“Wow! That’s a very green caterpillar! Don’t come near me!” I watch as Tulasi, normally quite reserved, stretches her face into a grimace and shouts these words at the camera. Earlier, I had shown the girls a short clip of an actress “reading with expression.” The actress changes her voice to represent various characters in a story, and the girls were impressed. We watched the clip several times (upon request) and then launched into a “reading with expression” session. I shocked the girls a bit by going first and choosing to sing about the green caterpillar. My fake opera seemed to encourage them to be a little more daring, and they giggled as they used exaggerated enunciation and varied their tones for the different words.
A few days before, Kelly, Asma and I had listened to the girls’ first few rounds of voiceovers for their “Spring Morning” photo story. The girls knew the lines, but rattled them off in a monotone, unintelligible breath before ending with “thank you.” We knew we needed to help them discover how to convey emotion with their voices. In the process of practicing, I learned that we have several potential actresses in our class. Sudeepika wrote down her caterpillar line and promised to rehearse reading in different voices as extra homework. While some girls would blurt out the lines in the first silly voice that came to mind, Sushma thought about which parts she wanted to emphasize before speaking. All the girls improved their voiceover “style.” And we certainly had fun changing our voices!
One of the best parts about the last few weeks has been solidifying our relationships with each of our students. We’ve come to know more about their individual personalities, family backgrounds, strengths and weaknesses. At Bansilalpet, Bhavani dreams of being a fashion designer and is one of our master photographers. At Audiah Memorial, Rohit is our go-to for brilliant ideas. Divya keeps Bhushan in check while Yakamma is always cheerful. The students have become more comfortable in class, and we have come to genuinely enjoy and appreciate their individuality. This new familiarity also brings forth new challenges. As Kelly pointed out, the “novelty” of TMS has worn off. The students are more restless, completing tasks more quickly and ready for more. While I prefer to have our students less in awe of us as teachers and less timid around the camera, we must find ways to expand our lessons to keep pace with their growth.
Our first short video unit lessons have also uncovered some hidden strengths in some of our students. Mamatha has a knack for thinking of follow-up questions on the spot, and Divya Sree can quickly direct and frame an interview shot. I greatly enjoyed watching the girls work together as a team during these first practice interviews!
I also want to give a shout out to our volunteer Praneet, who has been an invaluable help with translations and with encouraging the students at Audiah. He is embarking on the next phase of his education and we will miss him in the classroom!! Meanwhile…we will continue to mine the gems hidden in the imaginations of our students as we progress through our first video stories.