Davis Learning Strategies in Action – in India

Priti Venkatesan

Priti Venkatesan has witnessed first-hand the effectiveness of using Davis Learning Strategies for K-3 teachers. One boy was so frustrated with reading and writing that by the time he reached third grade, he was refusing to go to school. When he entered the Indigo section at the Lalaji Memorial Omega International School (LMOIS), he didn’t know the alphabet letters. Once alphabet mastery was completed, he slowly began to read, his socializing skills improved and by the time he was in grade 7, he was completely independent.  His personality was transformed and at age 14, he was recently honored as a youth leader.

One girl, due to stress would pull out the hair in her brows and lashes. It was determined this would be for life, despite her many visits with medical practitioners. Her stress was related to not being able to handle academic pressure. She worked with the Davis Learning Strategies and slowly began to do better in school and coincidentally (?) her hair began to grow.

Priti joined LMOIS in 2009, as a Kindergarten teacher and soon noticed many children who were otherwise very bright performing poorly in academics. This sparked an interest in special education and as a result she became trained in this field.

Lalaji Memorial Omega International School

“We saw that the traditional methods used in special education were not working and looked for something different.  We were disappointed with the old solutions and saw the traditional supports as literally giving crutches to these children. Then we came across Moniek Geven in Denmark, and DLS was born in the Indigo section of LMOIS. All the “at risk” or children who made little if any progress in learning to read and write were shifted into the Indigo Section of the school. 

“We made it separate because when the children got pulled out of class for remedial help, they were bullied a lot …  The children needed to be taken care of in a learning environment where they are accepted in totality.” says Priti.

The teachers initially handling these students were guided by Priti and her colleague Nirupama Krishnan, both licensed Davis facilitators. Along with DLS, were the one-on-one Davis counseling sessions to those who already had severe learning difficulties. This combined with a holistic and nurturing environment produced some interesting results.

“We started the DLS program and within 6 months, children (identified reading below designated grade level) showed enough improvement that they were sent back into the mainstream classes…those who were dyslexic bridged the gap of 1 – 2 years and were also sent back into the regular stream.”

The strategies were successful as the first group of 11 students who received instructions through Davis Learning Strategies have now completed their grade 10 exams – 10 of the 11 scored more than 70 per cent in their secondary school board exams.

Lalaji Memorial Omega International School

The strategies and some life concepts are embedded in their curriculum. A gain in reading is just one of the benefits. Alongside this improvement was an increase in attention span and improvements in critical thinking and reasoning skills.  Students have gone from having poor self-esteem and behavioral issues to leaving the Indigo Section for the mainstream classrooms with amazing confidence, self-regulation skills and the ability to learn independently. Children with autism benefited as well and demonstrated improvement in their social skills. Furthermore, the Davis Learning Strategies are being used to teach Indian languages like Hindi and Tamil… a great feat for children who struggle with language.

Introducing the Davis methods not only affected struggling student’s lives, but also the teachers’. The tools of Release, Focus and Energy Dial allowed teachers to relieve stress and enhance their own potential. Many of the children shared their DLS tools with their parents.

However, the road to introducing the Davis Learning Strategies was not always smooth. Davis seemed so simple and some educators thought the children were just playing with clay.  India has a very rigid curriculum. Marks are important so the idea of spending time with those who struggled was considered a waste and in exchange time should focus on children who were bright.  Once DLS was fully incorporated from K – 3 at the Omega school, there were less children being filtered to the Indigo section so they knew the experiment worked.  Now Indigo class receives children from other schools.

Currently, LMOIS has well over 100 DLS trained teachers, three DLS Mentors and 2 licensed Davis Facilitators. The school believes that when these strategies are used, it helps holistic growth in children. It prevents the onset of learning difficulties and helps in optimizing the potential of all students. 

The work continues in this community of educators. Twice a year DLS training is provided for those interested.  Even many of the senior teachers have been trained in DLS. More mentors are needed.

“Once a teacher gets trained in DLS, if you don’t have proper mentoring of the teacher, they slowly forget what is to be done and give up. Mentoring and handholding is essential for teachers. That is what we are ensuring at Indigo and that’s why it’s working out.”