My experiments with matras

Promila Naniwadekar

A teacher needs to be at her innovative best if she is to succeed in engaging the attention of her pre-school students. Children love to watch animated expressions and learn a lot from them. Here is an example of how, placed in a tough situation, a teacher tried to teach the alphabet through animation.

Usually, after dealing with the Hindi vowels or ‘matra’ signs for years, we find that the students haven’t understood the concept of ‘matras’. We often come across high-school students writing ‘Koshave’ for ‘Keshav’ or ‘moar’ for ‘mera’.

For years I had been teaching the children of servants in the locality I lived in. I used to lure them to learn the alphabet with bribes of peanuts, or by enacting short stories and small poems in Hindi. I taught then by repeating the same things till they had the idea ‘stored’ in the ‘small floppies’ of their little computer minds. This was the way I taught them even the ‘barakshari’ (or the alphabet with matras).


Then one day the ‘teacher’ in me had a bright idea. I procured a stick, a hat and a small flag. I said I was the letter ‘Ka’. Then with the help of the stick in my left hand (while facing the children), I changed magically into ‘Kaa’. Again, with the stick in my right hand and the hat on my head I became ‘Ki’. For ‘Ku’ and ‘Koo’ facing away from the children I used the flag as my tail, again in turn to my left and right. I held the small flag in my left hand (while facing the children) for ‘Ke’ and then two flags for ‘Kai’, a stick plus a flag for ‘Ko’ and so on. A big bindi on my forehead for ‘Kam’ and two bangles – one on the upper part of my ear (left) and another hanging by a thread from the same ear – for ‘Kah’.

Asking the children again and again ‘who am I now?’ I could stimulate their imagination with these simple visual aids, simultaneously writing those letters on the blackboard, and within a short period my students would get a clear mental picture of the matras or barakshari.

Simple illustrations can also be made instead to help children grasp the matras effectively. Teachers when faced with a batch of pre-school children can try this method to get the children to enjoy learning.

This article first appeared in Teacher Plus, Jan-Feb 1999, Vol. No: 58.