For the love of Phonics

Where learning is fun!

Traditionally, children were taught using a ‘look and say’ method, where they were shown words until they could recognise them. With the rise of phonics, reading using sounds rather than individual letters is something which is preferred today.

Phonic teaching is a part of many curriculums in schools and so there are different institutes teaching phonics. The one approach to Phonics which we found the most popular is the Synthetic approach using Jolly Phonics by Hema Jayant Chandra residing at Ghatkopar, Mumbai.

The Lifestyle Portal caught up with Hema, an MBA graduate and the Founder & Principal Director of Word Masti Phonics and Grammar Institute, established in 2005. She was very clear about not picking up a usual 9 to 5 job. In fact, she was always on the lookout for a profession which could help her raise her own kids as well as enjoy the family life & balance her career instincts too.  Starting her own business sooner or later was always on her mind and heart. Here’s our tête-à-tête with her:

How did it all begin? 

After completing her MBA, in the year 2000, Hema went to the United States for work. Post work hours, she would spend her spare time in a public library helping teachers. That was when she first heard about Phonics. Since it was a new concept then, Hema was curious and wanted to know more about it. She was amazed by the unique way a child could learn letters and wondered how helpful it would be if her children could grow up learning this way too.

“When back to India, recalls Hema, “I started making Phonics worksheets and quizzes for my daughter. Eventually, it led to creating worksheets and finding interactive ways to teach; which further became a passion for me. I then started sharing my work with other parents and kids in the neighbourhood.

Word Masti Phonics Institute began as a way to keep myself accountable for engaging in activities with my child. Now it has become a giant resource for lots of teachers, parents and kids too. This is when, after lots of research and undertaking training, I conceptualized and found Word Masti Phonics and Grammar Institute. So, you could say, my inspiration was truly my daughter!”

Hema Chandra, Founder & Principal Director of Word Masti Phonics and Grammar Institute

Initial Investments

“The initial investment”, says Hema, “was around INR 1 lakh. It kept on magnifying with the quick graph of strengthening the number of children in our institute. Then I had to incur the rent for the classrooms, the cost of cyclostyling the sheets, paying salary to the teachers and staff, undertaking the training for myself and investing in the Jolly Phonics kit etc.”

What makes Word Masti unique?

The Word Masti curriculum is based on the highly interactive, engaging and scientific phonic based English teaching methodology prescribed by Jolly Learning Ltd, UK. Hema is the only authorised Jolly Phonics trainer till date in Ghatkopar, Mumbai and also is on the panel of Jolly Phonics official website which proves her work more authentic and up to the expected standards. Word Masti also maintains a good teacher and students ratio which is 1:5 and has a trained staff of 20+ teachers.

The practice, patience, politeness by the team of teachers and imparting the training happily from the heart and not from the book makes Word Masti Learning a unique experience in itself. Also, an endless family support has actually destined and given a new avatar to her and also have influenced positively “ Word Masti Institute” as a wholly separate entity.

Challenges faced

“In every class, there will be a few children who find it difficult to memorise the letter sounds and who struggle to blend and segment words. These children tend to have a weak visual memory and poor auditory skills. However, this does not mean that they need different teaching; they simply need the same teaching, but with more frequency. Throughout my career, I’ve found that the most challenging students are the slow learners and also the kids who get no extra support from home. So, instead of twice a week, many times we call a ‘slow learning child’ at least thrice a week so as to give him more personal attention.” Says Hema.

She further adds, “A major challenge is sustaining your business in the bizarre and berserk competition of the Phonics market. And to overcome the same, I just believe that your competitors can copy your work, your style or your procedure, but, no one can copy your passion. If you hold it firmly, the world is yours. ‘Be passionate & go ahead’ – the Universe is ready to bless you.”

Word Masti has three branches in Ghatkopar and to manage all the three can also be a challenge but this what Hema has to say, “I go to supervise to all my centres making sure that I assess the Phonics checkpoints at every phase/level. I have my centres working from Monday to Friday and I usually host my training during weekends which doesn’t lead to any kind of clashes and provides quality education.”

Spreading the joy of Phonics & Grammar

Fee structure and other details 

The fee structure of Word Masti for the current academic year (2018-2019) is INR 15,000/ per annum. Usually, a phonics class is twice a week with a 90 min session each day. In one batch at Word Masti, there are 20 pupils with four teachers (1:5-teacher-pupil ratio) and one head teacher.

A typical phonics session is bifurcated into small chunks of – warmers, the lesson objective, introducing a new sound, storyline, lot of actions, flashcards, letter formations, blending, word bank, extensions, coolers and further phonics.

Word Masti has three branches and each branch has its own centre head with co-teachers at help. All the 20+teachers are trained under Hema and are working with her for the past 8 years.

Response so far

The response and the journey have been flourishing since the beginning for Hema. She says, “The milestone that I achieved was Word Masti grew from one phonic centre to five. Even the number of students I had falls into a very positive graph from 4 to 40 and eventually now 400. We almost have 20 + teachers working with our Institute. I grew exponentially when it came to teachers’ phonics and grammar training. I also had a chance to do a pilot intervention project with a group of Mumbai schools and also worked for top CBSE school of Jammu and Kashmir along with many private pre-schools in and out of Mumbai.

I also had an opportunity to attend the annual Jolly Conference twice in the UK and learning the tips and tricks from the authors and the writers of phonics themselves.

Word Masti was nominated as one of the top 10 Institutes in imparting Phonics knowledge and also bagged prime position in imparting and training teachers for Jolly Phonics by SCI EDUCATION.” She has also been one of the panelists to discuss the K-12 segment: an interactive learning experience in the classroom. Hema has personally trained 2500+ teachers to date.

Hema loves to upgrade her knowledge database and has achieved distinction in CIDTT exams-Cambridge International Diploma for Teachers and Trainers. University of Cambridge (CIE) UK. She also recently finished her TEFL/TESOL-Teaching English as a Foreign Language from LoveTEFL, Ofqual, England. She just tries to implement better methods with children from the very next day a pursuing new courses. “ I still have three more courses in my mind to finish it by 2018,” chuckles Hema.

Hema Chandra at work

Future plans

There is a need to train the school teachers and embrace the new interactive technology after changing the nomenclature and the pedagogy of conventional learning methods. “To be one of the top pioneer institutes in town providing best literacy skills and developing the most fluent readers is one of our aims. We as a team would love to take the whole Jolly Phonics Programme and put forward to the Ministry of Education thus explaining the literacy benefits achieved and see it being implemented in all the public, private and government schools and then progressively the whole state,” adds Hema.

How to get in touch with Hema:

You can reach out to Hema through our Directory Listing

Contributor: Bhumika Vikam, Staff Writer

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