teaching as improvisation, story telling & 4Ps


(this is an edited, ‘personal references redacted’ version of a two-pager quick & dirty ‘teaser’ document, more like a harangue, that I recently wrote up for a conference / workshop for various kinds of fellow teacher-cheaters; context for the document was/is that, I primarily work on engineering, design, sciences, math – with children… and occasionally do ‘Teacher Professional Development,’ thereby earning the wrath of the fellow-teacher community also! bah!


“The universe is made of stories, not of atoms.”
— Muriel Rukeyser, “The Speed of Darkness” from The Collected Poems of Muriel Rukeyser, 2006

| Rainy day. Pitter patter of raindrops leading to deafening crescendos of the torrents of Rain falling on the roofs. Howling winds… | Hot summer day. Post lunch. Humid. All the learners want is, to be left alone… | Cold wintry day. Ice needles poking in to any part of the body that is exposed. All children want is, to crawl into bed, under a warm blanket… |

| So, what can one do? | A lot, a whole lot, as it turns out… |

…Taking some basic, common sense ideas from one of our idols, Mitch Resnick of MIT, as also our really bloody tough mistress called Ms. Experience, we always use the 4Ps approach towards facilitating learning… ‘Passion Play Projects Peers.’

A heady brew of this, with the right kind of ingredients, stories and improvisation would be a sound concoction for any season…


Our young learners, because they are trying to fit into the World, need role-models and what better way to address this opportunity than trying to be ones ourselves – given the fact that Teaching is a fine, age old Performance Art?

…And that, teaching need not be a boring, repetitive activity and instead, be performed in a new stage & setting every time some learnable-content is delivered, depending on the state of the minds at that time.

We teachers can show the passion and fervor that comes with it, when we are dealing with our favorite subjects.

We can provide the interconnections. We can weave stories around them so that the content and the approaches that we use, become seared in the impressionable minds of our young leaners.

Weaving Stories

  • …stories are the many splendoured pathways that lead to the hearts of the learners. We can have a repertoire of stories for any reason and season, and turn an otherwise ‘textbookish delivery’ to a theatrical performance.

  • …these stories need not be fairy or unfairy tales. They can be about how Elements were discovered, Calculus got tamed, Societies got developed and some fell by the wayside. It can be about how the Aryan Invasion and Dravidian theories are major myths. It can be about how ‘Socialism’ set back the growth of Bharat by decades. It can be about Indic sciences and technologies. It can be about Aryabhata, Nikolai Vavilov, Selman Waksman, Yonathan ‘Yoni’ Netanyahu, Subrahmanya Bharati, Kurosawa Akira, Thor Heyardahl, Sardar Patel, Vikram Sarabhai, Dharampal, David Gilmour, Swami Sanand, Richard Feynman… …  It can be about how Fundamental Duties are MORE important than Fundamental Rights. About the Battle of Talas. About Maharajah Ranjit Singh. Or our Ahilyabhai. It can be about ‘Progress, endless Progress.’ or Robotics. IC555. Telescope Building. It can be about Neutrinos. Or about Sri Rama.

  • They can be hilarious. So could be about our ‘Tenali’ Rama. Or our irrational fear of Nuclear Power. Or about Professional Protestwallahs. Or our Award-baggers.

  • Oh, the endless possibilities…


  • …things become learnable, when we can meaningfully transfer our own passion into whatever the learners are learning, purely lit by our own practiced and internalized values towards the content/processes that we deal with.

  • …we should be able to playfully learn things, by constructing, deconstructing, changing, modifying, making mistakes, debugging, fixing, packaging… …learning things in context and in upward spirals; not only in terms of ‘making things,’ but also in terms of ‘concepts’ and ‘interconnections.’

  • …actively encouraging the learners to peer-learn from each other, politely critiquing and adapting from others’ ideas, acknowledging the contributions of others; internalizing concepts based on evidence, learning the values of persistence, leveraging the advantages of co-operation/teamwork and also individually executing one’s part towards goals, effective communication…

  • … taking a big problem, chunking it down to pieces and a hierarchy of mini projects; identifying meaningful closures for every mini project; working towards assembling progressively bigger ideas/contraptions; synthesis and systems integration. Testing and validation. Continuous learning. Coupe la difficulté en quatre

The Art of Improvisation

  • …for a prepared teaching adult, the whole world is a canvas, full of Pedagogic Learning Resources.

  • …one need not wait for a whole lot of shiny materials and teaching-aids to embark on teaching concepts. We should release ourselves from the tyranny of the teaching aids.

  • …for example, many many concepts like intricate algorithms, data structures in Computer Science can be literally hand delivered, using only the learners in class, making the whole playful learning, more enjoyable and retentive, because of repetition that would happen by way of physical activities…

– END –

Note: The above harangue / free-discussion was followed by hands(and minds)-on session illustrating various possibilities. Poor, hapless teachers. Oh what to do.

And then, everybody happily died (even without taking help from modern Tamil literature / poem / whatchamacallit) ever after. Oh my.


7 Responses to “teaching as improvisation, story telling & 4Ps”

  1. Muthukumar Says:

    4P legs with a big story
    tail and trunk to improvise
    An elephant missed “the creative”

  2. anon Says:

    showing off. childish

    • Sir (or Ma’am?) – you are correct too. In case you didn’t realize, it is my blog, so.

      OTOH, even if you want to show off, there is space for you here. Come, walk with me. Lead me.

      Of course you can correct me, if you have evidence/ideas to the contrary. You can indulge in tomfoolery, no issues.

      But, random dissing? I think you should avoid that, got it?


      • Muthukumar Says:

        //I think you should avoid that, got it?//
        How a 4P (Puto , Pecker, Poon & Punta) will get it?
        It will be happy at it.

  3. K.Muthuramakrishnan Says:

    whatchamacallit this article.? you think all are to your heights.or you want all to jump to catch up with you.

    • Sir, you are correct. It is more like the depths. Please have a free-fall. யாம் பெற்ற பேறு, பெறுக பெறுக, பொலிக. அவ்ளோதான். ணந்ரீ.

மேற்கண்ட பதிவு (அல்லது பின்னூட்டங்கள்) குறித்து (விருப்பமிருந்தால்) உரையாடலாமே...

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