Topic: Between Tradition and Innovation (The Pre-Islamic Era)
Procedure and Duration: One-hour Synchronous Meeting
Grade: Middle School (Tenth Grade)
Age Group: 15 years
Number of Students: 9 students
School: Al Hayat International School
Meet the Facilitator
My name is Grace Al-Khanji, and I work as an Arabic language teacher for the third, fourth, and fifth grades at Al Hayat International School. I am deeply passionate about my profession as a teacher, and I strive to make my students’ learning experience meaningful, free from fear or feeling inadequate due to any grades they receive and are documented in their records. I firmly believe that such grades might lead students to leave school or struggle while transitioning from one stage to another. Therefore, as a teacher, it is my responsibility to create wonderful memories for my students and provide them with an impactful learner eXperience that influences their mindset and the way they treat others in the future.
Meet the Learners
Being an International Baccalaureate (IB) school, diversity in students’ personalities was evident, both in terms of nationality and thought. The students came from various nationalities, both Arabic and non-Arabic, and there were noticeable differences in learning abilities and styles among the students.
Through the “Dialogue via Ether” activity that I organized, I was able to get to know the students comprehensively. Using a TV screen, I invited the students to ask questions and get to know each other in an informal and enjoyable way. To encourage communication and interaction, the questions were written on paper cutouts, the pieces of paper were folded and distributed randomly, and each participant received two questions.
Then, the students sat in pairs facing each other in parallel, with the television screen passing from the right side. When a student’s head was inside the screen, they would reveal their paper and ask their question to their parallel peer on the opposite side. This way, the students got to know each other.
The screen automatically moved from one student to another, allowing the questions to be asked until the right side was completed. Then, the screen moved to the left side, and the process was repeated. Through this activity, all students participated and got to know each other better (full names, age, hobbies, favorite food, favorite sports, favorite athlete, and favorite school subject).
Through observation, I was able to identify the differences in the students’ abilities to express themselves. Some of them could express themselves fluently and confidently, while others were shy. I also discovered who was bold and proactive in presenting their ideas clearly, and who was more cautious and reserved in their expression.
The eXperience Description
Desired Adjectives: Interactive
Undesired Adjectives: Fearful (fear of not memorizing the verses), Difficult (difficult pronunciation), Linguistically Diverse (different linguistic context), Boring, Worrisome.
Facing a significant challenge in explaining a lesson about the impact of the environment on society during the Pre-Islamic Era, (along with the customs and traditions that people were subjected to), taking into consideration that the learners came from diverse environments and nationalities (including both Arab and non-Arab backgrounds), and following the International Baccalaureate (IB) system, we realized that it was essential to develop a plan that suited the personality of an IB learner. That’s when I discovered FIRST-ADLX Framework, which helped me transform this journey into a unique impactful Active Deep Learner eXperience that left a lasting and profound sustainable impact on the learners’ hearts and minds.
By applying FIRST-ADLX Framework, I ensured that the experience was appropriate for the specific needs of my school context, and I successfully engaged the learners in an immersive experience.
The Learning Outcomes
- The learner will sense the Pre-Islamic environment with its prevailing customs and traditions and their impact throughout the years.
- The learner will value the fact that they belong to an ancient Arab heritage with deep-rooted origins that they can proudly cherish.
- The learner will become more open to different cultures, traditions, and customs, accepting and embracing them while aligning with their Arab identity and leaving aside what does not suit them.
- The learner will express themselves in a proper communicative manner.
- The learner will identify the Pre-Islamic environment.
- The learner will differentiate between customs and traditions.
- The learner will realize the impact of the Pre-Islamic environment on life and society at that time and how it reflected on the individual’s character and their way of expression.
Implementing the Domains of FIRST-ADLX Framework
Focusing on Learnerrrr Behaviors:
At this critical stage, and due to the diversity in the personalities and intellectual levels of the students, it was necessary to work with each student individually. The task of defining the era was assigned to a female student who followed the Lebanese curriculum, and she provided a suitable definition. Another female student, also following the Lebanese curriculum, was given the task of introducing the poet “Antarah”. Through this task, she was able to boost her confidence, which seemed to be weak during the pre-opener when she was unable to speak and stand in front of the audience due to stuttering in Formal Standard Arabic. This issue vanished when I allowed her to choose the words of the introduction according to what she could easily pronounce, making the flow of her speech much smoother.
As for the student who used to be shy about expressing herself and afraid of facing others because she wasn’t an Arab, after talking to her and asking her to choose between participating in a secondary role in a play or introducing “Imrul –Qays”, she chose to participate in a secondary role in the play at first, as she wouldn’t be in the spotlight and would not have much attention on her. Going along with her desire, I agreed. However, she later came back to me and asked to take on the challenge of presenting alone. She was encouraged to take the initiative after I pointed out her talents that she still underutilizes, such as her charisma when answering questions in class and trying to convince those in front of her. I encouraged her to consider that those who watch her are just some members of her class! As a result, she succeeded in overcoming her shyness in front of the audience.
As for the foreign student who had an acceptable level of memorization and was not interested in learning Arabic, I noticed that he had a broad and tall physique resembling the poet “Antarah al-Abssi” during a lengthy session with him, in addition to having traits of bravery and defending what is right. Consequently, I asked him to play the role of “Antarah” while defending the women of his tribe. He liked the idea but seemed hesitant at first. However, this hesitation gradually disappeared when I assigned him the dialogue, and he successfully played the role of “Antarah” during the rehearsal sessions before the final performance.
Among the students, there was one with poor memorization skills. Like his peers, he had to memorize verses for both “Antarah” and “Amr bin Kulthum” depending on the theme. Since he enjoyed acting but disliked memorization, I assigned him the role of “Amr bin Kulthum” since the role required him to memorize some verses for the misguided king. Thanks to his love for acting, he successfully memorized the verses, and I’m grateful that he overcame this obstacle and excelled in both memorization and acting.
Afterward, we held a mini-meeting in the classroom where we outlined the steps we would take before the final performance and how we would host the audience. Before the scheduled date, a creative student took the initiative to create invitation letters that resembled old-fashioned messages. He prepared papers and wrote them as invitation cards. Each student went to a designated place in the school, starting from the principal’s office, the curriculum manager, the coordinators, some classes, and some teachers who responded to the invitation, supporting the students with everything they had.
Interacting within Positive Group Dynamics
I cannot fully describe the responsible work and cooperation the students showed. Each student supported his/her peers; some aided in memorization, while others assisted in gathering information and understanding the pre-Islamic era and its social environment. I dedicated an hour for them to go beyond the requirement of the curriculum and do some online research about that era. They became passionate about learning more, and that’s what I aimed for. I didn’t want to limit their knowledge to the textbook but to expand their horizons with additional information that would stay with them for a lifetime. Through their efforts in collecting every bit of information about the pre-Islamic era, I achieved a fruitful feedback loop of learning and knowledge exchange.
Reviewing Activities within RAR
Energy Level: Moderate
The learners were psychologically prepared for what they would be doing later on. Slides were presented on the interactive whiteboard, introducing the pre-Islamic society and the extent to which humans were influenced by this environment that gave rise to tribal loyalty, bravery, assisting the needy, and horsemanship. They lived in constant worry about their nourishment, shelter, and protection, seeking security while trying to get rid of their anxieties about rival tribes’ attacks. This led to the formation of their contradictory personalities in all aspects, which was reflected in their poetry and verses, similar to “Antarah’s” and “Amr bin Kulthum’s”.
After discussing the hardships of life in the pre-Islamic era, comparing them to the difficulties in our present time, and deducing that even the basic necessities like water were hard to get in the pre-Islamic era, I told them that this journey was going to be exceptional. As a result, I transformed their unwanted anxiety into excitement. I then asked them to form a circle in order to learn more about this exceptional journey. As they approached, I positioned myself in the center, resembling a sports coach giving instructions to the team. I informed them that we would transform the classroom environment to resemble the pre-Islamic era as much as possible (it was like an energizer). At that moment, I saw enthusiasm, astonishment, and fear of the unknown taking hold of most of them, as some didn’t prefer teamwork and preferred solitude. However, that didn’t prefer them from living the experience, and the majority showed a clear readiness for this beautiful journey, and indeed, it turned out to be so.
It was necessary to transform the classroom environment to resemble the pre-Islamic era. We requested the school’s operations manager to create a tent inside the classroom, along with canvas fabric (khaysh) to set up the tent, a wooden well, and papers and tools to help decorate the classroom environment. They quickly responded to the request and worked hard. After that, each learner brought tools and items that reflected the target era as active participation in the activity. Then, the students took on various roles, playing the role of “Antarah” and showing his bravery and defense and support for the oppressed, and at other times, they played the role of “Amr bin Kulthum” and showed the story behind calling him “The Misguided King” or “The One with Wounds.”
To apply the “reviewing actively” stage, in the rehearsal sessions, I would pull information from them during the training, ask about the definition of poets of the pre-Islamic era, pull the definition the pre-Islamic environment, pull how this environment influenced the pre-Islamic society, and pull what it gave rise to. I also encouraged comparisons between our era and the pre-Islamic era. Through calm moments of reflection, the students lived the experience and reflected on that era as if it were present before them. This was accomplished by posing questions to them and engaging them in effective discussions.
The Performance Day
It was finally the performance day, the day we had eagerly waited for. It was the peak of the entire activity, where they would depict and record the glory of the Arabs and renew the values and qualities that the Prophet, peace be upon him, spoke about when he said, “I was only sent to perfect noble character.” The pre-Islamic society was indeed a fertile ground for Islamic legislation, as evident in the Prophet’s saying, “The best among you in the pre-Islamic period are the best in Islam.” This means that the noble values existed before Islam. Antarah himself used to say, “I lower my gaze when my neighbor appears, to shield her from my passion.”
Based on all of this, the idea behind this blessed project was born, and its success was achieved with the support of the school administration, which strives persistently to promote creativity, refine the talents of its students, provide opportunities for excellence, and leave a positive impact.
The learners’ response to the implementation of FIRST-ADLX Framework was fantastic. Their feedback revealed that they fully enjoyed the experience as they were able to engage in a topic they had been anxious about, fearing the memorization of complex poems and suspecting their ability to comprehend them. However, with FIRST-ADLX Framework, they found the experience smooth and comfortable, without experiencing difficulty at any stage of the learning journey.
The administration’s and teachers’ responses were heartwarming as well. They said that the immersive experience, created through the musical background, the scent of “Bakhour” filling the room, and the offering of Arabic coffee, dates, and a traditional “Kabsa” dish, made everyone feel as if they travelled back in time to that era. Their senses were fully engaged, and they were so captivated by the experience that they tried not to blink their eyes to savor every moment of the wonderful performance.