Ustadha Saba Kiani reflects upon some highlights from Upper Elementary's first term this year
In the Upper Elementary and Year 7 classroom, we have thoroughly enjoyed a range of different subjects and activities during the first term of the academic year 2022-23, alhamdulillah! At Deenway, the Upper Elementary is a mixed age classroom of 9-12 year olds. Mixed age groups are a fundamental part of the Montessori Method. In a Montessori classroom, children develop a range of skills interacting with children older and younger than themselves with varying abilities as a part of their environment. Older students are there to assist, be patient, tolerant, compassionate and take responsibility to act as good models for younger children.
Over the first term of the year, the class has been reading stories together, solving mathematical problems with each other, looking at the nature of atoms and molecules, exploring the history of the world, singing together in the love of our beloved Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings beon him) and developing ideas for their first project: a school magazine (launching soon!) An example of the diversity in pupils’ studies over the last term, along with the interesting links between their studies, can especially be seen in the following two examples.
In the first term of academic year, pupils have had the opportunity to look closely at the behaviour of the tiny sub-atomic particles through our classical science programme. Pupils explored the classical ways of doing a scientific inquiry, starting with a guided question about atoms and molecules each week and searching the answers through practical experiments and exploratory reading. They enjoyed making atomic models and conducting scientific discussions with their peers and looked forward to the activities each week. The children were particularly amazed by the size of the particles! These particles are so tiny that a special electronic microscope is needed to study their behaviour. Together, we reflected on how Allah Subhanhu Wa Taa’la promised us that even a particle worth of good deed – doing something as small and as invisible to the eye as the particles we were studying - will be registered with Allah and we will be rewarded for it.
In a typical week whilst researching the science of the tiniest things that exist pupils also explored the big ideas of human behaviour in their English Literature Shared Inquiry sessions. Whereas our Science sessions were full of practical activities, experiments and finding the answers to questions to gain knowledge of the natural world, our Shared Inquiry sessions were filled with deep thought and reflective ideas about human beings and their actions. From the themes in the stories pupils asked questions and discussed big ideas such as good and bad choices, wisdom and fear. Pupils were involved in talking as well as listening to each other, helping each other to develop their thoughts on different focus questions and building their ideas together. Pupils looked at different types of questions and how sometimes there is no right or wrong answer but through the methods and guidelines of Shared Inquiry, they could learn both the better expressions of their own thoughts as well as how to listen to others patiently. Older children encouraged the younger ones and more talkative students asked the less talkative ones to share their thoughts. Together, they are looking forward to discussing more questions from more stories through the remainder of the academic year in shaa’ Allah.
As a teacher it’s a privlege to feel the “amanah”, the trust, that Allah has given us to guide these children, facilitate their learning, celebrate their achievements and help them with their challenges. The skills that they build through these elementary years help them to become independent to face the hard work required for further studies as well as to meet the challenges of practical life. May Allah Subahanu wa Ta'ala allow us and guide us to observe the inclination of these pupils, to help them to achieve their goals and to become role models for their society in shaa’ Allah.
In the Junior School and the first year of Senior School, pupils learn how to study literary texts in inteaction with each other by way of discussion circles in the Shared Inquiry method. Pupils learn and practice Shared Inquiry using Junior Great Books; you can read more about Shared Inquiry and the Great Books Foundation here: https://www.greatbooks.org/nonprofit-organization/what-is-shared-inquiry/. As they progress through the Senior School, pupils continue to engage with literary texts in advancing complexity. They prepare selected texts for what we call 'seminar', where together with a teacher and their peers they engage in inquiry-based group discussion about these texts.