I'm in Yogyakarta, the home of the sultanate in central Java that opposed the Dutch in the 40's. There is a lively Muslim community here and I've been visiting Islamic boarding schools. I'm staying in a former Dutch residence from the 20s that has been converted into an 8 room hotel with wireless internet. While a bit dark and a little moldy, it's reasonably comfortable and convenient (close to one of the top universities in Indonesia - UGM) as a base for research.
I've been visiting different Islamic boarding schools and trying to understand how they install the principles of verbal piety in their students. Key to this is the teaching of the use of Arabic. But two of the main techniques for pedagogical interaction - sorokan and pandongan - for teaching Arabic in these schools have never been carefully described.
I saw and recorded some interesting examples of sorokan yesterday with my assistant, Asykuri Chamim. I guess one way of glossing the term sorokan might be 'recitation.' In this mode of interaction, students come forward when called by the teacher, called ustad kiss the hand of the teacher using the sniff kiss, and then start out reciting the qur'an together but then individually recite the verses they are most familiar with. The impression from an outsiders' perspective is one of auditory chaos: there are several people speaking all at once so how can they possibly make sense of all this?