Do your Student Learn or Mug up ? Students of all ages seem to have a mind of their own when it comes to responding to any situation or performing any task. As teachers, most of us go back home thinking that our students have understood every concept that we teach them. It is only when we test them that we find that some concepts have not been understood as clearly as they should have been. It is this desire to understand student thinking that prompted us to examine ASSET questions of the past rounds, in English, examining the most common wrong answers to understand what could have made students select the options they did.
ReadingForUnderstanding – Proverbs Class 9
Why was the question asked? Idioms, and by extension, proverbs, are a way of putting across a thought or an idea succinctly. Some of the idioms and proverbs summarize complex ideas in a very interesting way. Most idioms have evolved over the years and have very interesting origins, often going back to the Bible. More than anything else, they lend flavor to the language. This question was asked to test the students’ understanding of an idiom which is very commonly found in everyday language and literature. What did students answer? Out of the 6,988 students who answered this question, the majority – 42% - got their answer right – option D, while 26% chose the most common wrong answer – option B. A lesser but significant group – 15% - chose option A, and 11% opted for C. Possible reason for choosing A: It is probably the second sentence in the stem which means that only if you try something will you get to know about it, that could have influenced some students to choose this option. They would have extended the reasoning to mean that if you take up something and do it, you are likely to reap the benefits of that activity. Possible reason for choosing B: This seems to be a clear case of being diverted by the similarity of the words in the question stem and the option. Since both have ‘try’ in them, students would have assumed that it’s a matter of trying something till you achieve it. Possible reason for choosing C: Students who chose this option probably associated the idiom ‘take the plunge’ with risk taking, which is a meaning commonly associated with it. They might have then extended the reasoning to mean the person taking the plunge is brave and thus arrived upon this option as the answer.
Learnings One of the difficulties with understanding idioms (and proverbs) is that they are more or less exclusive to a language and cannot be understood by the literal meaning of the words in them. Every language has such rich sayings which are used especially by the earlier generations. It is usually the lack of extensive reading in the language that deprives students of the experience of understanding the language. And when we learn a language other than our mother tongue, a conscious effort is needed to understand such expressions. Students also do not seem to be able to understand the essence of a situation from the given sentences, to associate the most suitable saying with it. Students who synthesize the given sentences and process the different ideas conveyed in them have been able to understand their overall meaning. And in this way, they have been able to connect it well with familiar sayings.
4. How do we handle this? Give the students exposure to as many such expressions as possible. It would be a good idea to introduce one idiom or proverb every week, discuss the meaning with origins – the origins often make it interesting, discuss its usage, and then leave it on the black/white board for them to absorb it by seeing it every day. Consciously try to incorporate it in your conversations whenever suitable. Some sample exercises are given below: 1. Rewrite the sentence below using the proverb ‘A stitch in time saves nine’. My teacher told me that I should have not waited till the day before exams to clarify my doubts in Physics. Because of this I failed the exam. My asking her whenever I had doubts would have prevented my failure. 2. Find a proverb/idiom similar in meaning to the part of the sentence highlighted in the sentence below: When we found our teacher also at the cinema theatre, we kept away from her so that she wouldn’t discover our presence there. (give her a wide berth) 3. Give the meaning of the idiom used in the sentence below: My brother was always a bull in a china shop when we took him to any neighbour’s house. 4. Give students a list of proverbs, clarifying any difficult vocabulary and making sure the significance of each one is understood. Then divide the class into small groups, and ask each group to pick out proverbs they think are true or misleading, discuss what is wrong with them, and invent a version that seems to them preferable. At the end, come together and discuss each proverb and its new versions. It is quite interesting to compare parallel proverbs in the students’ native language, and discuss differences and similarities. Some of the proverbs that can be used are: Still waters run deep./Eavesdroppers hear no good of themselves./Actions speak louder than words. Etc, 5. Give the students the first part of a list of proverbs and ask them to complete it on their own in their own way and discuss in pairs, what they mean by their sayings. This would probably give rise to some hilarious results and enjoyment but would also help them to see that proverbs need to have some sense or overall value in their words. e.g. Complete the proverbs given below in your own way and then justify what you mean with your partner. Then with your partner’s help modify the proverb to depict some value in it. 1. Half a loaf ____________. 2. Rolling stones ____________. 3. Empty vessels _____________.