One of our missionary wives wrote to a couple of our excellent Sunday School teachers. She recalled how well these teachers kept the attention of her children in class and how much even two and three year olds learned under their teaching. She requested that they would tell her some of the things they did so she could use some of them in her home school. Here is the answer. We believe that these approaches can be of great help to others as well. (Our teachers requested that their names not be used.)
We do use lots of visual aids with children. They seem to remember things better if they can connect with it visually. I may or may not read the entire Bible story out of the Bible, but I do read verses or parts of verses that make sense to them or read a direct quote of what someone said to get them familiar with the “voice” of the Bible.
I keep a picture file of pictures I have cut out of magazines, calendars, newspapers, even from labels off of grocery items and have them in different categories such as food, animals, flowers, shelter, seasons, foreigners, science, etc. I also bring in all kinds of books such as Unger’s Bible Dictionary which shows pictures in Bible times if I think the children will get a better understanding of the story, such as flat roofed houses when teaching about the man borne of 4 that was let down through a roof; what axes looked like in Bible times in “the iron did swim,” and pictures of sandals when talking about why they would wash guests’ feet, etc.
I also use flannel graphs, a white board on which to draw, household items (I will give examples later), and I try to find a coloring page to back up the story. While the children are coloring, I try to review the story and talk about the coloring page. If you have access to the Internet, there are places to go where you can download pages for free (I have typed in Bible Coloring Sheets, Bible Activity Sheets, Free Christian Coloring Pages, Printable Bible Coloring Pictures, and have found other links also.) Some of these pages are garbage and some are quite good. Let me say something about drawing on a white board. I can’t draw and I just use stick figures and the children love it. If someone is a king, I use a stick figure and just stick a crown on his head. Sometimes I will put Jesus in a robe. If someone is a leper, I draw a stick man and dot the sticks with red or do one and let the children dot some of the lepers with red if you are doing the 10 lepers. Let them put up pictures and flannel graphs when they can. For example, in stories involving sheep, let them put some sheep up on the board or stand some cut out sheep against a wall. My drawing of horses and donkeys are atrocious, but they don’t care. One time I was going to tell a story with flannel graph and 2 of the boys said, “No, no, draw on the board.”
The best thing to do is pray and ask the Lord to give you ideas. I am going to list a few Bible stories and tell you what I’ve done to keep interest. Granted, some are easier to do than others but here goes:
Draw the 10 lepers (stick men) let the children count to ten as you draw; show them outside the city and tell them why they couldn’t live with family and friends; as I said up above, let the children help you put the spots on them; get white strips of cloth and wrap your arm as they had to wrap their wounds when they were bad; you will have to erase them and draw them again as they went to the city to show themselves to the priest. If you don’t have a white board, just draw the different sequences on plain paper and flip the pages as you tell the story.
We made up an action poem to go with the story:
- Jesus healed 10 lepers (hold up 10 fingers)
- They were very glad (smile real big)
- But nine did not say, “Thank you,” (hold up 9 fingers and shake your head)
- And that made Jesus sad. (make a frown on your face)
Parable of the Lost Coin
Have 10 pennies in your pocket and have one hidden somewhere in the room. Let the children count the coins. Put them in your pocket and bring only nine out again and let the children count them again. One is lost. Get your broom and act like you are sweeping and searching to find the coin. Sweep out the coin that you hid earlier.
Here is another poem:
- Ten little coins the woman did have (hold up 10 fingers)
- But one was lost and she felt real sad (hold up 1 finger and look sad)
- She swept her house very diligently (pretend you are sweeping with a broom)
- Found her coin and said, “Rejoice with me.” (bend down as though picking up a coin and have a smile on your face)
Sower and the Seed
Plant a seed in a pot or draw a picture of how we plant things today.
I feed the birds here so I had some bird seed on hand and took the children outside and let them scatter the seed as they did in Bible times. We threw some of the seed in the grass, some in the weeds, and some on the rocks. Then we went back in and I told them what probably happened to the seeds.
Use real pictures to show what God made on each day. If you can’t find day and night, cut a circle out of white paper and color half of it black. You might have signs with Day 1, Day 2, etc. and let the children put the pictures up by the day that the things were made.
Feeding of the 5000
I have cut several fish out of construction paper and round circles for biscuits. Show only 5 loaves and 2 fishes. Let the children count them. Then after the disciples started passing them out, keep giving each child more fish and more biscuits to show the miracle. When I was lazy, I bought Pepperidge Farm fish crackers, and some round Ritz crackers to tell the story. Then the children can have a snack. I like to emphasize that Jesus gave thanks for the food and that the remaining food was not wasted. Even today, it is better to give it to a dog or the birds than to throw it out.
Rich Man and the Eye of a Needle
Use a picture of a camel and a real sewing needle
The Iron Did Swim
Get a bowl of water and some small items made of metal such as a nail, screw, nut, bolt, etc. and let the children drop them into the bowl to show that heavy things sink to the bottom. Show picture of how axes were made in Bible times—just tied on with a strap. Then tell how it fell off and sank to the bottom. You can draw the picture. I couldn’t find a color page for this, so I blew up a picture of an ax out of The New Manners & Customs of the Bible and let the children color it.
Death in the Pot
Get a big pot and a wooden spoon and lots of pictures (from grocery ads or off of labels from vegetable cans—these will be thrown away as you will see later). Tell the children they are going to make a pot of soup. Have them throw the different pictures into the pot. Let them stir it every once in a while with the spoon. Then get some grass or a picture of greens and throw in explaining that one in the story picked a plant that was harmful (not on purpose) and threw it into the pot. Then pass out bowls and spoons and let them taste it and pretend to be sick. Pretend to pour the soup out of the bowls. Let the children throw a little bit of cornmeal into the pot and stir the soup. Pretend to dip the soup into the bowls again and this time the soup was delicious.
Wise Man and Foolish Man
Have two plastic bowls, two plastic houses (I used the houses from the game of Monopoly); a rock, a little pile of sand or I have used sugar for sand.
The plastic houses I had were hollow, so for the one I rolled a piece of tape and fixed it so it went on the bottom of the house and attached it to the rock without the children seeing it. Let the children feel the rock and the sand. Set the other house on top of the sand or sugar. Then with a sprinkling can or a lid with holes put over a glass of water, make it rain on each. The house on the sugar will fall and the other will stand. Then you can sing the song, "The Wise Man and the Foolish Man."
Jesus Calming the Storm
Use a bowl of water and cut a paper cup down to about an inch from the bottom and have them pretend it’s a boat. Show it sailing on calm water, then blow hard or stir up the water with your hand (the children can do this too) and show how the waves can enter the boat and sink the boat
God Uses Clean Vessels
Take two plastic forks, smear mustard or ketchup on the end of one and leave the other clean, do the same with two bowls, get two glasses and put mud in one, put mud on an old toothbrush that you will use later to clean with and get a clean tooth brush. You can think of other examples and ask the children which one they would want to use. Then you can make the application.
Fishers of Men
Cut a few fish out of construction paper and use a hair net to show how fish were caught.
Have different examples of how we fish for men: Bible, tract, offering, etc.
Water into Wine
Put a can of concentrated fruit juice or a pack of presweetened kool-aid into a pitcher that can’t be seen through. Have the water already measured out and cold in another pitcher. Pour the water into paper cups and let the children help you fill the waterpot with water. Then pour out and tell them Jesus made grape juice out of the water.
Jesus Sending out the 12 Two by Two
Draw 12 stick men on the board; let the children count as you draw; even if they can’t count that high, they like to do it and say it with you. Draw a circle or square around each pair of two and show that 6 teams were going out. Pack a small suitcase or duffel bag with things that we might take on a trip: snacks, alarm clock, blow dryer, tooth brush and tooth paste, socks, Bible, comb, brush, etc. Fill the bag full. Let the children take the things out one at a time and place them on the table which will be quite full. Then draw or have pictures of the 4 item the apostles were permitted to take: staff, purse, sandals, 1 coat. Then tell them Jesus was interested in them getting the word of God out and showing them that He was going to take care of them.
Print out the memory verse and if possible have a picture to illustrate it. Point to each word and the scripture verse as you say it. We like to use existing songs or make up our own for each verse. I will give you some examples. Have the children say the verse and then teach them the song for reinforcement. Sometimes we can get the scripture reference into the song and sometimes we can’t. These two go to the tune of The Farmer and the Dell :
- In everything give thanks,
- In everything give thanks.
- First Thessalonians 5:18,
- In everything give thanks.
- All things were made by Him,
- All things were made by Him.
- The Bible says in John 1:3,
- All things were made by Him.
Don’t use the word verse in the scripture reference. Say, First Thessalonians five eighteen and John one three.
You probably already know these songs: Keep Thy Tongue from Evil, This Is the Day, Thy Word Have I Hid in My Heart , chorus to Be Ye Doers of the Word .
Psalm 107:1 is sung to the tune of Oh, Be Careful Little Eyes What You See:
- O give thanks unto the Lord, for He is good, (clap, clap)
- O give thanks unto the Lord, for He is good, (clap, clap)
- O give thanks unto the Lord, O give thanks unto the Lord,
- O give thanks unto the Lord, for He is good. (clap, clap)
Memory Verse Reviews
After the children have learned a few verses, I write each of them on a small sheet of construction paper (different colors for variety) and fold them in half. I like to put a sticker of some sort on the outside. Put all of the verses into a hat or small box and let the children draw them out one at a time. You start the verse and see if they can finish it. Then sing the song that goes with it for reinforcement. Do not put the verses back into the hat until all of the pieces have been drawn. That way all of the verses will be reviewed, as you may not get to all of the verses in one session.
Another fun thing to do is to cut out some fish out of construction paper, write the memory verse on the fish and put a paper clip on the fish. Then take a stick or dowel, tie a heavy string to it and put a magnet on the bottom of the string and make a fishing pole. Put all of the fish in a pond (blue or green poster paper or just throw them on the floor) and let the child catch a fish. Take the fish off the hook and again, start the memory verse and see if the child can finish it. Then sing the song for reinforcement.