Classroom Insights

The Classroom as an Interactive Space

by Artist-mentor, Abhinav Yagnik

We’ve all been in this situation as students: The teacher is immersed, meanwhile we’ve found the sights outside the window more appealing. We stare into the distance and doze off to day dreams rather than pay attention in class. However, there were situations where this wasn’t the case. What made this difference was how the teacher took the class.
Interactions are teacher-centric, and should be delivered in a way that supports and uplifts the students creativity, thought process and eagerness to learn. These instructions should take into consideration the children’s ideas, thoughts and perspectives all together.

According to me, a classroom is the reflection of its teacher. A fun, loud classroom suggests an enthusiastic teacher. A welcoming learning environment is a reflection of an understanding, insightful educator. Perhaps if we look at a classroom as a space to facilitate dialogue, our students might respond with our same eagerness we present to them. Here are a few tips that can help you transform your classroom into such a space: 

Make use of Ice Breakers!

Ice breakers are a fun activity to begin any class with. These are games that are meant to energize the class and encourage rapport-building among the students, as well as with their teacher.. These games break the ice by enabling children to participate in a class activity that the teacher then subtly links to a concept they feel is relevant.

One of the Ice Breakers I love to integrate into my classroom sessions started as a session with students of Grade 3. Split the game up into 3 rounds. In round 1, everyone introduces themselves by name. Once everyone has been introduced a first time, they begin again, but this time they use a gesture. The only rule is that they must move – there is no right or wrong. Using a time limit for the activity helps set a challenge for your students, leading them to act quickly, energizing and invigorating them. As a class teacher, don’t feel limited by this movement – you can replace the second round’s challenge with whatever you see fit. Later on, the exercise was linked to our Grade 3 Syllabus, in a chapter titled “Portrait”.

Inquiry-led conversations

As we move forward, Inquiry- led conversations are very helpful- These are essentially open ended questions meant to enable children to think on their feet. In a session with students of Grade 5 we were discussing the chapter “Window with a View”, where they were instructed to look out of a window and paint where their mind wandered off to.

However, what is important is the discussion that leads up to the activity. What is a window? Where do you usually see windows? What is the purpose of a window? In your immediate surroundings, what windows can you see? By building their own definition of a Window, the students were able to make the connection between a window and seeing, and some even went beyond the conventional understanding of what a window is, and drew comparisons to a microscope, spectacles, binoculars and other seeing-tools!,With such a variety of answers and their understanding in place, they began painting their own windows and things they see outside, or inside them. 

Storytelling

When it comes to teaching concepts or ideas, Storytelling is an effective method that you can use to grab a student’s attention. When you think about concepts like The Law of gravity, or any of the Jataka tales, we immediately connect these lessons with the iconic stories that have been associated with them. Newton’s apple is the law of gravity! The same way, simplifying each lesson into a story can help generate interest, as well as help you forge a connection with the listening students.
In an activity conducted with students from Grade 2, we noticed that students paid more attention to their teacher when a story was being narrated to them. In this exercise, the only instruction was that the teacher would continuously narrate a story to their class, while the children drew as they listened.

Using a story of 12 lines, the teacher would pause for 30 seconds after each line, with no extra time. Once the exercise ended, the children were asked to go over the lines they drew and the ones they missed. Sharing their hits and misses generated excitement in the classroom, with them even pointing out something that their peers may have missed out. What’s great about this mode is how the teacher can adapt concepts into stories and have fun with the classroom exercises that they come up with.

Visual Thinking

Visual Thinking is another strategy teachers can use to have thoughtful and engaging sessions with their students. VTS, or Visual thinking Strategies involve observation and reflection. The teacher projects an image via a powerpoint presentation on the screen, while the artwork selected is specific to the lesson plan or theme of the session. Teachers can ask their students to carefully observe the image for two to five minutes, and reflect on open ended questions that you have put together. They could be something like What is going on in the image? How does the viewer know what is taking place within the image? What could be happening outside of what we can see in the image?

In my experience, children speak their minds about what they observe and use any prior or related knowledge they have to make these associations in their head. There is nothing right or wrong in a VTS session, so teachers are advised to not suggest or prompt their views, perspective or any factual information during the session. Remember, it’s all about the kids! You will observe that the child will back up their ideas and answers up with their own logic and understanding. This method encourages students to develop a connection with the artwork as they construct their own meaning to it. It helps develop their thinking and communication skills. With this method, the teacher acts as a facilitator, maintaining a neutral stance while creating space to encourage dialogue and sharing ideas. 

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