3 A class project

In the next case study, a teacher uses her knowledge about students to plan an extended language and literacy project.

Case Study 1: Ms Balema’s language and literacy project about festivals

Ms Balema, a Class V teacher, was prompted by a textbook lesson on festivals.

My students had just completed a textbook lesson describing the main festivals in India, such as Eid and Holi. In our own communities we have many interesting festivals, so I decided to focus on our local ones, several of which were coming up soon.

I began by asking my students what festivals that they had been involved in and wrote their responses on the blackboard.

I then organised my students into groups, each one representing a festival. I gave each group a large piece of paper and explained that they had to write down as many things about their festival as they could: what the festival celebrated, what deities were worshipped, what communities were involved, what rituals were followed, what food was cooked, whether anyone wore special clothing and what activities there were. I told them that they could use their home language for the discussion and their notes if they wished to.

I then asked each group to present their brainstorm to the whole class. I prompted the groups a little by asking them questions such as ‘What time of day does that happen? When you go to the temple, what do you wear? Do your grandparents celebrate?’, and so on.

I then explained that each group would create a poster to represent their festival. For homework, I asked my students to find out more about the festival from their parents, grandparents and anyone else at home or in the community. I gave them some sample questions ‘Has the festival always been celebrated here? Was it always so large? Has the music changed?’ I allocated one lesson a day over a week for my students to work on their posters. I moved from group to group, listening to and observing them, and helping them as necessary.

I explained that they could write in the school language or their home language on the poster, or a mix of the two. This was the first time some of them had written in their home language in the classroom. They were excited as they did so.

When they had finished, each group presented their poster to the rest of the class. The other students and I asked them questions. We all learned so much. I then fixed the colourful posters on the wall for everyone to read and enjoy.

Pause for thought

  • What opportunities did Ms Balema have to assess her students in this project?
  • How would you adapt this project for younger students?
  • For older students, how could the project be extended?

This sequence of activities provided many opportunities for students to develop their language and literacy skills. It involved:

  • whole class and small group discussions
  • conversations with members of their family and community
  • note-taking
  • writing
  • oral presentations
  • active listening
  • asking questions.

Throughout, they were encouraged to use both the school and their home languages.

At the heart of the project was the students’ local knowledge. The teacher had time to monitor individuals and groups. She could keep notes or a checklist about students’ skills and participation.

For younger students, speaking and listening should be emphasised in a project such as this. Younger students could also draw pictures or dramatise aspects of a festival. For older students, a written project would be more appropriate, incorporating research and using specialist vocabulary and knowledge about festivals, and drawing on language, history and traditional culture.

The key resource ‘Talk for learning’ contains more ideas on the value of collaborative work among your students