Have you ever read a Bible story to a toddler, or even an older child, and feel that perhaps something more could be done to bring these wonderful stories to life? To see the twinkle in their eye and a smile on their face as the story is unfolding? And then to hear them request “AGAIN!” when the story has ended?
If you have never experienced this, then you are probably telling the Bible stories right, in which case you may want to skip the rest of this post. But if you are in the same boat as me, then read on because I hope this will inspire you as much as it has inspired me.
You see, I have just recently started to connect the dots between a key Montessori principle and Bible education. One of the key principles of the Montessori method is concrete before abstract. This means that a child aged 0-6 learns, understands, and remembers concepts when they have hands-on materials to experience. As they get older, they are able to transfer the knowledge of what they have actually seen, touched, heard, smelled and tasted to an abstract level, thereby helping them to comprehend and work with abstract representations such as pictures, drawings, and symbols.
Before school started, I had already prepared the stories I wanted to focus with Z each week. For his age, my expectations are not high, except for him to be engaged and enjoy the stories. Then it hit me one Sunday — Z loves animal figurines and little cars … so why not create a little diorama of each Bible story using Lego? It would be 3D (concrete), and I could move the figurines around as I’m telling the story so he can understand it.
So I sent my older son M off to finish the task. I gave him a toddler version of the story to read and asked him to build away. (Sorry, but I had a very exciting episode of Downton Abbey which I could not miss at that time). Thankfully, M was happy to have the job. Our Week 1 story is Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4:4-26), and this is what he created:
This was PERFECT! Good job M! I put the laminated story and the Lego mini diorama into a basket for his Bible shelf.
It wasn’t the first activity he chose, it was one of the last ones before he decided he’d had enough of school on the first day. But it was the one that engaged him the longest. I moved the figurines around as I read, and because I propped the story card against the basket, I could see and read verbatim without revealing that I’m reading from a script. (There’s another Montessori principle about rehearsing your presentation thoroughly before showing the kids so that you exude confidence, but I’ll leave that for another post perhaps).
I saw it all! I saw the twinkle in his eye as I read, I saw him smile from the side of his face, and at the end of my story he loudly declared “AGAIN!” Not just on the first day he picked the basket, mind you, but on every day. He loves this story!
He would want to take over the Samaritan woman and move her around. And this was how I discovered the gap which I need to fill. You see, he hadn’t seen a well before so he doesn’t know it contains water. Remember concrete before abstract? He hadn’t seen or touched, so he couldn’t understand the concept of a well, despite me telling him many times. He only knows that our drinking water comes from a Brita water filter dispenser. So he would walk the Samaritan woman to an imaginary dispenser by the basket and pretend to fill it up with water (sound effect “shhhhh”) before walking back to our Lego well to fill that with water and to feed Jesus (sound effect “drink drink drink”).
But where would you find a real well nowadays? I’m thinking of improvising with a big bucket of water and a little pitcher. That itself is probably a nice Practical Life activity that ties in with the whole lesson. In fact, the level of engagement is so high that it’s probably a very good activity for circle time.
As the weeks go by I hope to design and share more stories and related activities. But before that, I would like to share with you the unexpected benefit that this work had with my older son M, who is 7 years old. That is upcoming in my next Sunday series post, so I hope to see you in Part 2.
In the meantime … does anyone know where I can find a real life well?
God bless and pea(ce) to all,