Teaching Techniques of Prophet Muhammad (sa) – A Workshop for Parents & Educators

Teaching Techniques 2

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Implementing Sunnah in Today’s Classrooms – Part 3

13) Teach what is easily acceptable

Ali ibn Abi Talib (rtam) said: “Narrate to the people what they are acquainted with. Would you like Allah (swt) and His Messenger (sa) to be rejected?” (Bukhari)

Educators should remember that if they overload the students, this might result in a complete breakdown. If a student collapses intellectually once, it takes a mountain of effort to bring him/her back on track.

In terms of teaching Islamic obligations, one step at a time should be taken, in order to make the new entrant in this field comfortable. For example, let younger children begin their Salah with Fard only. Later, when they get into the routine, ask them to attempt a few Sunnah units as well. This way, they will not feel over-burdened. Sports’ coaches face similar situations. For instance, weights are increased progressively to make the athlete accept the challenge easily.

14) First the easy and then the difficult

When the Prophet (sa) sent Muadh ibn Jabal (rtam) to Yemen, he said to him: “You are going to the people of the Scripture. Let the first thing to which you will invite them be the Tauhid of Allah (swt). If they learn that, tell them that Allah (swt) has enjoined on them five prayers to be offered in one day and one night. If they pray, tell them that Allah (swt) has enjoined on them Zakah of their properties and it is to be taken from the rich among them and given to the poor. If they agree to that, then take from them the Zakah but avoid the best property of the people.” (Bukhari)

Thus, Allah’s Messenger (sa) taught Muadh (rtam) the order, in which to teach the people of Yemen, so that they would not suddenly feel overburdened with the injunctions. This step-by-step approach must be adopted in today’s classrooms, so that the students easily grasp concepts, as they grow intellectually.

15) Make matters easy for the students

Allah’s Messenger (sa) said: “Allah has not sent me as a person, who causes difficulty to others. Rather, He sent me as a teacher, who gives glad tidings.” (Muslim)

According to Allah’s Messenger (sa), the primary function of the teacher is to make matters easy for students to understand, that is, simplify and dilute the lessons for their wards. The level of lesson must be brought down to match the mental abilities of the students. A teacher can impress his or her students with fancy words, but if he or she fails to make them comprehend the lesson, then the purpose is lost. Educators should ensure their students understand the lesson.

16) Break down into easier goals

Abdullah ibn Masud (rtam) said: “When any of us (companions) learnt ten verses, he would not go any further, until he had learnt their meaning and how to put it into practice.” (Kashf al-Qina) This is the perfect example of Allah’s Messenger’s (sa) teaching methodology. Breaking down a larger task into smaller units can help students achieve the easier goals. These can finally culminate to become important milestones for the students.

17) Interactive teaching

Abdullah bin Amr (rtam) said he heard Allah’s Messenger (sa) asking his companions: “Do you know who is a Muslim?” They replied: “Allah and His Messenger know best.” Allah’s Messenger (sa) said: “A Muslim is he from whose tongue and hands other Muslims are safe.” (Ahmad)

Interactive teaching is one of the most prominent characteristics of the Messenger’s (sa) teaching methodology. By asking questions, he stimulated the intellect of the students, and they then became more eager to absorb the knowledge. This method is especially beneficial, when a lesson becomes somewhat dull, and a question (on any related subject) becomes a wake-up call for those present.

18) Teaching by demonstration

A person came to Allah’s Messenger (sa) and said: “O Allah’s Messenger! How should I perform ablution?” Allah’s Messenger (sa) asked for water in a container and demonstrated the complete act of ablution for him. (Abu Dawood) When teaching, the best way to make students remember and understand is to show them by performing the act yourself.

19) Similes and examples

Allah’s Messenger (sa) said: “The example of a good companion and a bad companion is like that of the seller of musk and the one, who blows the blacksmith’s bellows. As for the seller of musk, then either he will grant you some, you will buy some from him or at least you will enjoy a pleasant smell from him. As for the one, who blows the blacksmith’s bellows, then either he will burn your clothes or you will get an offensive smell from him.” (Bukhari and Muslim)

Here, Allah’s Messenger (sa) has used a simile to explain the difference between good and bad company. Likewise, he would frequently use parables and similes to make the students understand the points he wanted to make. An important lesson here is that the teacher should not just issue orders; he or she should explain the wisdom behind them as well.

20) Storytelling

One of the favourite methods of Allah’s Messenger (sa) was true storytelling. The Quran, the Ahadeeth and other Islamic books are full of historical events and inspiring narratives, which can be used to impart knowledge and values to the students. Regardless of which subject you teach, you can always narrate an interesting anecdote, when the class becomes boring during a long discourse.

21) Use body language

Allah’s Messenger (sa) said: “Should I not inform you about the most serious of major sins?” He said this thrice. At that time, he was leaning against something. Then he sat up and said: “Behold! A false statement and a false testimony! Behold! A false statement and a false testimony!” (Muslim)

The repetitive style of the Messenger (sa) is used here to emphasize the importance of the subject coming up. Note that to utter the last statement, he sat up. A teacher’s body language is very important to his delivery. A sudden change in posture can make the students more attentive in class.

22) Illustrate with hand gestures

Allah’s Messenger (sa) said: “A believer to another believer is like a wall – one part strengthens the other.” Allah’s Messenger (sa) then interlocked his fingers. (Bukhari) In the absence of audio-visual aids, even a simple act of using one’s hand or body can help students understand an important topic.

23) Exhibit items

Allah’s Messenger (sa) took a piece of silk in his left hand and some gold in his right hand. He raised them with his hands and said: “These two items are prohibited to the males of my Ummah.”

Announcing the prohibition might have been enough, but the Messenger (sa) deliberately chose to exhibit samples of the items being discussed. This emphasizes the importance of visual images in teaching. Educators using these on a regular basis will experience a higher level of learning from their students, Insha’Allah!

24) Let students take notes

Abdullah ibn Amr ibn al-Aas (rtam) said: “I used to write down everything, which I used to hear from Allah’s Messenger (sa).” (Abu Dawood) Bear in mind that some students are slow in writing. Be patient with them, so that they may record your knowledge.

25) Encourage students to ask questions

The Quran instructs: “…So ask of those who know the scripture [learned men of the Taurat (Torah) and the Injeel (Gospel)], if you know not.” (An-Nahl 16:43) A teacher must be willing to answer his students’ queries. Allah’s Messenger (sa) encouraged the people to put forward their enquiries. He said: “The cure for ignorance is questioning.” (Ad-Daraqutni)

When dealing with queries, answer calmly and maintain your composure. Use logic and rationale when responding to questions. Your attitude should encourage students to ask for further explanation, if needed.

Adapted (with permission) from “How the Messenger of Allah (sa) Taught his Students” written by Maulvi Jahangir Mahmud (jahangir@ser.com.pk).

Published and distributed by M/s Al-Misbah, 16 Urdu Bazar, Lahore.

Phone: +92 42 371224656. Email: info@almisbah.biz

All rights reserved with the publishers.

Implementing Sunnah in Today’s Classrooms (Part 2)

Sunnah in Classroom

4) Earn Respect

When Allah’s Messenger (sa) began to preach the message to the people, they raised all kinds of objections about him and his person. In response, the Quran directed him to tell them: “Verily, I have stayed amongst you a life time before this.” (Yunus 10:16)

Here, the audience is being reminded about what they already knew about the Messenger’s (sa) character. Didn’t they already call him as-Sadiq (the truthful) and Al-Ameen (the trustworthy)? His entire life had been spent with the Makkans, and his record was sparklingly clean. Why was it surprising for them, if he declared himself to be a Prophet (sa)? Even Abu Sufyan attested before Heraclius, the Byzantine Emperor, that Muhammad (sa) had never lied or cheated anyone in his life. Heraclius then declared that someone who didn’t lie about anything in his life must also be telling the truth about Allah (swt).

The lesson to be learnt here is that you must earn a position of respect, before those around you begin to develop faith in what you say. Just the fact that you have been appointed as a teacher doesn’t give you much credence with your students. You will have to earn their respect. Then and only then they will start to trust you and listen to what you teach them.

Also, be well-prepared for your class, and if you are asked a question, to which you don’t know the answer, be brave enough to respond: “I don’t know, but I will have the answer soon, Insha’Allah!” Your honesty will win more hearts than you can imagine.

Another way to earn respect is punctuality. Being on time is part of the fulfillment of one’s promise and a characteristic of a true believer, mentioned repeatedly in the Quran: “Those who are faithfully true to their Amanat (all the duties which Allah has ordained, honesty, moral responsibility and trusts) and to their covenants.” (Al-Muminoon 23:8)

Reach your class on time, and if you promise something to your students, make sure you fulfill your promise.

5) Best Manners

Allah’s Messenger (sa) had the most perfect manners and behaviour. He said: “Surely, I have been sent to perfect manners (Akhlaq).” (Bayhaqi) The teacher’s own manners must be an ideal role model for the students. A teacher should be unbiased, rise above personal likes and dislikes and behave with everyone in such a way that people aspire to emulate his or her personality.

6) Feel your Responsibility

The Prophet (sa) said: “…Each of you is a shepherd and each of you is answerable.” (Muslim) As a teacher, this essentially means you are responsible and accountable for your students and your classes. Belief in accountability is an article of faith. The very fact of being accountable to Allah (swt) instills in a person a sense of responsibility that forms the basis of a commitment towards one’s jobs.

7) Make the Learners Feel Welcome

Safwan ibn Assal (rtam), a companion, came to Allah’s Messenger (sa), while he was in the Masjid. He said: “O Messenger (sa)! I have come to seek knowledge.” The Prophet (sa) replied: “Welcome, you seeker of knowledge. Indeed, the angels surround the knowledge-seeker with their wings, and then they pile up on top of each other, until they reach the lower heaven out of love of what he is seeking. What have you come to learn?” (At-Tabarani)

The warm welcome that the Prophet (sa) accorded the student is a clear manifestation of the manner in which a new student is to be initiated. The Messenger (sa) explains to him the great status of a student in the eyes of Allah (swt). Bear in mind that if this is the rank of a student, what would the rank of a teacher be? However, the Messenger (sa) did not refer to that. He indirectly encouraged the student, in order to make him feel the importance of learning. Teachers can make students feel welcome by greeting them with a smile and saying ‘Assalamu Alaikum’.

8) Dealing with Students

Allah’s Messenger (sa) said: “No person can be a believer, until he likes for his brother what he likes for himself.” (Bukhari) Indeed, how can one be really sincere, unless his standards for others are the same as those for himself? Teachers should ask themselves: “How would I like my teacher to treat me?” Within reasonable limits, one should implement the same for one’s students. Put yourself in the shoes of your students, and consider your own self as a teacher: are you a demon or a mentor?

9) Be Pleasant and Cheerful

Allah’s Messenger (sa) said: “Be cheerful and do not be repulsive.” (Muslim) He himself was the embodiment of love and compassion. Ali ibn Abi Talib (rtam) says that those who met him were impressed, and those who came to know him loved him. The companions used to say that they had never seen a face more smiling than his.

Likewise, a teacher who is a picture of love and mercy attracts more students to his subject than the one who is repulsive. Allah’s Messenger (sa) has recommended that people should be greeted with a smile and the manner of speaking should be cheerful. It should not repel people.

10) Be Gentle and Kind

The Quran states: “And by the Mercy of Allah, you dealt with them gently. And had you been severe and harsh-hearted, they would have broken away from about you.” (Al-Imran 3:159) The compassion of the Messenger (sa), not just for his companions but for all those with whom he came in contact, is unmatched in the history of mankind. Generally, people are kind towards their loved ones. However, the Messenger (sa) showed compassion even for his enemies.

Similarly, teachers, too, should be a fount of mercy and forgiveness. Students cannot love and respect their teachers, unless they feel compassion flowing from their personalities. Allah’s Messenger (sa) said: “The worst among people is he, whom people avoid due to his harsh demeanor.” (Bukhari)

Here, we must clarify that being kind and gentle does not imply a disregard for rules and regulations, which are in place for the betterment of the students. Making students adhere to discipline is not considered to be unkind. Didn’t the Messenger of Allah (sa) punish certain individuals? Of course, he did, when he deemed it to be necessary. However, his attitude was not vindictive or revengeful.

11) Speak with Clarity

It is narrated in a Hadeeth that the Messenger (sa) would always speak clearly, with pauses. These momentary breaks were such that the one who was sitting there was able to remember what he said. (At-Tirmidhi) This manner of speech takes into consideration the different levels of comprehension of his audience. Modern psychology tells us that the level of comprehension is directly proportional to the vocal speed of the speaker. Speaking slowly and clearly allows all to understand the lesson properly.

12) Do not Tire Students

Abdullah ibn Mubarak (rtam) used to give a lecture to his students every Thursday. One day, a man told him that he wished he would give a lecture daily. Ibn Mubarak replied: “The only thing which prevents me from doing so is that I hate to bore you. No doubt, I consider your state, when preaching, by selecting a suitable time just as the Messenger (sa) used to do with us, out of fear of making us bored.” (Bukhari)

Remember that the attention and the devotion of the companions cannot be matched with any student in this world. Yet, the Messenger (sa) took their state of mind into consideration. Similarly, a teacher must be aware of the students’ disposition and avoid making lessons dry and bothersome. A joke or an interesting anecdote can be related between the lessons. However, these diversions should be in moderation and should not go too far.


Adapted (with permission) from “How the Messenger of Allah (sa) Taught his Students” written by Maulvi Jahangir Mahmud (jahangir@ser.com.pk).

Published and distributed by M/s Al-Misbah, 16 Urdu Bazar, Lahore.

Phone: +92 42 371224656. Email: info@almisbah.biz

All rights reserved with the publishers.

TED talk: Every Child Deserves a Champion

Rita Pierson, a teacher for 40 years, once heard a colleague say, “They don’t pay me to like the kids.” Her response: “Kids don’t learn from people they don’t like.’” A rousing call to educators to believe in their students and actually connect with them on a real, human, personal level.

R. Pierson says: “Every child deserves a champion — an adult who will never give up on them, who understands the power of connection, and insists that they become the best that they can possibly be.”

Why you should listen to her:

Rita F. Pierson, a professional educator since 1972, has taught elementary school, junior high and special education. She’s been a counselor, a testing coordinator and an assistant principal. In each of these roles, she’s brought a special energy to the role — a desire to get to know her students, show them how much they matter and support them in their growth, even if it’s modest.

For the past decade, Pierson has conducted professional development workshops and seminars for thousands of educators. Focusing on the students who are too often under-served, she lectures on topics like “Helping Under-Resourced Learners,”“Meeting the Educational Needs of African American Boys” and “Engage and Graduate your Secondary Students: Preventing Dropouts.”

The Prophet’s (sa) Classroom


While attending classes at university, I often wondered at the lack of seriousness among my class fellows. It disturbed me that despite a brilliant academic record, there was a palpable lack of interest. Later, as a teacher, I tried hard to create interest in the classroom. At times my effort paid off. However, during other times, students felt an overload of knowledge and the lecture hall became a dreaded place. During these moments of failure I wished that we had a guide on how to optimize learning within the classroom environment. The Prophet Muhammad’s (sa) example in this regard is a treasure for teachers. The teaching techniques that he used proved to be so sound that his students carried the message of Islam with unmatched zeal and enthusiasm.

The Prophet’s (sa) classroom was not a conventional room. Rather, the Prophet (sa) used every opportunity and every occasion to teach Islam to his companions. For instance, to convey the intensity of the verdict against stealing from war spoils, the Prophet (sa) stood besides and held up the war spoils after the battle. (Bukhari) On the tenth of Dhul-Hijja, the Prophet (sa) questioned people about the sanctity of the day, the month and the city they were standing in and thereby conveyed the sanctity of each other’s blood, property and honour. (Bukhari)

Losing no opportunity to convey the message of Islam to his students, our beloved Prophet (sa) was no ordinary teacher. He did not lecture people consistently. We have a lot of examples, where the Prophet (sa) taught by his own example, without uttering a word. Aisha (rta), wife of the Prophet (sa), said that when the Prophet (sa) saw mucus, phlegm or sputum on the wall of the Qibla (direction faced in prayer), he scraped it off. (Muwatta)

Whenever the Prophet (sa) spoke, it was a special occasion. (Bukhari) Therefore, people tended to pay more attention to what he said. Aisha (rta) said that whenever he would speak, the listener could count the words on his own fingers. (Bukhari) For instance, the Prophet (sa) said: “A man is with the one he loves.” (Bukhari) He used analogies in order to clearly convey the message. For instance, Abu Bakr (rta) said: “I heard the Messenger of Allah (sa) saying: ‘Behold! Can any dirt remain on the body of any one of you if there were a river at his door, in which he washes himself five times daily?’ They said: ‘Nothing of his dirt will remain (on his body).’ He said: ‘That is like the five prayers, by which Allah obliterates sins.’” (Muslim)

Using diagrams and drawings, the Prophet (sa) captured the attention of the companions and got the message across in a clear and visual manner. For instance, the Prophet (sa) drew a box with a line going from the middle of it to the outside of it and then he drew other lines that were cutting into that line. The Prophet (sa) said that man was inside the box. The box represented death that surrounded him from all sides. The line going out of the box were his hopes, and the lines that cut across the middle line were disasters that cut into a man’s desires. If a man escapes one disaster he gets embroiled in another one and so on. (Bukhari)

The fact that the Prophet’s (sa) companions were able to understand the message of Islam clearly was also largely due to their respect and love for him. Usamah Ibn Sharik (rta) narrates: “I came to see the Prophet (sa) while his companions were with him, and they seemed as still as if birds had alighted on top of their heads. I gave him my Salam and I sat down. [Then Bedouins came and asked questions which the Prophet answered.] … The Prophet (sa) then stood up and the people stood up. They began to kiss his hand, whereupon I took his hand and placed it on my face. I found it more fragrant than musk and cooler than sweet water.” (Abu Dawood, Ibn Majah, Al-Hakim and Ahmad)

As students and teachers, we have a lot to learn from the Prophet’s (sa) classroom. It is time we stop teaching and learning Islam in a boring and tedious manner. If we want our future generations to imbibe the message of Islam, we need to pay closer attention to the Sunnah of the Prophet (sa) and respect our teachers.

Math is Fun

Vol 7 - Issue 1 Math is Fun

Mathematics is a subject which most students love to hate – and certain teachers even hate to teach, because of the overt negative vibes. On the other hand, there are some students who are a joy to teach, simply because they are so skilled with numbers.

Following are some activities which teachers can use for inculcating math skills at elementary level classrooms.

Gaity, a kindergarten teacher, uses an activity involving six puppets: five monkeys and one alligator. She gives small laminated drawings attached to pop sticks to the children and asks them to sing the following song: “Teasing Mr. Alligator can’t catch me. Along came Mr. Alligator, quiet as can be, and snapped that monkey right out of the tree.” She has the children sing the song a number of times, until they have memorized it. Then, she selects six students: five to hold the monkey puppets and one for the alligator. In unison, the class sings the song, taking a monkey away each time. While they are singing, the teacher writes the subtraction problems on the board to go with each verse of the song, e.g., 5-1=, 4-1=, 3-1=, 2-1=… Then, the children solve each problem using the puppets. The alligator is supposed to serve as the subtraction sign.

Another activity is called ‘flying a saucer’. Before the class begins, the teacher writes a math fact on each of a number of paper plates. In the playground, the children line up with a paper plate in hand, and when cued, they throw the paper plate as far as they can. Then they scramble to pick up the plates, before the whistle blows, after which they line up again. One by one, ask the students to read out and answer the question written on his or her plate/s. The child that gives the right answer remains in the line and whoever does not has to sit. Any sitting student can ‘buy’ his or her way back into the game by answering a problem that someone doesn’t know in the next round.

Ghazala, also a kindergarten teacher, plays ‘winning the cheeto’ with her students. She writes the numbers she is working with on cards made out of construction paper. These cards are then taped to the floor forming a square. In addition, she also puts small pieces of paper with numbers on them in a box. For starters, she lets each student stand on a number and then, while the teacher sings, they walk around stepping on the numbers as they go. Once the song stops, they have to stop at the number they are on, and the teacher then draws out one of the pieces of paper from the box and calls out the number written on it. Whoever is standing on the number is the winner. This activity can be used to teach colours, shapes and alphabets.

For the activity called ‘number patterns,’ students learn to identify the number pattern on the board and write the missing numbers, e.g., 18, 15, 12, -, -, -. Make sure you explain the concept well and ask them prompting questions like whether the missing number is larger or smaller. To check if they have understood the concept, ask them to create their own number patterns and see if their partner can identify them.

For the activity ‘Cheerio and counting,’ ask the children to tell you their age, using their fingers. Give the child a number card with his or her age on it and ask them to put the correct amount of Cheerios on it. Talk about each number. After that, give them a piece of yarn and have them make a necklace, using the Cheerios as beads, while counting them as they go along.

‘How many balloons left’ is an activity that can be used as an introduction to a lesson on subtraction. Take three balloons, show them to the students, and have them count them out loud. Without warning, pop a balloon. Your students are bound to enjoy this. Then ask the children: “How many balloons are left?” Ask the children to convert what they just saw into a subtraction number sentence and write it out on the board for them.

Naila, a grade one teacher, uses the activity ‘going on a shape hunt,’ in which she gives the children a writing pad and pencil and asks them to explore the playground looking for objects with circular, triangular or square shapes. The children are to sketch the objects they find in their writing pads. Back in class, she asks the children to draw one of the objects, label it as a circle, triangle or square and colour it. Afterwards, students can share their works of art with others and discuss their findings.

All in all, one can definitely surmise that teaching mathematics does not have to be a boring activity at all, either for the teacher or for the students. Both can have fun in their math class – all you need is a little creativity to take the lesson further than the textbook/workbook and homework exercises.

Dealing with Hyperactive Children

Vol 6 - Issue 3 Dealing with Hyperactive

Mrs. Salma Ali was extremely perturbed and a little confused as well. She simply couldn’t understand why it was that whenever she went to pick up her four-year-old son from his Montessori, he was fast asleep. And on the days when he wasn’t asleep, he seemed quite drowsy. After engaging in some futile inquiries with his teachers, she decided to investigate further. The result was horrifying. Apparently, her son was so hyper that he just would not let the teacher conduct the class properly. Hence, the teacher made him take some sleep-inducing medicine. This would put the child to sleep, and the class would be conducted peacefully. Mrs. Salma Ali immediately removed her son from that particular school.

This, unfortunately, is the state of affairs nowadays, where most of the people are all too willing to remove the problem instead of solving it. When it comes to hyperactive children, most of the parents and teachers look towards short-term solutions. Such ‘solutions’, unfortunately, will never make the hyperactive child any more educated. On the contrary, such children remain ignorant and are held back in the lower classes, simply because they are not up to standard. Dealing with hyperactive children on an academic level involves, first and foremost, the acceptance that this particular student is hyperactive and, hence, should be treated differently than the rest. The teacher will have to recognize the signs and symptoms characteristic to a hyperactive child and then deal with him/her accordingly.
So what are those signs and symptoms? A few common ones are as follows: 

On the move

There are many students, who will sit still for at least a certain period of time before they start to get restless. The hyper ones will rarely sit still. They squirm in their chair if they are not allowed to move. They like to move around, jump about and fidget with things.

Attention deficit

It’s true that there are many students, whose attention span barely lasts an entire class period. However, you cannot make a hyperactive child listen to you for even two minutes. His/her eyes will be constantly darting around, even as you speak. These children are unable to give their full attention to anything and have a very short attention span. 

High energy level

The teacher may get tired running after a hyperactive student, but that student will never get even remotely lethargic. Hyperactive students quickly move about from one thing or another, and never seem to run out of energy. Once the teacher has established that the child is hyperactive and will disrupt the classes, he/she can take some or all of the following measures to ensure that the child is dealt with in an effective manner, and most importantly, in a manner which will be mutually beneficial to both the teacher and the student. The teacher will have a peaceful class, and the student will learn something at the end of the day. Some of the more effective measures are as follows: 

Be firm and exercise self-control

There is nothing more ‘fulfilling’ for a hyperactive student than to see an elder, whether it’s a parent or teacher, lose self-control and vent out all anger at the student. He/she will simply feel accomplished and will probably get worse. At all times, don’t let your temper bring out the worst in you. Keep calm and composed, even if you are seething inside (yes, these children can be highly irritating but there’s no reason, why they should know it is working). 

Channel the energy

If the child is hyperactive and, hence, full of energy, you as a teacher can learn, how to channel that energy into more constructive activities. Instead of consistently telling the child to sit still, you can get him/her to do tasks which involve moving about. Ask them to pin something up on the notice board, fetch the chalk, clean the black board and distribute the exercise books. If they don’t succeed in finishing that task, don’t get impatient. If they drop the books, for instance, help them gather it up and encourage them to get on with the task. 

Sense of belonging

Ignoring hyperactive children can be extremely counter productive as they are usually calling out for attention. On the other hand, if you scold them, you will be playing into their hands – what they want from you is a reaction. Therefore, instead of whiling away your energy in screaming, shouting or scolding, you can make them feel more involved in the classroom through various means. Asking them to do easy yet engaging tasks around the class will make them feel more involved and, hopefully, keep them a little busy for a while. 

Do away with lectures

Create a classroom atmosphere, which involves hyperactive students doing something rather than listening to you. Listening to a monotone voice gets unbearable, even for the average students. You can ask all your students to stand up and stretch; act out the poems they are reciting; act out the stories they are reading. The possibilities are endless and are only limited by your imagination.

Schedule your classes sensibly

If your school does not have a strict timetable, and you are allowed to set your own schedule, then make one which is conducive for the students. Don’t put mathematics and English consecutively. Separate them with art or a recess. Similarly, the attention of students is the most lax in the period before the recess, so you might like to have a lighter lesson scheduled. Keep your schedules flexible, so you can alter them according to the response and attentiveness of your students. 

The above were just some of the possibilities, which can be exercised to keep the hyperactive student in control and direct his/her energy to more constructive activities. The truth is that every child is different. What works for one might not work for another. Therefore, if there are two or more hyperactive children in one class, it might become a teacher’s worst trial. However, these children can be dealt with – it only requires some time, effort and skill. At the end of the day, if a teacher is really willing to work with these children and ensure that they graduate after having learnt something, he/she can definitely do wonders with his/her students.

Making the Write Impression

Vol 6 - Issue 1 Making the write impressionThis time my column is devoted to strategies for effective writing and discovering potential writers within our classrooms. Teachers continue to wonder: “How do I prepare my students for assignments and perceive them as writers?” We can achieve great things, if we convince students from the beginning that writing is worthwhile. It is also advisable to teach students that vocabulary and reading habits can help them express themselves better.

First of all, an assignment should be given on the writer’s own life, rather than on “What I did during Summer Vacation”. When students have finished writing, their attitudes will become clear to you, and, thus, you will have a clue what to teach.

If the writings turn out to be very powerful, the best work of the year should be put in a sturdy folder, with the titled cover and illustrations, as if it were a real published book. Students will have a fantastic experience, adding an “About the Author” page and trying to make their book more interesting for people to read it. To add importance to their work, the book will have a table of contents (including the title of each piece of writing and the corresponding page number). Tell the students that there should be at least three illustrations made on the computer or drawn on a piece of paper.
Writing Stories in the Classroom

Explain to students that you are doing an activity to teach the beginning, the middle and the ending of a story. Ask one student to write the beginning of a story and then pass it on to another student to write the middle part. The story is passed over again, and a third student writes the conclusion. The story should be passed around the class, so that each student would have the opportunity to write a beginning, a middle and an ending. Those, who are not writing, are asked to illustrate the part they have completed. When the story is finished, it is given back to the first student, who started it. He or she then reads it to the others.
Developing a Character
Using The Hundred Acre Wood (in A. A. Milne’s “Winnie-the-Pooh”) is a good way to learn about characterization. Several characters are very similar to us. The students are asked to choose a Pooh character that is the most similar to them, compare and contrast the character with themselves. Thus, they will learn a lot about characterization and themselves.
Power Writing

This activity takes only six minutes and involves students in a creative brainstorming. Words ‘duck’ and ‘apple’ are written on the board. Students are asked to choose one of the words and at a given signal write as much as they can about the topic selected. When one minute is over, the students are asked to count the words they have written. Write the numbers on the board. The second round starts, when the students select another word (‘umbrella’ or ‘beautiful’). Then, they repeat the process for one minute.

In the third round, the students choose another word (‘sock’ or ‘blue’) and do the same thing as before. In each round, the students choose a word, write down their own thoughts, then count the words after a minute of writing and record the results. It will become totally obvious from the chart of the three rounds that the activity promotes quantitative thinking and writing. Practising quantity is an important part of a comprehensive writing program, because students learn to write mostly by writing.
Encouraging Students to Learn about Grandparents

Ask your students to approach a grandparent or any other elder family member. The students can as well call them up and say that they would like to learn more about their grandparents’ lives. In order to help the students, you may suggest some questions, such as “What was your school like?” or “What did you like to eat as a kid?” Then, they can move on to such more general themes as “Why did you become a judge?” or “What was your wedding like?” While the grandparents are talking, the children should take notes. The written story then should be a general outline of what has been said: and whatever details they think are interesting, important or funny should be included. Students should decide which part of the story they want to tell. They then should make a rough draft that would include a beginning, middle and ending of the story.
Developing a Story
Several desks are arranged in a circle (four to seven students can participate in the activity). The students should get a sheet of paper and put their name on the back. Tell them to write down a story on any topic. Use a timer and at the end of a short period (about one minute or less, using your own judgement depending on your students) time is stopped. Papers are passed to the right rapidly, time is started again, and the students continue the story started by the first student. Go on, until the first student gets his or her paper back. There will be lots of giggles and excitement, as students try to read and write fast. Ask students to read the finished paper aloud. You can replace writing with drawing a picture, when working with younger students.
Writing a Journal Entry Every Day
Just as there are different teachers and users of language, the daily journal writing can also take many forms. Teachers may use journal writing to reach specific goals. Journals can either be left uncorrected or checked occasionally for polishing the skills of students. Some teachers prompt students to start writing. There also are some teachers, who leave the direction and flow of journals up to students. “Once students have built extreme confidence in their writing skills, they are not afraid of taking up any writing challenge that they might come across,” says Asma, a high school teacher. “Every time, when students enter the classroom, for the first five minutes they work on their journals,” says Asna, a primary school teacher, “this helps the class calm down.”

Discipline – Noise Control

Vol 2 -Issue 4 Discipline-Noise controlDiscipline is a common challenge for teachers both new and old. Structure and fairness combined with clear goals and lesson planning in a caring, non-threatening environment are the keys to effective and successful teaching. Teaching is not an easy profession, even if you are the most experienced teacher. Through each situation there is a lesson to be learned. Here are some suggestions and ideas for disciplining students and controlling the noise level in classrooms.

Quiet Lights

When the class gets too noisy, switch off all the classroom lights and fans. When the children realize that the room has suddenly turned dark, you have their attention. They will see you at the switch with your finger on your lips gesturing them to be quiet and understand that they need to stop making noise and focus on the task at hand. Don’t do it too often or it won’t be as effective.

Cooperative Coloured Circles

When working with cooperative groups, you can keep the noise level under control by using colored circles. If a group is on a task and use quiet voices, give them a green circle. If they need to be reminded about the noise level, give them a yellow circle. If a group is way off from the task, give them a red circle and step in to give them assistance. This is a great way to model appropriate behavior, when you are just beginning to establish group rules. It also saves time, because it does not interrupt the entire class, when one group is off track.

Appropriate ‘Talking Times’

Students love to have time to talk. In order to keep them from doing it during instruction, you can apply the ‘My Time’ strategy. During ‘My Time,’ students must pay attention. They neither can talk nor disturb others, who are paying attention. At the end of class, ‘Their Time’ is the last five minutes, when they can talk amongst themselves.

Awesome Noise Control

Write the word ‘awesome’ on the board. When there is noise in the class, erase a letter starting backwards. If the class makes it to break time with the word intact, they sit where they like. If not, they are assigned seats. If they lose the entire word by the end of the day, they are deprived of their lunch break. If the entire word was intact at the end of the day, they are rewarded with 15 extra rewards for the next day. With each next day you will notice an improvement.

Waiting Cards

You can use numbered cards to organize students, who need her individual attention. Laminate the cards made for your classroom and place them in order in a basket. When you are busy talking to someone, a student can come up, take a card, and go back to the seats instead of waiting in line. When you are finished with one student, you can call on the next number and conference with that student.

Safekeeping Box

Sometimes children bring things from home to play with, which, of course, distracts them. You can resolve this problem by creating a safekeeping box. Take a medium-sized box with a lid, decorate it, and put a label on the box that says ‘Items in safekeeping, to be returned later.’ When you see children playing with something that is distracting them, ask them to put it in the safekeeping box and let them know that they can retrieve their item at the end of the day. This validates their personal treasures and assures their return. Additionally, it cuts down on distractions in the classroom, as the students quickly learn to avoid having things put into the box.

Quote the Student

When trying to convince a student to change his or her behavior, you will benefit from framing a persuasive message that quotes the student. You can say: “Danish, you said something the other day that I can’t get out of my mind,” or “Something you said made me start thinking.” You’ll find that many students, who appear to be non-listeners, will be intrigued, when you use this personalized technique. As a result, they will not be able to resist listening and responding to what you have to say.

General Discipline Tips

(1)   Over-correction

There are two types of over-correction procedures that you may be familiar with. During restitution training, a student is required to improve. For example, if Erum writes on the wall, she is required to clean the whole wall, instead of just the space she wrote on. The other type of positive practice involves the student practicing the correct response repeatedly. If Sana turns in an assignment that is too sloppy to read, she must not only redo that task but do better.

(2)   Questioning Behavior

When a student has a discipline problem, just ask him / her to answer the four questions on the discipline questionnaire:

  1. What did I do wrong?
  2. Why wasn’t my action acceptable?
  3. What should I have been doing instead?
  4. What will I do in the future?

Then, mail the form home to the child’s parents. This system forces students to own up to their actions.

(3)   Behavior Notebook

Keep track of irresponsible student conduct by assembling a 3-ring notebook and dedicating a page per student at the beginning of the school year. On the first day of school, show the students their blank pages and challenge them to keep them blank the whole year. Here’s how it works. When a student breaks one of the rules set for the class – (of course, make these known at the onset of the school year), – that student must go to the behavior notebook and write a brief explanation. If you agree with the assessment, sign and date it. Send it home with the report card at the end of the marking period. If a student has a blank page all year, send home the original blank page with a heartwarming note of praise for good behavior all year long.

Improving the Teaching of Islamiat

Speaking from a student’s perspective, Hafsa Ahsan humbly offers the teachers of Islamiat practical suggestions for improving the quality of lectures

I stifled a yawn and glanced around the class. Two of my classmates were reading a Danielle Steel novel under their desks. Behind me, a group of my classmates were chatting merrily. At the first read, you may think the teacher was not present in the class. But no, there was a full fledge lecture going on. This was a typical scenario of our Islamiat class, and some of the ways my classmates designed for breaking the monotony.

I feel really bad writing this, but the Islamiat classes were the most-dreaded ones. It was not so much the curriculum itself, as it was the way it was actually taught. I will be frank: the only reason I attended this class was because proxy attendances were against my principles.

Whether we talk about the British system of education or our Pakistani one, the curriculum is generally the same. Whether we studied the subject one semester or two years, not many of us actually remembered, what we had been taught. Most of the ‘study’ was comprised of a rush to make notes or open the textbook in the last month before exams, cram up as much as possible, and reproduce whatever we can in the exam paper. End of story.

The question, which generally arises, is – how should Islamiat be taught? It is a compulsory subject, after all. Its theoretical nature makes it difficult to fit Islamiat under the standards of science and commerce subjects, where concepts are understood through graphical, statistical, and logical means. However, there is plenty of room for improvement.

Using Audio Visual aids

I yet have to come across a teacher, who would actually use the blackboard, or any kind of Audio Visual aids, while teaching Islamiat. The ‘lecture’ in the truest sense of the word does not really hold the attention of students. If delivering the lecture in a form of an attractive presentation is too time-consuming, a good use of the blackboard would definitely make the class interesting. Mind maps showing the relations between different concepts are the most relevant diagrams, considering that we are talking about a theoretical subject.

Relating the subject to everyday life

In case of a simple topic like ablution, the teacher can go beyond the basic methodology of ablution and ask students questions like ‘what would they do if they have to pray at school and want to do ablution with their socks on?’ There are many such issues in our daily lives, for which we need to refer to Islamiat. Think about it: if we are not able to concentrate on our prayers, does not the need arise to remember the meaning of what we recite? Someone asks us to give Zakat to a charity organization, and we wonder, whether or not a charity donation actually counts as Zakat. There are many similar occasions, where we need to apply Islamiat.

Relating the subject to important scientific concepts

A couple of months ago, my sister showed me a physics formula, which illustrated, how at the time of Mairaj, Prophet Muhammad (sa) explored the seven skies and came back within a night. The formula had some values, which gave the value of time to be infinity. Now, if the Islamiat teacher is well up to date with the latest scientific research, he/she can relate similar connections in the class, which would definitely fascinate the students. Another example is the burning of the seas on the Day of Judgment. The teacher can show how, if the covalent bonds between hydrogen and oxygen break, one gas will burn and the other will make it burn -that is how the seas will be ignited.

Asking ‘how’ not ‘what’

Most of the Islamiat questions I saw in my school days began with ‘what’. Or still worse, there were such questions as ‘Write a note on Salah’. For the life of me, I have never understood the logic of the word ‘note’. Most students have come to translate this word as ‘Write everything you know about…’ And that is precisely what students do. On the contrary, such questions as ‘Why do you think Salah is not excused under any conditions?’ or ‘How do you think we practice Jihad-bin-Nafs in our daily lives?’ are more interesting and stimulate students to think. Such questions also ensure that the students do not rote-learn every chapter of the book. And from a student’s perspective, learning actually becomes a more fulfilling activity.

Encouraging class discussions and prompting students to ask ‘why’

One-way lectures on Islamiat just add to the drowsiness factor. If teachers would encourage students to ask questions, the class would become more exciting. An interesting discussion developed in one of my Islamiat classes – why do we believe the Ahadeeth to be authentic, when they were formally compiled after the death of the Prophet (sa)?

Engaging students in interesting activities

Research-based tasks, in which students have to consult sources other than the textbooks, are also a good option. The teacher can design activities that would require students to go online for looking up information, which would complement that of the textbook. Making small, attractive flash cards for different supplications, designing a Zakat calculator, and exploring online means of Dawah are some of the activities, which the teacher can assign students to make the subject livelier.

The above are some of my humble suggestions to Islamiat teachers. There is a widespread belief that ‘Islamiat is for exam’s sake only’, and it is up to the teachers to work towards eliminating it.