justice (take 6)

Today’s lesson: justice.

January 20, 2019: 2 hours, 8 children, ages 4–9. Our second lesson on justice, and our busiest and fullest class yet! For the past few weeks we’ve had new children joining, but only 5 of them or so would be able to come each week. This week was the first time we had all of the kids show up, along with one more newcomer, bringing us up to eight children attending.

This week, we basically revisited the same activities as last time, with a few additions. We repeated the activity with the scales from last time, although this time we expanded our explanation a bit: To show justice, a shopkeeper will only charge customers for the true value of the goods they’re buying—no more. And of course, the shopkeeper must have accurate scales to know exactly how much the customer is buying. So this time around, the children had to be careful to get the scales exactly equal to each other—or as close to equal as possible. It was challenging, but they seemed to enjoy it.

Children sorting a number of cards with pictures on them.

We had a lot of players for the giving game, so we got to stress-test the game, as it were. It was fun and got the message across, but we noticed that it needed a lot of explanation for them to understand how to play. And to be honest, that’s happened each time that we’ve played this game. It ends up being fun, but we end up stopping play to explain what to do next. I guess we need to learn how best to explain the game, and then write everything down so that it’s clearer. That, or we need to start each game with a practice round, so that the children have a better idea of how to play with each other. Or maybe this game is just above the level of your average five-year-old, and we should reserve it for higher grades—say, Grade 2?

We also played the shark game, which everyone loved; when the paper got so small that only one child could stand on it at a time, the bigger children picked up and carried the smaller ones, which got big laughs from everyone. I feel like this is the flip side of our perennial complaints about age gaps: When you have older children in the class with the younger ones, they get to interact together in ways that you wouldn’t have happening if the class was all young kids, and that’s kind of precious. But perhaps it shows that an ideal situation would be to have multiple grades attending classes at the same time, with breaks between lessons offering all the children the chance to play and socialize together. Sounds like the building blocks of a Bahá’í school, right?

Speaking of school, the larger class size this time around meant that the issues with class discipline that we encountered last week showed up even more, and we had a harder time keeping everything under control. I guess that should be a reminder to us: Don’t forget to review the rules, especially when you have new children joining the class. (It didn’t help that we had the rules on the whiteboard and they got erased by overzealous artists, of course.) Along with having more children attending, there was another wrinkle that upset the balance of the class: Two of the children don’t get along with each other, and keep on getting each other’s nerves, which leads to more outbursts during class. Oh well… more gems to tease out from the mine of their souls, I suppose.

justice (take 5)

Today’s lesson: justice.

January 13, 2019: 2 hours, 5 children, ages 5–8. We started on our first lesson on justice this week, after a few weeks of focusing on having a pure, kindly, and radiant heart. As I mentioned before, we’ve decided to revisit each lesson in Book 3, Grade 1 a few times, so that we have enough time for the lessons to sink in. I’m writing this report well after the fact, so it’s a little shorter than usual.

When we planned this lesson, we couldn’t decide on which aspect of justice to focus on, so it was a little bit scattered. We ended up covering two different aspects: Justice as knowing what something is truly worth (i.e. justly appraising something); and justice as making sure everyone has what they need (i.e. social/economic justice). For the first, we prepared an activity with makeshift scales we built with leftover styrofoam from packages of food; and for the second, we prepared cards to play the giving game during the follow-up lesson. Both of them were well-received, although we saw that the children didn’t seem to understand the activity with the scales so well. The idea was to weigh seashells from the beach against grains of rice, to show that even though one grain of rice is very light, they become very heavy when you have a lot of them—even as heavy as a bunch of seashells. It was a good activity, but maybe it was too much for us to try and focus on two different aspects of the theme?

One big thing that we noticed this time: After three lessons so far, the children were becoming much more comfortable with the atmosphere in the class—perhaps a little too comfortable. I’ve found that this is usually about the time that the children start to test the teacher’s limits, to see what they can get away with in the class. You know, fooling around while the teacher is speaking, or laughing during prayers, poking each other, and so on. As a result, we had to do more intervention than before in order to maintain discipline in the class.

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!

covenant relay

2015 Millrose Games - Armory - Women's Club Distance Medley RelayA relay race is a good way to help children understand how the Covenant operates, as it illustrates the idea of successorship—one person comes after another. If the classroom is too small for children to run around, this activity can take place outdoors or in a gymnasium.

Explain to the children that they will be carrying the torch of the Covenant in order to carry forward the religion of God, from its beginning to the present day. The “torch” can be a baton or stick, or a creatively decorated Olympic-style torch that has been prepared beforehand.

Arrange all the children in the class along a path that begins at one end of the classroom and ends at the other. If many children are present, the path can curve around or go back and forth across the room; each child should be able to run for at least four to five seconds. The race will proceed from one end of the path to the other, with each child passing the torch to the next child in line, similar to a relay race. If the torch is dropped, the child who dropped it must pick it up and take it to the next person in line. The goal is to bring the torch all the way along the path in as little time possible, without straying from the path or dropping the torch.

variations

  • If anyone drops the torch, the race starts over from the beginning. This variation is best used when there is ample time and a relatively small number of participants.

Photo: 2015 Millrose Games – Armory – Women’s Club Distance Medley Relay, by Steven Pisano (CC BY).

generosity (take 2)

Today’s lesson: generosity.

December 13, 2015: 1.5 hours, 3 children, ages 6–9. Good follow-up to last week’s class. With the work on the prayer books out of the way this week, we were able to focus more closely on the lesson. After welcoming the children, we started in the usual way with prayers. They weren’t so eager to recite prayers by heart today, so we invited them read the prayer they were working on from the whiteboard. Once they were done, we worked on memorizing it. The children seemed to be having some trouble memorizing the words alone, so we had them come up with actions to go along with the words. They seemed a lot more enthusiastic once we started doing that. I often forget how powerful gestures can be as a memorization tool, since I tend to memorize things just by repeating them! In this case, it really seemed to help the children to get into the prayer and enjoy learning it by heart.

After singing the song, we moved on to learning the quote from the lesson: “To give and be generous are attributes of mine…” We had them memorize the quote using a quote jumble, as before, by hiding the words from the quote around the room and having the children collect them all and put them together in order. It’s a pretty popular activity, and they always seem to enjoy it. This week, though, the youngest child in the group wasn’t too happy that the older kids seemed to keep picking up all the hidden words before he had the chance to find any. We ended up letting him look for the remaining two or three words on his own as the older children worked on putting the rest of the words in the right order, and that seemed to satisfy everyone. It reminded me of the age gap that exists in our class, though, and of the need for us to eventually split the class into multiple grades. We’ve already talked about doing some outreach in the neighbourhood around the class in the new year; hopefully we can make some good connections with local families, bringing in new children and junior youth—and maybe another willing teacher to help out, as well?

After we were done with the quote, we sat down again to listen to the story of ‘Abdu’l-Baha visiting the shepherds, and his generosity in giving them the sheep they were guarding. Thankfully, this story is one we study carefully when we get trained up with Ruhi Book 3, so I was familiar enough with it to tell it from memory, a little differently than usual in case the older children remembered it. (I’ve had some practice making up bedtime stories for my two-year-old son lately, so it went pretty smoothly.)

cards-afterAt the end of the story, we segued neatly into the game, a card game we call Giving, which is all about sharing what we have with others who are in need. First, we got the children to think about some of the things they need the most in life. From there, we introduced the seven different “needs” highlighted in the game: clean food and water, clean clothes, safety and shelter, friends and family, education, work or occupation, and spirituality. We explained the game in relation to “Go Fish”, where players ask for cards that they need; here, players can give a card they have several of in order to receive a card they need. In the end, everyone ends up with one of each card. And we all win!

They children really seemed to love the game, so I think we can say it was a success. We would’ve played a few more times, too, but we moved on to our country presentation afterwards, all about Australia. We heard all about kangaroos and koalas, and we sampled Milo and Vegemite. Yes, Vegemite. The verdict on that one? Only three of us—me, my wife, and one of the children—were able to stomach it. I went home with the jar.

red light, green light

A couple of red traffic lights against a blue skyRed Light, Green Light is a popular children’s game played in different ways around the world. Here’s the way we play it.

All players line up along one end of the playing field, and one person is chosen to be “it”. That person goes to the opposite end of the playing field, and faces away from the other players. The game begins when “it” calls out “Green light!” The players then run as fast as they can towards “it.” At any time, “it” can face the players, calling out “Red light,” and the others must freeze in place. If anyone fails to stop, they must return to the starting line. The first player to reach the person who is “it” wins and becomes “it” for the next round.

Variations

  • Call out different colours that correspond to different actions. For example, “it” may call out “Yellow light!” to make all the other players walk instead of running, “Purple light!” to make them hop on one foot, and so on.
  • Team-building version: If anyone moves when “it” calls out “Red light”, all players return to the starting line, not just the one who moved.

Photo: A couple of red traffic lights against a blue sky, by Horla Varlan (CC BY)