Summary of Lesson Activities:
Paint (with watercolors) a visual image of Psalm 23.
- God takes care of us like a shepherd takes care of sheep.
- God’s love and kindness are always with us.
- (Older students) Learn where to find the 23rd Psalm and learn it by heart, in their own words.
- Read the scripture for this lesson.
- Read and reflect on the overview material provided for this lesson.
- Prepare an opening and/or closing prayer in case you need one.
- Gather the materials
- Bibles; for younger students, a storybook Bible (optional).
- Book or pictures that show the landscape of the Middle East.
- Book(s) that show watercolor landscapes (optional).
- Watercolor paper, watercolor paints, paintbrushes (various sizes), paint smocks. [Note: Use real watercolor paper – try 140 pound, cold press. Offer a variety of paint brushes – including flat, round, wash, and fan brushes.]
- Cotton balls, paper towels, scrap paper, pencils
- A milk jug of water (or a sink)
- Cover (protection) for table
- Shallow water containers of 2 different types – see “watercolor hints” at end of lesson.
- Hair dryer
- Classroom poster of Psalm 23
- Extra activities: jigsaw puzzle; one copy per class of the learn-it-by heart strips.
Before Start of Class:
- If your room does not have a sink, fill a milk jug with water.
- Lay out table protection.
Opening-Welcome and Lesson Introduction:
Greet your students warmly, welcoming them to the art workshop. Introduce yourself and any other adults.
Say: We are learning (continuing to learn) about the 23rd Psalm. Today you’ll have a chance to create a watercolor picture of the 23rd Psalm.
Say: Let’s begin with prayer. Ask for any prayer requests. Ask if anyone would like to lead the group in prayer. Be prepared to say a prayer yourself, working in prayer requests. A suggestion: “Dear God, Thank you for being my Shepherd. Help us to learn how you take care of us like a shepherd takes care of his sheep. Your love and kindness make us feel safe and secure even when times are rough. Thank you. Amen”
Pass around a basket to collect any offering.
[Note: The Shepherd will quietly take attendance, etc. while you are starting your lesson.]
Dig- Main Content and Reflection:
For 3rd grade and up:
Have everyone find Psalm 23 in his or her Bible. (Is it Old Testament or New? Remind them that opening their Bible in the middle gets them close to the Psalms.)
Ask: What are psalms? (poems and songs)
Say: Let’s read Psalm 23 out loud in what’s called a responsive reading.
Break the class into two groups. Half the class reads the odd verses, other half reads even.
Also add, for 5th and 6th grade:
Ask: Did that sound like a poem or a song? (accept all answers)
Say: This isn’t a poem that rhymes, but it’s a type of poem that uses lots of imagery (green pastures, still waters). Jewish poems repeat ideas instead of repeating or rhyming sounds.
Ask: What idea or image did we hear repeatedly in Psalm 23? (about a sheep being taken care of)
For 1st & 2nd grade:
Say: Listen while I read the 23rd Psalm. We find the book of Psalms in the Old Testament of our Bible.
Hold open a Bible to Psalm 23. Read the version of Psalm 23 as listed on page 1 of this lesson material. (The same version is on the handout available for kids to take home.)
For all students:
Say: When you hear the 23rd Psalm, what do you see in your mind? (accept all answers)
Discuss images used in the psalm. (You might need to reread verses 1-3.) Make sure everyone knows: what a “pasture” is, and that sheep in those days didn’t live in barns.
Say: King David wrote this psalm over 3000 years ago. This is the same David who fought Goliath. Before he was king, David was a shepherd. When David wrote this Psalm, sheep were common. People knew that sheep depended on their shepherd for food and protection. David wrote using word pictures or images, that people could understand. David is writing as though he was a sheep and God was his shepherd! “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want”. He’s saying: God loves me and takes care of all my needs!
Say: To help us remember this, let’s paint a picture of what you think Psalm 23 looks like. Paint how you think it might look for a sheep that feels loved and protected.
Pass out the art supplies. Have students write their name (first and last) on the back of their paper before they start painting. Pour water into the water containers. Offer paint smocks.
Say: We have two different kinds of water containers – the yogurt cups are for cleaning your brush. These other containers are for clean water – we’ll only dip clean paintbrushes into these cups. If you want, you may lightly sketch with pencil before you start painting. (Since watercolor paper is more expensive, encourage any rough draft sketches on scrap paper.)
Things to say to help get creative juices flowing:
- Imagine a peaceful scene where a sheep would want to be – where the sheep feel that their needs are provided. What would that look like?
- What would a “green pasture” sound like, taste like, and feel like to a sheep? What about “still waters”?
- What’s your favorite part of Psalm 23 (or what part do you like best) – paint that.
[For watercolor hints see end of lesson.]
Discussion: (while the kids are working)
Ask: Do you think a shepherd had an easy job? (allow all answers)
Show pictures of the landscape in the Middle East where the psalmist David lived.
Ask: David wrote about green pastures and still waters, does this look like that? (no)
Say: Notice how it looks dry. Sheep need water every day so the shepherd must lead them to places where there is water. Sometimes a shepherd had to also work at growing grass for the sheep to eat. They had to clear away rocks, see the grains and weed it and tend it – that sounds like a lot of work to me!
Say: If you are like God’s sheep and he is your Shepherd, what sort of work does God do to take care of you? (allow all answers)
Ask: How does it feel to know that God takes good care of you? (allow all answers)
Say: Psalm 23 can be very comforting in times of difficulty or stress. Thus it’s important to learn this Psalm by heart; to store it in our hearts (and mind) so it comes back to us easily when we need it, when we want to feel comforted.
Ask: What do you know about shepherds? (allow a few answers – but beware: after kids have been to the Storytelling workshop they are likely to know a lot about shepherds). Share some of the information about shepherds and sheep from the overview material – especially examples of shepherds taking care of sheep.
If students finish early: offer a jigsaw puzzle or the learn-it-by heart strips. (See “Resources and Supplies” at end of this set of lessons.)
Give a five-minute warning before it’s time to clean up.
Ask students to share something about their painting. What part of Psalm 23 corresponds to their picture?
Say: We’ve learned something today about sheep. In order to be well fed and watered and safe, sheep really need their shepherd. We are just like sheep. God takes care of us like a shepherd takes care of his sheep. If we follow and obey God, God’s love and kindness are always with us.
Have kids help clean up. Wipe clean, and dry the inside lids of paint boxes.
Make sure everyone has received at least one copy of the 23rd Psalm handout. Tell students to continue working on learning the 23rd Psalm by heart. (They may learn it in their own words.)
Encourage everyone to come back next week for another workshop, and to invite friends to come too!
Watercolor hints (techniques):
- Keep the use of the two different water containers separate – one to wash brushes (this water will get “muddy") and one to only be used to wet clean brushes.
- To start, wet the watercolors. Drip clean water from a brush into a pan of color. Use the lid of the paint box as a palette to mixing colors.
- The more water added to the paint, the lighter the color.
- It is best to start with lighter colors, then move on to darker colors.
- Work from background to foreground, adding details as you go.
- If students have done a light pencil sketch, avoid too much erasing. It damages the paper.
- Encourage using a “light hand” with the brush – the color is supposed to be transparent. Avoid going back and brushing over an area.
- A “color wash” is useful for covering large areas with color. Color washing is a “wet-on-wet” technique: you use a wet brush on wet paper. Take a “wash brush” (it’s wide and flat) and paint clean water evenly across the area to be painted. The paper should be wet but not too wet. No puddles allowed! Using your wash brush and a chosen color, paint horizontally across the paper. Paint another band of color next to it. The colors bleed and blend together where they join, this makes it interesting.
- Create clouds or sheep by first using a wash of color, then remove paint by touching the desired area with a cotton ball. This removes the color to expose the white paper.
- For more control, such as in painting foreground details, paint with a wet brush onto drypaper – use a hairdryer set on low to dry the paper.
Using Ideas Referenced from Art Workshop:
- Kirk of Kildaire Presbyterian, Cary, North Carolina. “Faith Quest: Psalm 23: Creation Station- Art”.
- MacQueen, Neil. “Hilliard Presbyterian Church VBS 2001: A Sheep Odyssey”. Lesson
A lesson written by Carol Hulbert from: First UMC
Ann Arbor, MI
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