age gaps

just a few words about the difficulties inherent in teaching a class with a wide age spread. we’ve always advertised our class as open to kids from around five to ten years of age. for the first little while, that wasn’t a big problem; most of our kids ended up being around the same age—five to seven—with only a few outliers. Lately, however, we’ve been seeing a more diverse range of ages. At one of our latest classes, we had three distinct clumps of ages: 5-6, 7-8, and 10-11. Any teacher worth his or her salt knows (or so I’m told) that the needs and capacities of each of these groups is vastly different. When we plan a class, we plan specific activities that appeal mainly to our core group, which is, let’s say, around age seven. Unfortunately, we often see the older children sitting off to the side and getting bored because the material is too simple for them, while the younger children stare blankly and get bored because the material is too complicated for them. There doesn’t seem to be a simple solution to this problem besides splitting the class into different age groups. We’ve often raised this possibility for our class, but we’ve never done it simply because of logistical reasons (do we feel ready to run two or more classes simultaneously?)

I don’t have a conclusion to this post, since we’re still living with and dealing with this situation. Any comments or from experienced children’s class teachers out there would be greatly appreciated.

oneness of religion (take 2)

Today’s lesson: oneness of religion.

January 27, 2007: 2 hours, 7 children, average 7 years old. Well this was an interesting class. We wanted to try out the play contained in Baha’i Education for Children. I don’t know about you, but I’m no drama teacher. I suppose it would have been useful to read through Book 3A (aka the old Book 5, “Baha’i Children’s Classes, Grade 2”) before attempting this activity. Where Book 3 relies mainly on games for physical activity, Book 3A includes a lot more drama, acting and role-playing. If I was more of a manual-reading person (rather than the jumping-in type I am) we would have saved a lot of bother this time around. The play is meant to be learned and memorized over a longer period of time (to its credit, there are warnings to this effect at the top of the script); still, we figured we’d start reading and see how things would go. Most of the kids found the text difficult to read, let alone to memorize. For some—especially the younger ones who were only just learning to read—nothing sank in at all. Oops. So after a short period of confusion, we quickly changed tactics and began simplifying the script; a teacher would call out the main points of each child’s speech and have them repeat them out loud. Once the emphasis was off reading, things went a lot smoother.

The result? Well, we haven’t given up on the play yet. We’ll continue working with a simplified script (one of the teachers will be revising it so that it can be more easily understood by the children), and continue rehearsing until we get it. It’s funny—I don’t know who’s doing more learning, the children or the teachers. I certainly feel like I’m getting a crash course in children’s education every time I come to the class.

oneness of religion (take 1)

Today’s lesson: oneness of religion.

January 20, 2007: 2 hours, 9 children, average 7 years old. We scheduled this lesson for World Religion Day and had a lot of fun with the religious symbol stencils. We wanted to get the children’s hands in gear in creative ways; amazingly, no one was spotted running with scissors. My only beef with this class was that the lesson content wasn’t strong enough—for example, as we introduced each stencil, we could have had the children guess which religion the symbol represented, and which Manifestation founded that religion… I haven’t been able to find my binder full of lesson plans from the Canadian national curriculum (which have made things so much easier since we started using them—no more last minute brainstorms) and the lesson from Baha’i Education for Children only presents the play, which I didn’t think we could do at the time with the resources we had. So we made up this lesson with the stencils. It went over all right—most of the children seemed to enjoy the artistic activity. One of our Baha’i friends, a regional coordinator for children’s classes, was there and snapped some pictures:

children's class group shot
the whole group of us!

happy world religion day!
one of our shy participants.

world religion day activity
hard at work.

Our upcoming class will again touch on the oneness of religion, so there’ll doubtless be more to tell soon. By the way, I’m sorry this post came late—I noticed there was a spike in traffic to this blog just before World Religion Day but I couldn’t get my act together to post our lesson in time 😛 There’s always next year right?