December 5, 2007: 1 hour, 3 children, average age 8. Outreach class. wow. pretty interesting class. discipline went well even though we had some normally feisty kids in the class – things have gone better since we introduced the painting activity, which has given our more tactile/kinesthetic learners a stronger reason to engage themselves in the class. after reading prayers and singing two songs (“Tell the Truth” and “Blessed is the Spot”), we memorized the quotation (“Truthfulness is the foundation of all human virtues”), which brought us into a discussion about what a “foundation” means. I think we got the idea across well enough—we introduced the idea of the foundation of a house, and how a house would fall over if it didn’t have a good enough foundation; we then compared our souls to those houses, and explained that without truthfulness, our “soul houses” (as it were) would have nothing to stand on, just like a real house. We then launched into the story—which I hammed up a great deal, but which again seemed to have gotten the point across—and, to end off the class, we had about five or ten minutes to paint with the kids. usually we have more time to paint, but I guess I hammed up the story a little too much!
One of the children told me something interesting that made me think; I’ll share with you an abridged version. She said she had gotten into the habit of lying about little things, for example, making a mess in the house—and then blaming said mess on one of her younger sisters out of the fear of punishment. When guilt finally overtook her later on, she would confess the truth to her parents, at which point she would be punished—perhaps worse than if she had told the truth in the first place. We encouraged her to see that as a good reason to tell the truth up front, but instead she cited the inevitable punishments as being “why I don’t tell the truth anymore”. yikes. How do you go about helping a child to learn to love telling the truth when they come out with something like that? (comments welcome…)
August 18, 2007: 1.5 hours, 8 children, average age 8. Our last regular children’s class before school starts again! We had five of our usual kids and three cousins, and the group dynamic was great—although there was a little too much between-cousins tousling for the spiritual atmosphere of the children’s class. After two weeks of daily outreach classes, though, I had gotten used to playing kindergarten cop, so it was manageable. Most of the children said prayers, after which we memorized “O God, guide me” for the sake of our new students (and to refresh the memory of the kids who hadn’t been around during the summer) and then sang the same prayer in Haitian Creole (since several of our children come from Haitian families). We used the “step game” to help memorize the quote, but we noticed a couple of problems with it: 1) the game doesn’t work so well when there are lots of children (say, eight or more) in a line; 2) the game doesn’t work so well when the children can’t read well. We may adapt it for use with this class, which typically takes place indoors rather than outdoors and has fewer high-energy children than the outreach class. One nice thing is that we involved the children in snack time more than usual; for example, one set out a plate of cookies and poured juice for the others, while another helped wash dishes afterwards, and others helped to put away the colouring materials before we went outside for the end of class. The child who washed dishes—usually a rather distracted child—even thanked us for letting him serve in that way. nice 🙂
August 9, 2007: ~1 hours, 4 children, average age 8. Outreach class. We basically took this class straight out of Ruhi Book 3 with very few modifications, and it went alright. The boys in our class, including one who seems to have something similar to ADHD, had some trouble staying still—and hence participating—so it wasn’t perfect. To accomodate, we introduced a new type of movement-based activity to help them have the patience to memorize quotes and prayers: the “step game“, in which children stand in a line and slowly advance one step at a time, each saying one word of a quote in sequence when they step ahead, continuing until they cross a finish line. We used bristol board to write out quotes and prayers in large print so that they can easily be seen from a distance; the kids love this game, and always want to take turns holding the bristol board for the others. We’ll be using this game a lot in future.
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.
October 14, 2006: ~2.5 hours, 7 children, ages ~6-10. A good class to start off our new year of classes. We had encouraging turnout: 5 of last year’s core group of children attended, plus two more. The class started out slowly as we waited for some of the children to arrive, so we played a number guessing game in the meantime. Maybe not the most original game, but the kids got into it. We started (late) with prayers; they were quite beautiful. About half the children were shy and didn’t want to say prayers; the others did. I noticed it was the usual ones who didn’t want to say prayers. Still struggling to find ways to open up the desire to pray in these kids. Afterwards, we started with one prayer (O God! Guide me…), discussed it and asked what the words meant. We worked on memorizing it, with several children leading in a repeat-after-me style. Once the memorization was done, we opened up with some get-to-know you games; we played a couple of versions of Jump-Up and Greet & Switch. One of the kids, as was his habit last year, became distracted during the games and began to disrupt the class. I think all of us lost some patience with him, which I personally regret. After the games, we took some time to work on our new prayer books – after that was all done, we had snacks and went outside to play more active games. All in all? As I said, not too bad, but we could have done better. We didn’t mention “Allah’u’abha” as a particular Baha’i greeting, which is an important oversight. I think we probably all got panicked because it had been a while since we had done the class, and we weren’t as prepared (spiritually? materially?) as we could have been. It was a nice little jolt starting the class again – stressful, but doable. I still feel very confident about this year’s class and know that, once we get back into the rhythm of the class, things should go just fine.
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?