February 2011

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Ruchi Kaushik Interviews Professor Rama Kant Agnihotri

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Professor Rama Kant Agnihotri, Department of Linguistics, University of Delhi is an eminent linguist and a pedagogue. He has been instrumental in setting up Equal Opportunity Cell(EOC) at the University of Delhi. Here in an interview with Ruchi Kaushik he shares his thoughts and experiences about various aspects of interaction with students in the classroom.

Ruchi: How would you define “classroom interaction” that is meaningful and learning rich?

Professor Rama Kant Agnihotri: I think any classroom in which the teacher is willing to become a learner, is a meaningful classroom. Since teaching is a give and take process, a teacher has a lot to learn from what students bring to their institutions. Therefore, increasingly, we should evolve classroom processes and strategies where the space for learners is more and the space for the teacher, although extremely important, is less and less in terms of time. This would ensure that each child gets the opportunity for articulation and interaction which, in fact, would lead to a learning rich environment.

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Short Stories in Teaching English for Communication Classes: A Catalyst and a Base

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The first law of good teaching, as any experienced teacher knows, is to tailor-make your material, style and content to the needs of your learners.1

An ideal means of inspiring and educating, short stories in English serve a great deal while teaching English for Communication (also known as Professional Communication/Communicative English) to the Engineering students across India. Their teaching paraphernalia is immensely powerful, pregnant with the potential to kindle imagination of students and engage them with the content, style and language of the short stories. They are interesting, conceptual and time efficient. Maintaining this viewpoint, the paper is an attempt to reinforce the pedagogical value of teaching short stories in English and to explain the approach in teaching English language  i.e. vocabulary, pronunciation, syntax etc. through these short stories in the classroom meant for enhancing the communicative skills of engineering students.

Before one takes the advantage of the technology it is important to change the pedagogy. The students in these colleges have a different set of things to learn from their language classes. The primary being: brushing up their English communication skills. Rightly points C. Indira & Meenakshisundaram:

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Exploring New Vistas in Teaching of Literature

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Language skills in English vary in our country due to the multicultural social setup and three language formula being adopted in education. Many feel that English is gradually becoming the second national language, but this is perhaps only partially true. The use of English by students in traditional undergraduate courses such as Bachelor of Arts, in vernacular medium classes is negligible. Teaching in rural areas or in vernacular medium classes in cities is entirely a different experience than teaching an English medium class in metros. Competency in various skills can be negotiated in a compulsory English class, but the scenario is still quite bleak, when one is teaching literature at an undergraduate class in vernacular medium. The students in these classes have had exposure to English for eight years, but their actual competency with the language is distressing. The students in such classes opt for English literature usually under duress. Some feel that opting for English literature will be a gateway to job placement. Many just succumb to peer pressure in the making of this choice. Since the University provides for English literature as an optional subject, with no ways of screening the students who opt for it, there are large numbers studying it.

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Challenging Classroom Transactions: Teaching Poetry Differently

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Teachers of English across the colleges of University of Delhi and elsewhere would agree that teaching appreciation of literature to students is increasingly becoming a challenging task, especially when the line between the beginner and the supposedly intermediate level students is getting more and more blurred. Fluency in English1, an anthology of newspaper articles, stories, satire, poems and a play was introduced for the B.A (Programme) A Course students of University of Delhi in 2005 to adapt to the changing needs of such a pedagogy. It attempts to achieve this objective by (i) setting up familiar contexts, that is, Indianization of themes (ii) familiarizing students with contemporary issues and debates in the public sphere (iii) meaningful pre-reading discussions (iv) pointed, analytical and suggestive post-reading comprehension exercises (v) vocabulary related exercises.

Making Meaningful Transactions: Literature in Classroom

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In this article I intend to talk briefly about reader-response theories and analyse my own experiences as a student and teacher of English as well as a teacher educator, especially focusing on the teaching of literature at school level. Situating the pedagogy of literature in reader- response theories, I will also discuss some alternative ways of teaching literature which give primacy to the reader’s feelings, and a subjective response to the text.

Response to Literature

Reader’s response to literature is as old as the beginning of literature itself. Literature is created to be read by the reader who responds or reacts to it. Rosenblatt (1938) talks about this quality of literature, which reflects human nature and argues that readers respond to a text depending upon their nature, their contextual reality, their life experiences and so on. Calling the process of reading a text a “transaction”, she explains that meaning does not reside solely either in the text or in the reader but rather in the transaction between the two. Hence readers bring their own interpretation to literature thereby constructing it. Rosenblatt highlights the uniqueness of individual readers which shapes their understanding of the text. This is the consequence of their different histories, beliefs, values, purposes and contexts.

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