Ramadan 2018: Post 7- Learning Arabic Rocks!

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I had an idea a while ago that I was hoping to do sometime in Ramadan to surprise H with. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, we’ve been dabbling with the Arabic alphabet for the past few years, but this year, I’m trying to reinforce what she already knows through various different games so that she can move on to start formally learning how to read the Quran.

So far, she has seen the Arabic letters in print (books and posters), on screens (often accompanied by a song) and on these cute wooden blocks I used to sell. (Note: I still have them in a variety of languages, other than Arabic so please contact me if you’re interested- the Farsi and Hindi ones are especially beautiful!)

I love the idea of a tactile resource so a few weeks ago, I finally decided to print the Arabic alphabet on rocks! I used paint pens I had previously purchased from Michaels.

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How cute would these be to make as a gift for someone? Slip them into a canvas bag and give a child in your life a unique and functional play resource.

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And because I like open-ended items and play things that can be used in multiple ways, I decided to paint moons and stars on the back of some of the rocks. I did this so that H could play a variation of Tic-Tac-Toe, a game she discovered a few months ago and loves playing on a dry-erase board.

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Someone could just as easily paint or draw whatever might capture the interest of their child: animals, geometric designs or just leave them in their beautiful, natural state. I love the variety of colour, shape and size!

H found these photos on my phone last week (before I had a chance to add them into her Ramadan Calendar) so we decided to play with them. She was so excited!

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And she went about ordering the alphabet (though as you can see, she doesn’t yet know that Arabic is written and read from right to left).

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Y loves playing with them too. He turned ONE 10 days ago and loves filling and dumping things.

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P.S. I hope you appreciated my carefully crafted pun!

P.P.S. I confess that I ran out of rocks! I still need to complete the other half of the alphabet.

 

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Ramadan 2018: Post #3- Decorate!

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We don’t really have annual decorations that we use in Ramadan. So far it’s been mainly homemade items that tie into some other area of learning or craft projects. But as the kids get older, I suspect more of a theme will emerge.

Like many adults, I swoon at the beautiful colour schemes and minimalist Ramadan decor that has taken the Western Muslim world by storm. But I know that that just wont work for my family right now (given the type of space and furniture we have and our children’s ages). We very much advocate for them feeling like this is their home too so as tempting as a magazine-inspired spread is, we aren’t there yet. Everything that’s up in our house is intentionally there- there is a story, a deeper meaning, a specific learning that happened. So I take a deep breath and let go of my expectations and do what I typically do: I consult H and then we collaborate.

The Monday before Ramadan started, we began to decorate. The first thing we did was add to our calendar. I created our Ramadan calendar 3 years ago and we have been reusing it since. It’s made from foam board, felt and a glue gun. I typically use cards made out of card stock or cut up cue cards and draw pictures on one side (because visual literacy is important and helps children make connections to text when they’re ready). Typically, the cards have activities or tasks, often linked to caring for others. As the kids needs change, I will also include more specific learning like Quranic ayat and hadeeth. See how we have used it in years past here and here.

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This year, H and I decided to make a dome. I cut out the shape from cardboard for H and she painted it. She initially chose green and then changed her mind when she saw the gold paint. I said she could add glitter to her dome so she chose purple glitter.The newly minted dome definitely gave the calendar a lift.

I had a DIY banner lying around that I had previously purchased from Dollarama. H helped me punch holes. I added yarn (we didn’t have twine or rope on hand). I was getting ready to write letters when H reminded me, “I know how to do letters!” so she ended up writing the letters I dictated. The “D” is upside down because the paper was upside down when she was writing it (I was chasing after Y in that moment).

The perfectionist in me wanted to micro-manage how she drew the letters (heck, the perfectionist in me wanted to do the letters myself!) but the educator in me rose above and recognized how meaningful and empowering it would be for H to do this herself.

I cleared H’s past artwork off of the toy shelf after asking her permission and we added some lanterns. I decided to to add some prints in some new frames I had lying around the house. (I did a Google search for free images and downloads because I didn’t feel like I had the time to browse more and pick one out but I plan to do so in the future).  She chose to add the glass candle holders and flower candles.

H has been reviewing the Arabic alphabet for what feels like years. As a fun way to review her letters (and for me to seriously assess how well she knows them) I included a little chalkboard. Each night, I write one of the 28 letters on the chalkboard (in a random order). I include a corresponding block and in the morning, H can tell me what letter it is and she attempts to draw it in the small sand tray I’ve incorporated into that space. We haven’t been very serious about learning Arabic but I do feel she’s ready to take it up a notch.

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We also have a lamp that we’ve been hanging decorations off of, including some of H’s past and present creations. This is Y’s favourite section as he loves to hit the hanging decorations and watch them sway.

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Lastly, I gathered all of our Ramadan related books and put them in H’s Ramadan basket from last year so we could easily find them.

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Decoration for us is going to be an ongoing thing this Ramadan. As we create more and more things, we will integrate them into our decor. I’m curious to see how the space will look by the end of the month.

Ramadan 2018: Post #2 – Ramadan Ready with the Community

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When I started Discovery Dome, it was my dream to offer activities and storytelling to the larger community. Having children and managing all of the logistics that went hand in hand with that, made me put that dream on pause, but about once a year, someone reaches out to me to do some sort of storytelling or children’s program.

This year, it was my pleasure to do some creative storytelling for the ICNA Sisters Wing  – Calgary branch at their Welcome Ramadan event.

I read one of my favourite Ramadan stories, written by Na’ima B Roberts called Ramadan Moon. The story is a piece of lyrical beauty that is wonderfully complimented by the mixed media illustrations.

 

I told the Famous Donkey Story through flannel board which I’ve done a few times in the past. This short story is always a hit with children and has a beautiful moral.

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The last story I told was something new I created. I learned about the tradition of the mosaharati (drummers who would walk through traditional villages to awaken fasters for their early morning meal) two years ago when I bought this book: The Little Green Drum.

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I wanted to have a more interactive element to my storytelling session. Initially, I wanted a gross motor experience but given the number of children (there were roughly 40), I knew that would get tricky. Instead, I added a musical component and invited the children to become a part of the story and help me narrate repetitive parts. I adapted this story to better suit the needs of this audience (many Muslims believe only in the permissibly of percussion drums) so I adapted the story to include only percussion type drums instead of the range of instruments used in the book. I also weaved in my love for natural elements like rocks and twigs to and re-purposing household items.

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The story went over really well with the children and adults who were present. Y who was eleven months at the time loved the rhythm as I practiced with him and some of the children who attended the session were repeating the chant I created when they got back home. I can’t wait to do this story again for another group!

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It was a pleasure to not only use my creative and story-telling skills at a time when I don’t get to as regularly as I would like,  but to also help energize a whole group of children (including my own) about Ramadan.

I look forward to developing more stories to share with my community!

Creative Storytelling using Magnets

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About 3 years ago, when I was first introduced to the world of Facebook buy and sell groups, I came across a product that essentially changed the way I thought about storytelling. I put in a bid for a math game called “Ten Little Penguins Stuck on the Fridge.” I knew there would be some time before my daughter, then about 1.5 years old would be able to play with the product in the way that it was intended, but I saw different potential for those magnets.

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Around the same time, I started designing the space that would become our playroom. I opted for a blackboard wall where I saw future creativity blossoming. I wanted the wall to be magnetic so that it could be used in different ways. I thought ahead to a time where one day, my children, could stick word magnets on the wall as they learned to write and create poetry.

Because of the way the wall was made, it wasn’t as magnetic as I was hoping, but it still worked with light magnets, like the ones from the penguin game. My 2 year old was ecstatic as she started creating stories on the blackboard wall.

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Encouraged by her enthusiasm, I pulled up a Microsoft Word document and asked her what other magnets she wanted. We sat together, finding pictures and using dollar store adhesive magnet sheets to create custom magnets that she could use for play and storytelling.

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The following year, I started seeing magnets at the dollar store: bunny magnets at Easter, Cinderella dress up magnets so I started collecting them to add to our collection. I continue to keep my eye out for magnets and we still continue to create some at home.

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Our blackboard wall has been used in a number of ways.

It’s used for for decor:

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It’s used to hang posters and for planning purposes:

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It’s used for mark making, drawing and literacy:

 

It’s still used for storytelling! Now that H is 4, she uses it in a collaborative fashion, often creating stories with me as we use both chalk and the magnets to create our stories.

 

Y also loves sticking magnets onto the wall. I anticipate creating a new set of magnets for him as his language skills continue developing.

 

Even if you don’t have a magnetic wall or whiteboard in your home, fridges and dishwashers work great!! This is a great option for my kids when I’m cooking and they want to be close by.

 

 

For a more portable option, using a cookie tray works well. My daughter uses this when we travel or when she wants to play with magnets in her bedroom.

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Where in the world…

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Since H turned 4, her awareness about the world and her interest in geography, social studies and maps has steadily been growing.

It ignited with an interactive globe she received from a friend on her birthday. Suddenly she became more familiar with countries like China, Nigeria and Russia . These places became more meaningful to her when (as with anything else) we started making personal connections (“Do you know that’s where our neighbours used to live?”) The globe also features music and languages from different countries and this was a hit with my daughter who, like her momma, loves world music and languages.

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She played with these beautiful matching cards I had bought at Costco a few years ago that featured people from various countries. She started to become more familiar with various country names: Algeria, Cuba, Finland, Turkey….

Her newfound interest quickly turned into a month-long story session. It was about a family vacation that included my side of the family. Everyday before nap or bed, I told her another part of the story, which featured different countries or places. She was captivated and each day, excitedly asked, “Can you tell the story of Nani, Nana and those guys?” We traveled everywhere: Thailand, Costa Rica, Japan, Sudan, Australia and so on. Sometimes, she asked for a specific country, and sometimes I provided it. When I didn’t know enough about a country to spin a story, I took inspiration from non-fiction books, like this one. H really enjoyed looking at the photos and asking questions.

She also became very preoccupied with understanding why I no longer live with my parents in Toronto. She shared her anxieties around separation with me and took this occasion to remind me she wanted to live with us forever and wanted to stay in our current house forever. As she became more familiar with other places and how we refer to citizens from other countries, I started hearing her use words like “Chinese” and also asking how to correctly refer to various populations…”How do you call United States?” As of late, she considers herself and her brother Canadian, her father, Indian and me, Torontonian.

She worked through a sticker activity book called the World Atlas of Animals (I had previously purchased it for $3 from  dollarama). It included a pull out map and helped her become more familiar with continents. For her, the concept that places have subsets is difficult to grasp. How can we live in Calgary…and  Alberta…and Canada…and North America all at the same time?

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Talk about different places peaked for her when I finally put up this giant map in Y’s room. She immediately began asking about places we had alluded to or talked about and started asking specific questions to help develop her understanding…”What’s this country between China and Russia?”

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It was great for her to be able to see things more concretely. She looked at the map and asked me “Where is Oz?” Above mentioned in past posts, the Wizard of Oz has been a big interest of hers this past year. I told her Oz was not on the map but did show her Kansas. A few weeks later she carefully reviewed the map and asked, “Where is jannah?” This opened the door to a positive discussion about jannah as I know the idea of death typically makes her anxious.

Pondering about place also expanded to history and thinking about time. This book was a favourite of hers as she kept returning to it, eager to learn about and review the lifestyles of children from various time periods and places.

We plan to continue learning about places in different capacities as they tie in to different aspects of our life. I can already see some upcoming tie ins as we prepare for Ramadan.

 

“The World is Not a Rectangle”

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I found this book in the library last night. We read it before bed today. Quite timely, wouldn’t you say?

I picked it up because I was intrigued: a Muslim woman architect inspired by nature who lived during our time.

What I didn’t anticipate was reading it today, coincidentally on International Women’s Day, and then rereading it tonight with my daughter.

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It led to so many questions and discussions, google searches and connections to the other work we are doing around art and geography and what is beautiful.

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It was an honour to have found and share this book. I am mesmerized.

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Beautiful Oops

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In the fall of 2012, I was taking a class that ended up being life changing for me. The class about experiences in early childhood literacy was brought to life by my talented college instructor, Lana Kostiuk, who deeply influenced how I thought about books for children. Lana’s dynamic lessons and standards for quality not only helped inform my own passions within early childhood education, but they pulled me into the world of Reggio as I learned about provocations and rich literature.

One of the first books  Lana shared with us, was called Beautiful Oops. I remember how mesmerized I was as she read it. I remember how the wheels in my head started turning and thinking “wow!” The book invites us to look at mistakes from a different perspective, seeing opportunities disguised as faults. It has a very beautiful concrete application for young children as well as figurative one for adults. I highly recommend checking it out!

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In the spring of 2015, I bought the book for a friend who had just graduated from teacher’s college. A few years later I saw a FB post of a coffee stain on a student’s paper that she had cleverly changed into something else. A few months later, I bought a copy for my family. I knew it wasn’t yet relevant to my daughter who was 20 months at the time, but I knew that day would come.

That day came today.

H has really been into drawing for the past week. This sent me over the moon because for almost a year, she’s shown little interest in it. I’ve been marvelling at how her drawing ability has been evolving (maybe I will share some of her creations in another post) but this evening she was very frustrated with the process.

I knew there were a number of factors coming into play: our routine has evaporated during the holidays. Late wake up/sleep times, forgotten meal times and minimal regard given to what she’s eating have understandably made her more grumpy and prone to high emotions. Moreover, not having the social connections she has become accustomed to (preschool friends and attention from me) have also affected her ability to cope. So when I could overhear her frustrated, angry, scribbling furiously over pictures that were not turning out the way she wanted and tears pierced with cries for attention, pleas for playing together and the “you didn’t spend any time with me today” I knew this was an opportunity.

I promised once I got Y into bed, I would be all hers.

And somewhere in that two hours of spending time together, we read Beautiful Oops. Most of my children’s books that are not in current use are housed in the basement, but for some reason, this one has always loved in my bedroom.

H was intrigued and fascinated. We read the book together and I saw her go through it atleast three more times in the short period before bed.

 

 

 

I suggested that maybe we could revisit her “mistake” from earlier in the day- the possibility of turning it into something beautiful was an idea she loved! She also asked me to join in and beautify some of my “mistakes”.

 

 

 

I hope that powerful feeling she felt is one that stays with her. She already asked me if I could leave the book downstairs so she could read it every morning.