KORAN BY HEART EDUCATORS SUPPLEMENT TRIBECA YOUTH SCREENING SERIES A FILM BY GREG BARKER

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1 KORAN BY HEART A FILM BY GREG BARKER EDUCATORS SUPPLEMENT TRIBECA YOUTH SCREENING SERIES

2 FOR TEACHERS THEMES Koran by Heart offers a rare glimpse into the world of competitive Koran recitation and by doing so allows us to better understand a culture that is all too often misunderstood in our society. The film explores the following themes, which were drawn from the New York State Learning Standards for Social Studies and English Language Arts: People, Places and Environments Individuals, Groups and Institutions Civic Ideals and Practices Critical Analysis and Evaluation Information and Understanding WHY WE PICKED THIS MOVIE Film is a powerful medium that can inform, entertain, educate and serve as a catalyst for social change. During the 2011 Tribeca Film Festival, the Tribeca Youth Screening Series will present four selections that showcase the exciting work being produced in the independent film community. Films such as Koran by Heart have been chosen for their educational relevance, but also for their cinematic merits, and provide students with access to documentary films, filmmakers, and subject matter not typically explored in mainstream Hollywood fare. In the process, they are introduced to new places and new ideas, and experience innovative approaches in storytelling that highlight and reinforce the skills and themes they are studying in their English Language Arts and Social Studies classes. PREPARING YOUR CLASS Preparing students to be critical viewers is different than simply having them watch a film. Critical viewing is about being able to examine the information that a film is giving you and ask meaningful questions about the information that you receive. One key step is having students read and complete the activities in the Study Guide (which they will receive at the screening). The following pre-screening activities will help your students engage with the film as critical viewers and prepare them to be active participants at the screening event and in the classroom work you do surrounding the film. 2

3 PRE-SCREENING ACTIVITIES DISCUSSION QUESTIONS In preparation for viewing this film, you can have your students discuss some of the following questions: What do you know about the Koran? Are there similar texts in other religions you re familiar with? Why do you think the contestants in the Koran Recitation Competition are willing to make such extreme sacrifices in order to compete? Have you ever sacrificed anything for a competition? Would you if the offer arose? What do you associate with Muslim culture? Are those observations based on facts? Something you heard? Something you saw on television? Many religions not just Islam require followers to memorize and recite passages of text in languages they do not normally speak. What are the pros and cons of rote-memorization? MEMORIZATION COMPETITION Goal: Koran by Heart follows several contestants from all over the world as they compete in an intense recitation competition. To help students experience the thrill of competition similar to the contestants and to further understand the difficulty they go through, students will compete in their own in-class recitation contest. After memorizing a specific passage, they will then be challenged to recite a randomly selected section from it. You will need: Textbook or novel, pen and paper Time: Two class periods/45 60 minutes Outline: Discuss with the class the challenges the contestants in Koran by Heart must face in preparation for the recitation competition. How long do you think they practice? Why do you think they re competing? Are they doing it for themselves, their families, their community, or a little of everything? Choose a passage from a novel or textbook and have the students study to memorize it for recitation. ELA classes may select the opening of a book the class is already familiar with, and Social Studies could choose an article from the newspaper or something relevant to the section they re studying in the textbook. The passage does not have to be that long, but enough to be able to select a random starting point for the students to recite this way they are not just repeating each other, but actually displaying their memorization skills. This is the same way that the Koran recitation works, each contestant does not recite the whole Koran, just a random selected section. Recitation competition begins! Students are asked to recite a specific part of the assigned passage could be the very beginning, somewhere in the middle, or the last few lines. They will only be responsible for a few lines, but accuracy counts! Points deducted for missed or added words. Bonus points for those students that recite their passage with a lyrical tone like that of the Koran. Option: Extra credit for any student that chooses to try their own version of this at home with a passage of their choosing and then present their memorization skills to the class. 3

4 PRE-SCREENING ACTIVITIES MIX AND MATCH RESEARCH QUIZ Goal: The locations and vocabulary discussed in Koran by Heart may be very unfamiliar to your students. By researching the following keywords and locations and then completing the quiz, they will have a better understanding of the world they will enter in the film. The map and quiz provided are only guidelines from which you can build out this activity to suit the current curriculum. You will need: Research books or Internet access, pen and paper Time: Two class periods/45 60 minutes (One for research, one for activities) Outline: This map can either be blown up through an Elmo device or simply used as a guideline to adapt onto an in-class world map. Locations listed are those referenced in the film with New York City as a reference point for the class. Feel free to add locations, or have your students suggest other locations that may be relevant to the film or a current lesson. Social studies options can include locations referenced in the news, or for ELA, locations mentioned in a novel. All of these will expand the students awareness of these geographical locations. D B A C Have students identify the spots marked on the map by matching the letter with its location: Cario, Egypt Maldives Tajikistan New York City The same rules apply to the vocabulary quiz below. Write words on the board and make it your own by either connecting it to current lessons or through student suggestions, discussing why words added are relevant to the activity. Have students match the words on the left by drawing a line to the definition on the right: Koran Recitation Islam Muslim Ramadan repeating something from memory the ninth month of the Muslim calendar an adherent of Islam the sacred text of the Islam Religion the religious faith of Muslims 4

5 POST-SCREENING LESSON PLANS LETTERS TO HOME WRITING EXERCISE Goal: Writing letters from the point of view of one of the recitation contestants will allow the students to reflect on and analyze the nuances of the Islamic religion and Muslim culture, emphasizing why this competition is so important to the contestants and their families. Time: Two class periods/45 60 minutes MATERIALS AND RESOURCES You will need: Koran by Heart Study Guide, research materials or Internet access, pen and paper OUTLINE Review: Discuss the situations the children in Koran by Heart find themselves in during the recitation competition: some travelled alone and made great sacrifices to be there; some didn t do as well as expected; and some did quite well. Character Selection: Students will choose one of the contestants and consider their day-to-day life outside of the competition. What was their life like before and what will it be like after? Again, consider the sacrifices they and their families made to get them there. Look deeper than just the contest, how did this affect their day-to-day life? Write a Letter: Each student will write a short letter in the voice of the character they selected that focuses on the trials and tribulations they faced in their life leading up to the contest considering the following: how their lives changed when it was decided they would compete; how they felt during the competition; their family and community s reaction to their victory or loss. Presentation: The students will read their letters in front of the class. Analysis: The class will discuss how the family and community might react to these letters and discuss the emotional impact they imagine the competition had on those contestants. Option: Extend the lesson by writing letters from other people s point-of-views. How would the family or community respond to the letters? What might the organizers of the competition write if corresponding with the families or future contestants? Perhaps some of the contestants became friends during the competition, what would they write to each other when it s over? 5

6 POST-SCREENING LESSON PLANS MOCK DOCUMENTARY INTERVIEW Goal: Students can experience the process of interviewing someone for a documentary by interviewing a family member or classmate on their religious background or competition experience whichever they feel more comfortable with. Through a presentation, they will be able to share their experiences with their classmates. Time: Two class periods/45 60 minutes MATERIALS AND RESOURCES You will need: Pen and paper OUTLINE Interview Selection Discussion: As a class, discuss ideas about who each student wants to interview, specifically discussing why this person would be an interesting subject not just for them, but for the whole class. Question Writing: Before conducting the interviews, students should generate a main idea (or thesis) that they would like to focus on in their interviews. Teachers may want to aid students with the generation of a set of questions that support this main idea. Students should also take care to make sure that they get appropriate information from their subjects by asking open ended questions and following up with secondary ones. For social studies classes, these questions can focus more on current events and world history. Each student should generate 10 questions. Interview: Students can interview either a classmate or family member. If they are interviewing a classmate, this should take place in the classroom over the course of one class period. If they are interviewing a family member outside of school hours, they should take the same amount of time, and arrange for the subject to visit the class on the presentation, if possible. Students should remember to take their time with each question and to write down the answers for later reference. Creative Non-fiction Writing: With interviews completed and detailed notes taken, each student will write a piece of creative non-fiction based on the interview with their subject. This piece of writing should focus on making the story compelling and engaging, rather than like a report. (An example might be Dave Egger s Zeitoun or Truman Capote s In Cold Blood). If needed, the class as a group can discuss how to adapt an interview about someone s personal experiences into a narrative structure. Wrap Up: Each student presents their paper to the class, and followed by a Q&A that allows students to reflect on the information learned. Option: If the class has access to audio recording devices or video cameras, take the lesson one step further by filming or recording the interviews. 6

7 GOING FURTHER These writing activities are meant to serve as a follow-up to the Pre-Screening Activities and the Lesson Plan. Assignments can be used as in-class writing activities, homework assignments, or the jumping off point for longer-term art, creative writing, or research projects. HISTORY OF ISLAM You will need: Research materials, library and/or Internet access Time: One to three class periods plus independent homework Outline: Students can do a research paper and presentation on the history of the religion written from a first person perspective of a Muslim living throughout different points in the timeline of the religion s history. Students can focus on one specific time in history, such as Napoleon s expedition to Egypt in 1798 or the fall of the Ottoman Empire in 1918, or they can cover a series of dates from multiple perspectives. CURRENT AFFAIRS COLLAGE You will need: Newspapers, magazines, scissors and glue Time: One to two class periods Outline: Newspapers cover Islamic news everyday, sometimes casting an unkind light on the second most popular religion in the world. By cutting out words and pictures they find in the newspaper and reassembling as a collage, students can rewrite a current affair news story involving the Islamic religion. We d love to know how you are using these study guides in the classroom! to share lesson plans and ideas. 7

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