The reality of teaching Quran recitation, Tajweed and memorisation is different from teaching any other subject.
Because your aim as a teacher is to enable your students to achieve skills that are performed and measured orally (reading, fluency, memory, sound pronunciation, articulation, rhythm, segment stress and stretch), you find that you need to give more one-to-one attention to your students. You also find that besides using the Quran and Qaidah as means for practice, there are limited resources out there.
With 10, 20 or 30 students in your class and an average of less than two hours to cover the planned section, you feel thinly stretched by the need to attend to each child- giving each quality modelling of the Quran, putting up with background disruptions and stopping frequently to deal with misbehaviour.
On the other hand, your students feel bored and neglected. They only get 5-10 mins of attention or instruction, and have to spend the rest of the two hours waiting for their turn or do a mundane activity- ‘read a page or Surah over and over’ until the lesson is over.
No wonder, they feel bored and resentful, no wonder parents feel that progress is slow and teachers feel frustrated by the amount of misbehaviour they have to deal with!
There is clearly something (things) wrong with this method. To expect a 5-14 year old child to sit still and quietly practice reading a section of the Quran (which they do not understand or even know they are reciting well) over and over for an hour and a half, until their turn comes or the lesson finishes is completely unreasonable and disregards basic understanding of children’s learning needs. Put simply, it is a form of passive torture.
Not to mention, that it is also wasteful of precious resources for parents- time and money.
If this method is wrong, then what is the alternative?
The answer lies in thinking and creativity.
Set time aside to reflect on engaging ways that enable your students to be engaged in a relevant learning activity that will help towards achieving the learning objective, while at the same time enabling you to offer one-to-one support. Reflect on what works for your students and what does not, if in doubt, ask them.
For a method to be successful it has to meet have the following features:
- Clear objective/s
- Clearly set task
- Accountability (they know their performance in that given time will be judged)
- Adds to their learning
Below are tips and suggestions for ways to help keep students in Quran lessons busy and engaged in an activities that helps their learning growth, while enabling you to facilitate quality modelling of the Quran and sufficient attention for all without feeling stretched and overworked.
1. Select students at random
When working with students at a one-to-one level, make sure you do not select your students in a linear way (e.g. right to left). When they are unable to tell when their turn is, they will feel suspense and are less likely to drift off on a distracting thought, conversation or act.
2. Know your objective
Whether students are working with their teacher or independently, they need to know very well what the learning objective is. Is it for example: to accurately pronunciation of ع, غ, ح, خ , to correctly apply the Nun Al-Sakinah rule, to recite a section or Surah by heart fluently.
Having this clarity in mind helps them evaluate their own -or their partner’s- performance and gives them a clear goal to work for.
4. Time yourself
Students are more likely to feel focused and be patient when they know how long they have to do a task for.
5. Let your class lead on feedback
Instead of giving one-to-one feedback or support, let your class take lead on giving feedback and support each other and simply be a facilitator.
Firstly, clearly write down the objectives on the board. Secondly, write down the success criteria. Do this by asking your students ‘what does a good recitation look like?’, ask your students to chip-in with ideas and make sure they include the actual learning objective. Examples of success criteria include:
- Raised voice
- Comfortable posture
- Accurate pronunciation of the sounds … (specify)
- Correct application of rule … (specify)
- Fluency (not pausing regulatory to recall Ayah)
- Etiquette (Isti’atha/ Basmallah)
Then randomly invite one student at a time to the front of the class, seat them on a chair and ask them to recite for a set amount of time (no longer than 3 minutes). Ask students to listen attentively, and tick the success criteria that their classmate achieved.
Starting from children sitting on the right hand side, ask one at a time to give 1 or 2 suggestions for what ‘Ahmed’ did well, and the person next to them gives a suggestion on what ‘Ahmed’ could do to improve.
Then ask another person to go up to the front, and repeat the process. The reason why feedback is taken in a sequential way is because it allows students some time to reflect on what to say before their turn. It also ensures everyone gets a chance to speak and does not waste the teacher’s time guessing who has had a go or not.
This method brings the whole class on board, makes them take responsibility for each other’s learning and helps towards their learning growth as they are constantly attentive of the rule/sound that is in their learning objective.
6. Use Recording Toys
This could be very exciting for your students, and if effectively used can be greatly supportive of their learning. Speak to your manager and invest in recording toys such as these. Here is an example:
This can be used in versatile ways. If you want your students to apply a certain Tajweed rule for example or would like your students to memorise a verse off by heart, model it 3 times, drill it 3 times, then tell them that they have 2-3 minutes to practice the phrase and record their final best on the recorder.
Then you can do two things. If you are not so busy, you can select random recorder, play the recording in front of the class and get students to give you feedback.
If you are very busy or want your children to practice for longer, you can handout the sheet above to your students, give them plenty of safe moving space, ask them to move around, listen to the recording of every classmate, record their classmate’s name and tick the success criteria (listed above) they achieved next to each name.
If you want to teach a new section for your students to memorise or practice, first model the section, then drill it.
Then put students in groups of threes or fours. Tell your students that they need to repeat the section 5 times and that one person in their group will tally-chart, while the others listen out to the success criteria and make any corrections. Set time for this task.
Go round the class with a note pad, listen to children’s recitations and repetitions. Feel free to make quick and snappy corrections, but don’t spend too long providing explanations. If you notice a pattern of errors in recitations note them down. Then when time is up, replicate those errors in front of the class, and ask questions: ‘is this right or wrong?’, ‘what did I do wrong?’, ‘what is the correct way?’.
This is a useful activity for revising a Surah that has been memorised before. In fact, it might be fun to make it a routine to begin every Quran lesson with. The purpose is to challenge students to quickly recall the section/Surah they memorised.
First, sit students in a circle, select the Surah you want them to revise, ask them to take turns to recite an Ayah of the Surah at a time. They must keep the flow going by remembering the following Ayah and fluently reciting it. If they make a mistake with pronunciation or Tajweed, you will correct them, but if they do not recall the following Ayah, then they are out of the circle. Keep repeating the Surah/section until one person is left, or whoever is left is very fluent in their memorisation.
This creates positive pressure on the children to improve their memorisation and their attentiveness to corrections.
9. High-Low ability pairing
Another way is to pair high-ability students with weak-ability students- without explicitly saying this. Explain that those playing the teacher role should be attentive to mistakes, should not give answers, instead, they should ask questions to help their partner figure out the answers themselves.
10. Let teacher assistant/ parent helper take lead
If you have a teacher assistant/parent helper, he/she can take lead on any of the above activities while you offer constructive one-to-one support to individuals. However, to make this work, you must spend sufficient time prior to the lesson explaining to the assistant what they need to do. Additionally, you have to set the task and the time-frame to the class to give more authority to the instructions.
11. Stay moving
Whether you are applying any of the above activities or giving one-to-one attention to an individual at a time, you must keep moving. Do not get comfortable in one place at the front. Instead of calling random students over to you, you should go up to random students yourself. This helps students feel your presence and in return, makes them more focused and better behaved.
12. Seating arrangement
Take time to reflect on your children’s needs, ability, readiness and confidence. Then seat them next to individuals who will complement their shortcomings. When you have done this, group activities will be more productive.
15. Reflection assignments
These assignments help students reflect on the rule, segment or section they needed to learn, what they understand or did not understand, which classroom activity helped them and which of the success criteria they need to work on. Download a reflection sheet here.
17. Write out a section
Another written tasks for slightly more capable students is to copy out the section they need to learn off by heart and then write it out again (3 times) from memory. Then swap their book with that of another student in the class and ask them to correct each other. This activity will buy the teacher time to give one-to-one attention to certain children.
18. Complete the Surah
To make the above task more challenging, teachers can provide a handout with an Ayah from the beginning, middle and end of a Surah and ask students to complete the Surah from memory, then swap books with their partner and correct each other.
18. Highlight Tajweed rules
After they have written out the Surah or section, they can than go over it again with a coloured pen and underline specific Tajweed rules, which should be explained and written on the board.
19. Read a graded Arabic story
If their task is to improve reading fluency, for a change, students can practice reading from a graded Arabic story.
20. Use signs
To cut down on interruptions and allow students to communicate their needs with minimum disruption, while you are one-to-one support to individuals, give out three coloured cards to each group or pair: Green (Finished- for completing the task), Yellow (Stuck- if they need help understanding the task), Purple (Other- such as water/toilet/ stationary).
This way teachers can visually and quickly find out who has finished, decide when to move on and prioritise students’ requests.