pure, kindly, and radiant hearts (take 4)

Today’s lesson: pure, kindly and radiant hearts.

December 30, 2018: 5 children, aged 5–8. We got together for a reprise of our lesson on having a pure, kindly, and radiant heart. We decided to revisit the same topic several weeks in a row, as we’ve done in the past; for the moment, we’re aiming for three weeks on each topic, and we’ll see how well that’s received. One child who attended the last session was missing this week, but we had two new children show up, bringing us to five.

The lesson plan for this week was roughly the same as last week’s, but with a few changes and additions. First, we started the class with colouring, rather than just colouring at the end; we coloured little pictures that we used in memorizing the quote, in the same way as we used pictures to make a rebus last time. Instead of erasing the words and drawing pictures on the board, though, we placed each coloured picture on top of the words that they replaced.

Next, although we used the same coffee-cup activity as last time—dropping a little bit of coffee into a cup to represent unkind actions and washing it out with water to represent kind actions—we refined it a little. Instead of pouring the coffee from one cup to the other willy-nilly, we used an eyedropper to add the coffee little by little. That way, we had the children consider the effects of just one unkind act—right away, they could see that the water in the cup was impure, and that it took them a lot of water (i.e., a lot of acts of kindness) to restore the cup to its original purity.

This week, we played a game where we had to pass a ball around without our hands, using a piece of paper instead. It was a little challenging at first, but once the children figured out how to hold the paper properly in order to hold the ball, it was a lot easier. Interestingly, we found that the game “The Burning Thirst” wasn’t really working out for us. I suspect it’s because we weren’t playing it as intended, but to be honest, I don’t know if we’ve ever played it as intended. To the children’s class teachers reading this: What’s your experience been like? Have the kids in your class enjoyed “The Burning Thirst” as a fun game? How do you approach it? Do you play it outside or inside? If inside, how do you prepare the space? Do the kids end up playing and getting wet, or are they too worried about making a mess to really enjoy it?

Anyway, we ended off the class with the colouring page for this lesson from Ruhi Book 3. To tie it in with the lesson, we explained that perhaps one of the girls in the picture had done something unkind, and, realizing what she had done, decided that she should apologize by doing something kind to make up for it. So, she gathered up a bunch of colourful flowers and gave them to her friends. And speaking of stories, I almost forgot—we told the story of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá from the lesson this week, too, where ‘Abdu’l-Bahá filled up the lady’s cup with pure water. (The children were pretty impressed.)

So, apart from “The Burning Thirst”, the lesson was well-received again this week, and our newcomers seemed really happy to attend. I’m not sure if we’ll have more kids again next week, but we have other things in the words that will lead to more families getting involved in activities. More on that later!

pure, kindly, and radiant hearts (take 3)

Today’s lesson: pure, kindly and radiant hearts.

December 16, 2018: 4 children, aged 5–10. It’s been a while since our last update! I’ll post a little something to tell the story of what we’ve been up to lately, but first, a class report about the first gathering of our new children’s class, using Grade 1 of the Ruhi Book 3 curriculum.

We started the class with a mix of four children: Two five-year-olds, one nine-year-old and one ten-year-old. One of the five-year-olds is from a Bahá’í family, and the rest are his friends, who we invited after speaking to their parents to explain the nature of the class. At the beginning of class, we took a few moments to explain about the expected atmosphere, and asked the children to think of some rules for us to observe during the class. We settled on the following five rules, which we felt made for a good start:

  • Listen to the teacher
  • Keep ourselves and the classroom clean
  • Sit quietly and reverently during prayers
  • No chatting/side conversations during class
  • One person speaks at a time

Next, we said a few words about prayer. We explained that when praying, we were conversing with God. We might pray for someone to get better when they’re sick, we explained, or we might pray for good results on our schoolwork, or for any number of things. The children were familiar with certain forms of prayer—all of them had visited a pagoda before, or worshipped at the family altars that are so ubiquitous in Vietnam—so it wasn’t a big stretch for them to understand. Following that, we invited the children to say prayers. The child from the Bahá’í family said a Bahá’í prayer he had learned, and one of the others said a Buddhist prayer she had learned. Afterwards, we started memorizing the prayer, “O God! Guide me…”. After writing it on the board, we recited it word by word. Then, we began erasing some of the words and replacing them with pictures, making a sort of rebus.

Once we were done going through the prayer, we wrote the quotation down on the board, looking at the words “pure”, “kindly”, “radiant”, and “heart”, and explaining what they mean together. To illustrate, we launched into an experiment: Taking some thick, black Vietnamese coffee, a cup, a pitcher of water, and a wash basin, we showed what happens when we act unkindly by pouring the coffee into the cup: We get a dark, gloomy, and radiant heart. To improve the situation, we added water, representing acts of kindness. The more water (kindness) we poured in, the clearer the contents of the cup became, until finally, we had a clear and radiant cup (heart) once more. Each of the children had a turn pouring water into the cup until all of the coffee was gone (overflowing into the wash basin).

We finished the class with some time to draw, asking each of the children to draw something that they read about in the prayer or the quotation. For example, one drew a brilliant star; another drew an umbrella (for “protect me”, as in, protect me from the rain)… We also wanted to play the game “The Burning Thirst”, but we ran out of time, and so we played it after some of the kids had started to leave.

All in all, it was a great class. The children loved it, and some of the parents told us that the message had an impact—they caught their kids saying “don’t do that, you don’t want to have a dark and gloomy heart!” After this positive start, we’re thinking that we should be able to invite more kids for the next round, perhaps even doubling the size of the class. Stay tuned!

“for the love of my beauty” (take 2)

Today’s lesson: “for the love of my beauty”.

February 21, 2016: 1.5 hours, 4 children, ages 7–9. After a few weeks’ absence, I was finally able to make it back to class 😛 Everyone seemed a little tired and out of it this week. Not surprising, since this is cold and flu season. At least one of the children was off sick, and another one attended despite feeling under the weather. Things started pretty well, but you could tell it was rough going. We had a pretty awesome drama segment planned, but when the time came around to get in our squares we got some pretty miserable expressions on people’s faces. So we opted for mercy and skipped it, going straight to drawing and colouring. The children enjoyed the story about ?ájí Mu?ammad going to Arabia—it’s a great story that gets the message across quite well (we obey God’s commandments because of our love for Him). It’s too bad we weren’t able to act it out, though, since this story is perfect for that.

We also had a visit from some local youth—two sisters—who agreed to organize the Ayyám-i-Há party that we scheduled for next week. They had already visited our neighbourhood junior youth group and asked them what kinds of things they’d like to do for the party, and today they came to see whether the children had any more ideas. Apparently it’s going to be pretty amazing, with a wide variety of activities. I was really happy to see how well these youth have things in hand, and how they’re interacting with the children and junior youth. It gives me a lot of hope for this neighbourhood. We haven’t had too much experience with reaching out to the wider community yet, but at the very least, we seem to have a core of collaborators that are helping to carry forward community-building activities.

prayer, a loving conversation with god (take 5)

Today’s lesson: prayer, a loving conversation with god.

January 31, 2016: 1.5 hours, 5 children, ages 6–9. Over the past month, we’ve worked out a new rhythm for our class that seems to be working out well so far: Three weeks of regular lessons, and then one week devoted to review and a cultural presentation. Today was our first review class according to this new rhythm, and it went about as well as we could have expected.

We began with prayers, and then went straight into some classic call-and-response memorization—i.e. “Repeat after me”. Each of the children had a chance to lead. The younger children definitely have more trouble with the longer quotes, which is a challenge for all involved. (I know we’ve talked about the problems with age gaps many times before, and really, the best way to address them is to have several classes for different age groups—we’re working on it.)

Next, we asked the children to line up along the wall, and laid out pictures in a line in front of them. We wouldn’t explain what the pictures meant at first, we told them, but they would have to figure out how to arrange the pictures in the right order. This was a challenge for them, but they rose to it, figuring out that each of the pictures represented part of the prayer and quote (e.g. a young plant, rain clouds…). With a good number of hints, they eventually put them all in the right order, and were even able to “read” the prayer and quote by following the pictures.

Once they were done, we invited them to choose their favourite drawing and colour it. We were considering giving the older children a different activity involving drawing a scene based on the prayer (the Garden of Love), but they seemed very happy with colouring, so we let them go ahead with that instead. Once they had had enough time for colouring, we had them play a game like “telephone” in which they each made a face to the next child around the table, conveying an emotion. The last child then had to guess the emotion that was being portrayed.

Finally, we had a little time for a cultural presentation about Cambodia, complete with a slideshow and little banana-nut candies as a snack. (No one had nut allergies, thankfully.) The children enjoyed learning about Cambodian culture and history, and marvelled at the Khmer language—we learned how to say “Hello” (chum reap suor), “Thank you very much” (arkoun cheraown), and a few more handy phrases. Overall, this new format seems to work well: One class at the end of each month devoted to reviewing previous lessons, with a cultural presentation at the end. Hopefully it’ll help us to stay focused on moving through the curriculum, while also allowing us to enrich our study by regularly exploring the world’s many diverse cultures.

prayer, spiritual nourishment (take 2)

Today’s lesson: prayer, spiritual nourishment.

January 24, 2016: 1.5 hours, 5 children, ages 6–9 years. Started a new lesson today, based on the second lesson in Set 1, Grade 2 of the Ruhi Book 3 curriculum. As we’ve done in the past, we focused on just a few of the activities this week (song, story, and a craft), leaving the rest for the next week. I should note that our team is steadily growing; along with two main teachers, we now have two parents who assist with the class in various ways. Others have expressed interest in helping, too, which is great news. Because of this, we’re spending more time learning how to coordinate with each other as a team. For now, I’m planning the lessons (since I’m more familiar with Grade 2), making sure to divide up the different parts of the lesson such that each helper has something to contribute. When we start doing Grades 1 and 2 simultaneously, we’ll have two sets of teachers doing this concurrently. Hopefully we can build enough capacity right now so that everyone feels comfortable when the time comes to split the classes.

We started off with prayers, after which we set to work presenting the new lesson. I feel like I always talk too much when I do this on my own, so I asked my co-teacher to help with this. She prepared a nice slideshow with pictures to help the children visualize each part of the quote. We continued with the story of Lua Getsinger forgetting to say her prayers in the morning (and getting scolded for it by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá); one of our assistants took care of this part. The children seemed to get the main lesson of the story, which is that prayer is just a form of food for our souls—and, of course, that ‘Abdu’l-Bahá recommended we take our spiritual food before taking material food.

corksWe ended off the class with something we billed as a science experiment with spiritual overtones. (“We’re doing science in Bahá’í classes!?”) To illustrate the idea of being “attracted” to the Kingdom of God, we made our own miniature compasses, by magnetizing needles and sticking them through little roundels of styrofoam and/or cork. The children could easily see that once the needles were magnetized, pushed through the cork and floated in a tub of water, they pointed more or less towards magnetic north. Moreover, when we brought a magnet close to the tub, the needles floated towards the magnet. We dropped several needles into the tub and dragged the magnet around its sides, making the needles follow along like a school of hungry fish. This way, we were able to explain “attraction” in terms of a force that helps us to turn towards something and move towards it—just like prayer helps us to turn towards God and move towards Him.

prayer, a loving conversation with god (take 4)

Today’s lesson: prayer, a loving conversation with god.

January 17, 2016: 1.5 hours, 6 children, ages 6–9. Our second week of teaching this lesson. My regular co-teacher wasn’t there this week, but the rest of our team (including parents of some of the children) redistributed the work among us. It went fairly well, with a few hiccups: First, most of the material was the same as last week, so the older children got visibly bored and were less engaged; second, we ended up having too much material to cover, and we went overtime—which wouldn’t normally be such a big problem, but apparently other groups have our venue booked after we leave now, so we have to finish on time.

The first was entirely my fault—I should have planned different activities each week to keep the lessons fresh and engaging. The second would have been easily avoidable by simply dropping one of the activities once we saw that we were going overtime, although I also think we weren’t all on the same page regarding the booking constraints. Lesson learned: Even if your main job is planning lessons and teaching the class, make sure you communicate with the other members of your team and stay informed about logistical issues.

Other than that, there wasn’t too much to say about this class, since it was about the same as last week. We had more children attending, which made for a nicer atmosphere. I really love how eager they all are to memorize quotes. Not everyone is at the same level due to the age difference, but that’s unavoidable—unless you make a class for each grade. God willing we’ll be able to achieve this soon!