a blank slate

a blank slate

Category: Past Workshops

GSW: Exploring Syntax with Kids

The idea for the Glottal Stop workshop was conceived way back when I was finishing my Master’s in Linguistics. In just two years, I had developed a whole new perspective on language, and found myself wondering why this treasure-house of insight wasn’t carried into the language classrooms. As an amateur linguist-turned-teacher, I saw my classes as a petri dish for all the theories I’d spent two years poring over. The first Glottal Stop workshop, conducted in 2018, was my effort at bridging the wide gap between language acquisition theory and middle school language teaching. And what a successful couple of days!

From learning the 44 sounds of the English language, to using the phonemic script to learn pronunciation, from figuring out the possible grammar and phonology of Parseltongue to creating your own language – the results were fantastics. These group of kids surprised me by truly thinking outside the box. We invented a language of pigs called Oinkio, a lyrical song-language spoken by phoenixes and a Minion language called Pocoloco.

By the end of the workshop, the kids were experts at basic syntax trees and left with a unique understanding of phrase structure and grammar. As I explained it to a parent, these strategies are for English what Vedic Maths is to Math. Through activities, games and projects, we covered the six main branches of linguistics and without even realising it, these young linguists were all set to explore language on their own.

CWW: Exploring ‘moods’ and genres

When discussing moods in narrative writing, I don’t often find kids, especially the younger lot, willing to try out ‘horror.’ Being the horror fanatic that I am, it is always rewarding when a child is willing to dip their toes into this tricky genre. Sharing here a piece from the most recently concluded batch of the Creative Writing Workshop. This story by twelve year old Tanisha is sure to send a chill down your spine, especially that final line.

I love the atmosphere of this story. Mind you, horror is as difficult to write as it can be to read! What do you think of Tanisha’s story?

P.S. Parents often ask me: should I point out errors in my child’s writing? Remember: Writing is about reconnecting with yourself, exploring your mind and exercising your creativity. Spelling and grammar tips are provided in creative writing, but sometimes focus on grammatical and writing conventions retracts from the learning. It’s all about finding a balance!

RSW: Graphic Organisers

English is all around us, and sometimes, the “unseen comprehension texts” that we teachers look for may be right in front of our eyes. Students enjoy looking at everyday objects in a different light in the Reading and Reflection Workshop. In this session, we learn to comprehend and process chunks of factual information using different graphic organisers.

CWW: Silhouette Poetry

This week, students of the ongoing CWW batch tried their hand at creating poems with interesting silhouettes. Shape poems create a shape thematically connected with the subject of the poem. One of the many strategies where structural constraints result in lexical innovation! That is to say, restrictions don’t limit you, but rather, enable you to be even more creative.

Poetry is not everyone’s cup of tea, but a great advantage of this kind of poetry is that is facilitates the development of vocabulary. When you’re forced to write within that shape, you start to think outside the box! Sharing a couple of lovely creations from this class!

Try it yourself! Select an easily recognisable silhouette like a cloud, a droplet or a moon or a house, and pen your poem within its borders. When you’re done, erase the outline. In a matter of minutes, the poem comes to life.

CWW: Student Write-Ups

word wall for “collaborative brainstorming”

The first batch of the online Creative Writing Workshop ended last week. Creative Writing is practised quite extensively by teachers in schools, and yet, we generally follow a format-based approach to writing. Letters, essays, limericks and stories. In CWW, kids will explore any writer’s essential toolkit: writing strategies that they can apply across different forms of writing, from stories to reports. Quick prompts and shared learning facilitate the experience. Participants will experiment with words, sounds and context, and become effective self editors.

Here are some quick write-ups from some of our youngest participants –

It was 4:00 o’clock in the evening and I was reading in my bedroom. While I was reading, I heard the squirrels chirping loudly as they played. I thought to myself, the birds might be shrieking for another reason and so, I went out to see what was happening. There I saw my cat perched on a tree and ready to pounce on the birds. She came down when she saw me. I touched her soft fur and she didn’t even mind it when I pulled her even softer tail. Suddenly, the heavenly smell of chocolate chip cookies wafted in from the kitchen. I was ready to eat them all but I knew I had to share them with my cousin. When I went to the kitchen, mother gave me chocolate milk which was delicious. I would have drunk two more glasses but the first was a bit too chocolaty for me.

– Aruja, Age 9

If I were the principal of my school, the first thing I would do is tell the teachers to be kind to the students. I have noticed that some teachers do not behave nicely with their students and do not explain the concept again if the students ask them. I will not change the teachers but I will definitely ask them to be kind.
The second thing I would change is the number of field trips. Some students complain that they feel bored sitting in classrooms. So, I will make sure that students are taken to trips that are educations. For example:- a museum or an art gallery. Through field trips, children enjoy themselves as well as learn something new.
By following these two things we can make sure the students feel that schools are interesting.

– Manognya, Age 10

Prompt: Imagine you are an alien who has found an ordinary object on this planet and are trying to figure out what it is.

Hello! Hello! Zorwar 49!  I am crashing down to planet 75ac 25.
A few minutes later…
As I struggle for balance, this new planet is completely astonishing, how kind the people are!
Before anyone finds that I’m different, I cover my face . Then I go to see the perplexing city in which I’ve crashed
A few hours later…
As I walk through the crowded street, I see something which is round, black and it feels spiky.
But as I see others of that kind, they are rough loose in all shapes and sizes. I take my tongue out to taste it… yuck! It is so dusty. When i try to to touch it, it rolls round and round. What fun! It makes a screeching sound. One of the objects smells like perfume. But as I smell old ones, they smell different.
It can also be used again! On my planet, we only use things once. This object, it turns out, is the main part of transport on this planet. Inside the frame we can attach led lights! What a customizable, useful object this is!

-Shlok, Age 11

GSW: Language as a Science

The Glottal Stop Workshop helps students re-imagine language as a science and explore English pronunciation, vocabulary and grammar through this unique perspective. In the two-day workshop conducted in Bangalore in February 2020, participants explored how language may be acquired and stored in their minds and how our brains process this information. Through activities and many, many word games, they learnt different ideas in linguistics or language science, from the phonetic script to to the mental dictionary. The aim of this workshop was to build an unconscious awareness to grapple with challenges in communication and improve spoken and written English.

One of the activities included asking students how language may be stored in the minds. Draw the language cupboard, I told them. The responses I got were delightfully creative. My favourite was how intuitive it was for this one kid that the mind is a computer. I was working my language as a cupboard metaphor to get them to think about how much we have in our minds and how it may be organised, and he kept telling me, no problem.. it’s like Google. Note the “formal” and “informal” buttons! Just goes to show the level of exposure these kids have to something as abstract as technology, and how their imagination benefits from it.

Some Student Feedback (I’ve saved the best for last!)

“My overall experience in this workshop was really great. It improved my English. I learnt many things which many won’t learn in their actual English classes. The class was interactive and fun. I would recommend this workshop for my friends as well.” – S., Age 13

“Amazing. I learnt how to improve my grammar , the IPA and many other things.” – K.D., Age 10

“My overall experience in these two days was very nice. I understood a lot about pronunciation, even my mom didn’t know some of the pronunciations. From today onwards, I’ll use these pronunciation skills.” – R.K., Age 11

“My overall experience was very good. I enjoyed it a lot and the food was tasty!” – S., Age 10 (Needless to say, a sure shot way to someone’s heart is through their tummy!)