October 30, 2012: Not bad at all! We held class one day early due to Hallowe’en—we figured there’s no way we could compete with the sheer attractive force of all that candy. All the same, things went really well. We started by gathering the children from outside the apartment as usual; we noticed there was a new girl we hadn’t met before, so we invited her to join us. She’s eleven years old, and fairly articulate. It seems as though she goes to Sunday school, because she easily grasped many of the concepts we shared in class and related them to Christian concepts. After prayers and a short talk about the lesson, we continued with a few games, including the “Freeze & Think” game. When that was done, we embarked upon the painting project we had planned last week: creating a large banner to post up in our host’s home, based on the lesson. It turned out the new girl was very good at drawing, so we asked her to draw a version of the “Fortress of God’s love”, like the one in the colouring page from Ruhi Book 3. Everyone then worked together, paint pots and brushes in hand, to decorate the banner.
October 24, 2012: Our first lesson from the set on obedience! We started off by reviewing what we had learned about prayer, and segued into the lesson on the love of God as a stronghold. To be honest, it was difficult to keep things rolling smoothly this time, as the children were nice and distracted. We tried to mitigate it by starting off with a name game (since we had a new teacher helping out this week) but I think the cards may have been stacked against us from the start. Anyway, we did our best to present the lesson as quickly and smoothly as possible, but found ourselves swimming upstream through a torrent of hands-up-for-unrelated-stories-about-the-latest-movie-I-saw instead of answering the questions that were being asked. should we have given the children more time to decompress before launching into the class? I don’t know. They did well with the prayers, and showed reverence, courtesy and respect, so we expected the rest to go well. And to be honest, things didn’t go that badly—we just had to switch over to doing stretches in our squares and playing a game sooner than we would have liked, which meant less time for memorizing the quote. We did try our best to explain the quote in our own words, though. Oh well—we’ll have another chance next week. Sometimes up, sometimes down. The children were happy to see the finished poster from last time, and we posted it up on the wall of our hosts’ home, with the mother’s permission. We had a long drawing session too, giving out two things for them to work on: a copy of an imagination worksheet I found on Pinterest recently, and a copy of the drawing for this lesson.
“My love is my stronghold…”
We also discussed with them a painting project for next week’s class: to create a large banner to post up in our host’s home—again with the mother’s permission, and based on our lesson. After some consultation, we figured that the banner would likely feature the following: large letters reading “We love God” or something to that effect; a fortress; a moat; a bridge leading into the fortress; a queen in a carriage; lovely flowers; and sharks with lasers (???) We also plan to copy the quote from this lesson onto the banner, to explain the context (at least, I hope). Wish us lots of luck and confirmations!
October 17, 2012: It’s been about a month and a half that our neighbourhood children’s class has been focusing on prayer, as part of the lessons given in Grade 2 of the Ruhi Institute’s curriculum. This week we had a class of six children—three boys and three girls, ranging in age from five to nine—and one junior youth who just turned twelve. Of course, we’ve been working to establish a regular junior youth group in the neighbourhood to engage the many young people in that age group; it’s been slow going, but as we work at it and get to know the people in the neighbourhood and explore their networks, we strengthen the foundations of the group. We’ll have more news on it as that comes.
A word about the topic: I must say that thanks in no small part to the past few lessons, the quality of our prayer time is markedly different from previous classes I’ve had the pleasure to teach. I mentioned before that I really appreciate the way Ruhi Book 3, Grade 2 is laid out in sets, with the first set giving us three whole lessons on the topic of prayer at the very start of the curriculum, which we’ve split up into six whole weeks of reinforcement on the subtle art of praying. This week’s lesson deals with the mechanics of prayer, and we talked about what we do with all the parts of us when we pray: close our eyes, put our hands together or cross our arms, and clear our minds of the things of the world, so we can show humility and reverence in the presence of God. One idea we had was to create a poster with one of the drawings from Ruhi Book 3 that features children praying, and to use it to show the children what sort of posture we can take with our bodies when we pray.
A pretty prayerful poster.
The children had a better time with the quote for this lesson, since it’s a little shorter than some of the others in this set. This being Grade 2, the readings we study tend to be longer with more complicated words, which is fine for native speakers but a bit of a test for people (such as many of the children in our class) who are only just learning English. We’ve noticed some progress, though—at least one of the children has been with the class since Grade 1, and her capacity—and engagement with the class—have grown steadily since, to the point where we can consider her to be one of the key participants. The issue of language is still a sticking point for everyone, and it seems to be especially discouraging for the boys, who often end up distracted during the memorization section of the class, going off to sit on the couch and read picture books or play computer games, which is always a black hole that sucks the attention away from the rest of the class. How do we deal with it? By doing our best to make our activities, well, active. Our best memorization happens when we present it with a dynamic attitude, incorporating movement, music, rhythm—anything that brings it out of a purely verbal mode to a mixed mode of learning. An example would be the step game we came up with during one of our very first neighbourhood “outreach” classes. We’ve been trying out ways of using images and pictures to represent words, too—for example, in this lesson, the children took pictures representing certain complicated words and glued them in the order they appeared in the quote, and we used these to recite the quote without looking at the words. Lesson learned: It’s not easy to find a picture that represents the word “essence”. As well, we’ve started creating worksheets that the children can work on in class, for example, drawing lines between the pictures and the words they represent, as well as their definitions. The parents, who are also learning English in city language schools, jumped on the chance and filled out their sheets too. Is this what one might call potential for social action?
This video comes to us from the same children’s class teacher training in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), Vietnam that showed us the “Birds of a Feather” game.
The training session, aimed mainly at youth, covered children’s classes and JY groups—I was working with the children’s class teachers. We shared strategies and spent a lot of time learning how to present the different activities that make up the classes. This segment combined crafts and drama. Participants spent the morning creating the sockpuppets out of old socks, buttons, felt and yarn, and then studied the story of The Boy Who Cried Wolf, presenting it with the sockpuppets (that’s the second part of the video, starting at 1:20). Sockpuppets are easy to make, and they can be a fun way for children to get involved in telling stories. They get to create their own characters, and then bring them to life with their own hands! Plus, who doesn’t love to see a good puppet show?
The Boy Who Cried Wolf is a great story to act out in this way, too. We’ve even done it with stick puppets before (see january stories); you’ll probably see photos of that craft in a future post. Also, as mentioned before, there’s an excellent retelling in Book 2 of Bahá’í Education for Children, aka the Furútan curriculum, that would be perfect for use in a puppet show.
Thanks to George Wesley Dannels of Baha’i Views for picking up on this video before I even had the chance to post about it!