Pragnya Bodhini High School is a state board school, located in one of the western suburbs of Mumbai, India. It caters for 700 learners from 3 to 14 years old and brings students from diverse cultural, religious and economic backgrounds. Most of our students are first generation learners who rely on the school for their overall development, so skills are very important and something that we focus on, through extra-curricular activities and interschool events. However, being a part of the Skills Builder Global Accelerator has allowed us to make it a more structured endeavour where we are encouraged to encompass all the essential skills and integrate those even in our academics, giving it a 360° approach.
Engaging in essential skill driven activities has firstly allowed the teachers to see the potential within every child of the class. The teachers have come to realise that each child is blessed with a different kind of skill set with essential skills that can be honed. Also, the step-wise break up of every essential skill that the Universal Framework provides, has helped the teachers in guiding their learners as to how to master those skill sets. In addition to that, the program has encouraged a lot of sharing best practice across sections. With the skill-based activities now being a regular feature in our curriculum, we see our learners as better listeners who are able to articulate their thoughts with clarity and confidence. We see them embracing the idea of visible thinking – where they have come to ask beyond ‘what’ and ‘how’ and are now seeking answers for ‘whys’ too. The Skills Builder team has offered continuous support, by constantly guiding us on how to use the tools and resources available on universal framework. We could take a lot of reference from the resources available and contextualise it for our learners. This program has encouraged both our team of teachers and our students to express, experience, experiment and create.
We took a whole school approach with the Skills Builder Global accelerator program. Right from our Preschoolers (aged 3 to 5) to our 10th Graders (age 15), all classes actively worked on developing the eight essential skills. The teaching of skills looked different across the different ages. For example, we took an activity based and gamified approach with our Preschoolers, like building shapes out of building blocks and collectively making a given shape using team members. Older Grades accomplished student-led projects in the community, like a reading program, conducting surveys on SDG’s, conducting workshops for their younger school mates. Being able to deliver suitable skills teaching for these different age groups was really important in supporting their development and understanding.
We introduced a daily 30 minute period dedicated to teaching essential skills in the timetable. This period focused on initiating a dialogue with the students and teacher about a chosen skill and why it is important, what can be done to master it and how they will be going about it. The students maintained a separate skills workbook from the Skills Builder Hub for themselves and were rewarded with stars and smiley stamps whenever they displayed a skill. Most importantly, skills were integrated as a part of lessons and not treated as a stand-alone subject. Along with other aspects of our ‘lesson plan template’, like objectives, learning outcomes, resources etc, skills & skill steps acquired were also expected to be planned. Every activity, lesson or event executed was associated with skill enhancement and this over a period of time became an unsaid school norm.
For us to achieve this principle, consistency had to be the key. We held a variety of different events to give students opportunities to apply their essential skills. Weekly JAM (Just a Minute) sessions became a regular feature across all classes every Saturday, where the students were given a set of new topics every week to choose from and share their thoughts. Another example was a weekly holistic session we ran where a speaker was invited to the classes to share different topics. In these, students listened, engaged in a conversation and asked questions. Assemblies also remained a point of focus for essential skills, where it was ensured that each day, a different set of students conducted it and got a fair chance to share. The day for each class ended with a quiet time that allowed them to reflect on the day’s happenings and for the teachers it ended with circle time where every day one teacher got a chance to share her positive highlights of the day. All of these opportunities gave students a great chance to apply their essential skills.
The 2022-23 academic year has begun on a positive note , where we continue to aim high as a school in developing essential skills. We have formed 10 further clubs to support the development of essential skills. We are also busy linking more school activities and events to focus on at least 2 of the essential skills. We will also look to further encourage the use of Homezone by parents. Also, we will pilot ‘Flipped’ lessons, where students from higher classes will be teaching essential skills to the younger learners. We also look forward to undertaking further CPDs from the Skills Builder team. Being a part of the Skills Builder Global Accelerator program has not only helped in carving the personality of our students but has triggered their thinking where they do not limit their questions to how and what but think about the ‘why’ of it. Slowly we see them getting ready to be able to navigate in the complexities of the dynamic world outside of school. Since the introduction of skill builders we see a flow of ideas across all sections of teachers and that is a very welcome change.