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Its 9:15am and Aarav and Isha have decided to work with the ‘The Square of the Decanomial’. They seem happy both to be working together and to be working on this particular material.

As I sit down next to them, they explain to me, “Two people need to work on this, one person cannot do it”. They have already laid down two mats. Aarav brings the large board which acts as a base for the exercise and Isha brings the heavy box with the material.

Tashvi is quick to catch on the excitement as she is surveying the classroom. She decides to sit down and watch them and perhaps get a chance to work too. However, she is far to young to use this material and she knows it. I remind Tashvi about the rule: “This is Aarav and Isha’s work, Tashvi and I are only going to watch and not touch their work.” Tashvi holds back her urge to touch the material.

Anaya has finished working with the map of North America. As she comes by to put the map back in the stand, she says she also wants to watch Aarav and Isha at work. The children remind Anaya the rule, “You can only watch, not touch.”

The work begins, the red, green and yellow pieces are put in place but something is not right. By the time they reach the blue colour, the error is pronounced. The material has told the children that there is a problem. They look at each other; then Aarav calls out to aunty. Aunty shows them again how to get started and how to draw lines with the finger to make sure that the pieces of the puzzle are aligned. They look satisfied and continue. Isha hands the pieces and Aarav puts them in the right place. When the blue part is finished, they take turns putting in the grey pieces. All the grey pieces have been put in place now. Both children look happy, they makeup silly sounds and chat in gibberish. They beat their tummies to make a beat. Once the short celebration is over they get to work again. The next colour is white. Aarav complains to Isha that she is placing the pieces incorrectly. Isha says the same to Aarav. But they carry on amicably. They complete placing the white following the method aunty has shown them. Aunty stops by to see the work. She says, “I see your square is becoming bigger and bigger”. Aarav and Isha feel happy about their accomplishment.

Self Correcting Material

 

They add another colour, purple this time. They take a break to chit-chat again. It is mostly repeating silly made up words – it’s their joke, it makes them laugh. The work and the chit chat after each colour continue till the exercise is complete. The big task is done. The colourful square looks beautiful and yes, perfect. It has taken them at least 35 mintues to finish it. “Let’s clap for ourselves”, says Aarav. They both clap and look jubiliant. They take a little tour of the class. They get to know Vicky sir has arrived and it’s going to be gym time soon. They go back to their mats start to put the pieces back in the box, one colour at a time. Aunty comes by again to show them how they need to put the material back. She says, “Let’s put all the large pieces down and the small ones on top. It should look organized and neat when your friends want to work with it”. They follow the guidelines given by aunty. The exercise of putting back takes some time and patience but the children work continuously till the job is done. Aarav picks up the large board to return it to its place and Isha puts away the heavy decanomial box in the designated spot. This process has taken the children almost 45 minutes from start to finish but they are not tired, infact they are energized. Mats are rolled and put away and both children excitedly join the gym group.

 

The teacher did not tell them to stop talking at anytime, she did not say they were wrong when they made some mistakes – she waited for the material to tell them. She praised their work by describing it and she helped them only when they needed it. The joy of working together, the joy of working independently, to be appreciated the right way and to be directed when needed – little things that make a big difference.

-Ashani Hirway

(Names of the children have been changed)