Unstructured Classrooms and the Nuances of Teaching Learning Methods

Jamsheena’s Fellowship is made possible by the Rural India Supporting Trust.

When I walk in to the classroom without a book on Fridays; they make sure that I am going to tell a story. I could see tons of joy among my children. And for me story day is a day of questions, creative thinking and a day to figure out their development in critical thinking. Do you know how much children transform when the social environment changes? I realize when the classroom is unstructured, they would love it. So in this blog, I am going to talk about classrooms and teaching learning process.

For the past four months, we have shifted our classrooms to the library building. When I was a literature student, I used to think why we can’t shift our classrooms to libraries! To smell those old and new books and forget the whole world around us. I used to feel painful whenever I saw Nerudian poems and other literature falling in love with me from the shelves. Here I could see the reflection of my childhood days: children running around the shelves, taking books that are more fascinating with pictures and paintings. They all are aware about the library rules even before we give proper instructions. They make sure the books are in the appropriate places and check twice according to the catalogue number – and that at the age of ten years old!

When they feel bored or even during story time, I always ask them to find one book for each. They will run to find their favourite story books and bring them to me. If I need to say one story, I ask them to make a decision. They sit together and engage in discussion looking on the pictures and suggest me one. This is how they build team spirit, acceptance and cooperation. We can see girls never compromise or adjust since they need to be so called “ideal and adjustable” to the societal norms. They demand equally and speak up. They sit without any permanent seating place. Girls and boys sit together and listen to the class as equals. Mostly on story day, I will take them out of the class and sit under the trees. But don’t expect they would sit near to me always! Sometimes, you can see them sitting on the branches of the trees. Here, too, I see no gender disparities among boys and girls. They climb, jump and find their comfortable spaces on branches as they see fit. I need to accept the way they want to be since there are children who are active – forcing them to sit in one place would make them restless. When we start the story, and in the end of the story, everybody will be sitting around me eagerly to know the climax of the story.

Questions come like arrows from four sides and I need to give a satisfying answer – otherwise they will keep on asking until they feel it is fine. Most importantly, no single moral for the story. Embrace everything. Sometimes they bring the different versions of the same myth and ask for “truth”, the actual truth. Sometimes questions like “miss is myth and history same?” then “what is true history/right history?” And I deconstruct my thoughts about Nietzsche to find answers. It amazes me how creative and critical these children are. For them, there is no particular classroom fixed to a place. If they want to sit in the library, or in the computer room, or trees and even the bank of the river, they can. This makes them more attracted to studies. They engage their bodies, senses and experience everything.

When they learn about different colours, they wander around the campus to find out various colours of butterflies, flowers, leaves etc. They would touch and smell the objects, and then paint their thoughts in diaries. I believe that this is how classrooms need to be transformed. From a teacher to a facilitator. A child centered approach in which context based social learning makes long term and sustainable impacts. For them learning is not just content based memorization and reproducing it on mark sheets. Learning is a social community based collective activity which makes holistic development of the children. If children don’t like the moral or any elements in the story, they criticize the writer and make their own version of endings. They even translate the Tamil stories in to English and read it for the class. How creative and incredible children they are! This is how our every story day ends.

Story time under the mango tree
Learn from Nature
Learning together with fun
Painting the stories
The Pumpkin Boys

Jamsheena was born and brought up in India at the outskirts of Kerala. She completed her Masters in English Language and Literature from the University of Kerala. Her academic experience has refined her skills in culture and gender studies and English language teaching. Jamsheena’s areas of interest are education, women empowerment and gender issues.

Jamsheena's Fellowship is made possible by the Rural India Supporting Trust.

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