Fun in the Arabic Language Arts Class – Project Based Learning
The Arabic language is one of the richest languages with its literature, metaphors, vocabulary and grammar. Yet, this also makes it one of the most challenging languages to study and teach. Teaching Arabic in International schools is even more challenging as students in such schools, although they are native speakers, do not use the Arabic language as their mother tongue in daily life.
This blog will walk through the steps of preparing a unit plan for a 3rd grade Arabic Language Arts class. The plan could be applied for lower or upper elementary grade levels by changing the topic, teaching point, and information to support the taught unit.
Can an Arabic Language Arts class be a fun, academic class? This was the question I had when I started teaching a mixed ability third grade Arabic language class. What do I need to teach this group of students who range from fluent native Arabic speakers to students who can hardly understand the spoken language?
The requirements to teach language arts are at least: 2 hours a day, multiple resources, and a ready established curriculum. Well, what if we don’t have all of this in our schedules, what do we do? What can I do? The first decision I made was to get out of the box. Teaching Arabic contains many ingredients, including:
- reading fluently, accurately and with expression
- comprehension of the read text, and extracting correct information
- focusing on spelling, grammar, word study and sentence structure.
Can we teach all those skills in a fun, interactive class?
I searched and explored the following:
- several Arabic language curricula taught in other Arab countries
- the Egyptian curriculum
- the ISS curriculum
- English Language arts grade level Rubicon Atlas
- Searching online sites
- attending English language Arts classes of the grade levels I teach.
- attending workshops and conferences
- attending reading and writing workshops
I’ll do a chef salad. This means:
- mix the reading, writing, word study, technology, songs, arts and crafts, and project based learning activities together to come up with a balanced unit.
- focus on three areas: realistic stories, informational reading and writing
- use every possible prop in class, school, and even home as illustrative materials
- ask grade level LA teachers to share their TP and pacing guides to use them in my Arabic class.
- build up and enrich students Arabic Language and reinforce existing skills
- develop a passion for the Arabic language, its spirit and its culture
- use available materials to establish a strong Arabic LA curriculum aligned with grade level English LA
- explore reading and writing workshops in Arabic
- prepare a comprehensive plan that address students’ levels and interests and builds multiple skills.
- use the research cycle to collect vocabulary and information
- use strategies to note big ideas, and compare and contrast
- read with volume and stamina
- build note-taking skills
- apply presentation skills to present knowledge to others
- brainstorm with the students about the stories/books they like, and what kind of information can we get from reading different genres.
- discuss and explore information about the topic/s they choose.
- get consensus about the one topic chosen by the majority (in my example: birds.
- set up the class with different books about birds.
- listen to different Arabic songs about birds.
- read a story/stories about birds.
- applying strategies of the reading workshops: reading aloud, reading with a partner, retelling the story, predicting events and ending.
- reinforcing reading strategies of the Arabic language using the syntax and correct pronunciation.
- using correct modern standard Arabic
- writing drafts, conferring, adding details,
- unit vocabulary
- punctuation marks
- searching the net for the different kinds of birds using Arabic language sites
- using google translate if needed
- using the Arabic keyboard
- using google slides to present in Arabic
Projects and Activities:
- slides presentation
- birds book
- birds art gallery
- bird songs
- birds masks to use as props
Process for Developing a Project-Based Arabic Language Class
My process for using projects starts from the time I get the schedule of classes I will teach. I check the portfolios of the students to learn about their abilities, read all the available resources for the units I will teach, check different pins for similar units in English LA. I also prepare some of the topics that truly interest me related to the unit (students get excited when we are), decide on the TP for the different lessons and units, and make a list of projects that would supplement the unit and meet the wide range of students’ abilities. Finally, I brainstorm with the students and give them choices for their end of unit project and create questions about the topic that arises their enthusiasm about their chosen topic.
The sample project explained here enhances students learning for this unit and target all students’ abilities through differentiated products. To complete the project, I developed questions that give information about the chosen topic (e.g. Do all birds fly and hatch?) and made a model of the project myself to use as a mentor text.
Roadmap of the Unit
I created a quest that could inspire the students and help them to get started, such as:
- You are a birds’ lover and very eager to learn all what you can about them. you need to: research the different kinds of birds that you may know about or others you want to discover.
- You are going on a trip to one of the famous bird sanctuaries in the world. You are very excited and want to learn about some of the famous birds you will see.
Find information about the physical features, character, nature, habitat, famous Arabic songs about them, the culture of their homelands and any other information.
The end products included posters, multimedia projects, journals, google presentations, pictures and captions, and recorded readings of the text.
I noticed a great difference after this unit. The reaction and feedback was very positive and showed through students requesting to do extra research and activities for their project at home and students delivering high-quality presentations, increasing reading fluency increased and the vocabulary, using technology to search for information, and using the Arabic keyboard, for the first time in this unit, and asking to use it on other class activities after this unit. Most of all, they were happily coming to the Arabic class and willing to share their work.
Jailan Abbas is an Egyptian educator, guest speaker and author. She has a PhD and a life long experience in teaching Egyptian culture and Arabic Language to native and Non- native speakers. She taught in Cairo American college, Ain-Shams and Helwan universities. Jailan is now working on transferring her experience to train young Egyptian educators, in needy areas, to teach Arabic and culture through rigorous, hands on interesting and fun approaches.