, another partner, is a practising speech therapist with over 20 years experience and a special educator conducting remedial classes for school-going children. The third partner is me, Sheel. I have an M.Phil in English and have been a teacher variously at college and other institutions, while participating in teaching non-formally at school and other institutions. Currently I am an in-house writer and editor at Spark-India; I am also in charge of Teacher Plus.

Spark-India was launched in Feb 2003, bringing out the first Spark BIG BOOK A Pot of Light, Spark Junior Geography and a set of two English language teaching VCDs called The Art and Craft of Teaching. Since then, we have published a second BIG BOOK, Under the Bed, a second geography book titled Spark Geography, and an Empathy Book called The Helping Hand.

Spark BIG BOOKS are lavishly illustrated large format books (about 14 inches wide and 19 high!) for group reading. A concept developed in New Zealand, Big Books have been used effectively in the Reading and English Acquisition Programme (REAP) in Singapore as well as in the Middle East.

Spark BIG BOOKS are designed to be a pre-primary and primary teacher’s resource, a tool to teach reading and help children acquire the English language. These are original Indian stories that children will enjoy and can relate to. The large, vivid illustrations help children understand and predict the story, and in the process developing an understanding of what comes before and after. Details of illustration stimulate thought and discussion on indirectly related topics, and they learn to listen, learn and express themselves.

The stories also familiarise children with simple as well as uncommon language structures, thereby building up language skills. The large font familiarises them with words and helps develop sight-reading. Some activity ideas to enhance listening, reading and speaking skills, as well as to enhance motor and social skills are suggested in a note to parents and teachers at the end of the books.

A pre-reading activity that helps assess the child’s reading readiness is also included in each. A Pot of Light (author Sheel; illustrator Mithila Maniketh) is priced at Rs. 175, while Under the Bed (author Usha Raman; illustrator Sarada Natarajan) is priced at Rs. 200.

Spark Junior Geography is a resource-cum-text book for 7–9 year-olds (Classes III and IV). It presents basic concepts of physical geography in a highly interesting manner designed to attract and fascinate the child and spur an interest in this oft-neglected subject. Unfolding in logical steps, it begins by asking what geography is, and proceeds to explain why we study the subject. It goes on to uncover for the child new perspectives from which to view her/his everyday world, and understand the fundamental role that geography plays in our daily lives.

The book introduces the fundamental objects of the study of geography – the Solar System, the Earth, climate, oceans, etc., and goes on to familiarise children with the tools that geographers use, including the compass, latitudes and longitudes, maps, etc., as well as navigation with these tools. In a unique approach to geography, the book presents text boxes that give additional information, and easy experiments that help children find out facts for themselves, spurring them to learn the subject on their own. The book also has a glossary that serves as an index too, thus helping children learn reference skills. Spark Junior Geography is Indo-centric in its approach, with imaginative four-colour illustrations make geography come alive.

This book is priced at Rs. 100.

Spark Geography is the next book in this series. A resource-cum-text book for 9-12 year-olds (Classes V and VI), this book takes the child forward in her learning of physical geography, exploring the Earth, the Sun and the Moon in greater detail. Rivers and mountains, wind and water, rocks and minerals, maps and mapping, are all explained in clear, lucid language. Concepts that are sometimes difficult to grasp, such as the association of longitudes with time and the latitudes with seasons are simplified in a way easy for the child to grasp. The detailed diagrams add to the understanding.

As in Spark Junior Geography, informative text boxes and easy experiments form a part of the book. This book too is Indo-centric in its approach and has an index. It is priced at Rs.150.

Empathy Books are the latest series that Spark-India has thought up. This series is meant to develop an attitude of understanding and acceptance of differences of various kinds – from disability to adoption to social values to race and culture… the list can go on. The Helping Hand is the first of the series. Aimed at ages eight and above, it tells the story of a girl Komal growing up with a sibling who is different and needs to go to special school. The story tells us how Komal and her brother Tarun grow up, each learning at her/his own pace.

The Art and Craft of Teaching is a set of two VCDs for English language teaching and trainers at the preparatory and lower primary level. This unusual teacher resource demonstrates several teaching techniques with the help of real classroom simulations and helps provoke discussions amongst teachers, educationists and school managements towards discovering and creating more innovative methods of imparting effective language skills.

Progressive steps in learning English are presented as audio-visual modules covering the four language skills – listening, speaking, reading and writing. Comprising fifteen real classroom simulations in all, the VCDs incorporate proven strategies and techniques to help children listen, learn and express themselves fluently, accurately and appropriately. They also include guidelines to stimulate the development of concepts that encourage children to think and work on problems. They also stimulate thought and discussion among peers about distinctive strategies and techniques to meet specific needs in the classroom.

The seven modules on The Art and Craft of Teaching (Preparatory level) are: Story telling Speech practice Talking about pictures Sequenced pictures Pattern writing Letters and sounds How things feel.

On The Art and Craft of Teaching Part II (Lower primary level, i.e., classes I and II ) the modules are as below:

Word order games Action words Conversation skills Following verbal instructions Reading proficiency Dictionary skills Sequencing Poetry writing

The Art and Craft of Teaching is playable on a PC with Windows 2000 and Windows Media player. Each VCD is priced at Rs.250.

We also conduct workshops for teachers.

Besides these, under the imprint OtherWise Books, we have also brought out alternative literature: the gay poet Dr. Hoshang Merchant’s latest volume of poetry Bellagio Blues.

Spark-India is currently working on several other projects, including a history of early civilisations.


teacherplus01 at spark_india at

View from a Goan village...

Below are some extracts from a speech by Saligaonetter Albert da Cruz (currently visiting Saligao with family), when he was chief guest at the Lourdes Convent High School annual day:
A school without staff and students is but a structure. Together it becomes an institution for learning, for progress and for enlightenment. In the age of the Internet, if education has any single goal, it is to encourage children to *ask questions* and know how to search for the answers. Every child is unique and every child is gifted by the Creator. It is in the home and at school that it is important to recognise that each child is different. Remember, success comes in cans, not in cannots. It is important to develop a culture of appreciation, where it is imperative to say five positive things before we can say one negative. You will find that the child will grow with confidence, assurance and charm. Children like to experiment and should not be afraid to fail, for failures are the stepping stones to success. Remember, it is better to try and fail then not to try at all. Education today is a partnership between parents and teachers -- both have an interest in the child's welfare and progress.
Nice food for thought. Just thought of sharing it with you all. FN