Wednesday Mosi (my 16-year-old) and I taught Arabic calligraphy to a class of 3rd, 4th and 5th graders. Upon hearing this one may wonder how we could teach an advanced writing technique in another language to a class of students who had never seen the Arabic language before.
I was initially a bit apprehensive as well but I remembered how I had felt the first time I saw the Arabic language – I didn’t even believe it was a language. I thought it was some kind of art. Recalling my first experience with Arabic I had faith that the freedom of Arabic calligraphy would combine with the artisic inspiration of the children and result in something wonderful. The results went beyond my expectations. What the children were able to create after only 20 minutes of introduction to the language would have impressed my college Arabic teacher! In fact, there were a few students who may even have a future in Arabic calligraphy 😉
Mosi and I started the class by telling the children “you already know Arabic”. This captured their attention as they were quite sure they had not studied Arabic before. We read a list of words (in English that had Arabic origins) to “test” them. When they passed the “test” we talked a bit about how Arabic was different from English, how important writing was in the Arab world and how important calligraphy was. One point that impressed everyone was that the only name found inscribed on the Taj Mahal is the name of the calligrapher. The architect and his team are not remembered on the building at all.
After we explored some history, calligraphy samples, language, art, culture and even a bit of math we all created a calligraphy piece together to establish everyone’s confidence in their abilities. Once everyone completed their first piece we gave them a copy of the Arabic alphabet and some simple instructions for writing their names in Arabic calligraphy.
You can see some of the amazing results in our photo album on Flickr. Remember when you browse the album – none of these children had ever seen the Arabic language before doing this activity. Wow!
We can’t wait to do the workshop again. It was so much fun and the kids were amazing! If you would like a copy of our lesson plans (I created the plans so you don’t even need to know Arabic to teach the class) you can download them HERE