Tag Archives: Activity

Pursuing Church School Success: Including Brain Breaks in Lessons

In this series, we will feature resources and ideas that can increase the learning success of a Church school classroom. In each post, we will share some tips for classroom management and/or ideas for increased student participation. What we share is not a comprehensive list by any stretch of the imagination: there are many more ideas available. It is our hope that what we proffer can act as a starting point toward enhancing the learning that takes place in our Church school classroom. 

 

We are all well aware of the importance of maintaining our students’ full attention during class. We also know that they retain and remember information that is learned while their brain is engaged. But it is not easy to maintain an entire class’ full attention at every moment: keeping their complete attention is a struggle. This is why “brain breaks” exist.

“What is a brain break?” you may ask. It is an activity that allows students to physically move and release some of the pent-up energy associated with being still and focused for a long period of time. If you take some time to read about these breaks, you will find that it is really important for us to incorporate them into our lessons. Brain breaks change things up, giving both us and our students a “breather” from concentration, and thereby creating a window for better focus and understanding.

At first glance, brain breaks may look like a waste of important time. But think back to the last time you were working diligently on a project. Did you not, after a period of time, take a quick walk, or grab a mug of coffee, or even just run to the bathroom for a few minutes? When you came back to your project, did you feel refreshed and ready to get back at it? Or was that break a complete waste of time? Of course it wasn’t! (Unless, of course, during the break you also got sucked into Facebook and lost track of time, but that’s a whole other issue, unrelated to the physical break that you took!) We adults often take brain breaks of our own, whether or not we know the terminology.

Brain breaks in a classroom work similarly: they offer a brief period of movement to allow for regrouping and better focus. Brain breaks can be simple actions or more complex games. They can incorporate thinking or simply be a dance-off. Different types of brain breaks reach different types of students, so it is important that we incorporate a variety of them into our teaching.

For our students’ benefit, we should always include some type of brain break(s) into each lesson. They will boost morale, add a touch of fun to our class, and (best of all) open our students’ minds so they can better interact with and remember what we’re studying. And chances are, they’ll help us to learn more, as well!

Here are several links on brain breaks that you may find helpful. Do you regularly use them in your Sunday Church school class? If so, what have you done? Please share your brain break ideas below!

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This article offers links to some of the research that has been done on brain breaks. It strongly states that brain breaks should be considered a class NEED, not an “extra activity”. That is how big an impact physical breaks have on students’ ability to learn! https://www.pinkoatmeal.com/brain-breaks/

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A printable chart such as this one offers brain break ideas that will be performed in a way that is unique to each student. Each would need their own dice to roll five times, and then some space (and freedom) to perform the five actions they’d rolled.

You could create your own chart like this, including your own ideas of things your students can do in the space you have.

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While this is written to a home school audience, there is information here that will be helpful to a Sunday Church school teacher. Especially one with students who are easily distracted: https://adventuresinmommydom.org/tips-on-teaching-highly-distractible-kids/

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“After a successful brain break, your kids should feel more focused, less prone to daydreaming and therefore in a better mental space to work or complete and finish activities. Furthermore, brain breaks have also shown to significantly reduce stress levels in kids, providing organic improvements to learning and higher engagement levels.” Read the rest of the article, as well as the baker’s dozen brain break ideas suggested here: https://www.unicefkidpower.org/brain-breaks-for-kids/

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The indoor and outdoor brain break ideas listed here are written for parents to utilize with their children at home, but many can be helpful to Sunday Church school teachers as well. (We do not condone the yoga idea, but the others are worth considering!) https://www.verywellfamily.com/brain-breaks-for-busy-kids-1257211

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The 20 brain breaks here can offer students of varying ages the opportunity to move and do something completely different for a bit so that they are free to once again focus and learn. https://minds-in-bloom.com/20-three-minute-brain-breaks/

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Here is another collection of 20 brain break ideas for you to consider using in your classroom. Some you can use as they are. Others are aimed at a regular school setting but can be adapted for use in a Sunday Church school class. https://www.boredteachers.com/classroom-management/20-best-brain-break-ideas

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For more creative brain break ideas, check out this blog: http://brainbreaks.blogspot.com/

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Drawing is not necessarily a “brain break”, but it is a physical activity that boosts learning. It is actually a very effective means of learning, because it taps into so many learning styles and requires a variety of thought processes. Check out this 2-minute video explaining the value of incorporating drawing into your lessons: https://www.edutopia.org/video/powerful-effects-drawing-learning

On Helping Our Sunday Church School Students to be Generous

We are rapidly approaching the Nativity of our Lord, a time when many of us desire to give gifts to others in our life. We talk in many of our Sunday Church School lessons about generosity and kindness. Our students may wish to give gifts to others, but not have the means to make that happen.

Perhaps we can help them to do so, simultaneously helping them be able to act on the lessons we’ve shared about generosity and kindness! Here are a handful of ideas of gifts that we can help our students to make and then give away. All it takes is a little planning on our part (and a little expenditure as well, but not too much). We have compiled a list of homemade gift ideas, gift wrap ideas, and Christmas card ideas for you to peruse as you look for ways to help your students be able to give.

If you decide to do this, plan to spend a whole class period creating gifts. Gather all of the needed materials ahead of time, and make a sample of each item so that you can troubleshoot and be assured that you have all of the items necessary to create that item. You may also want to recruit assistants for the day. (Maybe SOYO members could help, or some other adult volunteers.)

Set up a few “stations” around the room, each with a different craft (or one with a craft, one with wrapping paper, and one with a card) so students can select which item(s) to create and give. They should pick the one thing they’d like to make the most, and start there, rotating around to other stations as there is time. Or perhaps it would work best for your class if you lead the group in making the same project all together, at once. You know your space, as well as your class, and what will work for them, so plan accordingly.

What a beautiful thing it can be if we are able to make it possible for our students to be able to give their very own gift(s) to others in their life!
Here we have collected some gift-creating links. What ideas do you have to share with the community? Please comment below!

Gifts your students can give:

These tiny illuminated “snowy” scenes make pretty decorations that will be enjoyed for years to come by their recipient: https://bitzngiggles.com/illuminated-snow-scene-in-a-jar/

We especially liked the painted trivets, the glass magnet set, and the model magic snowflake ornament ideas from this list: https://innerchildfun.com/2014/12/handmade-holiday-gift-ideas.html

Quite a few of these could be prepared in a classroom, and will make nice gifts:

https://www.tasteofhome.com/collection/recipes-for-gifts-in-a-jar/view-all/https://newdream.org/re If your students are all able to do all of their own writing, consider this gift: sources/printable-coupon-book

The handprint snowmen ornament, the pine cone “tree” decoration, and the matchbox ornaments (made with Nativity icons instead of other Christmas images) are all great gift ideas found here: http://www.woohome.com/diy-2/top-38-easy-and-cheap-diy-christmas-crafts-kids-can-make

The snowball soap could make a great gift for your students to give to a sibling or friend; the decorated candle would work well for a mom or godmom. But there are many other gift ideas here: https://gluesticksblog.com/2015/12/25-holiday-gifts-kids-can-make.html

The cooks in your students’ life would appreciate one of these: https://www.homedit.com/have-fun-kitchen-painted-wooden-spoons/

Find a variety of gifts that kids can make here: https://www.projectswithkids.com/kid-made-gifts/

Gift wrap ideas that you can make in class:

Help your students to make gift wrap for the presents they give. Perhaps the rubber-stamped or paint splattered craft paper ideas found here would work: https://www.shelterness.com/diy-christmas-wrapping-paper/

Make tiny gift bags from folded envelopes:

https://www.craftmehappy.com/2014/06/how-to-turn-envelope-into-gift-bag.html

Make larger gift bags with scrapbook paper and ribbon handles: https://klompenstampers.com/2018/11/how-to-make-a-gift-bag-with-scrapbook-paper.html

Cards your students can make to give:

This nativity “stained glass” is a gift that could be given on the front of a Christmas card: http://www.housingaforest.com/stained-glass-nativity/

Each child’s handprint can become the manger on a card like this: https://www.craftymorning.com/diy-baby-jesus-in-manger-handprint/

Use coffee filters, paint, a printable template, and colored paper to make these colorful cards:https://www.projectswithkids.com/kid-made-christmas-cards/

A sharpie, some finger paints, and a little imagination can bring one of these cards to life: https://www.craftymorning.com/fingerprint-christmas-light-craft-for/

 

On the Feast of the Entrance of the Theotokos into the Temple (Nov. 21 or Dec. 4)

On Nov. 21 (or Dec. 4) we celebrate the Feast of the Entrance of the Theotokos into the Temple. This feast celebrates the day when the Theotokos, still a child, went to the Temple. The background story to this event is pretty important:

Joachim and Anna were devout Jews who loved God very much. They lived on only a third of their income, tithing and giving away the rest. Yet they had no child. They promised God that they would give their child back to Him, if He would grant them one, and He blessed them with the gift of their daughter Mary.

When Mary was three years old, and finally weaned, Joachim and Anna did not forget their promise to God. They gathered young ladies with candles to walk with them, and all together walked to the Temple so that they could present Mary to God and give her back to Him. Many family and friends came along, as well, all carrying lit candles.

When they arrived at the Temple, Joachim and Anna lifted Mary up onto the first of the 15 steps that led up into the temple. As soon as she was on that step, she ran all the way up the rest of them. The High Priest at the time was Zachariah (who later became the father of St. John the Forerunner). Zachariah greeted Mary at the top of the steps, took her by the hand, and led her into the Temple. The Holy Spirit directed him as he led her not just into the Temple, but into the “Holy of Holies,” the most sacred part of the Temple (which was so holy that only the High Priest could go in there; and he could only go in once a year after much preparation and prayer!)!

The Most-holy Virgin lived in the Temple for many years. The angels fed her in the Holy of Holies. As long as they lived, Joachim and Anna came regularly to the Temple to visit their daughter. When they departed this life, she stayed on in the Temple until she was betrothed to Joseph.

The holiness that she acquired while in the Temple, along with her own piety and desire to follow God, prepared the Most-holy Virgin to become the new Temple, in which God Himself dwelt. Her willingness to come to the Temple with such joy is a notable part of the Feast of the Entrance of the Theotokos into the Temple.

Most Holy Theotokos, intercede for our salvation!

Here are some resources and ideas for learning about the feast together as a Sunday Church School class:
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Find a lesson plan (Lesson 2 in this series on the Theotokos) for any age group about the Entrance of the Theotokos into the Temple here: http://dce.oca.org/focus/theotokos/

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Make a copy of this pdf (http://stabcc.org/files/bulletins/Bulletin-Insert-11.17.2013.pdf) for each of your middle years Sunday Church School students. Read it together, and talk about the feast.

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Find a variety of printable pdfs (previous years’ children’s bulletins) that contain information and/or activities related to the Entrance of the Theotokos into the Temple here: http://myocn.net/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/Childrens-Word-144.pdf, http://myocn.net/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/Childrens-Word-92.pdf,

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Provide the icon of the Entrance of the Theotokos into the Temple for your older Sunday Church School students to look at. Ask them to tell what they know about the icon: what does it depict? How is it teaching us? Then share additional information as presented here https://iconreader.wordpress.com/2011/11/20/entrance-of-the-theotokos-into-the-temple/ and talk about it.

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Encourage your older Sunday Church School students to look up each of the Old Testament scriptures listed here: http://www.stpaulorthodoxcathedral.org/attachments/article/4/SPC%20bulletin%2025%20Pentecost%20Tone%208.2.pdf. Have each student select one, look it up, and then read it to the class. Together discuss how this scripture relates to the Theotokos. How is she the fulfillment of these Old Testament prophecies?

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With your Sunday Church School students, sing the exapostilarion of the Feast of the Entrance of the Theotokos into the Temple (ie: http://www.antiochian.org/sites/default/files/exapost-1121-entry_of_theotokos.pdf). Then look together at the words of the hymn. What do they mean? To what does it compare the Theotokos? The book “Heaven Meets Earth: Celebrating Pascha and the Twelve Feasts” by John Skinas makes a beautiful connection between the Old Testament Ark of the Covenant and the Theotokos, some of which is alluded to in this hymn. The Ark of the Covenant contained God’s words, the 10 commandments, written on the stone tables; manna from heaven; and Aaron’s miraculously budding rod. The new Ark (the Theotokos) went on to contain the Word of God in the flesh; the Bread of Life; and “the Seedless Flower… from the Root of Jesse.” (p. 16) If you have the book, be sure to share this part with your students and discuss the type of the Ark of the Covenant and its fulfillment in the Theotokos. Then talk together about why it was so important for her to spend so many years of her life in the Temple; specifically in the Holy of Holies. (The answer is on page 15 of that book!) Find the book here if you do not yet have it: http://store.ancientfaith.com/heaven-meets-earth

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Print this foldable centerpiece about the Feast of the Entrance of the Theotokos into the Temple onto cardstock for each student. After teaching about the feast, allow your students to decorate and assemble it. Send it home with them right away so that they can set it as the centerpiece of their dining room table, add it to their icon corner, or set it up in their room where they will see it often and remember the feast. http://www.antiochian.org/sites/default/files/assets/asset_manager/cacb8660b29bdc97f8e8283ff567634e.pdf

Bible Story Grab Bags: New Testament

Author’s note: As we conclude the weeks of summer break from Sunday Church School, it is time that we finish our preparations for the forthcoming year. Pulling together items that remind you of Bible stories and putting them in a “Bible Story Grab Bag” can be one way to do so. Bible story grab bags can be used throughout the Church School year as part of a lesson, as an attention-getter, as a “something-to-do-during-snack-after-liturgy-before-our-official-lesson,” or as a lesson extender if you finish your usual lesson before class time is over. (It can also be revisited at the end of the year. To review, just have each student pull an item out of the grab bag and tell something they remember about that story.)

Here are selections from the New Testament which could be told, along with suggestions of items that could represent each selection in an Old Testament Bible Story Grab Bag:

The Annunciation (Luke 1) – toothpick “spindle” of red yarn or sign that says “YES”

The angel visits Joseph (Matt 1) – angel from Christmas decor

Mary visits Elizabeth (Luke 1) – jump rope (St. John “leaped” in St. Elizabeth’s womb)

The birth of John (Luke 1) – slate with “His name is John” written in white marker

The birth of Jesus (Luke 2) – small nativity, manger, or star ornament

The wise men (Matt 2) – small bag with gold rocks, incense, sm. bottle of oil for “myrrh”

Simeon and Anna (Luke 2) – hourglass (representing how long they waited for Christ)

The escape to Egypt (Matt 2) – replica of the pyramids

Jesus comes to the temple (Luke 2) – slate and chalk (he taught the temple teachers)

The baptism of Jesus (Matt 3, John 1) – bottle of water or a dove

Jesus and His disciples (Luke 5) – a bit of fishing net

The wedding in Cana (John 2) – small wine glass

Jesus and the storm (Mark 4) – toy ship or a storm cloud photo

Jesus and the daughter of Jairus (Mark 5) – toy tiara

The Sermon on the Mount teachings:

Love your enemies (Matt 5) – stuffed monster

The Lord Teaches the Lord’s Prayer (Matt 6) – copy of the Lord’s Prayer

The parable of the Wise and Foolish Builders (Matt 7) –  jar of sand and a rock

The Good Samaritan (Luke 10) – bandages

The lost sheep (Luke 15) – toy lamb

The prodigal son (Luke 15) – fancy ring

Jesus feeds five thousand people (Matt 14) – 5 crackers and 2 candy fish in a baggie

Jesus walks on water (Matt 14) – small pair of water shoes

God shows who Jesus is (Matt 17) – glow stick flashlight w/ marker face “Jesus”

The Good Shepherd (John 10) – “shepherd’s crook”/brown tape-covered candy cane

Jesus comes to Zacchaeus (Luke 19) – tiny toy guy and a big toy tree

Lazarus (John 11) – toy person wrapped in a length of white crepe paper streamer

Mary anoints Jesus (John 12) – small bottle of perfume

The entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem (Mark 11) – palm branch

Jesus drives the merchants out of the temple (Mark 11) – toy dove in cage or dollhouse-sized table and coins

Jesus celebrates Passover with His Disciples (Mark 14) – small dish (for identifying Judas)

Jesus washes the disciples’ feet (John 13) – small bowl “basin” and washcloth “towel”

Jesus prays in the garden of Gethsemane (Mark 14) – praying hands picture

Jesus dies on the cross (Mark 15) – small wooden cross

The burial of Jesus (Mark 15, John 19) – piece of white cloth “shroud”

The Resurrection of Jesus (Luke 24) – large stone “seal for the tomb”

Jesus ascends into Heaven (Luke 24, Acts 1) – stuffed cloud or handful of fiberfill

Pentecost (Acts 2) – lighter (for when “the tongues of fire” came down)

Saul On the Road to Damascus (Acts 9) – spotlight or bright flashlight

Sts. Paul and Silas Sing in Jail (Acts 16) – piece of broken chain

St. Paul Writes Letters (1 Corinth 12, 1 John 4) – pile of letters tied together

Here are some helpful links that can help you prepare your New Testament Bible Story Grab Bag. We also shared these when we posted this (https://orthodoxchurchschoolteachers.wordpress.com/2016/07/01/bible-story-grab-bags-old-testament/) but are re-sharing in case you missed them :

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Create a simple drawstring bag to be your “New Testament Bible Story Grab Bag.” Here’s a very basic pattern that you could use to make the bag: http://www.diaryofaquilter.com/2013/06/easy-fat-quarter-drawstring-bag-tutorial.html

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Here are several other suggestions for storage for your storytelling “grab bag” (box? tube?): Decorate an empty wet-wipes container (see http://momstown.ca/2013/10/23/how-make-treasure-box-diaper-wipe-container/); a covered oatmeal tube or coffee can (see http://modpodgerocksblog.com/2009/09/delightful-toy-containers-made-from.html); or a paper-covered shoebox (this one suggests using maps, but any pretty paper would work: http://inmyownstyle.com/2013/09/map-covered-shelf-organizing-boxes.html) and store your story-starters in there instead of in a bag!
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Make story stones like this to include as your “story-starters” for the grab bag. To make your own, consider using an all-purpose glue (like modge podge) to adhere related pictures (hand drawn, photographs, or cut from magazines) onto smooth stones. You can then set the stones upright in sand in scenery, or in a timeline, etc, as you tell the story. http://www.poppitscupboard.com/p/home.html

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Gather actual items that represent the stories you want to tell to your class. These items will be your “story starters” which you will keep in the grab bag. They can be plastic or wooden miniatures, pictures or icons, or any significant item that shows up in a Bible story that will jog your (and your students’) memory. (You may also want to include a master list of every item, complete with its story and/or the scripture to which it belongs.) Here is an example: https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/736x/71/00/b9/7100b98b14a9ac8423d9ca6dcda5d3e4.jpg

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Here’s a related Bible storytelling tip: Tell a story using several bags, each containing one item that helps to tell the story. (For example, this storyteller gives ideas for using multiple items and bags to tell the story of Creation: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y-Nu01DP_IQ.) Here are 12 Bible stories, already thought through for a similar project/presentation: http://curbsproject.org.uk/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/Bible-Story-Bags.pdf

 

On the Feast of the Transfiguration of Christ (August 6 or 19)

The Feast of the Transfiguration of Christ (commemorated on August 6 or 19) is an important one for Orthodox Christians to celebrate! After all, the Transfiguration was a revelation of the Holy Trinity (God the Father spoke, Christ was there, of course, and the Holy Spirit was revealed in the form of a cloud). Also, at the Transfiguration, Christ’s radiance was physically seen by the disciples so that they could better realize His Divinity. In addition, Moses and Elijah were present, showing the disciples that in Christ the law and the prophecies are fulfilled. And so it was that on Mt. Tabor, God allowed the disciples to have their own “mountaintop” experience, just as Moses (Mt. Sinai) and Elijah (Mt. Horeb) had during their life on earth.

Since this Feast is important, we need to learn about it ourselves, help our children know about it, and together celebrate the Feast! Transfiguration is a difficult concept for anyone to grasp, but especially so for children. How can we help our children learn what it was like for the disciples to see Our Lord’s Transfiguration on Mt. Tabor? Our Lord did not slip into a hidden wardrobe and change out of His ordinary clothes into shiny robes, nor did He simply step into a giant spotlight shining down from the sky. Rather, the disciples were simply permitted to physically see some of His Divine Glory shining through. (But not all of it: just “inasmuch as they were able,” according to the troparion of the day). So, how can we begin to explain or show the Transfiguration to our children?

One way to illustrate this concept would be to decorate three little plastic tubes to represent Christ, Moses, and Elijah.

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We used permanent marker to turn two (upside down) spray hand sanitizer tubes to create “Moses” (holding a walking stick and tablets with the Ten Commandments) and “Elijah” (hands folded in prayer, over a burning fire). Then we took a new (blue) glow stick (also upside down) and added a smiley face for “Christ.” The story can be reenacted with these “characters,” using a throw pillow “Mt. Tabor.”

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“Christ” can climb to the top of the mountain to pray.

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While the disciples (all the people gathered to hear the story) watch, “Moses” and “Elijah” can appear, sparking a discussion that includes why they are holding what they are holding, and why they were even part of this event in the first place, as answered in the paragraph above.

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At the moment of Christ’s Transfiguration, break the glass vial inside the glowstick, allowing the blue to emanate from it. Be sure to explain that, just as the glowstick could have been glowing at any moment (all of the right ingredients were there, but protected from mixing and glowing), Christ is always Divine. However, His disciples could not always see Him illumined, because God was protecting them from something that they would not have understood. It might have even scared them if He was always radiant! (At some point, you may also want to explain that God did not have to “do something” to Christ to make Him radiate; as we have to do something to the glowstick to make it glow. Unfortunately, as always, the analogy falls short of the truth.) However, on Mt. Tabor, God allowed the disciples to see some of His radiance, to help them know beyond the shadow of a doubt that He is God (and also to help them understand that His forthcoming crucifixion was voluntary, according to the kontakion of the day).

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As the shining glowstick “Christ” sits atop Mt. Tabor, talk together about what it must have been like for the disciples to have experienced this reality, and why it is so important to our Orthodox Faith that we celebrate the Transfiguration as one of the Twelve Great Feasts of the Church.

“When, O Christ our God, Thou wast transfigured on the mountain, Thou didst reveal Thy glory to Thy Disciples in proportion as they could bear it. Let Thine everlasting light also enlighten us sinners, through the intercessions of the Theotokos, O God Thou Bestower of light, glory to Thee!”


Here are some links that can help you and your Sunday Church School Students learn more about the Feast of the Transfiguration of Christ, as well as ideas to help you celebrate the feast together:


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Continue to learn together about the Feast of the Transfiguration in the book http://store.ancientfaith.com/heaven-meets-earth

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Read more about the Feast of the Transfiguration, including the hymns for the feast as well as an explanation of the icon here: http://www.goarch.org/special/listen_learn_share/transfiguration/index_html

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Print this folding stand-up centerpiece about the Feast of the Transfiguration of Christ for your students’ dining room table or icon corner: http://www.antiochian.org/sites/default/files/assets/asset_manager/44cc08f7375825e0a722417e140a9cce.pdf

 

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Find printable activity sheets about the Transfiguration, geared for older children here: https://www.scribd.com/document/273631504/Orthodox-Transfiguraton-Worksheets

 

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This transfiguration activity can help to explain the word itself. Use the content in the context of the story of Christ’s transfiguration to add to the mystery of transfiguration! All you need is paper, a cotton swab, lemon juice, and an iron:  http://aprilfiet.com/theology-culture/now-see-transfiguration-sunday-childrens-lesson

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“Saint Seraphim of Sarov’s life teaches us how we are to nourish our experience of the Transfiguration of Christ. The New Testament, the Psalms, the teaching of Saint Isaac the Syrian, the Jesus Prayer, prayer to the Mother of God, Paschal joy, hiding away from the limelight, compassion and absence of harshness: these were the characteristics of Saint Seraphim’s life. We can acquire some of them. Let us start by seeing what we can do with the New Testament, with the Jesus Prayer, and with the Mother of God…” Read more about the Transfiguration and how we can allow God to transform our lives, in the same way that St. Seraphim of Sarov did: http://www.pravmir.com/can-nourish-experience-transfiguration-christ/

 

 

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Find suggestions of ways to discuss the transfiguration here: http://myocn.net/transfiguration-its-all-about-change/

 

On Choosing Stillness

Remember our blog post on “Resting in God” from earlier this summer? Well, consider this post a little checkup. So, how is it going for you?

If you are like me, you probably still have a little work to do (maybe “work” isn’t the right word to use here?) in order to improve this area of your Christian life. There is, however, a simple “prescription” that can help us in this area! This “prescription, our healing solution, can be summed up in these two little words: Be still.


Ah, that sounds easy! We simply need to choose to silence our environment and still ourselves in order to better honor the King of All as He reigns in our lives. But oh, how hard these two words are to carry out! Noise, music, t.v., family members, neighbors, work, the internet: all vie for our attention. And once we successfully silence these, we are left with thoughts, ideas, worries, stresses, lists, and all of our own internal dialogue that must also be stilled so that we can focus. It is not easy, this “be still” business. It is not easy at all.

But it is worth the effort. And it is attainable. For example, Our Lord spoke to the prophet Elijah in the still, small sound of a gentle breeze. (see 3 Kingdoms 19:11-13) If Elijah had been paying attention to all that was going on around him he would have missed this interaction with God. Goodness knows he had plenty to distract him from stillness! After all, he was on the run to save his life from the threats of the evil Queen Jezebel; he had been miraculously fed by angels twice; then he fasted for 40 days and nights while traveling all the way to Mt. Horeb; and then a mighty wind-then earthquake-then fire passed right by him before that still sound came his way. So there was plenty of noise around him that he needed to quiet and there were also plenty of distractions within that he needed to still. If Elijah had been anything like me, he probably would have missed Him. But he chose to be still, and he heard the voice of God Himself.

What are we missing by failing to be still?

Read more about being still:

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Read about the difference between silence and stillness; and find an admonition to pursue both, here: https://oca.org/reflections/fr.-john-breck/on-silence-and-stillness

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“A common theme in the teaching of the church fathers is stillness. This is not a call to idleness but to a task that is very difficult: to quiet our minds.” So begins this helpful article: http://orthodoxwayoflife.blogspot.com/2012/07/be-still-and-know-that-i-am-god.html

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“Stillness, the Orthodox theologian Fr John Breck writes, is important for a number reasons. We need stillness if we are ‘to attain spiritual knowledge.’ It also is essential as we ‘engage in spiritual warfare against the passions and against demonic powers.’ Finally, in stillness we are able to hear ‘the voice of God.’” Read more on why we should cultivate stillness in our lives, here: http://palamas.info/why-cultivate-inner-stillness/

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Help your busy mind to be still with these five practical ways to approach your prayertime: http://www.karenehman.com/2014/02/5-ways-to-sit-at-his-feet/

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“Fr. Thomas Keating in his book on meditation refers to this continuous motion of thoughts running around in our mind as ‘the monkey mind.’ Picture a cage with monkeys jumping around and screeching. They rush at you, then away from you and then at you again, always chattering and making a ruckus. That is often the state of our mind, an endless commotion. Our minds have almost unlimited creativity and freedom. But if we do not harness the great power of our mind it can cause a mess.”

“…Each time we stop our mind from offending, Christ is victorious in us. We saturate our thinking with Jesus. The more active our relationship is with Jesus Christ, the less our struggle is with futile thinking.” Read more here:

http://www.pravmir.com/how-do-i-sit-quietly-before-god/?utm_content=bufferdc4dd&utm_medium=social&utm_source=facebook.com&utm_campaign=buffer

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Read this article to find a hands-on approach to being still. Let us together neither resent nor react, but rather, let us keep inner stillness as suggested here: http://silouanthompson.net/2011/10/do-not-resent-do-not-react-keep-inner-stillness/

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Find one mom’s lesson about stillness, focusing on St. Gregory of Palamas, here: https://craftycontemplative.com/2012/03/13/a-childs-lesson-on-st-gregory-palamas/

 

Bible Story Grab Bags: Old Testament

Author’s note: The weeks of summer break from Sunday Church School can afford us time to prepare for the forthcoming year. Pulling together items that remind you of Bible stories and putting them in a “Bible Story Grab Bag” can be one way to prepare for the year. Bible story grab bags can be used throughout the Church School year as part of a lesson, as an attention-getter, as a “something-to-do-during-snack-after-liturgy-before-our-official-lesson,” or as a lesson extender if you finish your usual lesson before class time is over. (It can also be revisited at the end of the year. To review, just have each student pull an item out of the grab bag and tell something they remember about that story.)

Here are selections from the Old Testament which could be told, along with suggestions of items that could represent each selection in an Old Testament Bible Story Grab Bag:

Creation (Gen. 1-2) – a tiny globe

Adam and Eve (Gen. 2:7-25) – toy man and toy woman (ie: Playmobil or Lego people)

The Fall of Man (Gen. 3) – a rubber or stuffed snake

Noah (Gen. 6-9) – a toy boat, a pair of toy animals, or a rainbow

Abraham and Sarah (Gen. 12-21) – small icon of the Hospitality of Abraham and Sarah or a tiny jar of sand and/or small stars

Isaac (Gen. 21-27) – tiny baby with gray-haired parents or a plastic ram

Jacob (Gen. 25-33) – pair of “twin” toy men (glue fake fur on one’s arms!) or a spotted toy goat

Joseph (Gen. 35-43) – scrap of rainbow-colored cloth or a dreamcatcher

Moses (Exodus) – toy baby in a basket, or toy man with walking stick or a pair of toy men’s sandals (like for an action figure or Ken doll)

The Plagues and Passover (Ex. 7-14) – anything representing one of the plagues, like a cup of “red water,” toy flies, a paintbrush with red “blood” dried on it, etc.

The Ten Commandments (Ex. 20) – small “stone tablets” with the commandments

The Tabernacle (Ex. 25-31, 35-40) – tiny tent or model of the ark of the covenant

Joshua/the Promised Land (Joshua 1-6) – crumbled piece of brick/stone wall

Samson (Judges 13-16) – long lock of hair or the jawbone of an animal

Ruth/Naomi (Ruth) – toy sheaf of wheat

Hannah’s Prayer/Samuel (1 Samuel 1-4) – a toy ear (he heard God’s voice call him)

King David (1 Samuel 16- 2 Samuel 5) – toy sheep or slingshot

The Psalms of David (Psalms) – a toy book with music notes on its pages or a small plaque of Ps. 23

King Solomon (1 Kings 3-10) – a magnetic question mark (he asked God for wisdom)

Proverbs (Proverbs) – a plaque or magnet containing a Proverb such as 16:3 “Commit your works to the Lord, and your thoughts will be established.”

Elijah/Elias (1 Kings 16-18) – small bottle of oil or toy flames and buckets of “water”

Isaiah (Isaiah) – recording of Handel’s “Messiah” or a Christmas ornament containing one of Isaiah’s prophecies (ie: “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given.”)

Jonah (Jonah) – a big toy fish or a small plastic worm

Three Hebrew Youths (Daniel 3) – toy flames or miniature “burning building”

Daniel (Daniel 1-7) – toy lion

Queen Esther (Esther) – toy tiara

Micah (Micah) – toy sign that reads “Bethlehem” (He prophesied Christ’s birth there)

Ezra and Nehemiah (Ezra, Nehemiah) – a “back” button/left-facing arrow symbol (so much in these books is going “back:” back to Jerusalem, back to rebuilding the temple, back to rebuilding the wall, returning back from captivity, and returning to God)
Here are some helpful links that can help you prepare your Old Testament Bible Story Grab Bag:

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Create a simple drawstring bag to be your “Old Testament Bible Story Grab Bag.” Here’s a very basic pattern that you could use to make the bag: http://www.diaryofaquilter.com/2013/06/easy-fat-quarter-drawstring-bag-tutorial.html

 

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Here are several other suggestions for storage for your storytelling “grab bag” (box? tube?): Decorate an empty wet-wipes container (see http://momstown.ca/2013/10/23/how-make-treasure-box-diaper-wipe-container/); a covered oatmeal tube or coffee can (see http://modpodgerocksblog.com/2009/09/delightful-toy-containers-made-from.html); or a paper-covered shoebox (this one suggests using maps, but any pretty paper would work: http://inmyownstyle.com/2013/09/map-covered-shelf-organizing-boxes.html) and store your story-starters in there instead of in a bag!
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Make story stones like this to include as your “story-starters” for the grab bag. To make your own, consider using an all-purpose glue (like modge podge) to adhere related pictures (hand drawn, photographs, or cut from magazines) onto smooth stones. You can then set the stones upright in sand in scenery, or in a timeline, etc, as you tell the story. http://www.poppitscupboard.com/p/home.html

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Gather actual items that represent the stories you want to tell to your class. These items will be your “story starters” which you will keep in the grab bag. They can be plastic or wooden miniatures, pictures or icons, or any significant item that shows up in a Bible story that will jog your (and your students’) memory. (You may also want to include a master list of every item, complete with its story and/or the scripture to which it belongs.) Here is an example: https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/736x/71/00/b9/7100b98b14a9ac8423d9ca6dcda5d3e4.jpg

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Here’s a related Bible storytelling tip: Tell a story using several bags, each containing one item that helps to tell the story. (For example, this storyteller gives ideas for using multiple items and bags to tell the story of Creation: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y-Nu01DP_IQ.) Here are 12 Bible stories, already thought through for a similar project/presentation: http://curbsproject.org.uk/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/Bible-Story-Bags.pdf