2 Speech-based local resources

Your locality also offers many speech-based resources that can contribute to your students’ learning.

Case Study 2: A visit from a cotton weaver

Ms Hena, an elementary teacher in Uttar Pradesh, describes a visit from a guest speaker that she organised for her Class IV students.

One of the textbook chapters that we had been working on was on the subject of cotton-growing. We have an artisan weaving and printing collective in our village. I thought it might be interesting to invite one of the workers to the class to talk to my students about his craft.

One day, after school, I visited the collective and discussed my idea with Mr Arun, the head weaver [Figure 2]. He was very happy to oblige. I explained to him the ages of the students and the kinds of things they would be interested in. I suggested he bring with him various samples of cloth, different coloured dyes, and some small loom-related items, such as a shuttle, to show them during his talk.

Figure 2 A weaver.

I then informed my students of Mr Arun’s forthcoming visit. They were very excited. To prepare for the visit, I organised my students in groups of four and asked them to think of two questions that they wished to ask Mr Arun about his work and write them in their exercise books. I noticed that my students were very talkative during this activity. This talk was not limited to agreeing the questions, but also involved discussing how best to write them out.

When they had finished, I asked the groups to nominate a member to share their proposed questions with the rest of the class. Rather than write the questions on the blackboard myself, I asked if anyone would like to do so. There were so many offers! I will try to incorporate opportunities for others to do this in my future lessons.

At the end of the feedback session, we had a long list of possible questions. Together, we identified and crossed out any that were very similar and organised the remaining eight into a suitable sequence. To finish, I asked my students to copy the final list of questions into their exercise books.

Some of my students were very keen to ask Mr Arun a question; others seemed shyer. Rather than allocate the questions to particular students in advance, I suggested that all of them prepare to be asked any of the questions by Mr Arun himself during his visit the next day. My students took their homework very seriously that evening.

Mr Arun’s visit proved to be a great success.. He started with an introduction to his weaving and printing work, illustrating this with samples of cloth and letting my students hold his tools. He then invited random students – some of them more confident, some less so – to ask questions. Because he had already answered some of their anticipated questions during his introductory presentation, some of those that my students had prepared were no longer appropriate. One or two students asked him unplanned questions instead.

Pause for thought

  • What language learning was achieved:
    • in preparing for Mr Arun’s visit?
    • during his visit?
  • Did it matter that some of the questions the students had planned were no longer relevant?

There are many people in the local and wider community who you could invite to talk to your students about their knowledge, skills and experiences – particularly those that relate to the topics you are covering in class.

Consider asking members of the local government or the police force, district health workers, vendors in nearby shops or market stalls, crafts people, mechanics, artists, musicians, farmers or cooks, for example.

Parents or grandparents have much to contribute as well. By talking about what they remember about the past, they can provide students with valuable insights into the history and culture of the area.

Ask your colleagues for suggestions and contacts as well.

Activity 2: Inviting a guest speaker into your classroom

Plan a class visit from a member of the local community. Approach the speaker in person, by phone or in writing, to invite them. If they agree, follow this up with a more detailed discussion about the kinds of things that would interest your students. Agree a date for the visit.

Let your students know about the guest speaker’s visit to the school in advance and set aside time for them to prepare some questions that they would like to be answered (see Case Study 2).

Think ahead to the kinds of activities that could usefully follow up the guest speaker’s visit. How could you reinforce your students’ learning of any new vocabulary associated with the speaker’s occupation, for example?

Make sure your students write a thank you letter to the guest speaker afterwards.

Pause for thought

  • What language learning opportunities arose as a result of the guest speaker’s visit?
  • What kinds of follow-up activities could you do with your students after the visit?

Visits such as these may be followed by individual or group writing tasks. Your students could write an illustrated account of the visit in their exercise books. Alternatively, they could describe ‘a day in the life’ of the guest speaker, on the basis of the information they have gleaned about their work. In the case of visitors who talked of life in the past, students could write a descriptive piece comparing this with the present.

As an alternative or follow-up to having a guest speaker in the classroom, older students might be encouraged to identify members of the community to interview in the locality, making audio recordings of such encounters on a mobile phone or other device, if available. By combining the answers from a series of small-group interviews of a complementary range of people, your students could write a class project considering a local issue from a range of perspectives. You may wish to approach a local newspaper to see if they would consider publishing some of this student work.

Students could also follow up guest visits or interviews with role plays. Working in pairs, one person could take the role of the interviewer, and the other, the interviewee. The role plays could be either unscripted or written out beforehand. They could be performed to classmates or to other classes within the school. Where facilities allow, photos, audio recordings or video recordings are excellent ways of capturing these student performances.

For more information on role play, read the key resource ‘Storytelling, songs, role play and drama’.

Pause for thought

Consider the follow-up activities proposed above.

  • For each one, indicate with the letter ‘S’, ‘L’, ‘R’ and ‘W’ whether they involve speaking, listening, reading or writing, or a combination of these skills.
  • What other skills do they incorporate?

1 Print-based local resources

3 Local resources around the school