When I correct notebooks, one of the biggest recurring mistakes I often point out is children slipping tense, shifting inexplicably from present to past to future and back again. ‘I went to the market and I am going by bicycle’ and so on. So today, I decided it was time to fix this situation. The second thing up for fixing this bright Monday morning was continuity. Sometime last week, I told Class 9 kids about how there was a difference between ‘make a story using the given words’ and ‘use these words in individual sentences’. As one child helpfully read out when I asked what continuity meant, the session was about having “logical connections between your sentences and not jumping from one to the next.” It took me a minute to realise he was reading my note on his last essay.
So, the next few worksheets of what are fast being referred to as my ‘Revenge Exercises’ (following the punctuation/capitalisation exercise I wrote about here) had two classes working on tense and continuity.
When I sat down to plan this week’s lessons, I had a choice. I could either make them sit and write out verb conjugations (“I ____, You ____, He _____, She ______; that is so easy, Akka”) or make a fill in the blanks worksheet. Or I could think of something harder and also hopefully slightly more interesting. Not too thrilled about writing the passage out myself, I thought about what would be the next logical possibility. Nursery Rhymes. Of course. So for a full hour and a half, ten kids pored over nursery rhymes in a classroom, changing present tense songs to past and future, and past tense songs to the other two. Betty buys some butter, Mary will have a little lamb (“Why is everything coming three times, Akka!”) and how I wondered about the twinkling stars! They even got me to sing a little for background entertainment and confessed they hadn’t laughed through the entirety of a class like this in a while.
And then the next session. Class 9 and continuity. While I sat in class writing ‘Aa Bb Cc Dd’ in four-ruled notebooks for another class, another ten students struggled through recipes for rava upma, curd rice and semiya payasam. Complaints of ‘we don’t know how to cook, Akka’, ‘this is how my mother makes it, Akka’ and ‘what is rava, Akka’ flew through the air as they hobbled through it. We discussed the answer for the rava upma recipe after class when one kid quipped “Akka, if you make rava upma based on our answer, that won’t be upma at all.” And that, I told them, was the problem with disjoint stories.