Enhancing basic English reading skills of children from primary schools

In partnership with VSO India Trust, Unnati ISEC implemented a pilot project ‘Basic English Reading Skills enhancement of Primary students with innovative tech based teaching methods’ in Mumbai’s 4 primary government aided schools. The medium of three schools was Marathi and one was Urdu.

Working with deprived children and enhance their Basic English reading skills is the core of this project. Build the sensitivity of our Para –teachers towards the child centric issues, behavior and learning Patterns were ongoing process in our weekly trainings and meetings. We were against any kind of violence and discouragement of students. Hence, treatment of our Para teachers towards students was totally different than normal school teachers, which creates a positive classroom environment for joyful learning. These things boost up the confidence level of majority of children. Popular perception of English was – ‘Outsiders language’ as per the students who have lack of exposure of English at home and community level. SMS stories, learning of phonetics and sound songs, word blending, games of vocabulary building compelled them to change their perception that, “yes. We can learn English too!” Many students who were afraid to give answer , were slowly started questioning about small things, giving response while teaching and enthusiastic to come front of the class and write on blackboard or to play educational game. This increased confidence and positive environment make them more attentive towards acquiring English Reading skills. Major positive change was, World of Difference Project unfolded joyful learning opportunities for all deprived children with the boost of self confidence.

Entailed activities:

1. SMS Story

SMS Story: As part of this initiative, daily mobile phone text message stories and lesson plans were sent to teachers and the latter would take a session with children These messages were designed in installments in a simple story using a phonics progression.

Para-teachers were backed by weekly meetings and trainings for their capacity building to make them pedagogically strong and creative as a teacher. Use of upportive activities and educational games were complimentary to SMS stories. E.g. use of sight reading method to read new words was useful for weak students in the class. Word puzzles, Find the missing letter game, identify and spell out the object were the other activities.

After a month’s intervention, student started identifying new sounds from the story when teacher was writing that story on the board. They were eager to know the new sound and ask teachers to take their blending which they enjoyed most.

2. Establishment of Children’s Resource Centre

Improving access to relevant reading material and promoting a reading culture are prerequisite for strengthening literacy skills, widening education and learning opportunities for children. Joy of reading cannot be limited to just text books and has to be connected with variety of story books. This is the core principle behind establishing CRC’s in every school. Our vision was – CRC is a place where every child has an access. He can read the books, lend the books at home, Do the library activities, and hear new stories. It’s a kind of Activity Centre where formal and informal learning will take place hand in hand.

We established CRCs in all the four project schools.

3. Volunteer Engagement

VSO India Trust had a partnership with Vodafone India for this pilot project. Employees of the Vodafone Mumbai Circle were engaged as a volunteer to support this project. 4 such volunteer engagement programs in 2 Schools were taken place. Total 21 vlunteers from Vodafone got the chance to be with children and conduct language and fun activities with them. It was a totally new experience for students as well as to volunteers. Volunteers were touched after spending time with these students. Many of them shared that, they got a chance to go back to their childhood and become more sensitive towards the harsh realities of society. It was an enriching experience for them.

Though the pilot got over, Unnati ISEC is willing to take this programme further on its own. This concept is very much in accordance with our other work in tribal languages.