The way you start class is really important since it sets the tone for the rest of the day. I always try to begin the first class by having one of the students recite the Du'a for starting class from Mafatihul Jinan, but sometimes I forget. I've noticed that on the days where we do remember to recite the du'a, the class as a whole is a lot more beneficial. We tend to get more work then and have more fruitful discussions. It only takes 30 seconds, but it makes a big difference! You can download this du'a with the meanings from Duas.org and post it up in your class to help you remember!
Which child doesn't love Jeopardy? As an adult, I still love a good game of Jeopardy. This is why Jeopardy is an awesome way for children to learn and have fun at the same time. If you throw in a competitive element, like a prize, that motivates them even more.
Jeopardy in teams is sometimes tricky with kids, since it's always one person who seems to give all the answers. Therefore, individual Jeopardy is a better alternative for children.
We played Muharram Jeopardy during one of the children's programs during the first 10 nights of Muharram. We said we would give prizes to the winners, but we decided that everyone is a winner, and everyone received a great prize: Ya Husayn/Ya Abbas/Ya Zaynab pins. They wore their pins with pride for the rest of the 10 days!
You can download the PPT for the Jeopardy over here. You can download the template for individual answer sheets here. Remember to have enough pencils for each child!
Games are a fun way to teach students different concepts, especially for those concepts that are essential, such as salah.
For the 2nd and 3rd graders, a great way to help them learn the names of the actions of salah, as well as the order, we created a salah sequence game.
We created cards with the different actions of salah and students had to put them in order. To add in a competitive element, students competed to see who could do it the quickest. You can download the template for the cards here.
You will need to print out the cards, laminate them, and then cut them so they are all the same size. As an option, you could put magnets on the back of each card so that students can put them in order on the whiteboard.
As a Shia teacher, the one thing I wish we had more of were great children's books with age-appropriate language and proper English, as well as eye-catching graphics.
One book we recently ordered for our Islamic Studies classroom is "The Thirst of Sakina (sa)."
I really enjoyed this books for several reasons. For one, the language and text was great for a variety of grades. I read it to both the Kindergarten and 2nd graders. Although I didn't read it to the 3rd graders, this was one of our featured books during the first 10 days of Muharram, and I noticed many browsing through it during free time.
One of my favorite parts of this book is the illustrations. These were actually done by orphans who are part of The Zahra Trust, and all profits from this book go to support this foundation and other aid projects. I enjoyed telling this to the students, especially since we recently learned about orphans, and this made it that much more special for them. Another bonus was that they weren't too graphic, which can be disturbing for some students.
I would highly recommend this book for parents and teachers alike.
Building lessonplans and activities around ahadith is a great way to make sure your lessons have a solid message behind them.
Another Muharram activity we did at school was based on the following hadith by Rasul Allah (saw):
"Verily, Husayn (as) is the lantern of guidance and the ark of salvation (simplified: boat of rescue)."
"Innal Husain Misbah al-Huda wa Safinat an-Najah"
(Bihar Al-Anwar, V. 36, Pg. 204)
After narrating this hadith to the kids, I asked them what they think it means when the Prophet (s) calls Imam Husayn the "boat of rescue." They had some great answers. We talked about how the purpose of a boat is to transport you to a destination, and the boat of Imam Husayn (a) transports you to heaven. We also talked about how a boat keeps you from drowning in the water, and similarly, the boat of Imam Husayn (a) keeps you afloat and prevents you from drowning in this dunya. Finally, we talked about how we can make sure we embark upon this boat by doing good deeds and obeying Allah, the masoomen, our parents, and teachers.
The kids then made these awesome origami boats and decorated them by writing "Ya Husayn" as well as the hadith. The instructions for making these boats can be found here. 11x17 size paper works best for this project.
As a follow-up to this project, you could also focus on the first part of the hadith (misbah al-huda/lantern of guidance) and make cool lanterns.
Another great Muharram activity. I did this activity with all my students in grades 1-4. For grades 1 & 2, it works better if you do it as a group.
I printed out and constructed a dice. Each side of the dice had one of the members of the Ahlul Bayt + Hadhrat Zaynab (sa) (Template Available Here).
I then prepared six 5x7 manila envelopes by putting labels on the front with each member of the Ahlul Bayt. For each member, we came up with an activity that the student must do that's related to that member, typed up the instructions, and put the paper in the corresponding envelope, along with any items necessary to complete that activity (Template for activities). I stuck these all over the hallway.
Prophet Muhammad (saw) - Recite a 2 rakat salah
Imam Ali (a) - Write a letter to an orphan
Paper & Pencils
Hadhrat Zahra (sa) - Recite tasbih-e-Zahra
Imam Hasan (a) - Give money in sadaqah
Imam Husayn (a) - Recite his salam 3 times
Hadhrat Zaynab (sa) - Pick up 5 pieces of trash
For 3rd and 4th graders, they simply rolled the dice, and whichever name they landed on, they had to go find that envelope, read the instructions for the task inside, and complete the activity. They would come tell me when they were done, and I would mark them off on the large chart we had in class. They would then roll the dice again. Students who complete all 6 activities received a small candy as a prize.
For 1st and 2nd graders, each student took turns rolling the dice once and finding the envelope. They then brought the instructions paper back and read it to the others. The class completed each task as a group, so we did all 6 tasks together.
Overall, students really enjoyed this scavenger hunt, and it allowed them to complete spiritual activities while connecting to the members of the Ahlul Bayt.
Muharram at school has been a bit hectic! We have been having many great discussions and doing some great projects. Here is a project I did recently with the 2nd graders.
We spoke about Hadhrat Abbas and how he went to get water for his beloved niece Sakina (sa), as well as the other children, but that he was unable to get them water because the enemies cut off his hands. The children were very touched by the story, and many already knew it, but they enjoyed hearing it again.
We talked about how Hadhrat Abbas sacrificed his life and lost his hands for the sake of his Imam (a), and how we should also try to serve our Imam, as this will help us to please Allah (swt). We talked about how we can use our hands in the way of Allah (swt) and did this activity.
On the whiteboard, brainstorm a list of actions you can do with your hands that will help Islam. Some ideas: washing the dishes, helping parents, cleaning the masjid, giving sadaqah, praying salah, feeding the needy, reciting qur'an
Hand each student a black cardstock. Have them glue the caption on top so that they know how much room they have for their hand. For older kids, they can write the caption.
In pencil, have them trace their hand and write their name in the center. Then, on each finger, they can write how they can use their hands to serve Islam.
Have them trace their hand in pastel/chalk.
Have them trace their name and their 5 deeds in gold or silver sharpie.