Thursday 29 March 2018


Aisha was one of the first students at Al Qamar. She spent 8 years here and after completing her 10th IGCSE, moved to another local Chennai school.  Here is what she has to say about her Al Qamar experience

There was a lot of freedom in Al Qamar. We got to do a lot of fun and unique stuff like writing novels or selling crafts at PTA’s. There were field trips and lunch parties, reading competitions and Ramadhan collections. Because there weren’t many students everyone knew everyone and the teachers were really warm and approachable.  

Classes were fun too; in Potpourri we’d study tongue twisters, do role plays and generally have a blast. Everyone looked forward to that one class. FOSS, on the other hand, was all about experiments: levers, pulleys, solutions, etc. In the optics class, I remember us taking a bunch of measurements and readings and finally making our own telescopes. Al Qamar truly promoted out-of-the-box thinking and self-learning. We were encouraged to observe, to question, to research.
The thing that stood out about Al Qamar was its funky uniqueness. We made our mark and were proud of that. 

Whether planning our own parties or designing magazines, we did things differently. School was more than lessons. A whole lot more.


Alyina came to Al Qamar in its 3rd year.  After completing her 10th IGCSE, she moved to another local IGCSE school. She is currently pursuing her Bachelor's in Psychology in Chennai. Here is what she has to say about her experience. 

I'm Alyina, a former student of Al Qamar and Al Qamar's first graduate. 

I joined Al Qamar when i was 12. My English was very poor and I had a hard time framing sentences. Aneesa Aunty and Nasreen Aunty patiently taught me and improved the skills which I lacked. I was exposed and encouraged to read books which enhanced my writing skills. Alhumdullillah after that my English and other skills were elevated and kept getting better. 

As I am learning psychology, UI recognise all the new techniques and applications Aneesa Aunty has used in her teachings. They were more towards humanistic approaches. Unlike many other schools, Al Qamar recognises each child's capacity and interest, and develops the child according to his/her needs. They treat everyone equally with great care. All my teachers have been friendly and understanding. They never gave up on me and kept encouraging me till the end. 

At Al Qamar I was exposed to a lot of science and humanitarian work. I had an opportunity to meet a lot of speakers who talked about their experiences in their field. Each one had unique experience to share and I have learned a lot from them! 

Thanks to my teachers and friends in Al Qamar, I have become a better and a knowledgeable person. I thank the Almighty for giving me an opportunity to have studied in this institution.

Wednesday 28 March 2018

Open Day - an eyeopener for adults

Lower Elementary students putting final touches
Open Day is an annual exhibition at Al Qamar where children showcase projects they've chosen and done independently. Projects range from Science fair investigations like the efficacy of Neem toothpaste, to psychology studies "Do girls give negative feedback differently", art projects - "Abstract Art", History of Biryani!" and many others.   Open Day @ Al Qamar started in 2011 when the school started showcasing the students' projects for parents, friends and other community members.  Over the years, the number of projects being showcased has gone up astronomically as all students from Lower Elementary upwards strive to participate. 

Open Day is different from exhibitions at most schools in various ways. 

First, for instance, Open Day projects are a culmination of the skills acquired by each child during the year.  All year round, children have learned to work independently in all areas - whether it was solving math sums, completing the Small Science workbooks, writing stories, conducting experiments. The children put these skills to use and conduct an end of year project.

Secondly, the project topics for Open Day are, by and large, independently chosen by the children themselves.  The project topics themselves reflect the diversity of thought. Where one child may be passionate about birds in his backyard, another is crazy about Math puzzles. A third is pondering about how to make Al Qamar a green school, while a fourth wants to tell the world about her favourite books.  Children are encouraged to really explore topic areas and be as funky or whacko as they want.

The most important differentiator is the fact that these projects are done independently by the children themselves.  While students may read reference books at home, all the writing - from the draft to the final chart - is done at school.  Students discuss their ideas with teachers, help finalise the questions they plan to answer in their project, get assistance with spelling, grammar, punctuation, but the work is original.

Understandably, children find the research hard, really hard. They are expected to go refer to books, not one, but many. They have to find people who may give them information. Sometimes they have to go visit a museum - like one student recently who went to the Camera Museum om the ECR to get information.  Incase of science fair investigations, children have to follow the scientific method to develop hypotheses, conduct the experiment and analse the results. Internet research is a last option if no other resource is available.

Teachers keep an eagle eye out for evidence of plagiarism - any text that seems copied straight out of a reference book has to be replaced by original explanations by the student.  Students are constantly told that their mistakes, errors and shortcomings are more valuable than copied but perfect work by another.  When it comes to making models, the same rule applies. Children (depending on their age) have to make their own models.  They make take adult help when using tools, but the design,
execution has to be the child's.

Children often collaborate on projects - or simply lend a hand to a friend struggling with his project.  This increases the sense of teamwork. Moreover it encourages children to consider their own peers as valuable resources rather than competitors.  Its a delight to see the enthusiasm, passion and care the children take over Open Day projects. Its a huge learning for adults that children should be allowed to drive their own learning.

All this takes a lot of brain work  - and hard work.  But children develop confidence in themselves as they overcome difficulties, realise their own potential and direct their own learning.  And learn a life
lesson - they believe they can do anything! And that is the essence of schooling.

Friday 23 March 2018

How do we want to learn about the environment? A students' perspective

Transforming education into environmentally conscious education is undoubtedly the need of the hour.  It is vital that children internalise the learning from an environmental education class and transform their own lives. The focus needs to be self, family, local community and the learning should be translated into action.

To achieve such difficult transformational goals, it was absolutely necessary that we get explicit buy-in from the students. How better to achieve this, than by first getting their ideas and opinions about how they would like to learn about environmental education.  To this end, the students organised a World Cafe style brainstorming session.  The student organisers, Abdullah and Hasna, from Grade 5 saw this session as the starting point for more sessions on raising awareness and changing behaviour as far as environmental impact is concerned.

Abdullah & Hasna invited the 4th-7th grades for the Cafe. Keeping with the format for World cafes, they created 5 discussion tables, provided chart paper, pens, sticky notes and all accoutrements required to facilitate a brainstorming session. They divided up the children into 5 teams.

The first question they had the teams brainstorm was "How would you like to learn about the environment and implement the learning". Teams debated this topic while Hasna & Abdullah went table to table explaining the concept, getting groups back on track and generally facilitating.  After each team recorded their ideas, the 2nd
question was put to the teams - "What difficulties/ obstacles will you face in doing this?" Each team shifted their table to brainstorm the potential difficulties for another table's ideas.  At the end of this session, teams again shifted tables to go brainstorm how they would overcome these difficulties".  At the end, each table had 2 representatives come up and explain the table's answers to the three questions.

This was the students' first attempt at organising and brainstorming in the World Cafe style and despite issues with not understanding the questions fully, it was an incredible experience to witness the process.  Where one would expect, complete bedlam as 35 kids vie for talk time, the discussions were extremely serious and intense.  The children's ideas, sense of the difficulties ahead and solutions were just amazing.  The entire experience was an eye opener for the adults viewing - once again children proved their capacity and capability for "adult' like work. Kudos to the organisers.

June - kids are planning another World Cafe, this time focussed specifically on how to move Al Qamar to becoming a greener school.  They also plan to hold an all school event to spread their message to other institutions.

Thanks Ramnath Chandrashekhar for introducing this concept to Al Qamar.

Thursday 22 March 2018


Nuha joined Al Qamar as a tiny Montessorian and stayed till the end of 2nd grade when she moved to  the US. Here is a brief description of how her al Qamar experience helped her in her new school:

  • Winding up and Cleaning up after has helped me organize and maintain my work.
  • Cursive handwriting helped me get the best handwriting in all my classes.
  • Reading- my reading level is the highest in my class; level X.
  • Geometry lessons helped me understand the concepts quicker.
  • Memorization of surahs helped me in my maktab work.

  • What does she miss about Al Qamar
  • *Miss my friend- shameema.
  • Miss the ‘no homework’ school.
  • Miss the Islamic environment.
  • Miss the field trips.
  • Miss Aneesa Aunty, Aysha Aunty, & Barvin Aunty.


Shaheel joined Al Qamar as a tiny Montessorian and stayed until the end of 4th grade when he moved to Australia. Here is what his parent has to say about how his Al Qamar experience helped him in his new school:

Shaheel is living in Sydney and studying 5th grade. He had a smooth transition to the new school environment due to the adaptability taught at Al Qamar. He is par excellence among his peer group. He excelled at the English language assessment for non-English speakers, which is testimony for Al Qamar teaching standard. To top it up self learning is the greatest quality imbibed which helps him to thrive in every field of his interests.


Almir came to Al Qamar in Montessori and stayed Grade 2 when he moved to the US. Here's what his mom says about his experience at Al Qamar :

"When Almir joined Al Qamar Academy after completing LKG,it took sometime for him to settle down in the new school.He wasn't willing to sit down  and work.Had it been a normal school,he would've been forced to sit down to work,and I'm sure that compulsion and force would've been detrimental to his learning!

But in Al Qamar,he was left to himself for a few months, with the staff patiently waiting for his willingness and readiness to work!Finally one fine day when he  felt like learning,he sat down for hours together with his teacher ,who was sincere and happy to teach him,and learned so many concepts in math!Alhamdulillah,he grasped the ideas and developed a clear understanding!His teacher in his current school in the U.S was amazed by his math talents when she was told  that he had completed only 3 months of first grade!His learning of math at Al Qamar the montessori way has also helped him to do mental math!

At the start of the academic year, in math NWEA testing which is done throughout the U.S,he surpassed the required level,alhamdulillah- the patient wait during his initial days at Al Qamar was worth it!

He was also tested for his reading skills in NWEA testing ,and he simply sailed past the required level,alhamdulillah-the culmination of regular reading of books in his previous school, Al Qamar Academy,where emphasis is on reading based on the belief that books open out one's mind to thinking!

The current school also encourages reading and they have programmes to ensure that every child reads daily.Al Qamar had READING POT wherein kids received rewards for reading!
 He had no problems in communicating as well, Alhamdulillah, thanks to the English-speaking skills he had acquired in his previous school. In Al Qamar Academy, students are presented with opportunities to prepare and present topics all by themselves during the OPEN DAY and other occasions,and stalls are set up by  small kids themselves acting as tiny entrepreneurs.All these boost their confidence levels which reflected in Almir's confident conduct in his current school in the U.S.
The 2nd grade English language classes had writing of a higher standard than the Indian syllabus and Almir had to raise his level to keep up with the challenge. Alhamduliilah,he did that and surprised his teacher. Again, the 'WAIT AND GIVE THE CHILD TIME TO DO IT WITHOUT PRESSURISING' policy adopted in Al Qamar made Almir and I work as a team  and overcome the difficulty and accomplish!

When we admitted our kids into Al Qamar, we were seriuously discouraged by the management to avoid television and gadgets for the kids ,and we are  now conscious about that. We are definitely seeing the positive result of it and IT'S THE DUTY OF THE PARENTS TO HELP THE KIDS READ REGULARLY AVOIDING T.V AND GADGETSWITHOUT THIS IMPORTANT ROLE OF THE PARENTS, IT'S NOT POSSIBLE TO SEE THE POSITIVE RESULT AND IMPROVEMENT IN THE KIDS.


Shahana joined Al Qamar in Montessori and stayed until her 4th grade when she moved to the US.  Here is what Shahana and her parents have to say about the Al Qamar experience:

"My name is Shahana. I am in 5th grade right now. I have studied in Al Qamar for 4 years among the best teachers and friends. In Al Qamar, I have experienced something may be I would have never experienced in any school. I have lot of amazing things learned in these 4 years. First of all I did not use any books but only materials to learn. Everytime we started our day, we used to make a big circle and recite surah Al Fatiha. And of course we prayed Salath ul Dhuhr. I miss all of these and also combined classes with seniors and juniors.  I have experienced visitors coming to our classroom and sharing their memorable experiences with us, especially in Ramadhan, when we had visitors from other countries to talk about it. Al Qamar taught me something special that I can make use anywhere I go. Like I use it here in my school now. They taught me not to "by-heart" but understand anything before learning. Also made me ask questions until I understand. This strategy helped me a lot in my school now. I love Al Qamar and miss a lot."

Shahana's parents:

"As proud parents of Al Qamar we ought to say that, the principles and values you imbibed in her are ineffable. As always we are proud to admit that these values and principles of Al Qamar are protecting her from distraction. Modesty and Chastity is something she  takes along with her only because of Al Qamar. To her, it  has always been an exploring and experiencing things rather than just learning. Thanks for inculcating in the knowledge of Duniyah and Aqirah. If ever be the reason to return to India that would always be for Al Qamar."


Saliha was with Al Qamar from Grade 5-9 before she moved to another IGCSE school in Chennai.

Here's what Saliha has to say about her time at Al Qamar:

I was at al Qamar from grade 5 - 9 and I could easily tell it is a place very close to my heart since I met some of my closest friends or people I could call family there.

If I could tell somethings from AlQamar that has helped in my IGCSE papers would hands down be the potpourri classes which were the interactive sessions of English. My papers felt like a cakewalk Alhamdulilah because of those (thanks to Nasreen Aunty ).

I thoroughly enjoyed all the entrepreneurship opportunities our school used to provide us with like setting up our own stalls and etc., which I don’t think most other schools would let you explore. 

I once had a question of what was the right way to hold a pencil, and anyone else would’ve told me to just hold it however I found it easy or something, but Aneesa Aunty told me to conduct a research and gave me personally signed letters using which I could go to random other schools to sample children and other specialists in the field. She supported me for two years in this project and helped me present it in a national level science fair. 

The amount of support and resources the school would provide is possible towards your passion is unlimited. Being a small school the teachers felt like family and the school like a second home.

Alum Updates: Aahil

 After completing grade 4, Aahil had to move to another school the reason being our sudden move to the U.S.He was enrolled in a public school in the state of Michigan.  Alhamdulillah, he had a wonderful start in school-he already was well above the required levels in reading and math in the NWEA testing which is done throughout the U.S. Have to give credit to his previous school Al Qamar Academy in Chennai as his reading skills were enhanced there. Al Qamar Academy stresses and encourages reading,and steps are taken to enthuse the students in that direction.READING POT was one such initiative! 

The LITERATURE CLASSES at Al Qamar were of a high standard where the focus was on comprehension, and the texts the students were exposed to had a high standard of language.In his current school,he has regular comprehension worksheets,and he has been doing well,the base for that already laid in Al Qamar!
The science classes in Al Qamar were really good-the students made to think and give their inferences,contrary to the general Indian system where the solutions are spelt out by the teachers.The science classes here in Aahil's current school are experiment-based which is in line with his previous school, Al Qamar.
Alhamduliilah,Aahil has been a confident boy in his current school, working independently with a little help at home only when he really needs it.SELF-RESPONSIBILITY of students is what Al Qamar has been focusing on which is based on  its strong belief that it is what will produce strong individuals!

Having been  exposed to good spoken-English in Al Qamar ,he faced no difficulty in communicating in his current school in the U.S.Got to know that this academic year,potpourri classes were introduced ,and the students there are benefiting immensely,developing a wholesome personality!

When we go back to India from the U.S,like all parents,our concern is to find a suitable school for our kids and our wish is to get back into Al Qamar or find one which is similar to Al Qamar in its child-friendliness,encouraging unlimited reading and exposing the kids to different activities through field trips so that they grow into confident,articulate adults,inshaAllah!
Knowledge of the deen and the dunya is what we look forward to as Muslim parents and Al Qamar is well in that direction.

Readers, bookworms and more

Al Qamar fosters the reading habit in children in countless ways. DEAR time and Read-a-thons have already been mentioned in previous blogs.

Another cool way is to integrate the library into the classroom - instead of having it in a separate space. This allows children to pick up a book anytime they are done with
the rest of their work. And sometimes, without even doing any of the work.  With no traditional style arrangement of tables and chairs, many nooks and crannies exist where a child can curl up with a book.

The library has carefully curated books on a variety of fiction and non fiction topics.  The books are  segregated into leveled in consultation with the children. However, children read across levels - an advanced reader picks up a Junie B Jones, while a newbie tries her hand at "Wind in the Willows'.

The library is refreshingly disorganized and thereby inviting.  Books are found everywhere - hidden in a desk, squirreled away in a tray with Montessori material, left on my table without a note.  There shelves are open style - there are no glass fronted cupboards to dissuade a child from browsing.  Yes, it can be messy - but its not antiseptic.

The older children themselves write down the names of the books they borrow or return in a register - thereby placing the onus of library management on the children themselves.  Periodically they decide to clean up the shelves, reclassify the books, repair the torn ones and replace the well read ones with a stash in a cardboard box.

The library is frequently replenished. One policy is to buy mostly second hand cheap books - which enables recycling of books and reduces the cost. Another fallout is that adults don't get so upset when books get worn with heavy use. Another way of replenishment we follow is to accept donations of "gently" used books from fellow bookworms.  (Do contact us if you have any)

A result - bookworms galore.  And this was the amusing result of the emphasis on reading - a proposal for Open Day which was submitted - for a project on books!

Tuesday 13 March 2018

Math @ Al Qamar

Children working together with Stamp Game 
Montessori math methodology is implemented at Al Qamar Academy from the the child's entry till Grade 5. The methodology uses scientifically designed concrete material to help children comprehend and master math and geometry concepts.

Montessori child using right angled scalene triangles 
Children are introduced to a concept using material. They spend time mastering each concept thoroughly because they are allowed the freedom to choose their work.

Child working with division

In Upper Elementary, children start moving from concrete to abstract. They use material to understand Prime & Composite numbers, fractions, decimals and percents.  Algebric expressions are also taught using montessori material.  Children now start moving into higher order thinking and are challenged with complex math puzzles and logical thinking as a regular part of the class. The children are also provided with opportunities to benchmark themselves in national and international competitions.  MashaAllah they perform very well in all - the Global Math Challenge, the Russian School of Maths challenge, the EI Asset examinations.

The gifted students are further provided with a Challenger Math session in Middle school. These are led by IITian Hauroon Jamal. This work prepares them for potential IITJEE coaching in the secondary level.

Science Teaching - Primary level

Children conducting experiments 
Al Qamar uses the Small Science curriculum from the Homi Bhabha Centre for Science Education, a unit of the Tata Institute for Fundamental Research (TIFR) Mumbai.  

The curriculum is a hands on, inquiry based curriculum that builds scientific thinking in children - observational skills, logical thinking and data analysis. Children conduct experiments to observe and draw conclusions.  There is no rote learning - each activity is hands on and requires a child to think independently. 

On a nature walk
Most classes take place outdoors, under the trees.  The classes are full of discussions. Children ask questions, propose answers, try out their hypothesis. They are often taken on excursions and nature walks related to what they've been studying. The children have visited the RainCentre to understand rainwater harvesting, an orgaic farm to see crops growing, the Tree Park to understand biodiversity, the sewage plant at the Chennai Mathematical Institute to understand waste water treatments.  The excursions add to the children's conceptual understanding
Understanding properties of liquids

Last year, the ex Director of HBSCE and author of the Small Science books, Prof Jayashree Ramdas, spent a sabbatical term at Al Qamar guiding the teachers in the implementation of the curriculum.  Her invaluable involvement resulted in a far better delivery of Small Science.  
Measuring shadows with their sun clock

The work has been documented on the Small Science website

Transforming reluctant readers into avid bookworms - DEAR Time

DEAR - Drop Everything And Read - a wonderful, eagerly looked forward to time on Friday afternoons, when Lower Elementary children snuggle down with a book.  Everyone reads. Its downtime, funtime, "away into another world" time.

DEAR is absolutely essential to get kids to develop the reading habit. It can easily be practiced at home - where everyone switches off devices, grabs a book and reads. The key word - "EVERYONE". No excuses

In schools, one DEAR period a week is really helpful to get reluctant readers to pick a book. They can't be doing anything else in that time, right? Just flipping, checking out the pictures, glancing is absolutely fine for the really reluctant readers.

Its really important that teachers also read. This is role modelling.  Kids will follow suit when they see their teachers also giving up everything to read. Sure, the first few times, there'll always be this kid who you feel you need to watch, remind, nag. Resist the urge. Its more important that s/he sees you as the teacher reading a book.  

Another way DEAR helps is go provide a downtime. After an exciting, stimulating and pretty exhausting day at school, children learn to focus on the book, tune out the world. This calms them down  while demonstrating a critical lifeskill - the ability to relax, tune out and read.

Transforming reluctant readers into bookworms - Read-a-thon

We're 2 weeks away from the end of the Read-a-thon which takes place in the last term every year.

Children read books of their choice and earn points. The points translate into gifts from Mr. Reading Pot - who arrives promptly on Friday afternoons. "Mr. Reading Pot" has a treasure trove of cutsie gifts - pens, erasers, keychains.

At the end of the term, kids who meet a certain points target will go off for an ice cream or pizza party.  Some are rooting for the Anna Library.

All the books are levelled for different reading levels. Children can choose any level they are comfortable with - a 4th grader recently finished "Daddy Long Legs", while a 5th grade ESL felt comfortable reading 5 Level 1 books each day.  An added caveat this year is the "No Screen" requirement. Kids not only have to read, but also have to stay away from any screen - tablet, mobile, computer - else the points for the day are cancelled.  Parents are a key part of this effort - they monitor that the reading is done, signoff on the Book Log and check comprehension.

Reading independently and for pleasure forms a key part of the Al Qamar way.  Children who are readers become independent learners.  The reading translates into improvement in spelling, grammar, imagination, writing ability and empathy.  In one extreme case, an avid reader who spends her entire day reading and only coming for class rarely, cracked the Math & Science Asset exam - simply because she ploughed through the Murderous Math series and probably a whole host of science books.

Al Qamar parties

Al Qamar kids look forward to the two annual Eid parties and the End of Year party

Each environment organises its own party. The Middle School & Upper Elementary parties are organised fully by the children. Children create teams to handle event planning, games, menu, party favours, clean up. They conduct the whole party -
with teachers walking in only play games and eat the food.

The parties are a great learning experience for kids. Another Al Qamar way to help children become independent, gain confidence and skills. 

Eagerly awaiting this year's End of Year party on the 14th...

Spark Science Club - light the passion, spirit of inquiry, joy of discovery

School children are often exposed to Science as a subject to be rote learned from a book. Chapter by chapter they mug up facts and forgone conclusions.  At Spark, we hope to address these lacunae.

Spark Science Club uses an inquiry based, hands on approach to teaching science.  Children conduct experiments to observe phenomena & derive the scientific laws underlying these phenomena. They employ the scientific method in all their
investigations and learn to derive conclusions from the scientific data they collect.  In this way, they replicate the path of inquiry taken by great scientists in the past.....

Monday 12 March 2018

Sustainability @ school - a visitor's perspective on Al Qamar

Just found this write up from way back in 2014 ... and extremely pertinent given our wonderful experience today at the World Cafe.  Thanks a lot Narasimhan!

How might we redesign Environmental Education in Schools - World Cafe

Al Qamar was one of the 5 schools invited to participate in a discussion on how to integrate environmental values in the 15 years of education for children.  The discussion was organised by OpenAct. Other schools included HLC, PSBB, Asan Memorial and KV.  Schools were represented by school heads, teachers and students. Experts from the field, educational consultants, activitists and journalists made up the rest. Abdullah Ibrahim and Hasna Jabir of Grade 5 represented Al Qamar.

Three critical questions were brainstormed - what is our dream for environmental education, what are the obstacles to these dreams and what can we do to overcome the obstacles.

A fantastic bunch of ideas were generated - from the importance of communicating the importance of environmental education to parents, getting Corporate funding, creating change in our communities, creating awareness of local flora, fauna and the threats to these.  

At the end, each of the groups presented their responses. Abdullah Ibrahim was one of the representatives for his group and spoke extremely well MashaAllah.

The children are going to take the lead in creating environmental consciousness in the school.  To start off, they're organising a World Cafe style discussion with their peers next Monday, InshaAllah.  Watch this space for more.

Saturday 10 March 2018

EI Asset results - Al Qamar exceeds national benchmarks

Got the EI Asset benchmarking reports.
MashaAllah, Al Qamar students outperformed national, zonal and state benchmarks in the EI Asset Exams for English, Maths & Science in the Winter 2017 round. Alhamdulillah, this has been the performance for the last 6 years.
Key Highlights:
* 1 Outstanding Performance - top 1%
* 4 Distinguished Performances - top 5%
* 11 Creditable Performances - top 15%
* 30% of the students rank in the top 15%
* 75% of the students rank in the top 50% in one or more subjects
Our opinion - this stellar performance is because of the Al Qamar model - focus on real independent learning with no exams, homework or rote learning.

Au Revoir

  Au Revoir  The crucible moment came for me when, 16 years ago, I pulled my 7 year old son from school. Once again. Thrice in four years. W...