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April 20, 2014

Survey of children in 7th Grade @ Udavi

At Udavi in the first term I had worked with a few kids from 7th grade in sort of remedial classes using teaching aids. In the second and third term I took the entire class (with the teacher observing). I had two classes (1-1/2 hrs each) a week in the second term and three a week in the third. This was that I initially relied on class room delivery - use of teaching aids - densiel blocks, geo-boards, pizza party. Slowly as I got more comfortable not sticking to script, we worked on basics stories to understand multiplication and division and extended it to fractions, puzzles, algebra, practical geometry, geogebra (connecting algebra and geometry). We were able to do one project on common mistakes children make in fractions, algebra, decimals using the computer and incorporate some electronics classes for interested students on LEDs, measurements and building lemon batteries.

At the end of the year, I wanted to do a survey with children on aspects that would help me understand how children view themselves and their learning and also take inputs to improve the classes for next year students. I took some inputs from a survey conducted by to review usage of Khan academy resources in Math and made it much crisper.

I took the surveys through one-on-one conversations to translate the questions into Tamil, if required, and get individual inputs. I zeroed in on the exam time being the best time to get time to talk to children without them being biased by other children's inputs. One issue was that some of the children were tense or  worried about the exam, however, they had made their own examination and I expected this to be lower. 

Here is an album of the children taking the examination:

Udavi School 7th Grade Math Final Examination

The first question, 'how do you feel?', also gave the children an outlet for their emotions. A child who had lost her grandparent a couple of days back was sad and expressing her sadness helped her notice it and feel listened to, after a couple of minutes she felt ready to participate in the survey.

I asked for a couple of things they had learnt well this year and areas like making an abstract equation real with a story, algebra and its link to geometry, fractions and puzzles figured often in the list.  Of the 17 children, 12 said that their goal in the next grade was understanding and learning new things, 5 felt that their priority was getting good marks.

During my very first interview I added a question about what a child expected from his/her teacher because this is how the first child interpreted the next question. It seemed something she wanted to talk about, I thought it would be interesting to see what children had in mind. A teacher who is friendly, understanding, provides clarity and introduces something new constructed this image.One reply was, they should be like me. This kid likes to have a good laugh and I looked up from my laptop to see if he was kidding, but his eyes had no humor just earnestness. Ok, sweet.

9 children felt it mattered to them what the teacher thought of them and primarily some of those said they cared about what other students thought of them.

12 kids said they liked math, 4 others said they like it at times. One child felt that he doesn't enjoy math because he only seems to enjoy it when its extremely easy. Another child felt that he needs to feel challenged to enjoy math.

I'm not sure how children interpreted - do you learn easily? The children who struggle in class can see it and the ones who are doing well know it too, but for the rest I am unable to process any trends.

The replies on grit - can you continue to work when things get tough or boring suggested that most of the children who struggle in the class in Math said it was difficult for them to keep going when it got tough or boring. This is in line with my current understanding of one of the skills that we need to develop in children.

Suggestions on what could be added or changed in class included field trips, more projects and puzzles, more science, games (I primarily did this with 6th graders), more electronics classes. A few children wanted to go beyond peer learning and teach the 6th/5th graders what they learnt. 
When some of the children realized that I was not planning to continue teaching them in 8th grade they went into denial. One suggested that the 6th grade teacher should graduate to 7th grade and I can continue with them. Another used logic saying that the survey of how to do things better constituted a contract to continue and implement it next year. One of them resigned and just wanted me to be around in the breaks so he could ask me something he didn't understand in class.
Three children brought up the need for daily/more classes. Having seen the improvement at Isai Ambalm with daily classes I plan to increase it to 4/5 classes a week.

The survey (minus children names) is embedded below and available here.

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