Published: 27th May 2017
It’s all about English Vinglish: Meet Thimappa, who teaches English to his students using traditional art forms
A teacher at a small government school in Karnataka, Thimappa, encourages his students to learn English and traditional art forms with passion by using unconventional and innovative methods
It is 9 am and here is the news for today, announces the school pupil leader at the Morning Prayer assembly at the Government Higher Primary School in Malethody, a village in the Puttur taluk of Karnataka. Then what follows is a series of information read from unconventional sources that will leave you baffled momentarily. Students at this school hold up wrappers of common household items and read aloud the vital information like the expiry date, ingredients used in the product, date of manufacture and even the product’s tagline that’s in English.
My job is to introduce the students to quality reading and self-reading so that they take up academic work in their stride and will not feel burdened
Thimappa, GHPS, Malethody
Find it fascinating? This is an innovation at the micro level that Thimappa, a teacher at the school, has brought about. He also uses the art of Rangoli as a tool to learn art and colours, and to sharpen a child’s sense of balance. He teaches Yakshagana, a traditional theatre form that is customarily performed in Kannada, and writes short Yakshagana ballets fit for children to recite in English, but this does not mean Thimappa is an expert in English. Like all other rural children in Karnataka, he too studied in a Kannada-medium school. “But I realised that while Kannada can be the language to communicate in, English can open new doors for the students in the future. But it had to be done without them losing their Kannada connect, which is why I teach them the nuances of a traditional art form like Yakshagana in English,” explains the 34-year-old.
His class IV students recite the poems of Pampa, a celebrated Kannada poet from the tenth century, in chaste Halegannada (old Kannada) which is uncommon. “I’m doing all this without losing sight of academics because I want the children to reach their optimum level of learning within their schooling age at the higher primary grade. So now, when they go to high school or a composite college, they are ready to take up assignments and self-study,” says Thimappa.
Fun learning: He uses the art of Rangoli as a tool to learn art and colours, and to sharpen a child’s sense of balance.
The students are now primed to delve into the difficult stages of learning about annotations, poetry writing, story writing, and comprehension. “Aren’t they too young to learn about these aspects of English?” people often ask Thimappa, to which replies, “I have understood the psychological aspect of learning. I have a student who recites Pampa’s poetry without faltering and by her body language, I can sense that she has a deep love for poetry and hasn’t just blindly memorised it. Similarly, through the ‘wrapper reading’ exercise the students are now conversant with the legalities of product manufacturing and commonly use terminology that my generation may not even recognise.”
I’m doing all this without losing sight of academics because I want the children to reach their optimum level of learning within their schooling age at the higher primary grade. So now, when they go to high school or a composite college, they are ready to take up assignments and self-study
Thimappa, GHPS, Malethody
Another innovative activity that Thimappa has taken up is ‘Clean Reading and Writing’. “This activity is purely in Kannada. There are a handful of children who are enthused to read more and they don’t put the book down until they fully understand it. For these children, their speech becomes clear and thought process, clearer. I do not force this activity called Hechchina Odu, Swashta Odu on every student. I first study their aptitude and then proceed. This is an after-class event that I conduct every Thursday,” says Thimappa with a grin.
Encouraged by Thimappa’s innovative teaching methods, the Block Education Officer (BEO) of the area, Shashidhar G S has permitted him to transform one of the classrooms in the school into a Kalika Kutira (a house of learning).