When I taught in Pre-school in public schools, one year I participated in The Story Telling Project offered by Rice University in partnership with different school districts. At those seminars and later with my own group of students, I learned how beneficial it is for the young to act out stories, the ones read to them or the ones invented by them. Acting out is not easy at first. Many children are shy, some don’t know how to say their “lines”. It takes a deep thinking level to be able to think like “Noah”, or to venture to speak as any of the characters of the Bible story we are trying to recreate. When I start acting out the lessons or stories with a class of children under five, or with older children who are not very familiar with this, it takes some time to build up confidence and familiarity. But it all pays back.
We start with me saying the main points of the story, and encouraging them to say a word about what it is going on, to talk about the story in their words, to improvise, and, if any of them is ready, to speak as one of the characters would have. I distribute the roles at random, if anyone wants to be “such and such” I let them be that person. Even giving roles is a learning moment, they are seeing who was involved in the story. Then we either take turns, or can really proceed with two Adams and two Eves, it is no problem. Some children will just like to “fight for a role” when they are not really going to say much after, and some will not want to be anyone and later participate. This is with the little ones. With older students you may want to be more accurate and take turns or give more than one role at once too. At moments it is easy to be Noah myself and to tell the whole group to mock me and laugh at me and my family who is building the ark. A few moments later it may be easy for them to all be Noah’s family and build the ark with some wooden blocks and hammers. Many times I sing the song, with made up music and not all rhyming lines, just because a singing voice (believe me, even a voice as mine, with an accent and not a special gift for music) captures their attention. I have a girl in my class plus my little daughter who soon can be heard “making up songs” with made up or familiar tunes. I’m totally convince that God is delighted by the sweet aroma of those songs. And to be totally fair, ALL of my students sing and delight in repeating those chants, songs, and teachings.
This is to me one of the most effective and powerful ways of learning. It may look a bit chaotic in the beginning. Unless I see misbehavior or disrespect, I let them explore this experience. As for what to have, it is pretty inexpensive. The class I have been teaching for a month and a half now, had a container with clothes for acting out. I do not always have much other than my voice, but when I think ahead and look around the house for a few items I already have, or I make a basic prop with construction paper, fabric scraps, or anything cheap that I already have, and I take it to the children, it is AN INSTANT CLICK. Some of your students will be more outgoing and articulated, others will gladly take the quiet part (such as the tree in Noah’s story, or the accompanying people in other plots), but all will start enjoying being part of the story, and they will remember and recall small details of the story and make it theirs in more depth.
I plan to start bringing you details of different stories we have acted out and props or easy and inexpensive things we have used which have helped the children learn the Bible accounts or stories and to get better filling in the shoes of the different persons the Bible teaches us about.