It's been seven years of joy working with children and teaching them Arabic in a Montessori way, at Al Qamar Academy, Alhamdulillah. I completed two cycles of the Montessori three years periods, and have seen the wonderful outcome in Arabic language learning. Alhamdulillah.
Things were going smoothly, then this pandemic occurred. The world was turned upside down by the virus. Everything changed. Especially teaching. And in response to the new scenario, we had to embrace technology as a medium to continue children's learning. Challenges were ahead, we had to retain the child's interest in learning, keeping him moving in digital space.
In the regular Montessori school, we provide a conducive physical environment for children to explore and understand the concepts of languages, driven by their own urges, making their own choices, working by themselves. Now, we had to create a digital environment where the child could achieve his goals in the same way. Was that even possible?
At first, we sat with our planning sheets to understand what could possibly be presented to Elementary children in Arabic. We divided the children into small groups where we could provide personalised attention. Then we gathered a bunch of online resources which would be interesting and engaging for children. Finally, as both teachers and students had to adapt new way of learning and teaching, we kept our expectations low.
Classes began. The chidlren were delighted to see me again and I was overjoyed meeting them, despite not being physically together. Alhamdulillah because of the deep connections created between children and adults in a Montessori environment, I could connect with the children based on my past experience and relationship with them.
Within few classes, children had transitioned smoothly into a different mode of learning. Children started working with the basic Arabic presentations at first as there had been a long gap of 3 months in schooling. They brushed up their vocabulary first and then individually we started introducing the parts of grammar. True to the Montessori philosophy of language learning, classes had a lot of oral conversation in Arabic so the language can come "alive" for the chidlren.
I restarted my read alouds - choosing Arabic story books which was relevant to concepts which had been introduced. Reading books has always been a great source of effective learning for the children, we have seen how it has a positive impact on understanding the concepts . Children learn the structure of the sentence, grammar along with vocabulary, with the minimum effort and great interest. Many books were available online and I made full use of that resource. Especially wonderful is the Unite for Literacy with books in English and narration in Arabic. Another resource is Pratham's Storyweaver where several levelled Arabic story books can be found.
The written work was regularly submitted by the children through WhatsApp - they wrote in their notebooks and their parents uploaded photographs of the writing. The work was done independently by the children and I was delighted to see they hadn't forgotton how to write!
Then came the time where I felt I needed a confirmation - had the children understood the concepts, could they use the learning of the past two months
To make it sure, in an afternoon class, I asked a boy who was accompanied by his mother, " من هذه؟ "( who is she? ) he replied" .... ،هذه امي،اسمها"( she is my mother, her name is....), it went on, I asked questions based on whatever had been presented to them, Alhamdulillah, most of them were able to answer. Alhamdulillah.
That gives a sense of success, and satisfaction, that despite of all the challenges, we are moving smoothly in digital platform. Thankfully , the online learning/ teaching experience has generally been positive.. Alhamdu lillah..