Report by Sounds-Write trainer Frances Woodward:
I was very excited to be asked to run a Sounds~Write course in India! The Lovedale Foundation is a charity situated in a small village just outside Bangalore. They have been providing care and a home for children in need for the past ten years. Their new project was to open a free, English-medium school for hostel (cared for) children and the local quarry children. They aim to adopt a more western model of education. They asked me to train the teachers in Sounds~Write the week before the school opened in June, 2011.
There were three teachers and the principal on the course. The school is concentrating on Key Stage 1 to start with, so has just three classes for children aged three and a half to six and a half. The traditional method of teaching English in India is to teach letter names relating to capital letters. The notion of phonics was new to the teachers, so it took a while for them to adjust to this approach. By Day 2 of the course, however, they were beginning to understand the significance of phonics and how it could really help in the teaching of the English Code. Considering English is their second language, it was amazing how soon they picked up the new vocabulary and understood the principles underpinning the Sounds~Write programme. They thoroughly enjoyed practising the lessons on each other and I was very impressed with how competently they completed the final assignment.
L to R:Radhika, Suban, Dhakshayani and James (the Principal)
On Monday 6th June the school opened its doors to 75 needy children. The quarry children were from migrant families who lived in straw covered tents with no running water or sanitation. They spent their days alone while their parents worked in the quarries. It took the first week for them to adjust to the unfamiliar environment of school. Many of them had little experience of being in a building, let alone being expected to conform to a classroom routine. By the second week, however, the teachers of the older two classes were able to start Unit 1 of the programme. Before I left, they were on Unit 2 and the children were taking to it really well.
I sat in on their lessons and could see that the teachers were really keen and will endeavour to do their best to deliver the programme. I will try to keep in touch by e-mail (which is difficult as internet connection is limited and there is often no power!), to give them support and advice.
Huts where the quarry children lived
Thanks to the generosity of Sounds~Write and Phonics Books who donated several packs of readers, the children have the books to support their learning. They loved the shiny newness of books and the bright colours of the pictures. They were thrilled that they could read the words after only a few days of doing the programme!
New hostel and school provided by a charity organisation
While I was there I was able to speak to other organisations and schools about the programme and they showed great interest. Maybe there will be an opportunity to run another course out there. I would be delighted to return!