Sunday, February 4, 2007

Lesson 18: Weird Stories from Judges

Sunday school this morning went really well. Astoundingly well. All through it, JC and I kept catching each other's glance, communicating with raised eyebrows--is it really going as well as I think it is?? So, that was awesome.

Here's what we did. First, we passed around a basket with the names of all the judges (except Samson, since his story takes up half the book) written on slips of paper. They each picked a name out of the basket. One by one, we looked at the names and we told them the stories. The first one was Ehud, whose story is exactly the kind of thing you want to learn about when you're ten. Unfortunately, the other ones that came up where those poor guys who get about three verses, just to say, "Lived, judged, thirty sons, thirty donkeys, died." I had hoped for another good story. Luckily, one of them was Shamgar, who killed 600 men with a pointy stick. They liked that. For those shorter ones, we had them read the verses aloud. Joshua read about Shamgar. He said, "That must have been a really long stick!" I guess he was picturing all 600 men stuck on there like shishkabob. :)

Next, we split them into teams, boys and girls, and assigned the girls Deborah (whom they had both really hoped they'd get in the random judge drawing) and the boys, Gideon. We gave them fifteen minutes to read their Bibles and tell the stories of these judges to the class. I used a timer to keep them on track; it seemed to work. Every time they started fussing with someone else's work, I would point out that the clock was still ticking, and they'd get back to work with no further argument. I'm distressed at what they must be teaching these children in schools these days--none of them could sum up the basic points of the story. They basically copied sentences, word for word, from their Bibles, picking them seemingly at random and with little or no comprehension. Lachlan included in hers the sentence about Jael creeping up to Sisera with a hammer and a tent peg...but not the dramatic next sentence, where she nails his head to the ground! When I asked her how Sisera died, she didn't know. "What did Jael do with the tent peg?" I asked. She just looked at me, confused. JC read the next sentence to her. The kids all squealed with delighted grossed-out-ness.

Still, I feel the class went well because they seemed to enjoy the activity, despite the fact that it wasn't a game or craft, and they all tried, even if they didn't get it. Next time we try something like this, I think we need to teach them to summarize first--maybe taking a story all of them know, like The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, and retelling it in fifty words. We could also show them a passage of Biblical text that one of us has summarized, bolding the important words, the ones you'd catch if you were skimming, and writing a synopsis out to the side. I didn't realize that they would not have this skill at all. It's kind of distressing.

I liked this activity, especially since it got them really reading their Bibles, just like grown-up people. Even if they only understood a little bit, that's the first step. I think if they get to where they can do this with the Bible, they'll probably become more adept readers and do better in school, too (knock wood). What are other ways to help them become more adept Bible scholars? I need to work on this one. I know that JoEtta and Mike used to have their kids interact with the text by underlining or circling parts of it, or writing notes, or drawing pictures. What else can we do?

Also, why aren't the schools doing this? The kid who did the very best job is the youngest one.

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