It’s a teacher’s job to present their students with lessons that strike the right balance between being informative and engaging. An educator in India took that requirement to the next level, though, teaching his class a big lesson using just a few lines on a chalkboard.
As far as language is concerned, Indian students often have a lot more to learn than students in other countries. Ethnologue: Languages of the World, which annually documents living languages across the globe, counts 415 different tongues within India alone.
Although some of these 415 living languages might only be used within small Indian communities, 24 of them are spoken by over one million of the country’s inhabitants. In addition, another 114 of the languages are used by more than 10,000 people in India.
The country’s central government has chosen its main language as Hindi, while English is the country’s official second language. Meanwhile, local governments are also permitted to choose a regional tongue to be the official state language.
As far as education goes, though, this practice has been a disadvantage at times. Although a child’s mother tongue has been shown to be the most effective language for early education, it has not always been possible for Indian children to learn in this way due to a shortage of textbooks and other materials.
But there’s one language that’s universally considered to be a useful one for Indian students to learn, no matter where in the country they live – English. In 2011 Manu Joseph, a writer for The New York Times, wrote, “In India today, English has the force and quality of a national language.”
Perhaps that was the inspiration for this teacher in India, who stood in front of a classroom full of students ready to teach them something spectacular. In a video posted on YouTube in October 2016 he begins his lesson with a simple task – drawing slanted lines across the chalkboard.
The teacher draws a huge row of them, chanting to himself in his native tongue, Telugu, to highlight the rhythmic nature of the process. At the end of the procedure, he has 31 nearly perfect lines side by side by side.
The tutor’s next task is to count the lines, making sure that he has the correct amount. He makes barely visible tags on each of the 31 lines as the tots them up. It’s still unclear what he plans to do next at this point. But as soon as he makes another chalk stroke, the purpose of his lesson becomes obvious.
After completing his count, the teacher returns to the second line of the 31. He places his chalk on the upper point of the line and draws a curved line to connect it to the first line on the board. He then rounds the bottom, too, so that lines one and two become a single, curved figure.
The tutor’s final stroke outlines the tick mark to create a tail. With that, it’s clear what he’s drawing, and he announces it to his pupils. “A,” he says, showing them a simply drawn lowercase letter to kick off his lesson about the Latin alphabet.
Using just the lines and a few quick connections between them, the teacher then writes out the letters B through P before pausing to show his students another trick. For novices, it can be difficult to figure out the sizing and positioning of letters that dip beneath the writing line.
So, after drawing a lowercase A, the tutor draws a line upwards from its left-hand side. This transforms the A into a B. Then, he draws a line on the right hand side to show just how simply an A becomes a D.
Next, the teacher shows what the lines can create when extended downwards. A chalk stroke beneath the A could make a P or a Q, he demonstrates. And a curled line underneath can form a lowercase G, too.
Moving back to the middle line, the tutor re-circles the A to make it into an O. On the same line, he then draws a curve from the top of the O to its right. “M,” he announces, as he points out the letter’s double curve.
YouTube user Padmaja Jagarlapudi subsequently translated the teacher’s lesson and explained the methods being used in a comment on the video. “To write attractive alphabets, he says first draw 31 lines,” she wrote. “When completed, 31 slanting lines are drawn and [he] fits all 26 letters in those 31 lines.”
Jagarlapudi then went on to explain the second part of the lesson. “He demonstrates construction of all alphabets by using two lines,” she added. “[He] fits alphabets in terms of their position and size.” At the end of this part of the lesson, the teacher draws a mismatched A and B side by side to further demonstrate how the characters should fit together.
The teacher hammers this point home by grouping letters together according to their sizes. Smaller lines denote lowercase letters that reside on the baseline, while larger strokes show letters such as H, P, Q and F, which either stretch above or beneath this line.
One comment left on the video showed just how effective the teacher’s lesson was for students around the world – even those who couldn’t decipher what he was saying. “I am from Tamil Nadu, don’t understand your language,” wrote YouTube user Ravi Ponniah.
Still, Ponniah added that he’d nonetheless taken away something valuable from the writing tutorial. “You made it very, very simple, this ABCD writing. I thank you and salute for your innovation and attitude toward teaching,” he wrote.