seeing a doctor when ill

Today’s lesson: seeing a doctor when ill.

Nov. 10, 2007: 1.5 hours, 7 children, average age 7-8. Great class! There is a lot to be said for team efforts. The class started with beautiful prayers—which the children love and vie with each other to say (!)—and continued with songs in which everyone joined in. We had four Haitian children (all related), so one of the songs we sang was “O God, Guide Me” in Haitian Creole, which is fun to sing and has a catchy rhythm. All the kids like singing it. Then we continued on with the lesson, which I had read a few times the night before—I still found I needed the sheet in front of me, though, and I still started to waffle on at some points (caught myself before losing the kids’ attention, though). The children had so much to say about visiting the doctor that we had to moderate the conversation a lot. It was really a topic they got into. So much so, in fact, that while we were working on the activity later on, they were so focused that you could hear a pin drop. Part of that, of course, should fall onto the skill of the teacher who animated that part of the class.

The activity itself worked out quite well; since they seemed to have a natural interest in the topic, it was perfectly natural for them to express their own experiences visiting the doctor’s office. We put together a sheet similar to the one provided in the Alaskan Materials for the Furutan lessons, with a quote at the top, an empty space to draw, and a few lines at the bottom to tell the story. We noticed a few things during the activity: the children shared limited materials together (pencils, markers, etc), which is important for them to develop collaboration skills, and, thanks to having three teachers on hand, we were able to give at least a little time to help each of them bring out their ideas and nurture their own creativity. We focused on getting some of the younger children to practice their handwriting skills, and allowed them to finish by colouring their drawings.

oneness of religion (take 2)

Today’s lesson: oneness of religion.

January 27, 2007: 2 hours, 7 children, average 7 years old. Well this was an interesting class. We wanted to try out the play contained in Baha’i Education for Children. I don’t know about you, but I’m no drama teacher. I suppose it would have been useful to read through Book 3A (aka the old Book 5, “Baha’i Children’s Classes, Grade 2”) before attempting this activity. Where Book 3 relies mainly on games for physical activity, Book 3A includes a lot more drama, acting and role-playing. If I was more of a manual-reading person (rather than the jumping-in type I am) we would have saved a lot of bother this time around. The play is meant to be learned and memorized over a longer period of time (to its credit, there are warnings to this effect at the top of the script); still, we figured we’d start reading and see how things would go. Most of the kids found the text difficult to read, let alone to memorize. For some—especially the younger ones who were only just learning to read—nothing sank in at all. Oops. So after a short period of confusion, we quickly changed tactics and began simplifying the script; a teacher would call out the main points of each child’s speech and have them repeat them out loud. Once the emphasis was off reading, things went a lot smoother.

The result? Well, we haven’t given up on the play yet. We’ll continue working with a simplified script (one of the teachers will be revising it so that it can be more easily understood by the children), and continue rehearsing until we get it. It’s funny—I don’t know who’s doing more learning, the children or the teachers. I certainly feel like I’m getting a crash course in children’s education every time I come to the class.

kindness to animals (take 1)

Today’s lesson: kindness to animals.

June 3, 2006: 2 hours, 5 children, average age 6-7. Apparently, the class went quite well – I was out of town for the weekend, so I wasn’t there to take part. We had two versions of the story available to read (our class operates in French, so we had to find translations). The versions we found used language that was a bit difficult for the children to understand, so the story was read once more in paraphrase to make sure everybody got it.

Once the story was done, we made time for drama – we started by miming animals and having the rest of the kids guess what animal was being mimed. Afterwards, the children broke into groups and performed the skits as described above. It seems like they did well with these – I was afraid that there might have been problems with the kids being too rough, but that doesn’t seem to have been an issue. Once the skits were done, it was colouring time – we had prepared two drawings, one of a lion and one of a mouse, to go along with the story. Everyone in our class seems to love drawing and colouring time. They love getting their hands on the pens and colouring in different images.

There seemed to have been two main problems during this class: first was that the materials we prepared didn’t last long enough, leaving us with jumping and screaming kids rampaging around inside at the end of the class (it was raining, so we couldn’t take them outside); second was the uncooperative attitude that some of the younger members of the class displayed. The first is relatively easy to take care of – we just have to be able to come up with more activities to have on hand during the class (potentially crafts, which are popular because of the hands-on aspect). The second isn’t so easy to resolve and has been a challenge with our class from the get-go. To be honest, it’s difficult to conduct a class for a wide age range (our oldest member is going on 11 (almost a junior youth!), and our youngest member is still 4 years old). Perhaps we need to split into several groups at some point in our class, so that each group can take part in age-appropriate activities that may better stimulate them and allow them to develop the capacities they’re struggling to develop. But what’s the difference? That’s what I’m wondering. I’ve become comfortable dealing with the older children (say, 7 to 10), but I admit that I still have a lot to learn about dealing with the younger children (4 to 6) in ways that really support their development. Any comments from readers?

avoiding gossip and backbiting (take 1)

Today’s lesson: avoiding gossip and backbiting.

May 26, 2006: ~2 hours, 2 children, ages 6 and 10. Due to amazing weather conditions, most of the class was held outside, with a healthy dose of walking around. We started off by reciting prayers together (along with a few other adults), after which we continued memorizing Blessed is the Spot with the kids, accompanied by gestures to help with memorization. We had a good walk down to a nearby park in search of feathers, to help tie in with the ‘Feathers in the wind’ story. We didn’t find any – just some young leaves – so we headed back home for a break and continued along with the story. The children seemed to understand the story quite well; we asked a few questions to help some of the main concepts sink in. Afterwards, we went back outside and did about fifteen minutes of skits showing how to avoid gossip and backbiting. Afterwards, we took another walk outside to play some soccer (and tag, and marco polo).

We tried a few new things this week. One was to invite some of the adults into the opening prayers and readings. Another was to provide prayer books so that children who wanted to could read new prayers from books if they wanted to – we usually read the prayers we’ve already memorized or recite them from memory. We also put more of an emphasis on practice this time around, in the form of the skits. Much like participants in the local institute process are devoting more time to the practice included in the Ruhi curriculum, we took a little inspiration from Counsellor Scott’s talk and tried teaching some concrete skills instead of just learning what we “should” be and “should” do. I think it made a difference in the children’s understanding of how to avoid gossip. We’ll bring it up again next week and see what the reactions are. In any case, I think we’ll be using this skill-building angle more often – it seems to be much more in keeping with the spirit of the Baha’i teachings. Thoughts?