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Tales From School: 4, 3, 2, 1, Pharaohs Want Their Buildings Done

After an exhausting weekend of two 3-hour drives, 2 workshops, 1 roundtable, and a ton of fun new memories at Eau Claire, it was time to get back to Madison and back to school. With my college students, I managed to stay awake enough to discuss Mother Courage with them, but stayed up half the night brainstorming ideas for how to introduce my next unit to my elementary school students tomorrow. Since Passover is coming up next week, and we have two weeks off, I got them started on thinking about this month’s country, Egypt.

I started off today with a riddle:

“My first letter is in a TREE but is not a FRUIT, my second letter is in the GARDEN but is not a FLOWER, my third letter is in the SKY but is not in the CLOUDS, my fourth letter is on the PLAINS but not in the LAND, and my fifth letter is in the DESERT but not in the SAND.”

In order to solve it, my students needed to figure out that they had to cross off letters that appeared in both words. The first one was pretty easy, since E was the only option, but the second letter could be either G, A, D, or N; the third could be K or Y; the fourth could be P, I, or S; and the fifth could be D, E, R, or T. After a few missed attempts (Eakie, anyone?) and running back and forth from the map, they figured out that it was Egypt. Which led me to introducing the riddle of the Sphinx, which segued into learning basic facts about modern-day Egypt (the lecture portion of the class).

After our mid-class break, we went to the multi-purpose room where I showed them pictures of some of Egypt’s great wonders: the temple at Karnak with its great pillars; the temple at Abu Simbel with the giant pharaoh statues; the Pyramids of Giza; and of course, the Sphinx. This led to a game similar to Simon Says, but I called it Pharaoh’s Builders.

The premise: One student is “pharaoh,” and all the others are builders. Pharaoh does not like it when the builders are lazy, so they must walk around in the hot hot sun until he decides which structure he wants them to build. If he says “pyramid” the builders must get in a group of four and join hands at the top; any student who does not get in that group is eliminated. If he says “sphinx”, the builders must get in a group of three; one as the pharaoh, one as the body of a cat, and one as the magic wings. Again, whoever doesn’t get into a group in time is out. If the pharaoh wants a “temple” two builders stand together side by side (with even numbers, no one gets eliminated; however, we later amended the rule to say that the couple who pairs up the slowest is eliminated). And finally, if he wants a “pillar” that means that the builders must stop where they are and put their hands to the sides; the slowest one, or the one who does the wrong position, is out. The winner becomes the next pharaoh.

We did this for several rounds and it was extremely fun. For the most part. The hiccups that occurred:

  • Tracey kept forgetting what a pillar was, despite making the final two almost every round, crossing her arms instead of putting them to the side.
  • One time, with four players left, the pharaoh called “sphinx.” Bella kneeled, Nora went down on all fours behind her, and Perry made the wings, but as he knelt down, Nelly slipped between him and Nora, making her own wings. Of course, arguing ensued, with the pharaoh (and me) saying that Perry was out because he hesitated when making the wings, Bella and Nora saying that Nelly cheated by cutting in front of Perry. In the end, though, it was resolved when the pharaoh said “what the pharaoh says, goes,” which actually solved the problem, and Perry (who is a pretty easygoing kid) went to the sidelines with no argument.
  • The game was pretty much determined by whoever made the pillar pose the fastest when the pharaoh called out “pillar,” so basically it was a game of walking and waiting. In one round, however, when Nora and Stephanie were in the final two with Nelly as pharaoh, Perry yelled “pillar!” from the sidelines, which confused the heck out of everyone else. It was a great discipline opportunity however; once that round had finished and Nora had won, I told the class that Perry, being a disobedient builder and not respecting the rules of the game, would be required to sit the next round out, and that we would play two more rounds.
  • Of course, there was a ton of arguing “I got here first!” “You moved!” but for the most part, the “what the pharaoh says goes” rule worked to resolve it, and if not that, then “what the teacher says goes.”

Despite the aforementioned issues, I think that this game is incredibly useful and does not get annoying like other games (like The Game We Shall Never, Ever Mention Again). I could play Pharaoh’s builders all day. The best part is that the kids will definitely remember all those things now.

That was quite the long blog post. In other news, today is 4/4 and I paid my VISA bill today using check #444. So that’s something?

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Better Ideas for A TV Show Featuring Muslims

I’ve still been thinking about Alice in Arabia, so consider this a Part II to yesterday’s post. Sometimes, I look at ideas by others and I think that, given the chance, I could execute them better. So, here are a list of pitches for television shows I’ve come up with that could feature Muslim characters without stereotyping, or at least that are better than Alice in Arabia. Here we go.

Dramas

Eyes Open

 

Souad is a twenty-something Muslim woman who has left Afghanistan to pursue her dreams of being an ophthalmologist. In the pilot, we see her getting her acceptance letter to a university in America, and leaving with her family’s blessing. Souad thinks she’s got it all figured out, but upon arrival at school, however, Souad discovers that there’s more to America than meets the eye. Proudly sporting her traditional burqa, all that others can see are her eyes, which are usually in a book or looking into a microscope. Follow Souad as she struggles through navigating her new life and her new language, challenged by her fears for her own safety as well as that of her family back home; but revel in her triumphs of never giving up, and finding love where she least expects to see it, with a man who can look past her veil without removing it. One unique feature of this show would be the usages of two camera styles: one as Souad’s eyes and one as the eyes on Souad.

 

Beyond the Screen

Abdul, a young man of a wealthy Saudi family, spends every waking moment on the Internet, making friends all over the world through a computer simulation game where he is mayor of a virtual city. Things take a serious turn when he finds out that some of his citizens are not who they seem; he stumbles upon what he thinks is a virtual terrorism fantasy story that is an actual plan to kill a powerful figure overseas. For help, he reaches to the one person he still trusts: his virtual wife and first lady of the city, Nadia, a beautiful young player from France who speaks impeccable Arabic, in whom he has confided his deepest personal secrets, including this one. In the pilot, after they decide to team up to take this player and his real-life plan down, Abdul and Nadia video chat for the first time, Abdul is relieved when the beautiful young woman he’s dreamed of looks just like her pictures, but the truth comes out that she is not as far away as she seems: Nadia was born in France, but grew up and still lives in Tel Aviv, Israel, and is Jewish.

Sitcoms

Sis-Kabobs

Two Muslim sisters-in-law decide to open the first halal shish-kabob food truck in Boston, and turn Beantown (and their families) upside down with their newfound friendship, custom-painted truck, and unconventional ingredients. A recipe for fun.

 

 

When Sherri Met Ali

When Sherri, a stubborn, high-powered American executive, gets dumped, she crashes into the first man she sees for a one-night stand. That man turns out to be Ali, who’s an arrogant Muslim fashion model. Sherri and Ali detest each other and swear to never get together again, but they find out they have more and more in common, with Sherri’s firm taking on a company Ali models for as their newest client. Ali starts developing feelings for Sherri but has to keep it professional, and when Sherri finds out that Ali’s “traded up” to a new girl, a co-worker with model-esque looks, it turns into a case of…

Estelle Reiner, we have liftoff.