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Teaching Today for Tomorrow – An Extract

The following article is an excerpt on communication from My Chapter One Co-Founder RanjaniIndrajith’s book, “Teaching Today for Tomorrow: Enhancing Elementary Education with 9 Basic Skills of Life.


Kavitha stopped in her tracks and looked more deeply at the woman. She noticed the woman’s eyes were filled with tears. Droplets of sweat beaded on her forehead, and her face was pale. She was moving from one leg to another, unable to calm down. “She doesn’t seem fine,” Kavitha thought to herself. Every Sunday, Kavitha walked to the supermarket to buy groceries for the week. But this Sunday, she saw a young woman under the bridge looking confused and worried. Assuming that she must be lost, Kavitha walked to the lady and asked if she needed any help. The lady nodded and spoke in a language that Kavitha didn’t understand. The lady was tall and fair with a sharp nose. She had straight brown hair and looked like she was in her early twenties.

She wore a patiala suit with lots of red and white bangles. Kavitha thought that she looked like somebody from Northern India. Kavitha spoke to her and realised that she didn’t know any other language other than what she spoke. And Kavitha could neither understand nor guess what language it was. Kavitha tried speaking to her, and their conversation went nowhere. Then, Kavitha stopped and thought for a while. Then she pointed her finger to herself and said, “name – Kavitha.” And asked, pointing to the lady, “yours?” The lady observed her action and tone, and responded, “aaaa-amaara naam – Ppppayal.” She stuttered and seemed confused. Kavitha could understand the woman’s anxiety about giving her name to a stranger. Then, Kavitha showed her phone to Payal. “Phone?” she asked. “Number?” With obvious relief, as though she had solved a difficult puzzle, Payal said the number in Hindi, which Kavitha also spoke. Kavitha once again, pointed to the phone, and asked “name?” Payal said, “Lohit – sbami.” Kavitha carefully dialled the number and showed it to Payal to confirm that she had entered it right. Once Payal had confirmed by nodding, Kavitha pressed the dial button. The phone rang, and she heard a tense man’s voice quickly say “hello.” Kavitha was relieved to hear that the man spoke her language, even if Payal did not. “Hello, is this Mr. Lohit?” she asked calmly. “Yes, I am Lohit.” Again Kavitha heard the sharp anxiety in the man’s voice, like a caged animal trying to get out. “Mr. Lohit, I am standing next to a lady who seems to be lost. I guess her name is ‘Payal.’ Do you know her?” “Oh, yes, Madam,” the man said, clearly overjoyed. “That’s my wife. I’ve been looking for her. Could you please tell me where you are? I’ll be there soon.” “I am standing under the bridge on LB Road, in Adyar. We are just opposite ‘Shoppers Stop,’” Kavitha responded. “Oh, I am just a few minutes away. I will be there in a minute, madam. Could you please wait with her for a few moments?” “Oh, sure. I will stay right here. Just speak to your wife and let her know you are coming.” Kavitha gave the phone to Payal. Payal, with tears rolling down her cheeks and a smile on her lips, spoke over the phone. Once the call was disconnected, Payal and Kavitha exchanged smiles. Kavitha made a few reassuring gestures: calm down now. It will be all right. After a few minutes, Lohit arrived in a hurry. He was a handsome young man, and his face lit up on seeing Payal. He smiled and asked her something in their language. After a brief conversation, he looked back to Kavitha. “Thank you, Madam. I was so worried that I lost her. She doesn’t know the language here.” “I understand. She was petrified. I could see it from her face. By the way, I am Kavitha. I live in the neighbourhood. Glad to be of help.” “Oh, you are a wonderful person, Ms Kavitha. I would never forget your help. We are from Bengal. I got a job here, and we recently moved. We were riding on the bus. Once we got onto the bus, I told her to get off at the sixth stop. She must have counted it from the stop where we got in and got off a stop too early.” “That’s okay. Sometimes it happens. Anyway, I have to go. It was good to meet both of you. Have a good day, Lohit and Payal. Don’t lose each other again.” As she spoke, she shook hands with Payal and Lohit, and with a gentle smile, continued her walk to the supermarket.

  • In this story, whose communication was ineffective? Why?
  • Did Payal and Kavitha communicate? Was it effective?
  • What other ways can two people communicate when they don’t have a common language?
  • Are communication and speaking the same?
  • Do babies communicate?
  • Do animals communicate?
  • What are the parts of our body that communicate?
  • What is the easiest way to communicate information?
  • What is the easiest way to communicate with hundreds of people simultaneously?

For most children, communication is public speaking or speaking fluently; for some, it is speaking fluently in English. What is communication? How is it important in today’s world? The simplest definition of communication is ‘an exchange of ideas.’ Let’s assume A and B are communicating. If A can convey a message to B, and if B can perceive it or understand it the same way that A intended, then that is effective communication. Communication does not necessarily mean “speaking.” An idea, a thought, an opinion, or any other piece of information can be communicated through signs, symbols, gestures, words or even sounds. Communication is conveying this information. Once we learn to speak, humans use language (words and sentences) to communicate. A language evolves over time, developing words to express different objects, actions, feelings and many more. Though language is one of the most comprehensive means of communication, it is not the only way. We sometimes communicate using gestures. A thumbs-up means approval. We wave our hands to say ‘Bye.’ We frown to show disapproval, and we hug to show love. Like gestures and expressions, even the tone, voice, speed, and enthusiasm of our speech communicates information. Most often, it is a combination of various things that communicate information effectively. A baby cries when he is hungry. Crying is the baby’s way of communicating to the mother. Animals communicate using sounds. You have surely heard insects at night communicating with one another. We read newspapers, we watch television, we listen to the radio, and we web-surf. All these are means to communicate. When we want to communicate something to a large group of people, we use these media. As you must’ve observed, communication can be oral, written, verbal, or non-verbal. Why do we communicate? Communication is necessary to convey, ask, state, respond, announce, connect, reach out, influence, persuade, report, publicise, and much more. Every communication has a purpose. Advertisements are ways to communicate to publicise a product and persuade people to buy it. A report communicates the status of an activity or a performance. More importantly, effective communication is essential to build good interpersonal relationships. If we do not communicate well enough, we may end up having misunderstandings: failures to meet our teachers’ or bosses’ expectations, fights with our family, falling outs with our friends. Communicating politely and effectively strengthens relationships within families, in the workplace and in our social surroundings. In a workplace, communication is essential to work in a team, especially for a leader. Hence, communication is a vital life skill.

Activity – Draw what I say

Allow children to form pairs. One person in each pair is named A, and the other is named B. All As will face the board, and Bs will face the opposite direction. Each B should have a pencil and paper. When the students are ready, draw a geometric figure on the board with a combination of shapes in different sizes. A should describe the shape to B. B will draw the figure according to the instructions given by A. Provide 2 minutes for the activity, and then ask the students to change positions. Draw a new figure, which B must now describe for A to draw within 2 minutes. On completion, discuss the experience and challenges. List the reasons for ineffective communication. Variation: Do not allow student B to ask questions.

My Chapter One is a reading gym that works towards building 21st century learning skills in children around the world. Our team of expert Reading Hosts, armed with a treasure trove of books and engaging activities, conduct reading sessions for children (ages 4-14) and encourage them to become independent readers. To learn more about our programs or the Reading Host role, get in touch with us at

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