1 Students’ learning outside school

Pause for thought

  • What skills and knowledge can you think of that your students have acquired outside school?
  • Do you think your students’ home or community language and cultural knowledge is useful in their schooling? Why, or why not?

In Case Study 1, a teacher finds out about a pre-school child’s learning experiences.

Case Study 1: Mrs Bhatti reflects on a child’s pre-school knowledge and skills

Mrs Bhatti, an elementary teacher in Bhopal, describes her experience of buying a bowl in a shop that belonged to the parents of one of her Class II students. There she encountered her student’s four-year-old sister Shilpi, who was not yet in school.

Shilpi was sitting on the floor beside a cardboard box. She was taking out packets, counting them, and sorting them into piles. Her father was talking to a customer. I asked Shilpi, ‘Do you sell bowls?’ She called her mother, who appeared from the back of the shop. Pointing to the corner, her mother responded in the child’s home language, but using the Hindi word for ‘bowl’. Shilpi accompanied me to the display of bowls and picked two or three up, showing me the different colours available. I chose the red one, which she carried to the counter. She then took my money and passed it to her mother, who gave her the correct change to hand back to me. Shilpi helped her mother to wrap the bowl in paper before I placed it in my bag. Finally, together with her mother, she thanked me and said goodbye in Hindi.

As I left the shop, I reflected on the knowledge and skills that Shilpi was learning that would benefit her when she started school.

(Adapted from Kenner, 2000)

Pause for thought

  • What does Shilpi know about language and communication?
  • What other skills does Shilpi demonstrate in the case study?

Compare your ideas with ours.

Shilpi is becoming numerate. She can count, and she is learning how to sort and classify. She is beginning to understand about money and change. She knows how shops work. She can listen, understand a question and get information. She also knows how to interact politely with a customer.

Shilpi talks confidently in her home language. She knows the names of colours, the language of questions, instructions and directions. She can also understand some Hindi, which she uses to say thank you and goodbye. She is becoming aware that people may communicate in different languages.

Through observation, interaction and imitation, Shilpi is acquiring important general knowledge and communication skills. These represent a sound basis for further learning and language development when she goes to school.

Students continue to gain valuable knowledge and skills at home and in the community at the same time as they attend school. Your students may help to bring up their younger siblings, care for their grandparents, look after the family’s animals, help their parents on their market stall, contribute to making meals, have mastered a particular craft or enjoy playing sport. Such activities offer many informal learning opportunities for their language and literacy development, which can be built on within the school setting.

Why this approach is important

2 Classroom chats