This topic is sharing ideas about creatively improving the step of the Sunday School lesson where we open our Bibles and read the scripture with or to our students. It begins with some posts originally created by Neil MacQueen, one of the Lead Writers of Rotation.org's Writing Team. You are encouraged to post your insights and ideas.




SOME CREATIVE WAYS TO READ THE BIBLE WITH KIDS

from Neil MacQueen

Taking a creative approach builds anticipation, grabs their attention, helps kids get over their fear of reading or being called upon, sets an interactive tone of participation right from the beginning of the lesson, and promotes retention of content.

Here are some types of techniques I have used to get into the scripture reading. Some are pretty playful, and the approach can depend on what kind of passage you are studying. All can e adapted for kids of any age. Especially with older kids and youth, a playful approach loosens them up around their peers.

1. Props! A few simple props to show or pass to the next reader can do a sneaky job of creating anticipation and focusing attention. Scan the story for prop ideas. Something as simple as a costume or headwrap helps make the reading fun and content stick. I will sometimes bring in action figures to pass around and represent the characters. ("Spiderman Jesus" was probably my favorite.) The simple presence of those figures made the kids enjoy the reading and discussion so much more. 

2. Assign roles! When the story warrants it, I will assign kids to 'do the lines' for various characters. We'll talk about "what voice" and some "body language" to add to the reading. Invariably we'll have to do it twice because they enjoy switching roles and getting into character.

3. Look to the Workshop's MEDIA for your inspiration!   

  • If I'm in the Art Workshop, we might draw the scene as we read it, or mold it with playdough. (Draw this, read, add that, read more, etc.) 
  • If I'm in the Game Workshop we might spin a spinner to assign reading parts.
  • If I'm in the Drama Workshop we might have the kids "show us your freeze face reaction" to certain lines read in the scripture. 
  • If I'm in the computer workshop we'll look to see the scripture on the screen.
  • If I'm in the Music workshop we might practice saying/rapping/singing the verses with a beat.
  • If I'm in the "Story" Workshop I'd invite a storyteller to deliver the scripture.
  • If I'm in the  "Construction" workshop, we might give kids a pile of legos, assign verses and have them build the keyword in their verse before reading it and showing their keyword to the class.

4. Mr. Microphone! I've mentioned this in several posted lessons  Kids LOVE to speak into a microphone. So I will sometimes bring in my microphone and small guitar amplifier. We pass the microphone between speakers. God's voice is always the one they have fun with.  That microphone creates anticipation, fights distractions, promotes goodwill, and is quite a bit of fun. It also gives them a reason to want to "do it again" ...which is a great way to promote retention.

5. Set up the Scene and Act It Out!   Example: For "man let down through the roof," we made a square of our tables, sat on the table tops -sitting on the blanket stretched across the opening in the middle of the tables we had created. The kids knew what was coming and focused like crazy. We read the second part of that story UNDERNEATH the tables. Use the story's setting to help you think about what you can do while they read with you.

6. Use a Computer! CoolA lot of software programs have the Bible story fully presented in them in a fun way. You can also project the Bible text (amazing what having a glowing version on the screen or wall does for student attentions). You can also use a program like "Let's Talk" to type your verses into and have them read back by an animated character.with a computer voice.

7. Read in Voices    After doing a straight reading, assign 'characters' or verses, and then discuss "what creative voice" they could read their verse in.  Creative Voices help kids REMEMBER and its instructive to discuss which voice fits the characters or lines of scripture. Fun ones to use: The Hulk, Rapper Drake, Choir Voice, The Presidential Voice, Surfer Dude, Whisper Girl.  Ask your kids. They'll know.

8. LIP SYNC & MIME LINES     Invite pairs of students to prepare then come forward --one slowly reading the passage, while the other acts it out, ...mimes, lip sync what the reader is saying.  This is especially effective where there is one person, like Jesus, who is doing the talking, or where there's action to be acted.

Hope this gives you a start. 

<>< Neil

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LEADING READING SESSIONS WITH CHILDREN

In his book "Teach Like a Champion", author-researcher Doug Lemov shares his research into what separates great teachers from the rest. His conclusions are based on his observations and interviews with teachers whom other teachers had identified as "great."

In the course of his research, he found that "great teachers" lead great reading sessions.

Examples of the Reading Session Techniques of Great Teachers:

  • "Great Teachers" often RANDOMLY PICK "who's going to read next" because it makes every student pay attention thinking they may be next.
  • "Great Teachers" teach difficult vocab and pronunciations BEFORE the reading so students don't stumble during it, and their stumbles don't break the train of the passage and other children's thought.
  • When students and teachers read together out loud, champion teachers….
    • Provide background on what students are about to read.
    • Provide “context” for the story (such as historical context)
    • Decode difficult vocabulary before reading it. (This helps in pronunciation too).
    • Outline the story and identify key concepts before reading.
    • Pose questions about the text ahead of time for students to consider as they are reading.
     
What strikes me is how many Sunday School teachers typically do the OPPOSITE.  They usually just:

  • Dive in with no explanation or background. "Open your Bibles to... and let's start reading at...."
  • They wait until a student stumbles before helping them learn a word.
  • They wait until the reading is OVER to tell students what’s important to remember, or what questions they will be asking about the passage.
  • They play a cat & mouse game of “do you know what I know.” Asking questions to see who paid attention, without telling the students ahead of time what to pay attention to!

<>< Neil

Here's a list of some of the things we currently do to make our Bible reading time more interactive and multiple-intelligence informed. I'm looking forward to your ideas in response!

  • Have children draw an illustration as the story is read
  • Have children "vote"  by raising their hand higher or lower while they hear the story to express how they feel about various things, such as, "understand or confused,"  "interesting or boring."  You can also have them hold up signs, such as, "good advice," "strange," "main point!" "boo!"  "yay!"  etc.
  • Have children listen for one word that stands out to them, write it down, and then share that word at the end.  You can have them pick out several words, such as, "the strangest word," or "the most important word." Depends on your story.
  • Have children echo what you read when you pause. You can echo it back to them, and pause again to have them echo it back!
  • Turn lights off and pass a flashlight to different readers to focus their attention and mood.  Or give everyone a tea light.

I am finding that simply reading the scripture and expecting kids to just sit and listen often fails to grab their attention. Also, I think it can be too tempting to always paraphrase or not read directly from the Bible. Especially for our older kids, they are ready to be directly in the word but sometimes need some tools to stay focused.


We find that the kids still need to completely "hear" the story each week.  

......And every workshop does this in its own unique way.  

Some examples:

-Art Studio - We illustrate the reading with art from the illustrated bible (freeillustratedbible.com) - the kids LOVE the comic style, I love the word for word scripture and the speech bubbles are easy ways to get kids involved.

-Computer Lab - we use clips from the narrated free illustrated Bible or find other audio versions of the story.  

We really like Dan & Louie and the Storybook Castle MP3's for a telling of the story for younger kids

-Movie - we try to find a movie that sticks closely to scripture as a way to tell the story

-Drama - we do a dramatized reading where we act out scenes or assign actions to repeating words/themes

-Monologue/Storytelling - we have a teacher act out the scripture story through monologue - this is often worked into a workshop such as drama or cooking.

We have yet to see the kids get bored with the story.  Even though we tell the same story over and over again we take unique approaches to the telling in each workshop and that seems to help.  

 

Our teachers and shepherds met and compiled a list of creative ways to review the Bible story after Week #1 of the rotation.

We tried some of them out in March -- and it went fairly well. It's going to take some time for our teachers to adjust to this.

We also decided to give a SPECIFIC suggestion in each rotation lesson of how to modify it. That means a little extra work for me to edit all the lessons to include these suggestions and to go ahead and do the preparation or get someone to do it. But, I think it will be worth it. Time will tell!

Jaymie

Ideas for retelling the Bible story 

  • Use visuals – 85% of people are visual learners (story cards, story strips, props, etc.)
  • Ask them to tell you the story – then fill in details or ask others to fill in the missing information.
  • Ask questions – start with basic, move toward complex, deeper level. Use background information to guide discussion.
  • Socratic method – kids do more of the talking and discovery. Ask questions to get them to think.
  • Partner readers with non-readers in K-2.
  • Have K-2’s describe what is in the first picture – next, next and so on.
  • Pictionary style activity. Ask kids to draw the first thing that happens in the story on the white board/flip chart. Check Bibles for accuracy.
  • “Around the World Game” – ask two kids a question, first to answer correctly, chooses the next two kids to answer a question.
  • Encourage kids with own Bibles to highlight memory verse, key passages, title of story, etc.
  • Purchase small sticky notes and encourage kids to use these to mark passages, even draw a reminder on them.
  • Use “Final Words” before leaving classroom… “What is one word or concept you learned today?”
  • Discussion: Ask for more than one answer.
  • Remember K-2’s need to MOVE. Have them move or add motions during the story, during memory verse review, etc.
  • Tell the story with inaccuracies (pausing after a sentence or two). Have kids tell what is wrong – maybe use a bell to note when it’s wrong. (don’t do this until late in the rotation)
  • Let kids do as much as possible with all activities. When a few kids are doing something with the teacher, shepherd could discuss – using story cards, strips or question ball or review memory verse.
  • At beginning of class tell them what they will learn – can also write it down in the room.
  • Tell them a word to listen for – maybe assign a word to each child. They raise hand when they hear it.
  • Randomly assign readers rather than going around the circle. Kids can always pass.

In the later weeks of a Rotation, as the regular attenders get more familiar with the scripture, we begin to change up how we read and retell the story.

Here are some ideas that have been gleaned from lessons written by the folks at Kirk of Kildaire Presbyterian Church. 

  • Have the kids tell you the story. (This is a great way to see how much they really know.) Have them check their Bibles.
  • Begin the story and let each person in the circle add one line to the story until it is complete. Help them tell the COMPLETE story. (Carol's thought: Or have them each say one word. This is actually hard to do so maybe just try this with older students.)
  • Tell the story back to them with inaccuracies and let them correct you. (especially fun for the younger ones -- but definitely don’t do this until the later part of the Rotation).
  • Have them roughly sketch the story out and then tell it.
  • Have them pantomime the story after hearing it. This can also be turned into a game of "charades."  This helps break down the verses, and remember them.
  • Photocopy the passage (remove verse numbers), cut it up and see if they can put it back together correctly. Let them work in pairs so that less skilled readers are not put on the spot.
  • Hand out slips of paper with key words from the story and ask the kids what they have to do with the story. (Or if appropriate, hand out objects that have something to do with the story.)

Adding a fun bit of "gamey-ness" to your discussions creates engagement and taps into their desire to "play."

For the most part, any game idea can be turned into a discussion technique. The trick is to ask good questions that aren't too hard, and to patiently wait for (and help prod) their response. 

The props, puppets, and gameplay are also a bit of MIS-DIRECTION. The playfulness of the technique leverages fun and smiles over an against anxiety and some students' desire to hide from or dominate discussion. The seeming randomness of "who has to answer" puts everyone on the spot in a fun way. It also allows you to come up with new questions and point out new insights on the fly without appearing to just be talking all the time. 

There is no game rule you cannot change, and frankly, you should change the "rules" as you go to facilitate discussion.

 Aside:  As one of Rotation.org's regular Writing Team writers, I can tell you that we have put A LOT of different discussion techniques into the Team's lessons.

We often KEY the discussion technique to the workshop medium. For example, in the Art workshop we might use an art supply or activity to facilitate the discussion. Or in the Cooking workshop we might use food as the discussion prop. Gaming in the Game Workshop, of course, and a dramatic technique to respond to a question in the Drama Workshop.  This is another way that the Rotation Model makes sure your students are exposed to a variety of techniques, instead of the same-old teacher's same-old discussion style all year long.

Here's a basic game that has a hundred variations...

"Story Questions from a Hat"

Put questions on slips of paper and have kids draw them from a hat. Yes, you can keep "discussion score" on the board with some silly points or "number of fatted calfs" if you're studying the Prodigal Son, for example. Questions are a mixture of story facts and open-ended questions.

  • "How did so-and-so feel when...." 
  • "If you had been there, what would you have done differently?" 
  • "What should that person have done?"
  • "Why did God/Jesus do what he did in the story?"
  • "If you were ____ in the story, what would you have done differently?
  • What's the book/chapter that this verse is from?
  • Quote any phrase or sentence from the passage we just studied.
  • Make the person to the left of you answer this slip's question!
  • Receive 1 point for every thing you can tell us about the story.
  • Act out such-and-such part of the story and explain their reaction.
  • Summarize this story for a four-year-old.

 Variations on this:  Work as teams, let each team pick three questions to ask the other team. Let each team then prepare their answer in advance (looking at the scripture, for example, and talking with you!. Have a podium to have them step forward to answer their question. Hold up a sign that says 1, 2, or 3 points on it (like in the Olympics).

Every question and answer is an opportunity to slip in more info and prod them for more response. Works wonders, especially with older children who tend to be more competitive.


Toss the Story Prop
Toss the SuperHero or Puppet

I've used many variations of this one. Tossing GI Joe King David and asking a question to the kid who caught him (that kid had to answer like GI Joe). Toss and Catch Baby Jesus is a fun way to ask questions about story. For a discussion about Elijah, I brought out our super-hero puppet (cape and all), tossed it to a kid and asked them a question which they had to respond to with the Elijah puppet. I asked the question using another puppet. You can make up rules as you go, like you get one pass to "toss" to someone else. 

Many years ago I used a "Batman" plush doll and Batmobile toy that had been left at the church as a "discussion reward." When a kid said something extra thoughtful, we rolled the Batmobile to sit in front of them -until the next special response, and asked the class why that response was particularly good. Fast forward to the mom who asked me after church why her son was "talking about winning the Batman today."   Younger Child Variation:  Stickers.

In one puppet-infused discussion Exodus discussion we gave everyone a puppet-character from the story, and created questions for each character. Then "on 3" we tossed the puppets in the air and they had to grab one. If they dropped it or didn't grab one, they had to answer the question.  The golden calf was a plastic horse with a piece of yellow cloth tied around it. His questions were kind of funny. We also played "Toss the Commandment Numbers in the Air"  and the students had to pick up the number which landed closest to them, and come up with a way to obey that commandment.

"Pass the Talking Stick"

This is a fun one with many variations. A "Rain Stick" is a good one to pass, you hand it to the student who wants to answer, and they get to "make it rain" after their answer.  Variation:  Pass the Moses Beard, 

"Step to the Mountain Podium"

Funny how kids will want to answer a question IF you give them a fun place to do it. A lectern with a microphone, for example. A table top for Mt Sinai.  A posterboard megaphone through which they had to speak God's words in a whisper.  I used this "megaphone" and then "whisper" technique for the two ways God spoke to Elijah -in the cave, and outside the cave. 

Musical Chairs (yes)

Underneath two of the chairs were a list of questions. When the music stopped and you were in one of those chairs, you had to read and answer the question. It's interesting to see the look of dread and anticipation at landing on the question chair. At first, they don't want to, but then they all do.

Now in the days of great Christian Music Videos on YouTube, I've wanted to play this discussion game again using a song that we were also discussing as part of the lesson.  

Here are some helpful online resources for leading better discussions from the folks at cultofpedagogy.com. Pedagogy = "the method of teaching."

Chat Stations as a way of priming group discussion

Here's a simple approach to priming discussing that's easily adaptable for Sunday School. Produced by the creative folks at Cult of Pedagogy.com .

One of the things I like about this approach is that it reduces the anxiety of having to share in front of many people, by preparing to share in a smaller group or pair. You could have kids rotate individually too.


reallyparticipating

The Problem of "Fisheye" Discussion

(Where you think the discussion was great, but in reality, only a few people participated). From the educational site "Cult of Pedagogy."

Their interesting solutions to get kids talking:

  • Give shy student a slip of paper ahead of time with the question you want them to answer.
  • Be comfortable with wait times (don't move on to the next kid who's willing to talk).
  • Answer questions first in smaller groups: Think, then pair up, then share up. ("Think-pair-share")
  • Teach talkers the importance of listening, and listeners the importance of contributing.

Think Pair Share

A simple interactive discussion technique well-known in public teacher circles, but rarely used in Sunday School (for no good reason).

Excerpted from https://www.cultofpedagogy.com/think-pair-share/

thinkpairshare

thinkpairshare2

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The following "modeling scripture in clay" idea has been around a long time. It was posted in our Story of Creation Arts Workshop ideas.  Surprisingly, this technique works well with older kids too. The key is to control the "when" and "how long" they get to mold the clay and to keep it moving, instead of turning it into a craft.

THIS IS NOT SUPPOSED TO BE A CRAFT ACTIVITY "AFTER" the scripture. Rather, the modeling with clay is done AS you read scripture, ...it is intertwined with scripture and discussion. For example, in the Days of Creation modeling idea you can read below, the modeling is done after each 'day of creation' verse is read. Then before moving on to the next verse, the teacher asks a student or two about what they made, adds a life application question.  In this way, your scripture reading becomes an activity, and not just "a reading." 

kidplaydohscripture

This technique seems especially suited to scriptures like the Story of Creation which has seven specific days that are full of vivid imagery. But it could also be used to create characters as they appear in a story, pose them to show action, responses, ...or depict ideas such as "inherit the earth" or creating and acting out the scene of the woman who lost her coin. So many possibilities!  You could represent God's attitude off to the side. Re-pose (retell) the story after first molding it in clay to show "that way it should have gone down." As you walked through verses, you could tell them to "work together" to spell keyword, decorating those letters to represent what the word is about. etc etc etc




The Example:

Making Clay Creations of Key Verses and Words  --a scripture reading activity for the Story of Creation

We used modeling clay for this scripture reading activity and got some really creative responses. I suppose we could have used play-doh, but we had a tub of modeling clay handy. Modeling clay will also dry so they could take pieces home at the end of the lesson.

The teacher or students read aloud each day of Creation, then each student takes two or three minutes to mold their clay to represent that day. 

We also had several suggestions for representing the repeating phrase "and God saw that it was good" (exclamation points were popular). They made these quickly to punctuate the end of each day after they had made their other model representing what was in the day. 

While modeling, we talked about why God made those things, and how we should (or they already do) take care of them, respect, enjoy, be thankful, etc. Before moving on to the next day, we went around the table to see and hear what each student had created for that day. This is a good opportunity to ask that student a question and interject additional teaching comments.

After each day was read and modeled, we saved a few of their pieces from that day to the middle of the table so that by the end of the scripture reading we had a "clay representation" of the Story of Creation verses --which we then reviewed.  (When a child's molded day pieces were selected, we gave them more clay so they could continue to mold the next days too as they were read.)

Tip: One thing that helped for younger children with the real modeling clay was to warm it slightly ahead of time to make it pliable.

Tip: We had a big sheet of paper in the middle of the table with areas for the Seven Days. For Day 1: "Let their be light" we had a big black circle to hold their "light" creations.

Tip: We gave each student a sheet of wax paper to make their creations on. Easier to lift and move too.

 Tip:  You could make your Seven Days of Creation using glow-in-the-dark play doh and illuminate it with LIGHT --using a blacklight.

Check out this YouTube video-- https://youtu.be/6T3FTTaJgXo  for how to make home-made glow-in-the-dark play-doh. It's easy.

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"Cellphone Selfie Stories"

Kids love taking pictures of themselves on the cellphone (or tablet). So here's a fun way to tell a Bible story using your cellphone camera's "selfie" setting.  It's very similar to "posing" or creating a Bible story "tableaux" --but it does it using the popular "selfie" mode on your camera and in doing so, emphasizes only the FACES and facial expressions of the students.

  1. First, you copy the scripture to a handout and make copies for the class. (Look up your scripture at biblegateway.com and use your mouse to copy the text to a doc for printing.)

  2. After the kids read it and discuss it with you, form them into groups so that each group has a cellphone that can take selfies. Assign a volunteer helper who has a cellphone. This is a great opportunity to involve teenagers to help you.

  3. Each group marks up the scripture handout --dividing the verses into "selfies they need to take to retell the story." 

  4. Now here's the educational thing, they have to decide what facial expressions in their selfie will help tell the story at each point in the scripture. 

  5. Finally... plug your cellphone (or 'cast') it into your TV so everyone can see the selfies. Have the group leader advance through the selfies as the rest of the group reads the passage aloud.


This technique is particularly suited for stories where there are several characters, or scenes, and things happening, such as miracles, or arguments. Pharisees, disciples, etc. Each line of dialog in a story is a potential photograph of the student portraying that person. Then you can photograph the reaction of the crowd or person being talked to. 

Jonah's reaction to being in the whale...

jonah-selfie

The Pharisee's reaction to Jesus healing the paralytic let down through the roof...

Pharisee-selfie

etc.

Selfie "sticks" are also a helpful and fun tool (and very inexpensive).

selfie-stick

Tip: Make up your own "selfie story" ahead of time using fun selfies taken by the PASTOR to go with the story, or in lieu of their sense of humor, yourself.

funnypriest

Younger Child Adaptation:  Have them hold the camera while you press the selfie button on the camera.



How do you get cellphone or tablet photos to show up on a TV screen?

It's easy if you have a modern cellphone, cellphone cable, and modern TV which has an  input for media. Learn how here.   It's even easier if you have a tech-saavy teen helping you 

cellphone2tv

Tip: Be sure your phones have full-charges!

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