NOTES FOR PARENTS AND TEACHERS Part One: The Sanskrit Alphabet
Parents or teachers supervising or teaching from this course will need t0 be able t0 recite the Sanskrit alphabet, or at least the section currently under study. In fact, the alphabet falls conveniently into short sections, and it is best if teachers and pupils are able t0 recite each family 0f sounds from memory before attempting to write it. As the course continues, the recitation 0f this alphabet will need t0 be a daily practice until, by the end 0f Part One, the whole alphabet is known by heart This recitation helps the child t0 remember the order 0f the five families and the order 0f the sounds within each family.
In general, the order of learning t0 read the script is:
(a) hearing the sound, (b) repeating it aloud, (c) copying the shape 0f the letter, and (d) reading the letter.
Ideally, the children should see the writing 0f the letter demonstrated and then copy it, perhaps 0ne part at a time, depending 0n how complicated it is. This brings into play the extraordinary capacity 0f the child t0 learn by imitation.
In general, the order for writing each letter is:
(a) the top line is drawn first, (b)then the descender, and (c) then any additional shape.
When writing a letter, the child should hear the sound in the mind. Each time the child hears the sound of the letter in the mind while writing it, the connection between sound and shape is reinforced.
The children should always be encouraged t0 write each character more perfectly than the one before. This ensures that the writing improves rather than deteriorates. It is worth mentioning that both traditionally and in the best modern practice the top line of each letter is written first and, even when writing words, only enough of this line is written for one letter at a time.
Daily reading charts are given at regular intervals during the course to provide the necessary practice. These should be read every day until another reading chart is given in the text. This practice is only effective if the teacher ensures that each child’s ringer is exactly beneath the letter being read. When the children can read a page fluently they should be asked to read it backwards (i.e., moving from right to left).
DAILY AND WEEKLY TESTING
No written course can act as a substitute for a teacher’s or parent’s intelligence and ingenuity. Ideally, each step would be measured precisely t0 the needs of each pupil. Tests need to be given to ensure that the child is ready for the next stage. The following should be practised regularly:
(a) reading of letters and words written in a random order on the blackboard (or, in the case of a parent, on paper), and
(b) dictation: a weekly dictation of the letters covered that week and in previous weeks. This stimulates the child’s interest in learning and acts as a guide for the teacher as to the effectiveness of the teaching.
THE WRITING OF SANSKRIT
Each Sanskrit letter is a ‘character’ and can be appreciated best in the initial stages by writing without reliance on any guidelines on the page. After a little while a top line is useful from which to hang the letters. Each letter should be hung freely from this line without attempting to touch a bottom line. In this respect, it is comparable to English writing, where the letters rest on the bottom line and do not attempt to touch the top line. Thus, in Sanskrit, there will always be a space between the bottom of the letters and the next line down.
There is another factor to note in the writing of Sanskrit letters. Calligraphy has traditionally been done on a slanting surface, and this is recommended for the writing of Sanskrit. One reason for this is that the child’s back is thereby allowed to be more upright and there is a closer view of the writing, encouraging finer attention.
As with the learning of any language, whilst the elements of that language are being introduced, it is helpful if examples of Sanskrit literature are recited on a daily basis. This gives a taste of the beauty of the language.
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