We have a generation of children in our churches who are growing up in a world that looks much different than the world of their parents. And yet, they are living at exactly the time they need to be, equipped to reach their own generation in a way their parents can’t.
What they need is to be equipped and trained for such a task – and while that responsibility starts in the home, Sunday School teachers can share in the equipping of these precious children.
Getting rid of pictures
This past year I tried something new, different, and a little bit scary in my Sunday School Class – I eliminated pictures from my teaching. I teach kindergarten through second grade – an antsy, rambunctious and spunky age (have I aptly described them to you? Wild, crazy, hilarious, full of life would also be accurate descriptors.)
There were several contributing factors to my decision to not use the traditional Sunday School flashcard images, flannels or modern media approaches; none of which matter in their specific nature – but as a whole they left me wondering; “What if the lack of a picture would enhance their investment in the text?”
I started our year together telling them I didn’t have pictures to show them, but that as we read through the verses I wanted them to listen and create the scene in their minds.
I offered pottery for them to touch, fabric to drape around themselves, and other tactile to enhance their imagination of what things looked like and felt like as we read from scripture. A few times when foods were a part of our story I brought in garlic, onion, fruit and flat bread. (Which is where “wild and crazy” descriptors are most pertinent – they ate said garlic and onion raw!)
One Sunday morning as we sat on the floor in our circle, Bible open and ready to be read one of the boys said to me; “You know, I don’t want you to show me pictures. You just need to give me time to build the image in my mind.”
I’m not making a case for pictures being a problem in a Sunday School class setting. Simply, the lack of them could potentially be a beautiful way to let their minds grapple with the truths they are hearing as their imaginations are being challenged to create the images in their minds.
Conversations in Sunday School
“It is only the unskilled teacher who prefers to hear his own voice in endless talk rather than watch and direct the course of the thoughts of his pupils.” -The Seven Laws of Teaching pg. 87
An older friend once pointed out that questions that require yes/no answers leave little room for depth to sprout from the conversation. With that helpful tidbit in mind, I chose a narration approach with the children as my guideline for question time.
“What a child digs for becomes his own possession.” – Charlotte Mason
Narration is the art of summarizing a reading, and a beautiful way to gauge what each child is soaking in. After our scripture reading I ask them to tell me what happened in the verses in their own words. Our scripture reading is typically only about 10 verses long, but if it happens to be longer, or if complex events occur I will stop mid reading and ask about the smaller section. Narration is an art and can require gentle prodding.
QUESTIONS TO PROMPT NARRATION IN SUNDAY SCHOOL
- What happened in our reading?
- What are the names of the characters in our reading?
- Tell me about where this event took place?
- What is something new you learned from our reading?
- How did the characters feel in our reading?
- How did the characters behave in our reading?
- What did the characters learn in our reading?
- Pretend I have never heard this story before – tell me everything I need to know about it!
“Too often we give children answers to remember rather than problems to solve.” – Roger Lewin
Narration encourages conversations – whether those conversations are the children connecting it to previous scripture readings, or to life events, or them sharing what they ate for breakfast (!!)
I will ask one of the above questions to a specific child, starting with the child that struggles the most with retention and communication. Once that child has answered to the best of their ability I will either ask another child the same question, or a brand new one. By asking in this order (struggling to least struggling) every child is able to answer something that hasn’t yet been said. Not all narration prompts will be used in a single day.
Only the person asked to narrate is allowed to speak, and others can raise their hands to share later but are not to interrupt. But they want to talk and the conversations are beautiful. They are silly at times. They need to be reigned in and guided. But they are precious moments to see the ways their wheels are turning and how they are processing the information they are being fed, and how the Lord is working in their own little lives.