Activities Feedback


Even the senior kids will take them some time to understand the concept of density. We used wood and a coin to start with to make them realise that objects can sink and float. I asked students why? They said that it was because one was heavier. Next time, need to choose two objects with the same weight. The egg did what it was supposed to do. It sank in water. It also floated up when I added the salt teaspoon in the glass. (Btw, even teachers took some time to realise the concept of relative density) But since the basics itself were not clear, I literally ended up with egg on my face. Interestingly, Jayshree, wanted to demonstrate to teachers that the compressive strength of an egg is much higher on the longer axis than on the shorter one. She compressed – unfortunately the egg cracked – as it had spent quite some time underwater in the salt solution.

Low Numbers

Pooja’s challenge is doing activities, when students are less in class. She has been making charts. Students have made bhel. Pradeep’s advice was to do activities in a cluster of Sr KG with 1-4.

Nishi: Was happy to have made fruit chaat and other charts. (food related). Her kids have started understanding English. Home visits have been a revelation – as she has realised that parents are quire happy with the school. She felt that students being able to understand 3 languages is considered an achievement by parents. Her challenge was the 3 hyperactive kids in her class. Pradeep mentioned an interesting kit which he used in Aksharnandan – with water bottles, funnels, pipes, connectors and taps. He found that this can keep students occupied for hours at end. My advice was that we need to spend more time outside the class.

The girl child theme ideas involved discussions related to what happens when a mother falls sick. We also thought of making parents do some exercises which involved closing their eyes and then pick up objects. Another extension was to do an exercise which would show them their blind spot. Here is a link for teachers to try out with students to illustrate the magic of blind spots:

We could tell parents that both eyes are equally important. Drive an analogy that boys and girls are the two eyes, which are equally important in life.

The walk-to-school theme did not elicit any activities. Teachers felt that Pimple Nilakh roads are too dangerous for small kids walking alone. Some of the older students are in any case walking to school.

The bonding team ended up with interesting activities.

  • The father has to dress up the child. The lesser the time the higher the family score.
  • Another was a Telematch type of activity. Here is a link to what I have in mind:

Water has to be transferred from one bucket to another using sponges or small caps.

  • Kids are to be blindfolded and they had to identify their parents through their voice.
  • Tailing the donkey, where the kid would give directions to the parent in order to put the tail on the donkey or a Bindi on a face.

We decided that we will stick to a single theme of parent-child bonding. Teacher groups will do some preliminary work using teachers themselves as guinea pigs, in order to validate these activities.

Kalplata had attended a training at IISER on science activities this week. I asked her to give us a talk about the program. She did something better. She actually demonstrated the activities that had been conducted at the workshop.

She lit up a candle inside an old mineral water bottle. We all knew that the candle would get extinguished after the bottle is closed. But what happened was that the bottle got compressed. The question that was asked to us, was why did this compression happen? A lot of us thought that the volume of carbon dioxide is less, compared to the volume of oxygen. Not the case. What happens is: when the air gets heated up, the density goes down. Since the cold air outside has got higher density, it compresses the bottle.

Her next experiment was to demonstrate principles of reflection using a laser. She took a mirror and pointed a laser beam on the mirror. A reflection was made on the wall. We used curtains to make the room dark. She had got along chalk powder which she dusted onto the path of the laser ray. You could see the path clearly, as the beam collided with the chalk particles the way. Excellent demonstration, I thought that we would not be able to achieve it because of the high ambient light in her room, but she managed to do it. We definitely need to do this experiment with our children soon.

For the next experiment was she poured water into a cup and put in on a weighing balance. There was a weight kept on the other side, which balanced the weight of the cup and the water. The task given to us was to forecast what would happen when you put your hand inside the cup without touching any of the sides. All of us assumed that nothing will happen as the water displaced will not lead to any change in the weight. Nishi actually put her hand into the water. And the balance shifted towards the cup. We realised later on that there is a force of buoyancy that is coming on your hand. By Newton’s third law, this leads to an equal reaction on the water cup, pushing it down. Amazing insight! Kudos to Kalplata to having made me learn a lot today!

Next she did a demonstration of wave motion with straws and tape, but it did not go off well because the length was less. Maybe we need to also try it with a rope next time. One demo that went off well was static electricity, where she took plastic sacks strands. When you rub the strands with your hand, they move away from each other. Because because some of the electrons come on to your hand and the like-charged strands now start repelling. The moment to put your hand to the strands, they all coalesce around your hands because it has an opposite charge.

She has promised to demonstrate an interesting experiment next time. Two balloons will be let go at the same time. One will have air and the other will have carbon dioxide in it. The CO2 balloon filling will be done by mixing vinegar and soda in a bottle capped with a balloon. It is expected that the carbon dioxide alone will fall faster than the normal balloon. I still don’t know why this happens, but eagerly awaiting to see this magic and the discussion that follows.

Swati was quite enthused with the activities that she has done. She did addition and counting using stones. Her observation matched mine, that students continue counting without keeping in mind the figure where they have to stop. Nest making was another activity that she discussed. Students initially had got thick sticks and could not understand why thin sticks are required for a nest. They were looking out for an egg, but not finding one they made one using a newspaper ball. One word that got added to Swati’s vocabulary was man, which is also a part of a musical instrument called the simbal.

Neelam’s account was also about activities. She made students use finger counting for subtraction. She asked students to count from 1 to 100. She got them to draw. She taught subtraction, using currency, for third and fourth. And she made a glass painting using watercolours. I think someone else will have to take responsibility of planning out activities for Neelam.

Kalpalata looked at the amazing toys video that I had forwarded, and made her class make a vertex dome. They ended up using a dustbin cover for that. And interestingly they could see some designs. I think close up photographs are helpful in order to showcase such things. She also made them draw using numbers and alphabets. Her observation was that Payal is best in these things. At a personal level, she is joining a class for classical singing, and she has just learnt a new song.

Maithili got her children to make a kite. Unfortunately, only for sticking in the book. Next time they need to make some that fly. It has also been a self learning experience for her, as far as phonics is concerned. In drawing, she got children to make a snowman. I think I would rather that she had made a scarecrow, which students can relate better to. It can be also practically made in three dimensions rather than just two.

Nidhi did an activity called who are you? This was supposed to be asked to objects. And students had to imagine that they were the objects and write down the answer. Most of the answers had a format I am ——. Veer Gaikwad asked and wrote answers for 40 such questions. She asked students did the objects talk back to you? The answer, only if there was a breeze! Nidhi had scolded one of the nursery kids. The next day this kid said good morning and opened the gate for her. Personal lesson learnt: how to spread love. She is also working with students to build their own profiles. For 1st standard kids she has observed that their understanding of blend sounds is good, courtesy Dhanashri.


Process Chart

Did Carnegie Mellon coding activity with 4th standard. Chose Anjali and Aditya. Took them to the staff room for doing the activities so that it does not disturb the rest of the class. The assignment that was given to them was to write down the steps required in making a cup of chai. The group work did not help too much. What I should have done was given them individual assignments and asked them to compare their own process charts. Is best done with markers, because it requires a lot of iterations. Maybe we could have actually got the chai powder and sugar and tea powder and asked them to make chai using the first iteration, for them to realise their mistake. What was missing was a discussion that should have followed the activity related to programming.

Grade 1 / 2 Class on 29-Aug

We first decided to do an election. Most of them did not understand what an election is. They could relate best to the local corporator. Had to explain then what voting was. In order to demo the concept, told them of a situation where a family had to decide between going to the park and the zoo. Each one would express his opinion – and a majority would decide where to go. We then actually took chits of papers and asked them to write where each one would like to go. Most of them ended up learning the spelling of park and zoo as a result. They also ended up writing their own names on the chit – so no question of anonymous choices. We ended up in a tie-breaker, with both park and zoo getting 5 votes each.

Since the park was close by, we actually ended up walking down to the park. Asked Hafeeza to lead the line. Wrong decision – she had to be constantly pulled back as she chose to meander all around. The park closes at 1000 hrs. We reached 5 minutes before closing time. A request to the watchman ensured 15 minutes of play time. We walked back with Dhanashree in the lead. After reaching made them write about the visit. We only ended up with words, but what the heck, good enough. Students learnt spellings of stuff like: see saw, slide, swing etc.

We then moved on to the actual election. I first asked for candidates. The entire class volunteered, except one student. Student realised that this would literally be a very one-sided election. This saw 6 more students shift from becoming candidates to voters. We then repeated the park-zoo process. The candidates were: Shardul, Dhanashree and Rudra. One of the votes was not submitted. Of the 6 votes that were counted, Shardul had 3, Rudra 2 and Dhanashree 1 vote. Shardul had a wafer thin majority – as he was nominated to the Student Parliament for the month of September.

PTP Teaching Experiments, Dec 2016

We have decided to focus on activities related to language for Class 1-2, so that the kids can build up an understanding of English that will benefit them in all the other subjects. Here are two activities I did last Saturday.

Spelling game. Divided the class into groups of two. Asked them to write down two spellings on a single piece of paper. One has to be right – one has to be wrong. Then each group writes both of them on the whiteboard. The class copies the spelling – putting in a tick mark for what they think is the right spelling, and a cross for the wrong one.

Good experience. Took a long time just to form groups. There are 2/3 kids in the class who are not part of any natural group – Dhiraj, Anjali, Shankar. Neither do these kids want to be part of each other’s groups. I think we have taken the easy way out for Saturdays – the class has come to expect to only work on drawing that day. So there is resistance to any non-drawing activity. Am not worried so much about the indiscipline, as I am to the inability of the kids to rise up to challenges.

Most of the kids wrote easy three-four word letters. Vishwajeet came up with – sometimes. Funnily all the groups wrote their first letters with the right spelling – and the second one wrong. Yet the other groups could not pick this behavior up. One of the groups wrote both the spellings right. One group mentioned ball and boll. Technically both are right – as in cotton boll. But to make life simple, I took the boll to be incorrect. I corrected the notebooks after the exercise – 2 groups got 10/10. Another two got 8 and one group got only 6 of the spellings right. All in all, a good exercise – worth repeating in future classes.

The second activity was on story writing. I coupled that with picture drawing. The condition being that first the group writes a story – and then makes a picture which matches the story. The kids wanted the vice-versa, but I did not allow that. Two groups came up with relatively original stories – Sadhana and Vishwajeet. Sadhana talked about an elephant and an ant. Vishwajeet talked about a school going kid who has a fall – and is helped by a stranger. Rucha’s group did nothing. She is a difficult kid. Rucha resists the most – and her willingness to learn is quite limited. Asked her if we should rename Peepal Tree School to Peepal Tree Hindi medium school? Of course not, she replied. That got her back on track a little. After writing one sentence of gibberish, the group finally got down to copying from a library book.

The story writing experiment did not work out well. Maybe we need to make them work with words before we make them work with sentences. So word related games will work better. Sadhana pointed out to me on many occasions that I should speak in English. Was quite happy about that – but in spite of her advice, most of my talk was in Hindi. Need to do more practicing before I preach. We will need many more experiments to get the kids onto the English track!


Ullas Pramanik visit, Nov 2018

We started the day with a carpentry workshop for students. We took 3 boys and 3 girls from grades 1-5. Ullas gave them a demo of the basic tools that he had bought alone. The kids together with Ullas ended up making a side piece for the Peepal Tree that he had gifted. On the subject of gifts, he also donated his kids’ old cycle and an old old harmonium. The harmonium will require some repair work – and also a protective cover to prevent it from getting drenched in rain. Ideally it needs a place in our cupboard.

We had a session with teachers after that. Ullas talked about how flexibility and learnability are important for teachers. His lament was that teachers are bad students. He talked about the openness which is missing. Teachers are handicapped by the rigid structures that are set by time tables and school agenda.

Teachers asked Ullas about his Air Force experience. He was training to be a missile fitter. It involved 15 months of training in basic workshop technologies – like drilling et al. There was also a bit of physics and aviation theory that was taught. The missile related training was to happen in Baroda, after the Avadi stint got over.

In the Q and A session, the first question was: Did you have a goal in life?  Ullas’ answer: No. And I am happy about it. This helped me get a diversity of experiences. I don’t believe too much in informal education. Most of my learning has been by observing.

Teachers shared the problem that students are still facing a lot of problems in math. Ullas’ PoV was that we are giving them a lot of practice, but that does not develop skills. For that to happen, variety in questions is important. Practical examples are important. We are stressing more on practice; we should stressed more on concepts. He talked of his friend who in his 10th grade had memorized all the questions in Trigonometry for his board exams. He was lucky – he got the same question that he had mugged up. But ended up getting a zero, because that year’s question had asked for the height of a building – and he had mugged up the answer with a pillar height question!

The last question that came his way was that our students are good at activities, but poor in writing. Ullas felt that is a natural resistance to writing. So it is our task to encourage them to write. This will help increase their understanding.


Shalini Sharma, DPS Bokaro

Shalini Sharma shared some of her experiences as a teacher at DPS Bokaro. After the exams got over this year, students were called for a three day camp. In this camp they were made to do mostly activities. Teachers had a discussion on the concepts related to these activities. For example there were sessions related to evaporation. Fireless cooking. It was the kids who have good in Kinesthetic learning who did well in the tests that followed. Possibly because their learning was best for them,when there were activities. The retention level was also high. By the way, the suggestion of DK Sharma ji related to gardening was that we should we use our wash basin water for garden watering.