The moment she enters her first grade classroom, Amrita Thapa heads straight for the supply cabinet tucked away in the corner. She shuffles through the myriad of educational materials stored there, and arranges a few of them in a neat pile, ready to begin the day’s lesson.
“What is this letter?” she says, holding up the first card.
The students recognize the consonant immediately. “Ka,” they respond excitedly in unison. Increasing the degree of difficulty, Ms. Thapa pulls two other cards from the pile, and holds them up with the first letter.
“What is this word?” she asks with a smile.
“Ka, Ma, La,” the students respond in chorus, pronouncing the letters one at a time. And then—after a brief pause—“Kamala!”
“What is a Kamala?” challenges Ms. Thapa.
“Kamala is a flower!” one student chimes in; “I have seen it!” says another. “It was in the pond, and very big,” adds the first grader, stretching out her hands for effect.
This is how Ms. Thapa’s class begins each day, ever since she started participating in Room to Read’s Reading & Writing Instruction program.
“Back when I started teaching,” she says, “teachers generally sped through the course. The lessons were not enjoyable for the students and most had trouble catching up. We lacked the essential resources to make learning enjoyable.”
In addition to changing her approach to teaching, Ms. Thapa says the program has helped her—and others at Shree Jwalamukhi Lower Secondary School—focus more on outcomes. Before the training from Room to Read, she says, “rarely was the question asked: Were the students learning?”
As it turned out, many were not. When Room to Read began its intervention at Shree Jwalamukhi, located in Nepal’s Dhading district, most first grade students were struggling to keep up with the curriculum, and many were reading below grade level. Studies of the surrounding area confirmed that the problem was widespread.
Through in-service training, material development and the assistance of on-site literacy facilitators, Shree Jwalamukhi is steadily adding more innovative teaching methods to its literacy curriculum. “We have learned to center our teaching around the students and not the other way around,” says Ms. Thapa. “With resources like the word charts and alphabet cards, the lessons have become more interactive and fun for the students.”
And she is already seeing results. “Students are finding it easier to associate letters with their respective sounds and vice versa,” she says. “After every lesson, I devise a game, a song or a story to reinforce it—their knowledge builds with each passing day!”
Reflecting on her experience so far, Ms. Thapa says, “my favorite part of the program is the creative freedom it gives to teachers. It inspires me to give my very best.”