nine-pointed stars and snowflakes!

Imagine my surprise when, while looking for online resources for a recent lesson plan, I was totally unable to find any instructions on how to make nine-pointed stars and snowflakes out of folded and cut paper. I’m sure people have been making these 9-pointed versions for years—even decades—but when I looked online, everything I found had 6, 8, 12, even 5 points, but not 9!

Here, then, is something to fill that void. Quynh says she learned this method for folding nine-pointed stars from her father back in Vietnam, and it’s easily adaptable to making snowflakes, as you’ll see. The only part that I find really tricky is doing the 1/3 folds (steps 3-4, 6-7), because it’s a little imprecise and I often find I overshoot and have to redo it. It eventually works out, though, and makes beautiful, regular nine-pointed stars and snowflakes. Plenty of kids will probably never have seen these, so it’s a great, unique craft for any winter-themed class!

knowing god

Today’s lesson: knowing god.

January 26, 2013: We had a great, dynamic class. With just a few hiccups. When we arrived at our hosts’ home, we found one of the children was sick, so we poured some hot water for her and started with a healing prayer, after discussing some things she could do besides praying that would help her get better. After prayers, we reviewed the lesson and started on the story. The children loved the imagery of angels bringing raindrops to the ground; they come from a Christian background, and I guess they have a strong belief in angels. We reiterated the contradiction pointed out by the blacksmith, and we were about to ask the children what conclusions they could make about the illiterate blacksmith leaving a great scholar unable to address those contradictions, when our second hiccup arrived. The other half of our participants arrived late, due to a power outage (and a late meal) at home, so we stopped and greeted them. After starting over, we decided to keep the energy going with a few games, which we had planned anyway. We often play the detective game, so they loved playing it again; they also enjoyed charades, although some of them had trouble imagining how to express certain things with their bodies—how would you show a volcano, for example, or snow? Finally, we ended the day by making nine-pointed snowflakes with them.

snowflake modelling

such beautiful symmetry.

We actually had three teachers present, since I had to leave early for a meeting elsewhere in town. Quynh, who usually facilitates our neighbourhood junior youth group nowadays, helped out. I should also mention that the children who arrived halfway through actually came with their older sisters, who take part in the junior youth group; both of them joined in with the class and enjoyed it a lot. We’re planning to ask them to help teach the children’s class as an upcoming service project, so it was great to have them around. After the class, they even went with Quynh to talk to one of their friends—who’s come to the class before—about joining them in a new junior youth group. Apparently it went really well, and their friend is excited about joining the group! Awesome. Seeing this kind of coherence in action is so refreshing and feels like such a confirmation: both of our efforts, and of the course we’re following under the guidance of the Universal House of Justice. We’re really seeing a community being built before our eyes, slowly but surely.

lesson touch-ups

Putting finishing touches on the agenda for our class tonight. We’re usually busy on Friday evenings so Thursday evening is the time to prepare now that we’ve moved the class to Saturday morning.

Nowadays, we usually try to prepare more activities than we can fit in, so that in case one of them doesn’t go over well we have a plan B, and C (and sometimes D). Since we’re now repeating the same lesson for two weeks at a time, we’ve started splitting up the entire lesson (as given in the Ruhi books), doing half of the activities one week and the other half the next week. It seems to work better given the limited time we have for class, and gives the whole thing a less hurried pace.

That’s it for now. More soon!

post-holiday strategies

christmas stampsHello again and welcome to a new (Gregorian calendar) year! We’re back in action this week, planning a new season of classes for our neighbourhood children’s class, which has been evolving at a steady pace and providing us with plenty of learning opportunities. The month of December was a little hectic, as we tried a number of new things in response to the needs and requests of the children. In order to illustrate a lesson on obedience to God’s commandments (which is not yet online) we decided to present a few lessons on the oneness of religion, tying it in to Bahá’u’lláh’s command to “consort with the followers of all religions in a spirit of friendliness and fellowship.” We tied this in to the Christmas holiday by having the children decorate a oneness tree—in the shape of a Christmas tree but made of wool—with the symbols of many different religions.

What we’ve found was that the children—for many of whom English is a second or third language—have had a lot of trouble grasping the vocabulary we use in the lessons, which are sourced from Grade 2 of Ruhi Book 3. We spent some time trying to supplement the lessons with written vocabulary-building exercises (some of which are available already on the files page) but even so, we’ve continued to run into the same barriers. The quotes and prayers we use in Grade 2 just use too many difficult words; we’d need an extra class each week to go through the words with them to keep things going at our intended pace. Sometimes, of course, the children manage with a little effort. I’m reminded of this snippet of experience from our lesson on prayer as spiritual nourishment:

One of the children […] seemed disinterested in committing quotes to memory and reading prayers. But when one of her schoolmates joined the class and told her that she had put the prayer that we’re learning on her fridge so she could read it every day, it seemed to have an effect on her, as if she was surprised her friend was working on memorization at home. We had a talk with her right afterwards, and she confided that she often felt shy to memorize quotes and prayers because there were too many big, complicated words in them, and she had trouble remembering them all the way through. So we encouraged her to try little bits at a time, and assured her that a prayer is still a prayer even if you only read a few words. Since then, she’s been much more involved in memorizing, and has even offered to read prayers during class.

One of the strategies we’ve discussed is to start choosing shorter, more manageable quotes to reduce the difficulty of memorization. Hopefully, this should invite a greater sense of confidence when reading. Another strategy will be to compile a prayer book for the class with all of the prayers we’ve learned so far, so that when it’s time for prayers, the children can stick to the ones they know and not worry too much about trying to recall long words by heart. We obviously want them to learn prayers by heart, but we’ll work on that little by little as we work on consolidating their vocabulary.

Wow. My dad was an English major; I never thought I’d end up being the one teaching English.

Look out for our next lessons soon—this week’s class will be a review of the lessons on prayer, and then we’re going to move forward with the next set of lessons from Grade 2, on the theme of knowledge.