On Incorporating Poetry, Art, and Writing into Sunday Church School

Educators are always looking for ways to improve the learning experience for their students. Sunday Church School teachers should also be ever evaluating their teaching methods and seeking ideas of ways to improve. This note will offer suggestions to Sunday Church School teachers of one way to enhance the learning environment in their Sunday Church School classes: by incorporating the arts into their lessons.

“Studies clearly show the impact of arts on engaging and motivating students. The direct connection between participation in arts education and student achievement, although more difficult to prove, is also evident.” (from http://www.artinaction.org/w/whyart. Seehttp://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2013/01/22/top-10-skills-children-learn-from-the-arts/ for specific ways that children benefit from the arts.) Motivating and thought provoking, the arts allow students to think differently while using a variety of learning styles. All of these reasons strengthen the case for utilizing them in classrooms, including the Sunday Church School room!

The term “the Arts” covers a wide range of disciplines, covering everything from art to writing to theater to dance. In the interest of brevity, this article will offer ideas for incorporating only some of them into the Sunday Church School class: specifically poetry, art, and writing.  The ideas listed here are far from comprehensive, but are offered as a springboard to stimulate ideas of how Sunday Church School teachers can incorporate the arts into their classroom.

Poetry ideas:

Read poems written by Orthodox authors and talk about them.

Study a Bible story written in poetry form.

Read through the Psalms and discuss the poetry of King David.

At the end of a lesson about kindness, have the students write an acrostic poem for the word “kindness”.

After a lesson on Sampson’s life, help the students write their own riddles.

Encourage students to write a shape poem in the shape of the chalice, after studying Holy Communion.

For more ideas on kinds of poetry to write/use in the classroom, visithttps://www.youngwriters.co.uk/glossary-poetry-types.

Art ideas:

Invite artists in the parish to share their work (especially any that relates to what the class is currently studying) with the students.

Although they are not technically “works of art,” icons are beautifully written and should be ever present in the Sunday Church School room. They also should be available for study as they relate to stories from scripture or saints that are being studied in the class.
Invite students to draw a response to the lesson.

Provide a variety of raw materials, and encourage the students to create a collage related to the lesson.

After a lesson on the creation of animals, allow each student to sculpt their own animal using a bar of Ivory soap and a toothpick.

Find other art/craft ideas appropriate for a Sunday Church School class athttp://www.pinterest.com/aodce/crafts/.

Writing ideas:

Study the writings of Orthodox Christian writers (see any Orthodox Christian bookstore,http://www.orthodoxytoday.org/Indexes/orthwriterx.php, or http://myocn.net/orthodox-christian-writers/ for ideas) together as a class.

Provide a variety of authors’ writings about the topic of interest, across history, and study them together as a class.

Invite students to write a letter in response to the lesson.

Give students a journal that stays in the classroom, where they can write notes or responses to each class.

Allow students time to write a written re-telling of the story or theme of the class.

Provide letter paper, and have the students write a letter to their parents or someone who they think needs to hear what they just learned about in class.

Ask your priest for the addresses of shut-ins and spend time writing cheering notes to them after studying Matthew 25. Mail the notes if you cannot take them in person.

These ideas are just a few of the millions of ways in which the arts can be incorporated into the Sunday Church School class. Because the arts have such an impact on the integration of learned subject matter, let us work diligently to include them in our classes. Our students will enjoy the process, our classrooms will be more beautiful, and (best of all) our students will learn more than ever!

Find more reasons for using art in the classroom here:http://www.teachingenglish.org.uk/article/art-classroom

Here is an article on using the arts in Sunday Church School; specifically with special needs students: http://www.lifeway.com/lwc/files/lwcF_crd_ss_EforESpec_Using-Art-to-Teach-Biblical-Truths_pdf.pdf

Find articles about Holy Cross graduates practicing the sacred arts of iconography and the music of the Church in the December 2012 edition of “Together Again” magazine:http://www.hchc.edu/assets/files/Alumni%20Relations/TogetherAgain_Dec2012.pdf. The links to these Orthodox artists’ websites can inspire ideas of ways to use the arts in your Sunday Church School class. 

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