The last post gave big-picture ideas of themes and approaches for your class devotions. This post shares specific, daily plans and suggestions for materials.
- Grades 1-6 have chapel together with a dad coming in to speak.
- I arrange my schedule to to have 5-10 minutes after we return to the classroom to introduce the new Scripture memory for the week. This includes briefly talking about what it means and some key gestures to help remember the first phrase or two of the two verses we do weekly.
Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday
- We talk more about the Bible Memory selection, explaining the meaning of the verse in general and definitions of unknown words, marking up their personal copies by underlining or color-coding key verbs or phrases, adding a couple more key gestures, and of course reciting it together several times.
- For variation, we may start out slowly and each time go faster or start out whispering and end the fifth round with speaking it very loudly. Reciting can be done sitting, standing, or marching in place. It can be done by rows or groups of boys/girls. Sometimes I invite those who are confident they know the verses to line up in the front and one by one they say a short or long phrase before slipping to the back of the line letting the next person pick up wherever they chose to stop. In this way, they go through the verses several times while those not ready to join in watch and listen, mentally catching mistakes and, unbeknowst to them, practice the verses too!
- The total amount of time spent on Bible Memory in this slot is 5-10 minutes. Frequently this class practice slot ends with me setting the timer for one minute and like a humming hive of busy bees, everyone practices the assigned verses audibly at their desks. They then evaluate where they think they are in their mastery of the verses by holding up 1-5 fingers with 5 being perfect mastery. Note: most afternoons students are also assigned individual practice on the verses for 2-3 min.
- A couple comments on learning the books of the Old (or New) Testament: this included learning a song that listed them in order, plus using lots of sword drill practice to help move students past rote sing-song reciting. These sword drills, which they greatly enjoyed, sometimes required them to only find the book, other times the chapter and the verse too. Initially, everyone found each reference before moving on to the next, but then I found it worked better to simply list ten references on the board and let them move at their own pace. With this approach not everyone was required to find each reference – but they wanted to! Students who found it easy to rattle off the books of the OT in order were challenged to memorize them backwards. You have to know them much better in order to be able to do that! Some took the challenge. The final six weeks of next year, we plan to memorize the New Testament books in similar fashion, along with a couple more hymns.
- Introduce or sing our new song of the month. Throughout the month, the five minutes allotted to singing the hymn of the month often includes talking about the meaning of the song, having them name active verbs or favorite phrases within a certain stanza, explaining any big words they don’t understand, noting the rhyming patterns, naming the composer and the era it was written in, or telling stories behind the song. These stories could be the hymn history or a personal story of why I chose this song.
- Move on to the primary teaching tool for the final 10-15 minutes. More on this later.
- For us, this is Bible recitation day. Some bring notes of completion from home. Fourth graders usually recite to me and those who did it excellently got to listen to third graders recite and then would report to me. Later in the year, I begin having the fourth graders write it out and I really liked how that addressed some difficulties I had not been able to address well before. The requirement for third graders is to recite four verses cumulatively (always adding the two new weeks verses and dropping the “oldest” ones) while the fourth graders do six verses in the same manner. With the success of the writing plan at the end of last year, this next year I hope to have fourth graders write out the two new verses for the week and allow them to recite the four “old” verses to each other.
- When individuals finished reciting they were invited to work in their Bible Sketch books, get a head start on next week’s verses, or draw the concept of the verses we memorized. This was a bit more unstructured and as long as they quietly occupied themselves I could focus on those still completing their recitation. Sometimes they simply pulled library books from their desks and read or worked on some other unfinished project. If one student just was not ready to recite, I wrote his name in a bottom corner of the board, which meant it needed to be completed before going out to recess. Usually that worked very well.
- When all the recitation was completed, we either moved on to the primary teaching focus for the final minutes or sang the hymn, or did some other related project.
Primary Teaching Focus Ideas
I highlight these three because they are the ones I know the best. There are many other excellent options just waiting to be discovered!
The Bible in Living Sound
This past year I regularly used The Bible in Living Sound, a set of audio Bible stories. Since I remember listening to these stories in my youth, for old times sake I purchased the set of 40 records of Old Testament stories as well as a Plain Jane record player. Along with listening to the stories, each student had their own 4×7 sketch book purchased from Dollar General where they sketched each Bible story as we listened. I soon learned that it worked best for them to stay at their desks rather than gather in the back around the record player as I had envisioned doing. As we listened, I drew in my own sketch book under the document reader, enabling them to watch mine evolve as we went along. Many copied the basic pictures I drew, but others came up with their own. Since I am not artistic they were encouraged to see that crude stick figures are fine; sometimes I even copied parts of my artistic students’ pictures because I didn’t know how to draw it myself!
When an apprentice spent the month of January at our school, I discovered she was artistic, so I had her do the drawing. That really spoiled me! The final quarter, I sensed that although the sketching had worked well and they treasured their sketchbook of Bible pictures, they were ready for a change.
That was when I found free online Bible coloring pages. From what I understand, the founder of this website drew the pictures herself. I liked this site better than most I found. Students could choose if they would rather listen or listen and color at the same time. Nearly everyone chose to color while they listened. Then they added these colored pictures to their sketch book.
We always listened to each story twice since the first time around we didn’t know exactly what was coming and where this section would stop to know well what to draw. That worked well, with the downside being we never got very far through the set – only from Creation through the story of Joseph. I hope to continue with this same set up next year. I really liked having this be the main focus for several reasons:
- the content – Bible stories – what could be better?
- there was so little prep time for me
- the sketching helped solidify both the stories and their sequence in the students’minds
- the active participation of the students helped them to treasure the learning process in an authentic way
These stories are available on CD, MP3, audio DVD or on records. They intentionally do not produce visual DVDs since they want everyone to be able to envision the story in their own mind. The stories can be ordered from BibleInLivingSound.org, or you can call this non-profit organization at 800-634-0234.
For many years, I incorporated Character Sketches volumes Volumes I, II, or III and focused in on a specific character quality, using these books to tell stories of animals that exemplify that quality in some manner. The books are high quality with lots of interesting information and good pictures. It also contains stories of individuals from the Bible who demonstrated some aspect of that quality. As mentioned, I used this for years and moved away from it only because I, the teacher, needed something different! Students really enjoyed these stories but using material that no longer fascinates the teacher is counterproductive.
These volumes are sold separately and are easily found online. Each one contains over 380 pages. New, they cost $49, but some are available much cheaper in used condition. However, in my opinion, even the new price of $49 is not too much for the wealth each one contains. Using it as I did, you would not need more than one volume in a year.
A Beka Bible Flashcards
About the time I was ready for a break from the years of using the Character Sketches, a former teacher offered me a nearly-complete set of a A Beka Bible Flashcards. I snatched them up and for a number of years they were the basis for my primary teaching focus of devotions. While the stories are all written out so you can simply read them, I regularly prepared ahead so I could tell the day’s story orally. This gave me both the added advantage of eye contact and the chance to edit some of the strong child evangelism that the program promotes.
I was startled when I first begin using these beautiful flashcards. Even to me, the familiar stories suddenly became almost new as I looked at the pictures and envisioned the story through other eyes. Students loved the stories and initially some delighted me by even begging for more at story time in lieu of our regular story time! Here too, I moved away from them primarily because I, the teacher, wanted something new.
These brightly colored (and pricey) Bible flashcards are available through A Beka Book Publications.
There are many more excellent options waiting to be discovered. The above three are given simply to scatter a few seeds and start your thinking. May the harvest of our summer’s planning bring forth much fruit—fruit that remains through eternity!
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CONTRIBUTOR: Betty Yoder