Tag Archives: Ideas

Brain-Based Education and Quantum Learning: Ideas for Lesson Planning

This post is the seventh (and last) in a series of blogs focusing on the comprehensive model of education called “brain-based learning” and the Quantum Learning method that most effectively applies that model. It is our hope that this series has helped you to learn more about both the model and the method. Utilizing this methodology in Sunday Church school lessons will enable teachers to heighten the learning ability of each student in their class.

 

In this final portion of our series about the brain-based learning program, Quantum Learning, we will share a few practical ways to apply the method in your Sunday Church school lessons. (If you missed our introduction to the program, you can find it here: https://orthodoxchurchschoolteachers.wordpress.com/2020/03/13/brain-based-education-and-quantum-learning-an-introduction/. Brain-based learning is a teaching methodology based on research that helps teachers to be more effective while also helping students to learn in the best way possible.) We have already explored the five core components of the Quantum Learning System: Foundation, Atmosphere, Environment, Design, and Delivery. All five components work together, but even if you are only able to implement one of them in your Sunday Church school class, you and your students will greatly benefit. In this post, we will offer ways to apply the components to your lessons.

Quantum Learning classroom teachers carefully design learning to be engaging, enticing, intriguing, and full of wonder and discovery. These teachers set their students up for success by strategically utilizing activities that are multi-sensory and multi-intelligent. That is to say, the learning appeals to students’ visual, auditory, and kinesthetic ways while tapping into multiple intelligences. (For example, such a teacher would capture the students’ interest using an icon of a concept, or creating an image in their minds; use hand motions to lock the information in their bodies; take a nursery rhyme and substitute words with important facts; or tell a story that involves the concepts in the lesson.) As the lesson continues, they “chunk” the information, that is, organize it into distinguishable pieces so that the brain can begin to make associations in order to link and store it successfully. They use frequent review throughout the lesson. And it truly is frequent: the method suggests that within 10 minutes of study, it is already time to review a concept, if possible, in a totally different way or through a different intelligence. This helps to move the information in the students’ minds from short- to long-term memory. (For example, these teachers may tell their students to “turn and talk to your neighbor about…” or “read over your notes and draw an illustration for each part” or ask, “how would you explain this to your mom?”) Quantum Teaching lessons will always include the big picture. That is to say, the lesson is designed in such a way that during the lesson, students will ask the question “What’s In It For Me?” and explore the answer. These teachers use the big picture in the same way that a trailer is used to promote a movie: it taps into the feelings of curiosity and wonder, while also highlighting the best parts. (The learning will fill in the plot.)

Each lesson created using the Quantum Learning teaching method incorporates the following brain-considering elements: “Eel Dr. C”. This catchy name is actually an acronym. EEL DR C is a quick way for teachers to remember the important elements: Enroll, Experience, Label, Demonstrate, Review, and Celebrate. Each element serves a special purpose:

  • Enroll is a friendly reminder to create student buy-in by addressing WIIFM (What’s In It For Me) and reaches into the student’s memory and experience, to make connections. (Enroll relates to the “Objective” in lesson planning.)
  • Experience reminds students of a common experience, or creates a new one, to which they can relate. (Experience is related to “Introduction” in lesson plans.)
  • Label is another way to look at the “input” portion of a lesson plan. This is where the key words, concept models, formulas, and/or strategies come into play in the lesson. (Label is related to “Content” in lesson plans.)
  • Demonstrate is the part of the lesson where the learner has a chance to show what they know.   (Demonstrate is related to “Reinforcement” in lesson plans.)
  • Review is the part of the lesson that offers the learner different ways to interact with the material, to help them “know that they know this”.
  • Celebrate is the part of dynamic lesson design that completes the lesson. It acknowledges that the student has participated, acquiring new skills and knowledge in the process.

Here are printable lesson frames that may be helpful if you decide to utilize quantum learning lesson design in your Sunday Church school classroom. Thanks to AODCE Director Carole Buleza for finding this useful information, for sharing it, and for creating these lesson frames to make Quantum Learning-based lesson planning easier.

May the Quantum Learning strategy help each of us to better welcome, love, and learn alongside our students as we all work to become closer to Christ and His Church!

 

Here are some links related to Quantum Learning lesson planning.:

***

“Regardless of content area, grade level, or audience, this frame [the lesson design framework EEL Dr. C] guarantees that students become interested in and intrigued with every lesson. It also ensures that they have an experience of the learning, get practice, make the context real for themselves and anchor their success.” (pp. 88) “Quantum Teaching: Orchestrating Student Success”  by Bobbi DePorter, Mark Reardon, and Sarah Singer-Nourie, published by Allyn and Bacon in 1999. It is available for sale here https://www.amazon.com/Quantum-Teaching-Orchestrating-Student-Success/dp/020528664X

***

“Influencing Behavior through Action (IBA) captures your learners’ attention, and redirects it to the next task or to you. One IBA strategy we use, called “If you can hear my voice,” comes in handy when you want to get students’ attention whas they work in cooperative groups, teams or pairs. Say: “If you can hear my voice clap once.” then clap. Repeat the initial phrase, this time inserting “clap twice.” then clap twice. As more and more students turn their attention toward you, soften your voice and the sound of the clap. Conclude with “If you can hear my voice turn and look this way.” (pp. 152) “Quantum Teaching: Orchestrating Student Success”  by Bobbi DePorter, Mark Reardon, and Sarah Singer-Nourie, published by Allyn and Bacon in 1999. It is available for sale here https://www.amazon.com/Quantum-Teaching-Orchestrating-Student-Success/dp/020528664X

***

Find seventeen practical ways to use brain based learning in your classroom and lessons here: https://thesecondprinciple.com/optimal-learning/brain-based-education/

***

Here are practical suggestions to keep in mind as you plan your lessons, if you intend to boost student learning: http://www.jensenlearning.com/survey/Top-10-Boosters-Student-Achievement.pdf ***

Check out the seven stages of brain-based planning that will help you to plan your lessons in brain-friendly ways: http://www.brainbasedlearning.net/brain-based-lesson-planning-strategies/

***

This site offers a variety of strategies that can be helpful as you boost learning in your classroom. It includes a few clever videos that explain some of the strategies and their implementation: https://blog.edmentum.com/5-brain-based-learning-strategies-boost-learning-retention-and-focus

***

 

Brain-Based Education and Quantum Learning Core Concept 2: Atmosphere

This post is the third in a series of blogs focusing on the comprehensive model of education called “brain-based learning” and the Quantum Learning method that most effectively applies that model. It is our hope that this series will help you to learn more about both the model and the method. Utilizing this methodology in Sunday Church school lessons will enable teachers to heighten the learning ability of each student in their class.

 

In this part of our series on the brain-based learning program, Quantum Learning, we will explore the first of the five core concepts in this method of teaching. (If you missed our introduction to the program, you can find it here: https://orthodoxchurchschoolteachers.wordpress.com/2020/03/13/brain-based-education-and-quantum-learning-an-introduction/. Brain-based learning is a teaching methodology based on research that helps teachers to be more effective while also helping students to learn in the best way possible.) The five core components of the Quantum Learning System are Foundation, Atmosphere, Environment, Design, and Delivery. All five of these components work together, but even if you are only able to implement one of them in your Sunday Church school class, you and your students will greatly benefit.

This post will take a closer look at the second core concept, “Atmosphere.” In this context, the “atmosphere” of a classroom is not a physical aspect of the room. It is, rather, the general feeling that everyone in the room – teacher included – senses while there. This atmosphere of a classroom is critical to quality and quantity of the learning that can happen therein.

When the atmosphere of a classroom is optimal for learning, the following happens:
The students in the class feel that they are supported and that this is a safe place for them to be. Those in the classroom feel strongly that they belong there. The teacher sets a tone that implies that work will be done, but they do so in a comfortable and motivating way. Everyone in the classroom is working to develop their character, which in turn grows respect and rapport between students and between students and the teacher. Effort is acknowledged, every time that it is put forth, and learnings and achievements are all celebrated.

In any classroom seeking to be successful, but perhaps especially in the Sunday Church school classroom, the atmosphere should be full of joy. The teachers or catechists in a joy-filled Church school class aim to create a sense of community, and koinonia, or fellowship, in their classroom. One way they do so is by showing genuine interest in each student, caring and respecting each of them, and encouraging the students to respond to everyone else in the same way. If each person in the classroom is growing in the “Eight Keys” (the virtues), their growth will help to set such mutual respect in motion. Although the room should have a relaxed atmosphere, students should still be able to pray reverently. The “opening prayer” before each lesson should set a tone of holiness for the forthcoming lesson. Each lesson should contain joy and wonder. Catechists (and students alike) in a joyful class should acknowledge every effort that is made in the classroom and celebrate all learning and achievement.

The atmosphere of your classroom includes the way that you choose to speak to and with your students. It is heavily influenced by your rapport with them. Your personal attitude about Church, Church school and even about learning itself will all contribute to (or detract from, depending on your attitude!) the atmosphere of your classroom. If you work to grow an atmosphere of joy in your Sunday Church school classroom, you will create an atmosphere of joyful learning for both you and your students!

In the future, we will be taking a closer look at the other core components of the Quantum Learning system, and offering ways to apply this method in your Church school lessons.

 

Here are some links related to the atmosphere of a classroom:

***

As we wrote before, extending hospitality to our students is a very important way to work towards a healthy atmosphere in our classroom. Here’s what we wrote before, in case you missed it: https://orthodoxchurchschoolteachers.wordpress.com/2019/09/20/pursuing-church-school-success-offering-hospitality-in-the-classroom/

***

This Methodist-created document offers teachers a few important things to consider when planning for the atmosphere of their classroom. It suggests that students will respond best if “a friendly voice calls; everyone knows my name; there is a place for me at the table; I feel comfortable here; (and) God is in this safe place.” Read more about each of those learning-enhancing student impressions here: https://nccumc.org/christianformation/files/Classroom-Environment.pdf

***

“I learned that it was up to me to be happy. It wasn’t up to my students to make me happy, or my coworkers, or anybody else. Being happy was my job. So what if this year was a little tough? I needed to roll with it, continue to love my students, and move on. I needed to CHOOSE to be happy.” Read more about teacher Teresa Kwant’s decision to face time with her class, including 5 practical ways in which a teacher can choose happiness, here: https://teresakwant.com/choose-to-be-happy-teacher/

***

Check out the practical suggestions for improving the atmosphere of your classroom through classroom climate, stress reduction, and individual differences as suggested here: https://thesecondprinciple.com/optimal-learning/brain-based-education/

***

Boost  your students’ achievement by focusing on two of these ten boosters which are related to the atmosphere of your classroom. Booster #3 (Connections) and #7 (Engagement) will both help toward that end: http://www.jensenlearning.com/survey/Top-10-Boosters-Student-Achievement.pdf

***

“Building rapport and safety takes intention, compassion and risk on your part… The Quantum Teaching way suggests that from Day One, we get out from behind our content and policy, and just get to know our students and build rapport with them. It’s part of establishing an open, effective atmosphere…” (pp. 25-26) If you are interested in implementing the Quantum Learning Method in your classroom, you’ll find an entire chapter dedicated to the concept of Atmosphere in “Quantum Teaching: Orchestrating Student Success”  by Bobbi DePorter, Mark Reardon, and Sarah Singer-Nourie, published by Allyn and Bacon in 1999. It is available for sale here https://www.amazon.com/Quantum-Teaching-Orchestrating-Student-Success/dp/020528664X

 

Brain-Based Education and Quantum Learning Core Concept 1: Foundation

This post is the second in a series of blogs focusing on the comprehensive model of education called “brain-based learning” and the Quantum Learning method that most effectively applies that model. It is our hope that this series will help you to learn more about both the model and the method. Utilizing this methodology in Sunday Church school lessons will enable teachers to heighten the learning ability of each student in their class.

In this part of our series on the brain-based learning program, Quantum Learning, we will explore the first of the five core concepts in this method of teaching. (If you missed our introduction to the program, you can find it here: https://orthodoxchurchschoolteachers.wordpress.com/2020/03/13/brain-based-education-and-quantum-learning-an-introduction/. Brain-based learning is a teaching methodology based on research that helps teachers to be more effective while also helping students to learn in the best way possible.) The five core components of the Quantum Learning System include Foundation, Atmosphere, Environment, Design, and Delivery. All five of these components work best together, but even if you are only able to implement one of them in your Sunday Church school class, it will benefit both you and your students.

This post will take a closer look at the very first core concept, which the Quantum Learning Method calls “Foundation.” In this context, Foundation refers to the context or culture of the classroom. A classroom that is utilizing the Quantum Learning program has at its Foundation the aim of aligning the teacher and the students with a common goal: a learning experience that is successful and positive.

What can we do to make this happen? How can we reach this goal? The Quantum Learning System suggests that students’ and teachers’ goals align when together we create, communicate, and implement clear procedures and rules. Students in a classroom with clear procedures and rules know what is expected and can thus better function in class. This common Foundation prepares students to work towards particular values, while also making them aware of the goals that are set not just for themselves but also for their teacher. The classroom’s culture becomes one based on high expectations, and students rise to the occasion. When classroom procedures and the intentions for interactions are clear, the learning environment is greatly enhanced.

The Quantum Learning System offers several elements that guide the building of a solid Foundation in your classroom. A shared purpose will bring the classroom community together from day 1, and everything else will build on that purpose. Shared principles and values will help the community to support each other in working toward that purpose. Believing in each other’s abilities to learn strengthens the community. And finally, agreeing together on clear policies, procedures, and rules creates an environment that encourages learning and growth.

Quantum Learning recommends setting the purpose of the class with a clear statement, at the very beginning of the year. (For example, “By the end of the year, our goal is that everyone here will be able to explain why each of the major feasts of the Church year is an important part of our Orthodox Christian life.”) Teachers using the Quantum Learning System will enthusiastically transmit this purpose, and coach their students toward that end throughout their time together. Students and teachers alike are continually wondering “what’s in it for me?”, and this purpose begins to answer that recurring question.

Once the purpose of the class has been clearly communicated, it is time to build on that foundation. The 8 Keys of Excellence character principles set the tone for the classroom and act as shared standards which are essential to a successful learning environment. The Keys improve learning for everyone because both students and teachers operating under them feel cherished and respected. The Keys include: Integrity (acting in line with our values); Failure Leads to Success (learning from our mistakes); Speak with Good Purpose (speaking only honestly and kindly); This is it (maximizing our time); Commitment (taking positive steps towards making dreams happen); Ownership (accepting responsibility for our actions); Flexibility (changing the way we approach things if needed); and Balance (nurturing our whole self). These keys fit very well with the virtues which we are always aiming to live by in our Orthodox Christian life. Because of this, they should already be implemented in our Church school classroom. Let us take a moment to look closely at each key and see what we are doing to help our students (and ourselves!) live up to them, and how we can improve. It is important to incorporate the Keys into lessons whenever possible, to help students to see that they’re not just a “stand-alone lesson about a virtue”, but rather that they keep showing up all of the time, because they are actually an important part of our daily life. (Perhaps it would be helpful to create a set of physical keys out of poster board to hang on the classroom wall, as a reminder to ourselves and our students of this Foundation.)

Once our common purpose is established, and we are implementing the 8 Keys, it is important that everyone (both teachers and students) take a scrutinizing look at what we believe about learning and teaching. If we teachers come into a classroom believing that we or our students are not up to a task, we will be less successful in teaching them. If, instead, we choose to carry ourselves with confidence and to teach our students with the expectation they are able to learn what we’re teaching them, it will improve their success. This is an attitude adjustment, but not only that: it may also require physical actions, such as asides that point out to the student(s) what it is that successful students do in order to be successful (for example: “Successful students sit near the front of the room so that they can hear and see what is being taught. Because I know that you can learn this and that you want to grow towards our purpose of becoming more like Christ, I welcome you to sit in the front next Sunday.”). It is imperative that our students know that we truly believe in them and their ability to learn, and it is important that we find ways to communicate that belief to them.

The final piece that creates a successful classroom Foundation is establishing clear parameters and expectations. Clarity in agreements, policies, procedures, and rules gives everyone in the learning community a sense of security and reduces the fear that accompanies the unknown. In addition to being clearly communicated, each of these should have clear guidelines for action if they are not followed, and all should be created and agreed upon by the entire learning community.

This core concept of Foundation is an excellent way to build a classroom based on brain-based learning. But it is not simply a static event or experience: it is a continual process. Classrooms that are utilizing the Quantum Learning System will continually be pointing to their purpose; constantly building the 8 Keys in their life; daily expecting the best success from themselves and each other; and repeatedly revisiting and reclarifying their agreements, policies, procedures, and rules. A classroom with this sort of foundation at its base sets itself up for mutual encouragement and learning success.

In future weeks, we will be taking a closer look at the other four core components of the Quantum Learning system, and offering ways to apply this method in your Church school lessons.

Here are some links related to this component:

***

“Foundation is the framework: the shared purpose, beliefs, agreements, policies, procedures and rules that give you and your students the guidelines for operating within your learning community.” (p. 14) If you are interested in implementing the Quantum Learning Method in your classroom, you’ll find an entire chapter dedicated to the concept of Foundation in “Quantum Teaching: Orchestrating Student Success”  by Bobbi DePorter, Mark Reardon, and Sarah Singer-Nourie, published by Allyn and Bacon in 1999. It is available for sale here https://www.amazon.com/Quantum-Teaching-Orchestrating-Student-Success/dp/020528664X

***

Find more details about each of the 8 Keys of Excellence at this web page. Each key is fleshed out, including a series of introspective questions that will help students and teacher alike to consider how well they are living up to this key.  https://www.8keys.org/8keys_defined.aspx

***

Read more about the 8 Keys and about working together as a class to develop classroom procedures and agreements, in order to form a better foundation for your classroom, in this blog post: http://www.quantumlearning.com/qleblog/excerpts-excellence-teaching-learning-quantum-learning-system/

***

“Your students are generally terrible at making the “mental bridges” that link X behavior with Y outcomes. For example, when they put out extra effort, they don’t know that it sets the trend for a lifelong habit of persistence. Attribution, linking what they do to what they get or will get in the future turns out to have a sky-high effect…” p. 4-5 of this document speaks to building bridges by valuing goals (such as the purpose stated in a classroom’s Foundation) and daily pointing students back to that goal. This process helps students to see “what’s in it for me” and how what you are currently learning is relevant to their life. http://www.jensenlearning.com/survey/Top-10-Boosters-Student-Achievement.pdf

***

“There are many ways to build grit. Create a common vocabulary for it. Tell kids what it is, and what it is not. ‘Doing THAT shows me a lot of grit!’ Reinforce it every time you see a student pushing through obstacles. ‘I love the way you’re being so gritty with that task.’ Use reflection when ‘grit drops.’ How? You help them connect their values to the task to infuse new energy and effort for success.” pp. 9-10 of this document discuss the “nitty-gritty”, and suggests ways to encourage your students to connect their values with their work. (And there is an object lesson suggestion included that, if you do it, your students will never forget the value of bouncing back and trying again when something does not go right the first time!) http://www.jensenlearning.com/survey/Top-10-Boosters-Student-Achievement.pdf

***

 

Gleanings from a Book: “50 Ways to Improve Student Behavior: Simple Solutions to Complex Challenges” by Annette Breaux and Todd Whitaker

“50 Ways to Improve Student Behavior: Simple Solutions to Complex Challenges” by Annette Breaux and Todd Whitaker is a general-education resource full of ideas and suggestions that will be helpful to any teacher, including Sunday Church school teachers. It is not a religiously-oriented book, but many of the suggestions of ways that teachers can better connect with their students honor those students (even the “difficult” ones) in a very godly, loving manner. Teachers who read this book will be challenged to be the best that they can, and will likely re-read it over the years, in order to continue improving.

The book offers simple suggestions of ways that teachers can improve the environment and interactions that take place within their classroom. The book is based on the premise that “you have to reach a student before you can teach him” (preface), and suggests 50 ways that teachers can best reach their students. The underlying premise is that students are more likely to behave and be engaged in a classroom where they are welcomed, their presence is desired, and they feel valued.

Ideas include: writing to students (and their parents) before the year even begins; greeting every student as they come into your classroom each day; learning about your students’ individual interests; being enthusiastic about what you are presenting in order to breed enthusiasm for learning; being humble enough to admit mistakes rather than covering them up; bragging on your students to others instead of using guilt trips to modify behavior; and much more. Each of the 50 ideas is presented in a bite-sized mini-chapter, including the reasoning behind the idea, how/why it works, points to ponder related to the idea, and classroom strategy(ies) for successful application of the concept.

Orthodox Christians reading this book will see the love of Christ shining through the suggestions that it offers. Teachers who read and implement this book will be honoring and loving their students in an even better, more godly way. Although it’s not “preachy” or religious, it engenders the application of the virtues within a classroom setting. Teachers who read this book from a Christian perspective will feel encouraged to become a more caring teacher, and thus better follow the loving, caring example of Christ.

“50 Ways to Improve Student Behavior: Simple Solutions to Complex Challenges” by Annette Breaux and Todd Whitaker can be found here: https://www.amazon.com/50-Ways-Improve-Student-Behavior/dp/1596671327

Here are a few “gleanings” from the book, to give you a taste of the ideas therein:

***
“In a classroom where teachers separate themselves physically from their students, behavior suffers. Want a simple solution? Get out from behind your desk or podium and get right in the middle of your students and teach away! This simple act, on your part will send a message that you are ‘right in there’ with them.” (p. 14,  “50 Ways to Improve Student Behavior: Simple Solutions to Complex Challenges” by Annette Breaux and Todd Whitaker)

***

“When students think they have gotten you, you lose every time. When they begin pushing your buttons, there’s no stopping them. But wait a minute. Who showed them your buttons? You did… Students have to think that you are one of those teachers who just does not have any buttons… So what do you do when a student really aggravates you? …You maintain a calm, composed demeanor and deal with the misbehavior in a rational, controlled way.” (p. 45,  “50 Ways to Improve Student Behavior: Simple Solutions to Complex Challenges” by Annette Breaux and Todd Whitaker)

***

“In the classroom, we tend to see more of what we encourage… The very best teachers always ‘catch’ their students behaving, thus discouraging the students who are misbehaving. They know what to ignore and what to notice.” (p. 59,  “50 Ways to Improve Student Behavior: Simple Solutions to Complex Challenges” by Annette Breaux and Todd Whitaker)

***

“…take note of your actions and ask yourself if you are ever prone to intentionally embarrassing students in front of others. Do you single out students who are not paying attention so that everyone else can be made aware of that student’s lack of attention? …Do you ask for public apologies when a student has misbehaved in front of his peers? The list is endless, but we believe we have made our point… There simply is no justification for humiliation… We have yet to meet a truly effective teacher who uses humiliation as a form of behavior management.” (p. 67,  “50 Ways to Improve Student Behavior: Simple Solutions to Complex Challenges” by Annette Breaux and Todd Whitaker)

***

“…students like and need to feel that their teachers find them interesting. Convince a student that you like her and find her interesting, and you’ve forged a connection. When students feel connected to their teachers, they achieve more and behave better.” (p. 84,  “50 Ways to Improve Student Behavior: Simple Solutions to Complex Challenges” by Annette Breaux and Todd Whitaker)

***

“If one of your goals is that you aspire to be the perfect teacher, we advise you to run away from teaching… there is no perfect teacher. Even the very best teachers make mistakes. But one trait that separates the best from the rest is that the best teachers are not afraid to admit their mistakes, even (and especially) in front of their students… part of being a positive role model involves teaching students, through example, how to admit mistakes and how to use them as stepping stones to achievement.” (p. 89,  “50 Ways to Improve Student Behavior: Simple Solutions to Complex Challenges” by Annette Breaux and Todd Whitaker)

***

“Success comes from taking small, consistent steps toward a goal. Effective teachers make their students successful on a daily basis by making everything doable and chewable. Just as, in eating, small bites are better for digestion, in learning, small bites are better for success!” (p. 101,  “50 Ways to Improve Student Behavior: Simple Solutions to Complex Challenges” by Annette Breaux and Todd Whitaker)

***

“…a simple strategy is to get to know your students and find out who they are as people. Do you know your students’ dreams? …Do they know you care? Do you make a concerted effort to show them that you value them as real people with real dreams?” (p. 111,  “50 Ways to Improve Student Behavior: Simple Solutions to Complex Challenges” by Annette Breaux and Todd Whitaker)

***

“We have all experienced the phenomenon of telling a problem to someone who listens intently, only to realize that in sharing the problem we were able to devise our own solution. We often leave that person saying, ‘Thanks for all of your help.’ He often replies, ‘But I didn’t do anything.’ Oh, but he did. He listened… sometimes that is exactly what we need—for someone to simply listen to what we have to say. So listen, lisen, listen to your students.” (p. 124,  “50 Ways to Improve Student Behavior: Simple Solutions to Complex Challenges” by Annette Breaux and Todd Whitaker)

***

 

On Ideas for Lessons with a Winter Theme

Several years ago, we offered ideas for Sunday Church school lessons with wintery themes. It offers lesson ideas for a variety of ages, and includes activities, crafts, and a handful of related experiments. If you missed it, you may be glad to check out that blog post here: https://orthodoxchurchschoolteachers.wordpress.com/2018/01/12/on-winter-fun-and-learning/

We have found a few additional ideas that we thought perhaps would be of interest to the community, and we will share them here. They could be incorporated into a Sunday Church school lesson, or could be blended into an interesting winter retreat if your Church school has one.

What other winter-themed ideas do you have to share with the community?

***

Here are a variety of suggestions of activities that you can do with young children to help them to learn that God has made them unique, like snowflakes: https://www.mrsjonescreationstation.com/god-made-me-unique-like-snowflake/
While it was written for a “mom and me” type group, some of the ideas could be used in a Church school setting.

***

Did you know that snow is mentioned at least 25 times in the New King James Version of the Scriptures? Find all 25 here: https://www.biblegateway.com/quicksearch/?quicksearch=snow&qs_version=NKJV If you’re going to do a winter-themed lesson, you could begin by sending your Sunday Church school students on a hunt through the Bible, looking up a handful of these verses and trying to find the commonality between them…

***

Here is a colorful art idea that uses bleeding tissue paper, watercolor paper, and snow. It could be used in a lesson that includes Isaiah 55:10, ““For as the rain comes down, and the snow from heaven, And do not return there, But water the earth, And make it bring forth and bud, That it may give seed to the sower And bread to the eater…” Just like the rain and snow make the earth blossom and seed, this snowy art activity “blooms” on the watercolor paper. https://www.firefliesandmudpies.com/snowy-day-tissue-paper-art/

***

These craft and game ideas for a variety of ages of children could be helpful for a winter-themed lesson or retreat: https://childrensministry.com/winter-activities/

***

We have referred to this mom’s blog in a previous post, but she has since created additional winter-related, Biblically-themed object lessons, and published them here: https://cherigamble.com/2017/02/19/more-cool-and-easy-bible-object-lessons-experiments-for-cold-winter-days/

***

Find winter-themed math, science, sensory, and craft ideas which could be helpful as you plan a winter themed lesson or retreat, here: https://www.parents.com/fun/activities/outdoor/snow-activities-kids/ (Note: these are not religiously-themed, but we thought they looked worthy of consideration for teachers preparing for a wintery lesson.)

***

A Handful of Orthodox Gift Ideas for Christmas

We have recently come across a variety of wonderful Orthodox books and resources (mostly for children) that would be lovely Christmas gifts. We found them noteworthy enough to gather them into a little collection, so that we could share them with you, in the event that you were not aware of them.

Some of these we have shared before, but are sharing again, in case you missed them the first time. Others are brand new (or new to us, or newly re-published). Our intent is to offer gift suggestions that could double as useful tools in the growth of a young Orthodox Christian’s life. Perhaps you will find one or more of these suggestions helpful as you select gifts for your loved ones.

We know that there are many more ideas than we are able to share here, so we have missed quite a few. What child-friendly, Orthodox-faith related gift ideas do you recommend? If you are (or know!) an artisan who crafts (and sells) beautiful gifts for Orthodox Christian children, please share them below!

Here are a few Orthodox Christmas gift ideas that we encountered:

***

Ancient Faith Publishing’s brand new Nativity coloring book, “Beautiful Christmas: an Orthodox Coloring Book for Children” was created with children ages 5-12 in mind. Meagan Elizabeth Gilbert’s 59 lovely illustrations include a mix of both coloring and activity pages. Check it out, and purchase your gift copy(s) here: https://store.ancientfaith.com/beautiful-christmas-an-orthodox-coloring-book-for-children/

***

Families with very small children may be interested in this set of Nativity blocks, safe for children to hold and play with. The back of each block contains a verse of a song or prayer from the traditions of the Church, written in language that is young-child friendly. https://store.ancientfaith.com/little-saints-nativity-playset-a/

***

This learning cube transforms from one icon-style image to another, and each image includes a shortened version of the Nativity story. https://store.ancientfaith.com/orthodox-learning-cube-the-nativity/

***

Four-year-old Anthony will teach anyone who reads this book how to handle the challenges that come their way, with grace, and with God’s help. https://orthodoxchristianparenting.wordpress.com/2019/06/12/gleanings-from-a-book-anthony-the-great-by-john-sarantakis-illustrated-by-misha-pjawka/

***

Young children will resonate with Philo in this book, or any of the other books featuring his adventures with the SuperHolies! https://orthodoxchristianparenting.wordpress.com/2019/07/10/gleanings-from-a-book-philo-and-the-faithfulness-superholy-by-mireille-mishriky-illustrated-by-s-violette-palumbo/

***

As they read this book, elementary-aged children will be drawn right into young Spyros’ life as he learns from St. Spyridon – without even knowing he’s interacting with a saint! https://orthodoxchristianparenting.wordpress.com/2019/05/08/gleanings-from-a-book-spyridons-shoes-by-christine-rogers/

***

Teens and adults will benefit from the wisdom and example of St. Anthony, as shared in this graphic novel: https://orthodoxchristianparenting.wordpress.com/2019/05/29/gleanings-from-a-book-a-forest-in-the-desert-the-life-of-st-john-the-short-by-creative-orthodox/

***

Late elementary-aged children and adults alike will learn from the life of St. Eustathios in the engagingly-written and beautifully illustrated graphic novel, “The Cross and the Stag,” which we wrote about here: https://orthodoxchristianparenting.wordpress.com/2019/08/28/gleanings-from-a-book-the-cross-and-the-stag-by-gabriel-wilson/

***

Author and illustrator Grace Brooks has done it again! She has written yet another mesmerizing book about an Orthodox girl facing real-life problems and choosing to solve them with the help of her priest and the friends from her parish who are part of the “Every Tuesday Club”. The girls in this club are aging as time goes by between the publishing dates of Ms. Brooks’ books, which is a beautiful way for the series’ fans to have age-appropriate books along the way. “Xenia the Warm-Hearted” follows 14-year-old Xenia as she tries to improve the way that she interacts with others, even without the use of internet on her phone (a privilege she lost when she was online, gaming outside of her family’s rules). This book is appropriate for early teens (or older), and contains its fair share of age-appropriate struggles in the context of some mystery and suspense. Purchase your copy here: https://www.amazon.com/Xenia-Warm-hearted-Every-Tuesday-Club/dp/1698351038

Here are a few quotes (and a teaser!) from the book, to give you a taste:

“Xenia regarded him woefully. ‘I wanted to make such a change, but I’m having trouble figuring this out. I mean, it’s good to want to be a better person. But I still don’t understand people very much and… I don’t always seem to like them. I did all this research, but I don’t know what I’m supposed to do.’ …[Father Andrew answered,] ‘I think that this isn’t something that you can research by just reading about it — not even by reading the lives of the saints, though that’s an excellent place to start. You’re not going to get anywhere with a list or a guide that tells you what to do and what not to do. I can’t say enough good things about prayer, but even that is just a start.’ Father smiled at her kindly. ‘You may have to find out by doing.’” (p. 117)

“Her eyes had drifted out the window as she spoke, where the gusting wind was blowing a pillowcase on the clothesline. Energy encounters matter. Mobility and immobility. Wind resistance, oscillation, flexibility. ‘It’s very beautiful,’ she finished dreamily. ‘Not to me,’ he [Charlie] sniped, bringing her back to reality. ‘If there is a God, then why is the world such a mess?’ Xenia was used to this question as well. ‘Because there’s evil in it, too. And sometimes we are — all of us are — carriers of that, like a mosquito carries a disease. But that’s not how it was supposed to be…’” (p. 293)

“…and that’s how they found them: two frightened young people huddled together in a ruined living room with broken glass and squirting pipes. That was the sight that greeted Mr. Murphy and Jake when they pulled up a minute later, in the mistaken belief that they were coming to the rescue…” (p. 415)

***

Readers who are fans of fantasy and/or symbolism will thoroughly enjoy “The Dome Singer of Falenda” by Katherine Hyde. It has been a really long time since we read such a delightful fantasy. Originally published in 2016, and just re-published, this book filled with music and beauty, fraught with gripping adventure, and causes the reader to re-think the power of their thoughts. Themes include the power of familial love, the importance of discerning (and valuing) good over evil, and the importance of focus. The protagonist is a boy of 13, and his Falendian sidekick is a girl of 14. People of a variety of ages and genders will be entranced by their journey and uplifted by this beautiful read. Find your copy here:

https://www.amazon.com/Dome-Singer-Falenda-Katherine-Bolger-Hyde/dp/1732087326/

Here are a few quotes from the book, to give you a taste of it:

“Anyway, I’d read enough books to know that when it comes to adventures, the only way out is through.” (p. 23)

“I gasped for air. ‘What—me? You’re having me on. I’m no deliverer. I’m not brave, or strong, or clever. All I know how to do is sing.’ ‘But singing is precisely what is required. That is how we will break the Dome—by singing. The elúndina chose you for your gifts of singing and thought-speech. And also, of course, because you are your mother’s son.’” (p. 36)

“I’d been thinking of nothing in particular, but as soon as I tried to wipe my mind clear of thoughts, it filled with a whole crowd of questions…This wouldn’t do. I shook my head and tried to focus on my surroundings. I peered at the rough, ridged texture of the malacána bark, listened to the clear, musical cry of a bird, inhaled the sharp, fresh smell of the trees, like cedar mixed with peppermint and cinnamon. I felt the chafing of Vali’s thick, soft coat beneath my legs, the still, cooling air against my cheeks. When was the last time I’d stopped to pay attention to things like that? At home I was either buried in memories or planning how to cope with the next calamity. I’d forgotten how to just be.” (pp. 57-58)

“The Tower had no windows or doors that I could see, but at the center of the side facing us the ranks of guards angled outward. The door must be hidden there. It looked like my mother was right: it was impossible. The din in my head took on a new undertone: ‘You have failed, you must fly. You have failed, you must fly.’ Maybe the bad guys really were going to win. Meli’s thought-voice broke through. ‘I hear it too, Danny. But you must resist these thoughts. You must shout them down with truth. Everything that babble says is a lie, for lies are all the Enemy knows. We have not failed until we give up, and we must not give up.’ ‘I don’t want to give up. But how can we succeed? How could we ever get in there to rescue your parents, or get to the top from outside? I’m afraid I left my Spiderman gear at home.’ Meli ignored that. ‘Our parents did it seven years ago. Somehow they reached the top.’ And now they were inside.” (p. 149)

***

Homemakers in your family may enjoy this read! “Searching for the Sacred” by Lois Clymer is a book filled with the memories and musings of an Orthodox Christian wife and mother. It tells the story of her (and her husband‘s) dream for a little homestead, and how they have realized that dream in a variety of locations, over the years. Anecdotes include adventures that they’ve had with their family, and a variety of things that she has learned along the way. In addition to living on a homestead and growing much of their own food, Mrs. Clymer addresses other experiences they’ve had, including some experiences in the world of politics; finding ways to enjoy small homesteads away from home; her foray into owning and operating a CSA; and adventures and lessons learned while building two tiny houses. Throughout the book, readers will find encouragement to search for God in the world that He has created. Pick up a copy here: https://www.westbowpress.com/en/bookstore/bookdetails/778125-searching-for-the-sacred

Here are a few of our favorite quotes, a handful of Lois’ learnings, that she shares in the book, scattered amidst the stories from her life:

“Hard work is the secret to success. I soon found that it helped to be organized and to prioritize. When I did the most important thing first in the day, the rest of the day flowed more smoothly…” (p. 4)

“Most of us find that life doesn’t always go the way we wanted it to. What do we do when pain and disappointments and grief enter our lives? As a young person, I struggled with how to be happy… I came across some wise counsel regarding happiness. If I am unhappy… it is not because of my environment, but because of the way I am evaluating my environment.” (p. 14)

“I have certainly not always been perfect, and I have held on to bitterness from time to time. But I have noticed that when I can release that bitterness and let it go completely, something good happens in my body. My creativity and my joy returns. The antidote to the poison of bitterness is forgiveness and gratefulness.” (p. 23)

“Most of us don’t know much about simplicity. We have more possessions than we know what to do with. One time I heard a motivational speaker say that every possession you have uses up valuable brain space. You think about it, you catalog it, you think about cleaning and repairing it, you organize it. To lighten your brain load, think about how to live with only half of the possessions you have and then DO IT.” (p. 81)

“Wherever you live, maybe this book will motivate you to enjoy some of the simple pleasures in life: grow a plant or vegetable, take a walk through a woods, or enjoy the antics of a chicken or a goat.” (p. 86)

Pursuing Church School Success: Classroom Management Ideas

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. 

The phrase “classroom management” covers a multitude of teaching challenges. From setting up the classroom itself to how a teacher interacts with students to handling class time: all fall under this general umbrella. For this post, we have gathered a variety of management strategies that touch on all of the above, and can be applied to classes with students of various ages.

Every group of students is different. How you manage this year’s class of Sunday Church school students will likely be different from how you managed your classroom last year or will manage next year’s. Thus, it is important that you continually seek ideas for improved classroom management, even if you’ve been teaching for many years. It is our hope that some of the ideas we’ve found will be helpful as you work on managing your Church school class to the best of your ability.

Here the classroom management links that we found. What classroom management strategies have worked for you? Do you have any additional resources to recommend to the community? Please share them below!

***

Here are 8 tips for Church school management that may be helpful: https://youtu.be/SMWBMU6-Tis

***

The author of this article encourages her readers to set expectations, create structure, use humor, address misbehavior, and keep a healthy perspective as they manage their Sunday Church school class. https://buildfaith.org/managing-behavior-sunday-school/

***

Find articles teaching you to set up a classroom management plan, how to implement and teach the plan, and the benefits of having it, here: https://www.smartclassroommanagement.com/category/classroom-management-strategies/classroom-management-plan-classroom-management-strategies/
***

Here are 24 classroom management ideas for teachers of various ages. Some of these are geared to a regular classroom, but many could be helpful in a Sunday Church school class, as well. https://www.boredteachers.com/classroom-management/24-awesome-teacher-hacks-to-keep-your-classroom-under-control

***

This article offers ideas for classroom management. Most of the ideas contain a link to more information on that particular idea/strategy! https://teach4theheart.com/classroom-management-strategies/

***

There are a variety of ideas for primary classroom management at this link. Find strategies for group work; visual strategies; verbal strategies; nonverbal strategies; classroom management games; brain break ideas; prize ideas; and parent communication recommendations that will be an asset to your Church School class. https://proudtobeprimary.com/classroom-management-strategies/

***

The tips on this page are aimed at new primary-aged teachers, but many of them are good ideas for any teacher to have in the back of their mind for when they’re needed. We especially liked the write-and-erase suggestion for regaining student attention! http://studentsavvyontpt.blogspot.com/2015/01/tips-for-new-teachers-about-behavior.html?m=1

***

Here you will find some ideas for classroom management in a secondary classroom. We especially liked the ideas for pursuing a restored relationship with a student after a fallout: https://applesandbananaseducation.com/classroom-management-in-the-secondary-classroom/

***

Here are 27 short reminders for teachers to keep in mind as they work toward effective classroom management: https://elearninginfographics.com/27-tips-for-effective-classroom-management-infographic/

***

Are you utilizing all of these ways to manage your class while teaching? If not, would any of these suggestions be worth trying with this year’s students? https://ministry-to-children.com/classroom-management-tricks/

***

What if you’re trying your best, and your class just refuses to be manageable? Has this ever happened to you? If others have experienced this, what did they do? Here’s one teacher’s experience that may inspire you to know what to do for a difficult class: http://www.teachermom101.com/2018/04/how-i-turned-around-most-difficult.html?m=1

***

A regular-ed high school teacher offers his tips for classroom management in this blog: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W3fr4tm_mkE (Spoiler alerts: his biggest goal is to let kids know that he cares about them. Also, he’s not afraid to use humor in his classroom.)

***

 

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!

***

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/

***

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.

***

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/

***

“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/

***

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

***

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/

***

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

***

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

***

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

A Gathering of Ideas for Preparing for a New School Year

It is nearly the beginning of a new Sunday Church school year for many of our community who live in the northern hemisphere. We have come across some interesting ideas that we thought could perhaps be helpful to you, and have compiled them to share here. We hope that you will find something useful and helpful for your classroom and for beginning the year with your students.

As you begin a new Church school year, may the Lord bless your transition! May He provide for, guide, and strengthen both you and your students as you learn. May this school year be a year of growth and great learning for everyone!

Here are some of the links that we found. What additional ideas do you have? What have you found helpful at the beginning of a school year? Please share it with the community!

***

If your Sunday Church school year does not begin for a few more weeks, there’s still plenty to do to prepare yourself and your classroom for the new Church school year. If you have not yet read Gerry Clonaris’ article “Getting Ready for Your Best Classes Ever”, you’ll want to check out the excerpts we shared here, and then link through to the article itself:

https://orthodoxchurchschoolteachers.wordpress.com/2016/08/12/excerpts-from-getting-ready-for-your-best-classes-ever-an-article-by-gerry-clonaris/

***

Planning for a new school year should include making a plan in the event of the unlikely chance that you will not be able to teach some Sunday. If you have not yet prepared a substitute teacher folder for your classroom, we encourage you to do so! It is better for children to have some continuity in their learning experience, and anyone filling in for you at the last minute will be grateful for this detailed description of how your class works, as well as your having planned ahead. Read more about preparing a sub folder here: https://orthodoxchurchschoolteachers.wordpress.com/2017/08/25/on-creating-a-substitute-folder-for-your-sunday-church-school-classroom/

***

You’ll find a few simple suggestions of ways to prepare yourself and your classroom for a good Sunday Church school year in this blog: https://www.lifeway.com/kidsministry/2017/08/29/5-tips-to-start-your-teaching-year-off-right/

***

There are a host of ideas for beginning the school year here, which could be easily adapted for use in a Sunday Church school classroom. Older students will enjoy these getting-to-know-you activities, and you as a teacher will find some helpful ideas of ways to help communicate your expectations of the class. http://www.teachingwithamountainview.com/2014/07/first-day-of-school-activities-for-big.html?m=1

***

The two fun “getting to know you” activities in this post will help your students get to know each other better, while also helping you to learn more about each of them: http://www.kristendembroski.com/?p=286

***

If you’re really interested in learning to know your students, consider inviting them to write you a letter titled “I wish my teacher knew…” They’ll include three things they’d like you to know about them, and you’ll read the letter privately, not share it with the class. Knowing three things you wouldn’t otherwise know about your students, right from the start of the Sunday Church school year, will help you know how to pray for them and how to best plan lessons that they will enjoy and understand. http://suburbansnowwhite.com/i-wish-my-teacher-knew/

On the Gift of Story

When I was a child, I remember sitting with my family (and any guests we were hosting) around the table after dinner, and listening as the adults told stories and jokes. I have always loved stories, and this daily experience fed my hunger for them. Throughout my growing-up years, I remember begging my parents to tell me stories from their childhood. Sometimes they’d remember one, and tell it to me, and other times they couldn’t think of any story to tell. I remember adamantly thinking to myself that I was going to remember every single thing from my childhood, so that I would always be able to tell my own children stories when they asked for one. In my childhood mind, that was the best gift I could give to my future kids. (Unfortunately, my memory did not serve me as well as I intended, and therefore many times when my own children would ask for stories, I could not call any to mind! Now that my children are grown and no longer begging for stories, often something will jog a childhood memory, and at last I can think of stories to tell!)

It wasn’t until I was teaching frst grade in a private Christian school that I began to appreciate the gift (and power!) of story. My favorite class to teach in those years was Bible class. One day, I realized why I loved teaching Bible class so much (besides the obvious fact that it was a lesson from the Scriptures). You see, it was in Bible class that I could teach in a way that engrossed my students: through story. Years later, after we had children of our own and I was no longer teaching in a classroom, our family began sharing other cultures with children and their families through educational gatherings which always included folktales. I am confident that the children (and adults) who attended may not remember any of the facts or activities from those gatherings. But if I were to ask them something about the folktale that we told, even years after the event, a light would go on in their mind, and a smile would cross their lips, as they remembered it. Stories are a gift, because they are memorable, and even children can understand them.

What is it about stories that entices children? And is it just a childhood thing, this longing for stories? I have noticed in my adult life that I am much better able to digest concepts if they are embedded in a story than if I am just presented with the idea. I retain much more from walking through a living history exhibit and speaking with its re-enactors than I do from visiting a glass-encased-artifact museum. As our family journeyed toward Orthodoxy, it was Frederica Mathewes-Green’s story of a year in their mission parish, her book Facing East, which made the Faith real to me, not a straightforward theological discourse. Story speaks to the adult me, just as much as it did to the child. I suspect that I am not alone. Given our whole culture’s renewed interest in storytelling (even businesses are utilizing storytelling for increased success!), it seems that stories are for everyone, not just children.

Perhaps this is why, throughout the history of mankind, storytelling was utilized as a means for communicating culture, history, and morals. That’s a tall order! But it was effective. Unfortunately, in the last centuries, we have begun to step away from the gift of story. As we rely more on technology for learning and less on sitting together around the dinner table (or campfire) and talking to each other, the experienced people in our midst are not as readily able to share their wisdom through their stories. This has reduced the organic transfer of culture, history, and morals. The recent “rebirth” of interest in storytelling in our culture is a step (back) in the right direction. Now it is up to us to move beyond interest in storytelling, and begin to actually practice it.

Stories are a gift, because they are a memorable (and fun!) way for life lessons to be beautifully conveyed. Our Lord Himself offered us this gift when He told stories. Remember all the parables that He shared? Many of them were great stories but they also incited discussion because they housed deeper meaning. Christ modeled for us the use of story for teaching.

We should be taking advantage of this gift! As we do, perhaps the stories that we share will come from our personal experience. As a child, I craved stories from my parents’ growing-up years. But even now, as an adult, I continue to savor the stories that they tell me from years gone by. We should not underestimate the value of personal stories. Retelling our personal history allows our listeners to hear what life was like when we were younger. The stories are engaging because they’re real, they’re about someone the hearer actually knows, and they bring the past to life. They can also teach a lesson, especially if we are humble enough to even tell the stories of our mistakes. As we share our stories, let us be careful not to gloss over those mistakes. Rather, let us allow our listeners to learn from them. God gives us opportunities to suffer and stumble and get back up again, not just for our own salvation, but also for the salvation of those around us who can learn from our choices (and even from our mistakes!).

Another way to share the gift of story is through reading books together. They may be Orthodox books and/or books that directly teach an important concept or lesson. At other times, we may share a story from a book that is not Orthodox, and maybe does not even directly teach a concept or virtue, but it opens up a way to speak together about one. Perhaps the main characters in the story actually make the wrong choice. Rather than throwing out the story altogether because of that wrong choice, we can allow such a story to become a launching point, a way to safely talk together about the Faith and our choices and to learn through the characters’ mistakes. This can save us from having to make the mistake ourselves. (Of course, each class is different, and is thus differently able to process the stories that they hear. Because of this, we teachers need to decide which stories are appropriate to share with our students. This requires preparation through careful thought and pre-reading before sharing, but in the long run, it is very worthwhile.)

Modern schedules may no longer allow for the daily extended mealtimes that I experienced when I was a child. This makes it more difficult for storytelling to happen naturally. However, this gift is so valuable that it is worth investing the time and energy required to make it happen. Let us find a way to give the gift of story, and value it when we receive it in return!

Note: We are not all professional storytellers. That’s okay. The personal touch, the time that is offered in order to tell a story, and the beloved voice of the teller is what makes each story valuable and approachable to the listeners, whether or not the storyteller is a pro.

 

Here are some ideas and additional information that may be helpful as you begin to share the gift of story with your class:

***

For inspiration of Orthodox books to share with your Sunday Church school students, check out the “books” tag at our blog site: https://orthodoxchurchschoolteachers.wordpress.com/category/books/ Occasionally we share a book there that’s for your own personal growth, so that you can be a better teacher. But more often than not, the books that we share are books you can read to/with your students. We also offer ideas of ways to incorporate those books into a Sunday Church school lesson!

***

A while ago we wrote a series about telling Bible stories, complete with suggested props for some stories. Check out two of our posts about it here: https://orthodoxchurchschoolteachers.wordpress.com/2016/07/01/bible-story-grab-bags-old-testament/

https://orthodoxchurchschoolteachers.wordpress.com/2016/09/02/bible-story-grab-bags-new-testament/

***

We offered ideas of ways to tell the stories of saints to your students in this blog post: https://orthodoxchurchschoolteachers.wordpress.com/2016/12/23/saints-of-recent-decades-ideas-for-biographical-storytelling/

***

Want to read more about the value of telling your students stories from your own personal life or from the history of your parish? Check this out: https://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2013/12/what-kids-learn-from-hearing-family-stories/282075/?utm_source=atlfb

***

Many folk tales offer the opportunity for character-building discussions. Check your public library’s 398.2 (nonfiction) section in the children’s department to find a multitude of such books (but, as always, read the stories yourself before reading them to your students. This will give you the opportunity to verify that the book will work for what you’re trying to learn together). There are other character-building stories available, as well. For example, these: http://www.momentsaday.com/storybooks-that-build-character-printable-activity-pages/
While these books and the folktales are not “Christian” books, many of them offer you the opportunity to talk about virtues and other Christian concepts, within the context of a story.

***

Here is a list of picture books that may be helpful to your class, if you are looking for stories that can encourage discussions on character building. (Again, we encourage you to read these books yourself before sharing them with your students.) https://thecharactercorner.com/15-books-to-teach-character-to-kids/

***

Here are some suggested chapter books that may encourage discussions on character building. While you may not have time to read these books to your students, if you have read them, you can reference them in your lessons, or recommend them to your students if you feel that they are particularly helpful.

https://www.notconsumed.com/chapter-books-teach-moral-lessons/

https://thecharactercorner.com/character-building-books/

***

If you want to read more about encouraging character-building through stories, you may find these books to be a helpful resource: https://www.christianbook.com/honey-for-childs-heart-fourth-edition/gladys-hunt/9780310242468/pd/42463?event=ESRCN|M and https://www.christianbook.com/honey-for-a-teenagers-heart/gladys-hunt/9780310242604/pd/42606?event=ESRCN|M