Tag Archives: Muslim classroom

Reflections on Term 1


I usually dedicate the month of December to reflecting over the year that is leaving and planning for the coming one in whatever capacity I can. From September 2014, I started teaching teenage Muslim girls at Al Barakah school in London. I wouldn’t have considered this a BIG step had I not been commissioned by the school to design the advanced Arabic textbooks and to draft out their curriculum. I am now piloting the scheme in my classes and the books will be available in the UK market in about 2 years time insha Allah.


Qur’anic Arabic workbooks for Year 8, 9 and 10 (Term 1)

Me + Planning

I am someone who has always lived life based on 5 year plans (as soon as I could make them lol). I’ve now reduced my planning to just 1 year but alhamdolillah I have always kept the long term big picture in mind – so it’s not too bad. This adjustment has also impacted the way I approach most things now. I’m less of a planner and now much more into taking spontaneous decisions, a change which has positively affected my teaching style. I mention this because I’m designing my life based on my Core Desired Feelings. And of course Arabic Adventures comes into it. [Look out for a separate post on this coming soon insha Allah].

So here is a blog post on reflections of my teaching in Term 1:

Praising and encouraging the girls: I dislike praising children insincerely and for every little thing. Unfortunately, the girls are used to a praise burger delivered to them on a daily basis in their schools. So when they don’t hear praise from me it is a disappointment to them. This term I started off being stingy with praise but half way through realised everybody needs encouragement and that has made all the difference. A kind word has changed the most naughty student to a teacher’s pet and it’s been a real lesson for me.

One activity: The day I used just one activity in about 4 different ways turned out to be a really good lesson. It definitely saved a lot of precious time during the week designing, cutting, gluing and laminating. Tasks  I often end up having to delegate to family members. Lessons don’t have to be a series of  new activities changed every 10 minutes.

Gifts: I think I could’ve given out more sweets or small presents during the term to motivate them. I can’t quite explain how much the girls love receiving things. I think for Term 2, I’ll buy a packet of sweets to hand out for good work every 2 weeks insha Allah. Gifts and praise should not be reserved only for those girls who achieve 100% on their Arabic tests – that attitude only comes from a skewed understanding of “success”. I’m also building their shakhsiyah (character) so anytime they display kindness, strong will, dedication, concentration, honesty, politeness and other good qualities the girls deserve to have that noticed and celebrated.

My diet: I’m used to short intense terms and then periods of rest which has been my schedule for the last 4 years. The 1st term at Al Barakah this year was exceptionally long and I crashed at the end. Mini crash. I am a bit of a workaholic with an inability to switch my mind off but I know it wasn’t so much the length of the term as it was the fact that I am on a diet (medical reasons). Being on such a strict diet has left me pretty tired, grouchy, emotional yet elated and hopeful. As I will continue for another 6 months at least on this diet, it’ll be useful to create strategies to deal with the situation adequately. I  want the girls to leave Saturday school with a positive image of Islam and that image is firstly shaped by their teacher: Moi 🙂

Lesson Objectives: Earlier in the term, I would attempt to teach  a new grammar concept, review the tafsir, do handwriting practise, play a game, revie old material all in one lesson. As I got used to teaching full time, it’s getting easier to tone down my enthusiasm  (lol)  and focus on one thing for each class. If the lesson objective is to review Surah keywords then I need to build all activities geared towards achieving this goal.

Best moment of Term 1:

Getting the girls to do a live talk show in pairs in front of their peers about the Tafsir of two of the Surahs they had learnt . The girls are so creative and incredibly funny mashallah. I am glad I was able to build their public speaking skills through Qur’anic Arabic and still make it a fun and humorous activity. Alhamdolillah.

My first term has been enjoyable and an eye opening one for sure. I’ve learnt so much about my self and my teaching style and I definitely want to make Term 2 even better insha Allah. I was assessed by the Head of Arabic, Teacher trainer and the Co-ordinator for the teaching assistant and I have noted down all their feedback. When the school has pushed me a little, I am glad I have been able to push back defend my ideas and be able to listen to their feedback and mold it into the vision that I have for my Arabic classes.

As for where Arabic Adventures, my blog is heading. I have a few ideas but I still need to flesh out a out year plan for it. Lot of exciting things to come insha Allah!!

Thank you for taking the time to read this post, for viewing and downloading the resources and for following me on this blog and my Pinterest page.

Barakallahu feekum,

Hiba Mohamad  

Sticker Chart


Here is the pdf for a sticker chart we use for the Early years. You can laminate the sheet so the sheet doesn’t get crumpled and torn up. Every time the kids reached one of the red gift boxes – they get to choose a present.

sticker chart-page-001



Surah Suprise



The last lesson of term saw my Year 8, 9 and 10 students exchange gifts. Why? Because I introduced a new concept called “Surah Surprise”. I know during Christmas time, students in their schools take part in “Secret Santa” and so I adapted the concept to Juz `Amma. I’ve been debating for a while whether I’m simply “halalifying” something, but I believe for those Muslim students who don’t participate in Secret Santa at school, this might be something they would feel comfortable participating in.

Each student had to get a small gift for another student in the class. They each picked another student’s name and had to make or buy something small that was either related to a keyword of one of their 3 Surahs or a something related to a key theme in the Surah. Alhamdolillah, most of them understood what I was trying to get them to do.


Surah Surprise only works if the students stand up and explain why they got/made what they did. It’s not just about getting gifts for each other. But even if they do just get a gift: explain to them that they have just acted on one beautiful Sunnah: “giving gifts”. For those who know me personally, I love giving gifts and will happily spend all my money on getting just the perfect gift.


Ashkur Rabbi that he has put me in a position where I can encourage others to follow this Sunnah. As a teacher standing looking at 25 faces eagerly waiting to gift and be gifted to and the smile that follows when they get something is beyond glorious.

Here are some example of what the girls came up with. They were very creative Mashallah.


To help review the keyword: حامية

An ayah from Surah al-Bayyinah. My favourite gift because it's very creative!

An ayah from Surah al-Bayyinah. My favourite gift because it’s very creative!

Infinity pendant to help review the keyword "forever - khalideena"

Infinity pendant to help review the keyword “forever – khalideena”

"Olives - at-Teen" keyword from Surah at-Teen

“Olives – at-Teen” keyword from Surah at-Teen

to hep review the keyword "star - at-Tariq". Handmade gift made out of loom bands.

to hep review the keyword “star – at-Tariq”. Handmade gift made out of loom bands.

Hope you enjoyed reading this post and that it has given you a new idea for your class insha Allah  🙂



Aromatherapy and the Muslim Classroom



Aromatherapy (the science of using essential oils and fragrances as mood   enhancers and to promote physical wellbeing) seems like a western fad but Islamic history is rich with references of musk, frankincense, bukhoor and other beautiful scents.

In a Hadith, the Prophet is reported to have said:

“Made beloved to me from your world are women and perfume, and the coolness of my eyes is in prayer.” (Ahmad and An-Nasa ‘i).

While researching for this post, I came across an excellent article by Brother Abdur Rahman who explained the hadith in a more allegorical manner. When this hadith is read on a deeper level, the mention of perfume can  be read as the Prophet’s love of the perfume of beautiful character. That is quiet profound!

As Islam spread across Arabia and into Persia, Rose water became a favourite in the Muslim world where it was used to perfume mosques, clean clothes and was added to food items. Ibn Sina (Avicenna) the Islamic philosopher, devoted an entire book on the use of roses and recorded over 800 medical plants and essentials oils. He was the first to perfect the distilling of oils from plants and herbs, used today in concentrated forms of aromatherapy oils.

On my trip to Oman some while back, I noticed how widespread the use of bukhoor (fragrance) was. The building where all the Arabic language students were housed, always had bukhoor burning and it created such a beautiful atmosphere. In Salalah, I visited a souq (market) where an entire section was lined with shop after shop selling bukhoor.


Bukhoor Stall in Salalah, Oman


Bukhoor burner painting shop in Salalah, Oman

Today, we wouldn’t dream of setting up our business next to a competitor but Islamic architecture and city planning was based on the deep belief that Allah was the provider and would look after all who sought from Him. Alhamdolillah! In my own life, I have fond memories of coming back home from school on Fridays to a bukhoor-ed up home. So…it was about time I helped the girls to create good memories of learning Arabic.

In keeping with my goal of creating a fun, intellectually stimulating and respectful atmosphere in my classroom, I have used aromatherapy. In my first year at Oxford, we had to learn almost 40 new keywords each week and had a test every Tuesday to review new grammar concepts. I tried to start each class with a ten minute test so that the girls would be forced to review the material I was teaching them each week. What I forgot was that they weren’t doing a degree in Arabic! LOL So I cut down on the tests. Last lesson, I gave them an end of term assessment (only 70 exam sheets to mark!) and I thought it was the perfect opportunity to bring back the aromatherapy I was using.

Getting started with a calm classroom

There’s a lot of research supporting the use of essentials oils to regulate mood. As the girls entered the class which would begin with the short test, there was always nervous energy in the room. To calm them down, I created a spray mist using lavender essential oil (bought from Boots) about 12 drops and more if needed and I would spray the room before they entered.


When I did it in my last Arabic class, the room smelt so nice and I noticed that the girls were very calm and definitely less rowdy. I’ve made it my habit now to use the lavender spray and to remind them to say “Bismillah” before they begin. I am conscious that some kids can be allergic to essential oils or that they can trigger negative emotions and memories, but so far alhamdolillah nobody has complained!

Here’s a short video explaining how to make the spray and one for making your own reed diffusers.

If you are interested in using aromatherapy to help your Arabic/Islamic Studies/Qur’an studies students, here is some more info:

  1. Invest in good quality essential oils. Although essential oils are on the pricey side – try not to use commercial room sprays as they can trigger allergic reactions and generally do not promote wellbeing.
  2. Plan how you will use your essential oils: room spray? Reed diffusers? Commercial diffuser?
  3. Choose your essential oils based on which mood you’d like to enhance:

    Lavender: The most common and easy to find EO. Use to relax and calm the students. Too much will put the student’s to sleep! J

    Lemon (and other citrus oils such as grapefruit): Use to create a cheerful, inspiring atmosphere. For whenever you want to energise the students. Especially good for dark and cold winter months.

    Peppermint: Use when teaching new concepts and you want students sharp and alert.

  4. Say Bismillah and get started. Remember to adjust to your classroom needs. Some smells can trigger negative emotions in people – so always check in with students about how they’re feeling and if they agree to this practise. Never go over board – especially with Lavender! And most importantly enjoy the experience.

I will continue to use aromatherapy over the next two coming terms and I can’t wait to try the different essential oils available in the market.

Suggested reading:

Research (pdf file) on Aromatherapy in the classroom: a large scale pilot project

A comprehensive article outlining the History of Aromatherapy

An excellent article on Aromatherapy in the Ancient Azerbaijani Medicine

I hope you enjoyed reading this post!


My classroom poster


I found this poster on Pinterest and adapted it to suit my classroom needs. It is super easy to make…and you can go crazy with the fonts. My teaching assistant is in charge of sticking this on our classroom door and a quick glance every now and then at it while I’m teaching helps me to stay focused on the kinds of feelings and good adab I need to instill in the girls. Obviously, the girls will do as you do and not as you say.


If you make one of your own, send it to me and I can show case it on this blog insha Allah!