game: birds of a feather

This video comes to us from a children’s class teacher training in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), Vietnam. Participants are practicing a non-competitive variation of the game Birds of a Feather (with various animals in place of birds). Very simply, the game proceeds like this: exchange slips of paper with animal names written on them at “go”. Read the paper at “stop”. Make your animal’s noise at “action” and try and flock together with others making the same noise.

The game’s original rules (given in the link above) describe a competitive version, in which the last team to “find their flock” is counted out, leaving winners and losers. We chose to eliminate this competitive element, to focus on the cooperative skills required in matching oneself up with one’s flock; instead of being counted out, we simply play the game as many times as we wish, with everyone participating. To keep the game interesting without resorting to competition, we can introduce different modes of play. For example, instead of using sounds, we can use nonverbal visual cues. Players might mime flapping wings for birds, or walking like a cat or a dog; or, conversely, they might mime taking care of one’s animal—calling to a bird on one’s finger, petting a cat or walking a dog, etc. Competition, which can lead the children to develop the undesirable habit of seeking conflict, is thus avoided by the application of creativity—finding different, innovative ways of keeping games interesting.

truthfulness (take 4)

Today’s lesson: truthfulness.

finishing touchesJuly 3, 2010: Trying it yet again! Outreach again this time. A group of us have been doing outreach in Chinatown and met some families all living in one apartment building who showed interest in a children’s class. After meeting a few times and sharing Anna’s presentation with the families (through a significant language barrier), we finally had a class of sorts, with 4-6 boys (I’d say about 5-8 years old). We played a lot more games than usual for us, and they loved it. in fact the class was mostly games, proportion-wise. all the same, we worked on memorizing “O God, guide me” and the quote on truthfulness. The prayers were amazing, as the older children stayed in quiet meditation for a full minute after the prayers were done–I’ve never seen that in all my time doing children’s classes. My co-teacher suggested it might have been due to their Buddhist background… in any case, it was astounding and MOST welcome, and we’ll encourage them to continue doing this for sure. They loved the story about the Boy Who Cried Wolf, and they seemed to grasp all the concepts well. overall, a great summer class after a very uneventful spring season.

service (take 4)

Today’s lesson: service.

After our team meeting this morning, we quickly drove over to the centre to find several of the parents already waiting for us inside with their children—a total of eight kids right off the bat. Some of the newer parents stayed at the side during the class. So many kids arriving early meant we had little time to prepare before the class; we may have to re-evaluate our preparation habits to compensate… we’d love to hear your experiences with preparing for children’s classes and any tips you may have to share.

We started with a few prayers; …. and I recited one, and one of the children did too. Since we had so many new faces present, we went around and introduced ourselves by giving our name, our age and what languages we spoke. Many of the children said they spoke mainly English and Tagalog, and I told them that we were counting on them to teach us how to speak Tagalog properly. Then we practiced the prayer we began learning last week, using the step method (adding a little at a time, and repeating). Next, we taught them the song “Look At Me” and sang it together; it’s an easy song that everyone seemed to pick up rapidly. After the song, we asked them if they remembered who ‘Abdu’l-Baha was, and used that to introduce the topic of service, which led into memorizing the quote and then into the story of ‘Abdu’l-Baha sending Lua Getsinger to visit the sick man. Everyone went quiet at the end, so I’m guessing it touched them.

After the story, we played the game noted in Book 3, “Help the Sick”, which involved locking wrists together and carrying each other across the floor to the “hospital”, which they all loved. I felt we were rushing through it a little, but at least we ended up with enough time to do the colouring at the end of class. We limited the number of colouring pens again, to test how well the children could share the colours, and they all seemed to do quite well. I took some time during the colouring to pass handouts to the parents, asking them to use them to study the material from the class (the song, quote, etc) with the children to help them remember.  We ended the class by getting back together and singing “Look At Me” one more time.

Overall, it was obvious that the home visits we’ve been doing with the parents have made a big difference; our interactions with them seem to be warm and loving (if still a little unfamiliar), and they already seem to be getting comfortable with us, and with taking their children to the class. It really seems to be a boon to us to be holding the class somewhere that’s already a hub of activity for them; they know exactly where it is and are comfortable with bringing their kids over. It truly does feel like a neighbourhood class.

Thanks to all of you for walking with us and serving with us. This truly is a captivating and exciting journey to be on.

cleanliness (take 2)

Today’s lesson: cleanliness.

November 22, 2008: 1.5 hours, 4 children, average ages 9 and 5. the lesson itself was very short today. we had a quick conversation about cleanliness, pointing out several different ways of keeping clean (showers, baths, wearing clean clothes, brushing teeth, washing hands, trimming nails, and so on), and then looked at one of the quotes above: “…Although bodily cleanliness is a physical thing, it hath, nevertheless, a powerful influence on the life of the spirit.” – ‘Abdu’l-Baha.  We set a 16×16 grid on the floor and used it to play a game sort of like hopscotch – words of the quote were placed in order throughout the grid and the children had to hop on each of the squares in order to complete the quote. After that, we continued with the masks we were working on last week.  I was going to encourage them to observe cleanliness during that activity, but we still got paint and glitter all over, because my mind was everywhere trying to keep everything else going.  You know, one kid needs help cutting while the next one wants more paint and the next one says he’s starving and wants a snack. And so on. Overall, a short lesson, the delivery wasn’t perfect, but at least we made some effort to examine a quote – which we’ve been lacking so far this year.

kindness to the poor (take 2)

Today’s lesson: kindness to the poor.

November 1, 2008: 1.5 hrs, 3 kids: 9, 9, 5.  Revived the poverty card game from previous years. it was a hit, just like last time. this time, was able to make them a bit nicer (backed the printouts with card stock); still, was a little hectic–didn’t have same amounts of each six “essentials”; took a while to figure it out for the game.  the kids didn’t mind though, because they just kept on playing it and loving it. made for quite a few good conversation points, and we discussed lots of the concepts behind the elimination of the extremes of wealth and poverty. had lots of help, especially considering the fewness of the kids who came. the rest must have been sick from eating all the halloween candy, dunno.  All in all, a good class, even though I overshot our time a little and ended up having no time to work on the craft I had planned (masks, for Unity in Diversity week that comes in two weeks).

don’t hurt people’s feelings

Today’s lesson: not hurting people’s feelings.

October 25, 2008: 9 kids(!), ages 6-9. 1.5 hrs.  Class was not too bad at all. we took the extra step this class of putting up a poster with the ground rules that we defined during last week’s class.  if nothing else, this helped the children remember the rules, and in the long term it should help the class become a little more manageable (“what’s rule #4?”)

we played a number of games today, and it worked out just as well, because I didn’t have the time to prepare the craft real well. a very bright spot was that the same parent who stayed for her children’s first class stayed again today, and indicated her desire to continue staying in the class throughout the year, in order to have some extra time with her children (being a single mother, she doesn’t have the chance to be with them all the time). having her in the class made it much more livable; otherwise, I would have been alone, and it would have been a lot more difficult to handle everyone.  the class built on the previous week’s theme of backbiting, and focused on gossip, using the “scattering feathers” story, which seemed to have an impact on the kids. (yay!) for some reason, toys seemed to start drifting into the classroom as the lesson continued; new rule required, perhaps? after we ended up with a squeaky ball on our hands (which I confiscated, along with a sort of LED taser/flashlight), we got in a circle and played a game of catch, where we had to say our name (to introduce the new children) and state a good quality (a virtue), without using the same ones more than once.  That worked well for a while, and then we switched to “telephone”, which we used to illustrate how someone’s words can be twisted during the process of gossiping.

by the time we finished the games, it was nearly time to finish, so since I didn’t have my other craft idea prepared on time (feather wreaths), we just busted out the stamps that were used for the greeting cards we made during the class on obedience to parents. the kids seemed to enjoy that; one of boys, however, figured he didn’t need to play with the stamps since he was there when we did it last time, so he busted out the legos instead. i didn’t notice this until it was too late, and soon all the other boys were following his lead.  whoops.  oh well, it happens.