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Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Sunday School Memoirs: Crafts and Handiwork

For the past two years, I have been assigned to teach the the 4 and 5 year old Sunday school class in the fall quarter. In an attempt to alleviate the blogging drought we've been having, I thought I would share various things that I've seen and learned in my two quarters. We belong to a small congregation, so I typically had about 4 students each week. The most I had this year was 6. Surprisingly, that day was fairly easy to manage.

(after writing a bit, it seems as though all I had to share about Sunday school teaching would be a bit much for one post. Thus some relief for the Great Blog Drought of 2008 in the form of multiple Sunday school blog posts)

On Relevance

Stock Sunday school picWhen I first took on the assignment, our preacher said that I didn't necessarily have to follow the curriculum materials. I wish I took that to heart much earlier. Many of the crafts suggested in the materials have little-to-no relevance to the day's topic. For example, last year's overall subject was stories from Genesis, but one week the curriculum had us making paper mats and leaf cut-outs. When a parent asked his son what he learned about in class, the son replied "Mats and leaves!" I cringe when I think that I actually followed the instructions for that day. That boy's response left a mark on me; I'm supposed to be teaching them about Bible subjects but these irrelevant crafts distract them from the stories. From then on I decided not to do dumb activities that have nothing to do with the Bible story.

This quarter's main topic was Jesus. Jesus is, as you know, a tantamountly important topic, and I wanted to ensure that the kids firmly understood whatever lessons they were present for. Halfway through this quarter, I decided entirely to just not even consult the curriculum anymore and focus on what I thought were important attributes of Jesus. I regret that I didn't chuck the curriculum sooner, because it didn't even mention things like walking on water or calming the storm. By the time I decided to do my own thing, the quarter was almost over. The last day was this past Sunday. Anyways.

I often have trouble thinking of good crafts for the kids to do. More than I would like, I've fallen back on the good old "find simple pictures off the internet and have the kids cut and paste." Most of the younger ones in my class had a bit of trouble with cutting. If it's a more complicated picture, then it turns into have Mr. JunkMale doing the cutting. Otherwise the parents will wonder "Was he teaching them microbiology? What on earth does a jagged misshapen scribbly amoeba have to do with Jesus walking on water?"

A Good Standby: Before and After Pictures

Stormy weather signSomething I thought of about a month or two ago was Before/After pictures. I found that a good way for the kids to illustrate plainly to themselves what exactly happened in the Bible story. For example, the first time I used this was for the lesson on Jesus calming the storm and waves on the lake. This was pretty easy...on one side of the paper, draw rain and scared people in a boat. On the other side, draw a nice sunny sky with fluffy clouds and calm water. I brought in a mixing bowl and put water and bits of paper (so they could better see the turbulence) to illustrate that while they themselves could not even calm a bowl of water, Jesus could.

(I also got nigh-endless inquiries such as "Mr. JunkMale, why are there pieces of paper in the water? Mr. JunkMale, what's that stuff in the water??")

So before/after pictures became my default activity. I only reverted to it once thereafter (like I said, the quarter was almost over), and it was for Lazarus' resurrection. The pictures consisted of dead person and sad people on one side, happy people and one more live person on the other.

What are some (relevant!) good Sunday school craft or handiwork ideas that you have had?

(check in within a couple of days to here about the next topic: Play-Doh)

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3 have poured out their souls in electronic text:

  • Smockity Frocks

    I am so glad you are such a conscientious teacher! I always ask, "What did you learn about?" and, yes, sometimes they only remember the craft. :(

    I would much rather they simply colored a picture while listening to the teacher read the story straight from the Bible than do some elaborate craft and completely forget (or never hear?) the Bible story.

    (I have used vinegar and baking soda with a little plastic sailboat to show calming the storm.)

  • Smockity Frocks

    I remembered something else I do in class. Any time the children are working on their craft, I sing a song to the tune of "Mary Had a Little Lamb" that tells the story we studied. I can usually make these up on the spot.

    Like this: "Jesus calmed the stormy seas, stormy seas, stormy seas. Jesus calmed the stormy seas. He told the waves, 'Be still.'"

    Just a little extra reinforcement.

  • Ewokgirl

    You've well-illustrated why we don't use any written curriculum for our class. Granted, we teach teens, so there aren't any craft projects, but the lessons are often very shallow and tie together poorly. They're written for people who have never taught before and need a step-by-step plan, so they do serve a purpose, but we just don't like them.

    I do like Smockity Frocks' idea of making songs to go with the lesson. Kids love music and often remember things better that way. I can't even begin to tell you how many times our students (teens!) have started singing some Veggie Tales song that corresponds with the lesson. It's actually pretty funny when they do that.

    Your students may be too young for this, but sometimes it helps to have the kids act out the story. When I taught 9th grade English and was teaching Romeo and Juliet, we spent a day learning about the Globe Theater. I turned the classroom into the Globe (moved desks into proper configuration for seating, had a poster board trap door, wadded up red paper for rotten tomatoes to be thrown at the actors, etc.). The kids loved it, and almost every single one of them got 100% on the portion of their tests on the Globe. Being actively engaged in the lesson helped reinforce the information.