What’s in a title?

I had mentioned this incident earlier (under the paragraph Surfacing Intent). I simply wish to reflect on it further out here. What was performed casually turned out to be immense learning for me &, I hope, for the children, too.

Lessons have headings. TV Episodes have titles. Books have titles. I had asked the students, what does a title represent & they chimed with— “Summary of chapter”. I would have liked to discuss the purpose of titles & other kinds of “summaries” that serve as hooks on the reader’s attention, but I couldn’t get to it.

What I enjoyed observing was how a simple “Why?” (Why do you pick this chapter? Why do you think this chapter is about X?) moves students from an unconscious thought process into a mindful one. When they had picked a chapter to study, they had initially done so to “get it over and done with”. When I asked them why they chose it, they actually had to re-visit their choice & build a justification for it. This is why some of them asked to get another chance (which they got). I think in there I learnt that the “right answer” is less important than the mindfulness behind the answer. Even a “wrong answer” can reveal a mindfulness that is worth encouraging while also highlighting course correction. While we didn’t dwell on it then, this is a deep learning for me.

When they were explaining their choice, I was privy to how they extended a handful of words into a guess on what the chapter might contain. This reveals a lot about their thought process. It reveals which words bear significance in a phrase or sentence. It reveals how they extrapolate a phrase into a story about the contents. It also gave them a model with which to compare the actual contents of the chapter. Without this exercise, they often wouldn’t even make note of the chapter heading or if they did, then they’d go into the chapter without any idea & take whatever they are given.

Other than Maths & Sciences, where the chapter headings are sadly obvious, I see scope for this sort of an exploration with the students in all other subjects. It also helps in creative writing where they develop a prompt in different ways. It also helps them in constructing summaries for works that they create or study. It also helps them re-write the chapter headings in Maths & Sciences (e.g. instead of Mensuration it could be “How big a dollop of ice-cream on that cone?” or “How many times do I roll the paint-roller to paint this wall?”). Most importantly, it helps them be mindful of their work & explorations.

For an educator, it is vital to not restrict oneself to the contents within a chapter but look for learning opportunities all over the place & encourage their students to be mindful of every little detail.

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