cooperation and reciprocity (take 4)

Today’s lesson: cooperation and reciprocity.

June 15, 2013: 5 children, 7–10 years old. For the past little while (starting this winter, in fact), our junior youth have been planning a service project: come to the children’s class and serve hot chocolate and cookies to their younger siblings and cousins. Everything finally worked out this week, and they were able to follow through. The children loved it, of course—who would turn down hot chocolate and cookies? It also gave us the opportunity to discuss the qualities we show when serving, and reinforced our lesson about the need for cooperation and reciprocity—when we all serve together, everyone benefits. Unfortunately, the junior youth were so busy with other activities (football matches, family visits, and so on) that they couldn’t stay for long, but it was nice that they were finally able to put their plans to serve into action. We learned a good lesson, too: when you make plans, whether in a children’s class or in a junior youth group, make sure that you act on them sooner rather than later, in order to avoid losing the enthusiasm to serve, which could lead to discouragement. (Not to mention the fact that we had expected to be serving hot chocolate in February, not June.)

father's day artTo finish off the class, we printed out colouring pages for Father’s Day, for the children to colour and give to their fathers. I got one, too, signed by all of them, since our own baby boy will be coming soon. (Quynh got a mother’s day card last month, too.) They’re all very excited to meet the baby; they spent a while during last week’s class thinking up and writing down names. Most of the names seem to come from boy bands and other celebrities, like Justin, Harry, Niall, Liam, Zack, Cody, and so on. Some were a little more unusual, like “Toutou” for example. This week, we challenged them to come up with some really unusual (even crazy) names, and they obliged, serving up gems such as Kratos, Tim Horton, Muscle, Goomba, Scorpion King, Benkie Barn, Crustino Ronundio, Spirit Bomb, Special Beam Cannon, Lightning Tsunami, President Of The United States, The Strongest Zeus In The World, and—probably my favourite—The Best In The World Is The Boy Who Love His Father. We shared some good laughs, and revelled in the children’s creativity. (I hope they won’t be disappointed if we choose more commonplace names!)

“for the love of my beauty”

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

November 14, 2012: The class went well, although we focused mainly on memorizing the prayer and quote rather than the story and other activities. Since several children were showing signs of wanting to let out pent-up energy as we approached the house, running, jumping and screaming, we spent a little time at the outset playing some circle games, such as our usual name game (say your name and associate it with an action) and Tap Hands. Then we continued with the Unity Prayer, asked them about their understanding of unity, and then continued on to learn the quote, identifying difficult words. We had started late and had already spent much of the beginning of class on games, so we skipped straight ahead to our art activity—blow painting, with another brief game as we stepped aside to prepare the paint. We prepared six cups with diluted acrylic paint—red, orange, yellow, green, blue and purple—along with a bunch of straws and coloured paper. We showed the children how to pick up the diluted paint with the straw—just cover the top of it with your finger—and asked them to drop bits of paint onto their paper, and then blow it around with the straw. The result was quite impressive!

blow painting

And fun to make!

The point of the exercise, of course, was to produce a backing for the prayer we had read—copies of which I had printed out before coming. Of course, some of the children put so much paint on their papers that they couldn’t stick the prayer on right afterwards, and had to wait a while before trying again. That just shows that we really need to practice these kinds of projects at home before bringing them to the class, so we have a good idea of how to do them properly. (I’m reminded of the time I tried to teach origami without having learned to do it myself beforehand.) All in all though, this was a fun class, but I’m worried that because we spent so much time on games this time, we might lack time to finish all the other activities next week. Watch this space, I guess?

the fortress of god’s love (take 2)

Today’s lesson: the fortress of god’s love.

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.

the fortress of god's love

initial drawing done

the fortress of god's love

and then we painted!

the fortress of god's love

the (almost) finished product

the fortress of god’s love (take 1)

Today’s lesson: the fortress of god’s love.

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

“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!

how do we pray?

Today’s lesson: how do we pray?

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.

four part poster

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?

chalk drawings about love

family

during a recent class, we asked the children what they think of when they hear the word love. one of our older children said “nobody loves me”. I rebutted, asking him “what about your Mom?”, which he acknowledged. “What about your Dad?”, which he again acknowledged. “What about the rest of your family?”, and again, he acknowledged that they loved him. Later, when we asked the children to draw something related to love, he chose to draw his family. In his drawing (pictured above), he’s stepping on his father’s foot, and apologizing. his mom and dad say they love him all the same. Oh, and his sister (right) has an iPad. We also drew the word “love” in big letters in front of the neighbours’ house (pictured below), just to let them know what we talked about that day.

sidewalk chalk is easy to come by, and makes a nice, fun activity for kids who feel the need to move around a lot. as well, it has the added benefit of leaving a visible trace for neighbours and passers-by to see what we’re doing; we even got into a conversation with two older ladies who asked us what we were doing. Nice!

Check out more of our chalk drawing photos.

love on the sidewalk