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Secondary Success Stories: Using rhymes to help students learn English

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Working in a low-resource school for girls in rural India, a secondary school teacher shares her story of using rhymes to motivate and engage her learners.

In this video, Rupinderjit from Punjab, India, talks about the challenge of making English lessons meaningful in a low socio-economic context where education is perceived as irrelevant, and the main incentive for enrolment is a free midday meal, a uniform and a bicycle.

The classroom itself is basic – cold in winter, hot in summer, overcrowded and without chairs. And on top of that, the girls are intimidated by a language which they cannot understand or speak. Rupinderjit reflected and focused on rhymes. Learnt by children unconsciously, effortlessly and often through imitation, repeated time and again in a rhythmic sing-song manner, rhymes could make English accessible. And once the girls could recite the rhymes, they could focus on the written words and meaning.

At last the girls were using English and gaining confidence – she had found a way in.

Reflection and discussion

One of the purposes of these resources is to help you with your own teacher development in related contexts. The questions in task 1 and task 2 are designed for you to think about and discuss with colleagues, either informally or as part of your formal professional development.

Do you face similar challenges in the context where you teach? What approaches have you tried to make learning possible and meaningful with your students?

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