Al-Hijra Islamic School students visit U of M’s Arabic language lab
Rawia Azzahrawi loves the Arabic language — and loves teaching it. That’s why she decided to invite junior high students from Al-Hijra Islamic School to visit the Arabic language lab that she teaches in the department of Judaic studies, Faculty of Arts, at the U of M.
The event, which took place on Feb. 6, was something of an experiment — and from hearing an enthusiastic Azzahrawi tell it, the experiment was a smashing success. Her enthusiasm was reciprocated in spades by the visiting students, says Cecile Foster, community outreach coordinator at the Arts dean’s office who helped with some of event planning. According to Foster, visitor comments as they were leaving went something like, “I want to be a student here!”, “I want to come back here,” “I want to leave my coat here so I have to come back here,” and “I am definitely coming here as a student!”
The Al-Hijra Islamic School students were invited for a luncheon that preceded the language lab, where they and their principal were greeted by university students from Azzahrawi’s Elementary Arabic, Intermediate Arabic and Advanced Arabic language classes. Associate dean of the Faculty of Arts, Greg Smith, was also present to welcome the students.
Both university and junior high students participated in four conversation stations — all in Arabic — and at the end of the lab time, the Al-Hijra students presented skits to the university students. Azzahrawi asked for 15 volunteers and had many more responses, from both her current and previous Arabic language students, all eager to participate. The conversation stations were based on topics Azzahrawi’s students had covered in class and each station was outfitted with resources such as posters and worksheets on the individual topics. In the Azzahrawi’s classes, students are asked to present on cultural aspects of the Arabic language, including all Arab countries and Arabic poets.
Azzahrawi mentions a thank you to the language lab manager, who started the event with a game for the students; using the headphones and technology, the students played a language game — “they had to identify the language they were hearing in their headphones, whether it was Chinese, German, French, and so on,” she says. “The students loved it.” One of the Arabic language course students also gave a presentation on Arabic calligraphy, and the event ended with a Q+A competition that offered lollipops as prizes. Azzahrawi laughs that the lollipop and the event overall brought out the “inner kid” in everyone.
Azzahrawi was delighted with the event and “so proud of all of the students, from beginning to end.”
Azzahrawi received a thank you note from the principal. “Many thanks to you and your students. Alhijra students were very please[d] and happy. It was exciting and profound experience for all. Please pass my thanks to your students — they were superb and thanks to university outreach coordinator too. I hope we can develop a partnership with the university and the school other related activities in the future,” he wrote.
“I’m not sure if a group from this school has been on campus before,” says Foster, noting that the event itself was wonderful — and also “a wonderful outreach opportunity.”
>> Click through below for photos from the day.