Hello 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.