Tucked away in a quiet corner of Sadashiv Nagar in Bangalore, Nidhi Jaipuria’s Creative English Program is more than just a writing workshop for children.
Brain Gym, Nidhi’s pet project, offers a full-blown literary experience that will shape life-long passions in the creative arts. From the moment you step into this little space, you find yourself under a magic spell of sorts.
The space is packed with ideas and inspiration – there are handcrafted puppets on the walls, six thinking hats in the vein of Edward de Bono propped on a beautiful hat stand and posters of literary terms and genres. There is a prop box full of drama props and costumes, which the children use to enact scenes from a play or to redesign and reimagine their space.
A large, limited edition ‘Literary Map of Oxford’ adorns the wall and delightfully singsong words like ‘kerfuffle,’ ‘swashbuckling,’ and ‘lackadaisical’ are on full display, for how else can one pick up the music and cadence of the English language if they are not exposed to such gems?
The kids enrolled in The Brain Gym workshop are so head over heels in love with the program that many of them insist on coming to the sessions at any cost. Some of their testimonials, written on footprint-shaped paper cut-outs that Nidhi intends to preserve as relics of all their wonderful times together, have to be read to be believed.
“I wish Ms. Nidhi will continue The Brain Gym to the end of her life.”
“Ms. Nidhi has a creative mind and heart to start her own TV show. You should replace my English teacher,” or “All the children in the world should visit The Brain Gym,” or even “I wish Ms. Nidhi will continue The Brain Gym to the end of her life.”
With an MA in Education, Nidhi Jaipuria has been teaching English for more than a decade and teaches ‘Poetry and the Magic of Words’ at the Mallya Aditi International School. She is also the author of a children’s book series ‘10on10 WORD,’ with whimsical titles like ‘The Pompous Pachyderm,’ ‘The Monochromatic Martian,’ ‘The Pipsqueak Pirate,’ and ‘Quibbling with Q.’
Nidhi describes The Brain Gym as a place where imagination, creativity and wordplay all jostle together to create magic. “I use everything from spoonerisms and word riddles to hink-pinks. These are great ways to expand a child’s mind and prime them for writing and the creative arts. The more you are able to play with words and use them well, the more it reflects in your writing.”
A session starts with a mystery word that the children must guess by using a series of clues, with each child attempting a guess and writing it on a whiteboard, until they finally arrive at the word. “One day I gave the children a clue that said, ‘Sometimes you see me next to you, sometimes you don’t,’ and the answer was ‘shadow’ but an 8-year-old boy in my class came up with the word ‘friends,’ which I thought was such a remarkable and wonderful guess!”
Children do not sit in one place and write or read but move around, explore language, enact parts, play word games, respond to diverse visual and literary cues and go home with rich tool boxes that power their imagination. Movement-based games help them express themselves without inhibitions.
Instead of merely reading poems out loud, the children play games like “Run, Read, Write, Remember,” which is a poetry writing and memory exercise rolled into one. Children learn to play against each other and to be quick on their feet when it comes to using language inventively. The cherry on the sundae? The buzzers, which add to the excitement and madness!
Even a task like descriptive writing is given an exciting spin, with Nidhi using a ‘salt tasting’ exercise that turns the children into ‘salt critics’ who taste different types of salt and describe it in any word except ‘salty.’ This encourages children to use vocabulary inventively.
It is hard to put a finger on any one thing that makes The Brain Gym unique. Each session shape shifts into different activities. For instance, children learn about the mystery genre by learning Morse codes, Pigpen ciphers and finger printing. They discover the vocabulary of theatre by enacting fun plays, with even boys taking on the role of Rapunzel with great gusto!
Shrieks of laughter, squeals of excitement and yells galore – there’s always a brouhaha happening at The Brain Gym! As the children enter this realm where curiosity and creativity thrive, they dive headfirst into exhilarating writing adventures that explore Shakespeare, Roald Dahl, Edward Lear, Nonsense Poetry, Comics and much more. They’re introduced to Blackout Poetry, Visual Storytelling, Ekphrasis, Encyclopaedias etc in fun, exciting ways which has them buzzing with energy and excitement. From thinking hats to colourful costumes, buzzers to word relays, animated discussions to pop quizzes, you can be a part of these after-school shenanigans.
One session had them discovering Chris Van Allsburg’s The Mysteries of Harris Burdick, a series of open-ended art works that unravel different layers of visual storytelling. Says Nidhi, “We did persuasive writing by eating Oreo cookies. We had opinion, reason, example and we sifted through it as we ate each layer of the cookie.”
Children are encouraged to use “the golden details” that make sentences stand out from clunky sentences or hackneyed expressions. All these creative jaunts enable children to use language constantly and inventively. Says Nidhi, “One of my children wrote his feedback to me in the form of Pigpen cipher! It is stunning to see children embrace the language in so many wonderful ways.”
To know more about the various Creative English Programs, you can contact Nidhi Jaipuria at The Brain Gym