In a new age approach to teaching, Pallankuzhi, Snakes & Ladders and Kabbadi find their way into city schools
Did your teacher ever promise you extra marks for playing a game of Aadu Puli Aatam? While you may not be familiar with the name, several children of the Candy Crush generation actually are. And it’s all courtesy the novel initiative of some of the city’s teachers to bring back traditional games — by integrating them into the school syllabus.
Vinita Sidhartha of Kreeda tells us, “Over the years, there have been several schools in Chennai and within the state that have approached us for games as part of some project or week long programme.” However she clarifies, “Only about two or three actually use them to teach subjects like, say, mathematics.” But there’s more. “I am in talks with two organisations right now who plan to bring these games into the mainstream school system, so it’s a pretty exciting time,” she relates.
Start ’em young
Fortunately, you won’t need to wait until then to roll the dice. In the case of Grassroots, a pre-primary school at Egmore, you don’t even have to wait till the first grade! The school weans the little ones on close to 20 games that only our great forefathers probably grew up on. “Our teaching plan changes every week,” says Dr Sharanya Bajaj, a partner at the school. “So one week it’s Pallankuzhi, which has been a revelation in teaching the children simple quantities and another week it could be a game of Snakes and Ladders for addition and subtraction,” Bajaj continues.
A cognitive developmental specialist who recalls playing traditional games as a child, Bajaj insists that reviving them was never the idea. “I’ve used games like these in cognitive workshops designed for huge companies like Google, as well as for engineers across the US when I was doing my fellowship at Purdue University,” she tells us.
Not just mathematics
And who said you could only teach one study lesson per game? With a little bit of creativity from the teacher’s side, we find there are many concepts waiting to be imparted if only you connect the dots. With Snakes and Ladders, cites Bajaj, apart from numbers, they teach logical sequence and cause and effect. While the terms themselves may sound too complex for a four-year-old to grasp, she explains it to them in toddler terms. “You do something good you go up the ladder, you do something bad you come down the snake.”
Transit the ladder over to Akshar Arbol International School at Mambalam and the teachers are reflecting on traditional games, in order to impart the subject — Global Perspectives. “We went about getting the kids to do Skype sessions with students in Turkey and Australia for an exchange on traditional games,” relates Prabha Dixit, primary years programme co-ordinator. And she explains, “Not only do our students play these games while in class, they also set up teaching corners for the lower classes.” Then there are the third graders of Kids Central, Kotturpuram who look forward to a monthly game of Kabbadi with their friends at Sree Karpagavalli Vidyalalya, Mylapore — just for the fun of it. “There are no marks, no prizes, nothing to gain at the end of it,” says Sindu Suneel, head of Student Affairs at Kids Central. What started out as a social programme to reach out to underprivileged children has now become just good old ‘play time’. And who can dispute that that isn’t the best part of any game?
Details: Kreeda – 64622111, Grassroots – 28255969,
Akshar – 24493275
Pick your game
Gross motor development, gait and balance, number recognition, number order sequence.
Eye hand coordination, working memory, focused and sustained attention.
Eye hand coordination, focus and concentration, counting, fine motor development, logical thinking, problem solving.
Eye hand coordination, focus and concentration.
— Sonali Shenoy