Summer 2017 tips:Session 1
You are not alone! Does the time you spend with the children sometimes feel chaotic? You are not alone! Young children are learning how to be in groups, how to share, how to use materials in the room. They have different attention spans and interests. This can result in some children moving from one thing to another very quickly. And it’s common for a mini “emergency” to arise whenever you turn your back. If it feels as if things have gotten out of control, gather the children together as a group. Hold hands and invite children to take several deep breaths. Be sure you do the same! Then have children choose between two simple activities, such as coloring, looking at books, playing with play dough, or building with blocks. These preschool “basics” can help calm children and focus their attention. This can allow for conversation about the Bible story or about children’s lives. Not every session may go as planned, but know that your love for God and for the children shines through and has a lasting influence.
Peace notes. Rather than act out many different animals, choose one or two of your favorites and sing the song several times over so that children become used to the actions and words. Alternately, you may wish to try several actions for the same animal, such as: “Fly like a raven,” “Rest like a raven,” and “Caw like a raven.”
Explore (Move). Especially if your group of children is large, you may wish to reduce the amount of activity in the room. Pair children and give each pair one “loaf of bread” (rolled-up towel secured with rubber bands). One child can act the part of Elijah and another child can act the part of a raven and bring the “bread.” Then switch roles.
Spiritual practice. Instead of using the paper rolls as symbols to represent what the children are thankful for, act out what the children are thankful for. Each person says what he or she is thankful for, then everyone uses their bodies to demonstrate the object or activity. For example, “I am thankful for food.” (Mimic eating food.) Someone could say, “I am thankful for the sunshine.” (Mimic rays of light.) Someone could say, “I am thankful for soccer.” (Mimic kicking a ball.)
Peace notes. To practice sharing in a more tangible way, sing a song to the tune of “Here We Go ’Round the Mulberry Bush” while passing play dough: “I will share things with my friends, with my friends, with my friends. I will share my things with my friends; we’ll take turns.” Pass the play dough as in the game “Hot potato.”
Explore (Create). Rather than make a “project,” simply use the same materials in a more open-ended way. Craft sticks or small sticks could be stacked or placed in the play dough. Stones could be “buried” in the play dough. You could facilitate sharing of the supplies. Free play still allows for conversation about the Bible story or children’s lives, but without focusing on a specific outcome.
Build community. Variety keeps children interested, but familiar routines are also very important in helping children to feel confident and at ease in their surroundings. Instead of introducing a new activity to greet everyone each week, you may wish to repeat a favorite greeting or modify it slightly. For example, you could modify the session 2 greeting as follows:
God is with ________, and ________, and ________. (Repeat until everyone is named.)
I am with you. (Gesture to group.)
You are with me. (Point to self.)
We are God’s family! (Join hands and raise them in the air.)
Create. Rather than make the flaps, simply have children decorate the boxes on page 4 of the leaflet. Play calming music while children make their creations.
Explore (Move). If moving around the building is not realistic given your space, given or supervision issues, stay in your room. Do a movement song in your meeting space to the tune of “The Bear Went over the Mountain.” You may wish to sing this song several times so the children become used to the words and actions.
Elijah went to a mountain, (3x)
he slept safe in a cave. (3x)
A strong wind shook the mountain, (3x)
God was not in the wind. (3x)
An earthquake shook the mountain, (3x)
God was not in the quake. (3x)
Elijah saw a fi-re, (3x)
God was not in the fire. (3x)
Then everything was quiet, (3x)
And then God spoke to him. (3x)
Peace notes. Physical activity is so important for children. Sometimes, however, doing large motor movements like jumping and marching with younger children can result in chaos! Children may get out of hand and have a difficult time returning to a group setting or even focusing for the Explore options. If this is the case for your group, you may want to simply have them do motions that they can do while seated. They can still stomp their feet, pat their legs, reach overhead, and so on, but this can help contain their energy.
Explore (Create). Young children often paint only small sections of the page, so you may need to help them cover the entire paper to be able to see the people you drew.
Explore (Discover). Unless you have an adult who can provide direct supervision, it might be difficult to have a water station with younger children. An alternative is to mimic bathing dolls using damp cloths, sponges, and brushes. Wrap the dolls in small towels. If you do opt to use some water, use a large container with a small amount of water. Ensure that children wear smocks, and have towels on hand to clean up spills.
Explore (Move). To help with “crowd control,” especially if you have a large group, have one person use the ribbons to make a space on the floor for one other person while others sit and clap. You or another helper may assist the child who is “making room.” Continue until everyone has had a turn to make a room and a turn to have a room made for them. For a large group of children, you could also simply have everyone join hands and notice that there is room in the circle for everyone. Then sing the following song once or twice to the tune of “London Bridge”:
“There is room for everyone, everyone, everyone. There is room for everyone in the circle.”
Explore (Retell). “Free play” options are especially suited to younger children. Whenever possible, provide enough supplies so that children can work in very small groups. This will allow all children to be actively involved and will minimize waiting. It will also reduce the number of conflicts between children.
Book corner. Younger children may tire of the large group time or may be overwhelmed by interacting with lots of other children. Create a cozy book corner in your room with pillows, blankets, and picture books. There are several recommended books in Media connections to get you started. Add Bible storybooks and other books about God’s love. This can be a place where children rest, calm down, or enjoy time alone or with an adult.
Early Childhood leaflet. Younger children are likely to need extra help to complete pages 2–3 of the leaflet. If you have a large group, do the leaflet pages during Explore time. Help the older children settle into playing with the supplies in the Discover activity. Then pull one or two younger children into a small group and help them complete the leaflet.
Explore (Move). Instead of using the “May I . . .” format, modify the game to be more like “Simon says.” Hold up the scepter, and say, “The queen says . . .” or “The king says . . .” and then give simple actions, such as touch your toes, turn around, or jump three times. Have fun, but avoid trying to “trick” the children as is common in “Simon says.” Simply try out different types of actions and enjoy moving together.
Explore (Discover). Prepare the snack ahead of time and focus on having the children prepare the table and serve the snack to one another. One person can put out napkins, another plates, and so on. The simple act of passing food to one another is a way to show kindness.
Explore (Create). Limit the number of art supplies you provide. Keep it simple! Too many options can be overwhelming for younger children and can just result in a large mess. Also be aware that it is common for younger children to put one or two items on a project and then be ready to move on. If possible, have another simple activity available that children can do independently. Building blocks or play dough are good options. This allows children who are done quickly to become engaged right away rather than having to sit and wait for others. You may find that they want to come back and add something else to their prayer window after a few minutes of playing.
Conversation. There are two guided conversations today—one in Build community and one in Peace notes. Choose the one that you think will be most interesting for the younger children in your group and skip the other one. Structured conversations can be difficult for preschoolers for a variety of reasons. Over time, children develop the skills to listen and speak in a group setting, but this is a long process with challenges along the way. Keep the conversations short and simple, being sure to allow children to pass if they do not wish to speak.
Explore (Discover). Invite another adult to join you for the window prayer walk. Younger children tend to wander off and will benefit from the proximity of an adult. This also allows you to divide the group in half. Doing so will make it possible to invite children’s own prayers.
Worship together. It may be too challenging for young children to hold an interesting musical instrument still. You may wish to collect the instruments after the Worship together song and use this prayer instead: “Dear God, we praise you when we move. (Wave arms over your head.) We praise you when we are still and quiet. (Freeze in position for a moment.) Amen.” Repeat this prayer several times.
Spiritual practice. Simplify the song and use fewer actions if a lot of movement is difficult for your group to manage. Say the following words or sing them to the tune of the “Yes, Jesus Loves Me” chorus. Use two simple actions, as indicated:
Yes, God is with me. (Hug self.)
Yes, God is with me.
Yes, God is with me.
I know that God is here.
Yes, God is with us. (Hold hands as a group.)
Yes, God is with us.
Yes, God is with us.
We know that God is here.
Peace notes. Depending on the size of your room and group, it may not work well to have children pull each other to a standing position. If so, place one of the People of God figures on its side in front of each child in turn, and give the child a chance to place it upright again.
Build community. For a simpler opening activity, greet children with a song to the tune of “London Bridge.” Sing once for each person in your group.
Jesus loves you, yes he does, yes he does, yes he does.
Jesus loves you, yes he does. He loves ____________ (child’s name).
Peace notes. Use these conversation ideas during Explore time, rather than have a large-group conversation immediately after the Bible story. This will allow younger children to get busy with activities and then talk when they are interested.
Early Childhood leaflet, page 2. You will need to guide younger children in finding the specified house. For instance, call the child’s attention to one feature of the house. “What color is the roof on Matthew’s house? Yes, it’s brown.” (Point to another house.) “Does this house have a brown roof? No. Let’s cross it off.” (Draw an X over that house. Point to all the other houses that do not have brown roofs. Cross them all off. Then point to a house that has a brown roof.) “Does this house have a brown roof? Yes. Maybe this is Matthew’s house. Let’s keep checking. The front of Matthew’s house is orange. Is the front of this house orange too?” Continue in this fashion until you have led the child to find the house.
Build community. If reciting fewer words would work better with your group of children, pass a handbell around the circle. The child holding the bell rings it, and everyone says:
“Ring, ring, ring the bell! _________ is here! Ring, ring, ring the bell! _________ is here!”
Share the story. Active involvement in the story is often helpful for preschoolers. However, for some groups and for younger children, it can be distracting and result in classroom management issues. Rather than put paper chains on each child, just do so on your own wrists. “Walk” your fingers on the floor instead of walking around the room. This allows for some movement, but it will be more contained.
Explore (Retell). Younger children won’t act out the story in the way that adults do. They are unlikely to tell the story beginning to end. Instead, they will focus on parts of the story that are most interesting and meaningful for them. It is fine to talk through the plot of the story, since it is often difficult for children to understand the sequence of events from hearing it just one time. It is also important to allow children to explore parts of the story that caught their imagination.
Planning. The Bible story is the heart of the session, so be sure to let the story take priority. The other elements can be added or omitted as needed to suit the needs of the children on a given day. Don’t expect to accomplish everything in the session plan with younger children. As you prepare, have a general plan, but identify an activity or two that you will skip if necessary. It is wise to also have a “sure to please” activity ready, such as play dough or blocks. That way, if things become too chaotic, you can tone it down and help children settle. You can have plenty of meaningful conversation with children as they play.
Share the story. Use an Early Childhood leaflet to tell a shorter version of the story. Read the story to the children once, and then a second time, having the children say the words that go with the rebus pictures.
Explore (Create). If decorating a small sun would be too challenging for the children in your group, prepare the sun cups in advance and just have children enjoy moving the sun up and down.
Peace notes. Limit the number of colors and shapes, since younger children may not yet know all the colors and shapes. Have only blue circles and yellow squares. Hold up the item when you name it, so younger children can just match their shape to yours.
Explore (Create). Sometimes younger children are hesitant to try new things, or do not like the texture of paints or ink on their hands. Offer the child the option to press a finger in the ink, but if the child resists, then use your own finger to make a bunch of prints on a paper. The child can then add lines to make arms and legs.
Explore (Move). Rather than have children pair up, sing this song to the tune of “The Wheels on the Bus” and create your own actions.
The wheels on the bus go round and round, round and round, round and round.
The wheels on the bus go round and round. I go with God.
The wings of the plane fly way up high, way up high, way up high . . .
The sandals on my feet go flop-flip-flop, flop-flip-flop, flop-flip-flop . . .
The whistle of the train goes toot-toot-toot, toot-toot-toot, toot-toot-toot . . .
The water round the boat goes splash-splash-splosh, splash-splash-splosh, splash-splash-splosh . . .
The engine of the car goes vroom-vroom-vroom, vroom-vroom-vroom, vroom-vroom-vroom . . .
Build community. Use a raised index finger (as for singing “This Little Light of Mine”) instead of candles if the excitement of the battery-operated candles may be too distracting for your group. To simplify the opening rhyme, have everyone hold up an index finger, and sing the following words to the tune of “Row, Row, Row Your Boat”:
God’s light shines on you,
shines on you today!
Shines on _________ (name a child) and shines on _________ (name a child);
shines on us today.
Retell. If you would prefer to use more structure for the Retell activity, rather than the open-ended exploration activities, say the following words and do the actions. You may also use the objects mentioned in Retell with these words (e.g., flip the cardboard or lift a bowl off the candle)
We are not in the dark (cover eyes);
we’re in the light (uncover eyes).
We don’t want to do what’s wrong (cover eyes)
but what is right (uncover eyes)!
In the world, things can be sad (droop arms),
but God helps to make us glad (raise arms).
We are not in the dark (cover eyes);
we’re in the light (uncover eyes).
Discover. If the hole punch is too tricky for little fingers, prepare some black papers with holes in them before your session begins. You could also precut some larger shapes from dark paper, such as hearts. Then children can play on the light table with the frames and the solid shapes you have cut out.
Fall 2017 tips:Session 1
Gather. Younger children may struggle to leave a parent or caregiver and join the group. Anticipate this, and invite parents to join you for the opening portion of the session if they think it would be helpful for their child. It can also be helpful to have familiar toys like blocks or play dough available as children enter the room. A short play time can help ease the transition.
Peace notes. Skip the peace walk. Instead, simply say “Peace” or “Peace be with you” to each other and move directly to the Explore options. Younger children are learning about the routines of the group and how the space is used. Taking them out of the room will likely remind them of family members and could create more separation anxiety.
Explore. Keep the supplies and activities very simple for younger children. Unless you have more than one adult, do not attempt to offer multiple activities at once. Take time to show children how to use the provided items. Sit with the children to facilitate any interpersonal challenges that arise.
Nonverbal participation. Schools tend to value verbal-linguistic activities over other things like movement or music. While some children enjoy talking in a group, others do not. All the activities in this session are designed to allow children to participate without verbal responses. This means lots of physical movement. Invite children to participate in whatever way they are most comfortable. Also, remember that listening to music without singing or looking at other children who are talking is also participation!
Sharing the Bible story. There will be some trial and error as you and the children get used to enjoying Bible stories together. Props are often helpful to focus children’s attention. However, younger children in particular are likely to want to touch the props. This can be disruptive to the flow of the story. If you have a small group, consider giving each child a prop to hold and add to the scene when cued. Does this work, or does it create more problems? Learn what you can from that experience and alter things as needed for the next session. It’s probably not feasible for larger groups to contribute props throughout the story. Focus on helping children know where and how you want them to sit. This will take many sessions, so be patient! Assure them that they will have a chance to use the props later.
Explore (Discover). Skip the board game for younger children, unless you have one adult who can work exclusively with the children playing the game. Focus on the Create, Move, and Retell options for younger children, as they allow all children to be active participants throughout the experience.
Sharing the Bible story. Tell the Bible story once while playing an instrument. (The children would not have instruments yet.) This allows children to both hear the story once and also observe how to use the instruments. Hug the instrument to your chest whenever you are not using it. Then give each child an instrument to play as you tell the story again. Encourage children to “put the instrument to sleep” by holding it close to their bodies when you do. Some children will be able to do this; others will not! Remember that the heart of the story is about praising God. If you end up with just joyful instruments playing because the children are so exuberant, this is okay. There is no need to reprimand children for this. Smile and join them! Sometimes words cannot convey our feelings for God.
Explore (Retell). The psalm is not a story, so it is not something to retell in order. You may want to read the story again as the children play with the play dough. This will help them to hear the images again and perhaps incorporate them in their play.
Early Childhood leaflet. You may find at this point in the year that younger children need individualized attention in order to complete a leaflet page. If this is the case and you have a larger group, you may want to send the leaflets home as activities for families to do together. Or just do one page with one or two children as other children are engaged in another activity.
Sharing the Bible story. Because family relationships are very important for young children, focus on the first part of the story and skip the letters. This is the portion that will be most understandable and meaningful to younger children.
Wondering questions. Limit the number of wondering questions to a maximum of three. Read the questions slowly and allow a good amount of time in between. Younger children will need time to process questions and formulate a verbal response, so do not rush them. Also, it’s normal if children do not respond right away. As their verbal skills develop, they may wish to share more thoughts and ideas.
Explore (Discover). Younger children may need one-on-one help to put the leaflet cards in order. Especially if you have a large group, this activity may best be done at home. Focus on having the children play independently with the dolls. Encourage everyone to be nurturing in their play. Listen to soothing music from the Shine Early Childhood Music CD, such as tracks 20, 27, and 29. [May the God of Peace, Peace Is Flowing, Give Light—This note should be deleted after the track numbers are entered.]
Sharing the Bible story. Simplify the story for younger children. Focus on the actions and concrete elements. For instance, say, “God made the earth. God made a human to take care of the earth. God made a beautiful garden with trees and plants and fruit. There was a river there to help the plants grow. God made animals and brought them to the man. The man gave each animal a name. (Name some animals.)”
Wondering questions. “I wonder which part of the story you like best” is a great question for younger children. You may want to ask this question every session as a way to develop a routine that children can anticipate.
Explore (Discover). Sensory activities like those suggested in Discover are very appealing to younger children. However, it’s important to limit the number of supplies. Don’t put all the listed supplies in one small bin, for instance. Provide one or two shovels and some seeds to plant in the dirt. This will focus children’s play and minimize mess.
Movement. Children need to move! They often struggle to sit in a large-group setting, so movement activities are especially important. However, younger children can also find it difficult to slow down once they have been up and moving. If you notice this, look for ways to have children move while seated. They can move their arms, fingers, legs, and so on without leaving a seated position.
Explore (Retell). Skip the emphasis on counting, since younger children have not yet developed the concept of one-to-one correspondence. (In other words, they do not yet understand that one number relates to one item.) If children are interested in blocks, continue with that. If children are more interested in people and animal figures, use a shoe box as an ark so that they can place the figures inside and move the box around the room.
Explore (Discover). It is challenging for younger children to play structured games that involve waiting for a turn. Change the Discover activity. Give each child a set of cards. Lay the cards faceup and have the child find matches.
Gather. There are multiple music and rhythm activities in the Gather section today. Younger children will enjoy these types of experiences, but you may want to choose only one of the suggested items and do it several times. That will allow the children to observe once and then join in when they are comfortable doing so.
Peace notes. Simplify the explanation for younger children. Say: “Let’s work together to build. We can each add something special to our building.” Give each child several blocks. They can build their own small structure and then add it to the larger structure. This will allow them to be occupied rather than having to wait for a turn.
Book corner. Consider setting up a cozy book corner that can be available every week. There are a variety of books suggested today, as well as in later sessions. Include board books so that you don’t need to be concerned about books being ripped. If you see children being rough with a book, sit with the child and show the child how to hold the book carefully and turn the pages slowly.
Sharing the Bible story. Younger children love repetition, so it’s likely that the structure of the Bible story will appeal to them. If, however, the children are getting antsy, feel free to just pack and unpack the props two times instead of three. It will still convey the concept of the story, but will keep things moving.
Explore (Create). Trace each child’s feet and allow children to color the footprints using crayons. This will allow twos to participate in the activity without the challenging addition of glue and sand.
Bless. Is the end of your session chaotic? It can be a challenge to bring the children back into the group setting after the Explore activities. You may not be able to complete all the suggested activities in the Bless section, and some weeks you won’t do any of them. Don’t worry! A simple “God loves you, _________ (child’s name)” can also work!
Sporadic attendance. It is common for children to miss sessions, which means that they aren’t hearing every Bible story. While this is unfortunate, there are ways to help children see connections. Today’s Bible story gives a brief review of the session 8 story, since the characters are the same. Using the same props will spark a connection for children who were there for both sessions and will give a quick visual summary for those who weren’t. It’s also helpful to show both story pictures as well.
Peace notes. Simplify Peace notes for younger children. Have children show an angry face. Then say, “When I feel angry, sometimes I take several deep breaths to calm down. Let’s try that.” Take several deep breaths. Then say, “When I feel angry, sometimes I walk away so I don’t hurt someone.” “Walk” two fingers on the floor to show that movement. If children remain interested, you could share other strategies you use or ones suggested in the session. The idea is to keep it very short and focus more on tangible actions rather than on verbal responses.
Explore (Move). Eliminate the instructions about counting for younger children. For instance, simply tell children to walk, rather than to take five steps. This allows full participation without making children feel bad if they don’t know how to count.
Connecting with individual children. Things can move at a fast pace in a preschool setting. Children are very busy and have short attention spans, so they want to move from one thing to another. It can be hard to find time for individual interactions with the children, particularly if you have a large group. While you might not get to every child every time, try to have a personal moment with one or more of the children each week. It can be as simple as kneeling down at eye level and saying, “__________, I’m glad you are here today. You are very special to me.” Or perhaps you want to ask a question about what the child did that week. Either way, those brief interactions convey your love and care for each child.
“Follow the story” poster. Allow time for each child to trace his or her finger on the line that goes across the poster. This may be a challenge for some children, but a fun one! You may even want to leave the poster on a table during Explore for children to trace all the lines with their fingers.
Explore (Retell). Use a less structured approach for younger children. Set up the tent and provide multiple dolls, blankets, toy food, kitchen items, and other household goods. Feel free to say the lines yourself, going over the basic plot. But do not worry about having children repeat the specific lines from the story. You can comment on what children are doing. For instance, “I see that you are setting the table. That’s just like in our story. Abraham had a special dinner for people. Whom are you making this food for?”
Explore (Move). Younger children will likely be unable to walk directly on the yarn for long stretches. That’s okay. Encourage them to try to stay on the yarn, which is a way to slow their pace and help them focus.
Explore (Discover). Skip going for a walk or climbing on ladders, as this would require direct assistance for each child. Focus on making ladders. It will work best to use felt strips. Lay a larger piece of felt on the floor so the children can lay the felt strips on top. This will keep them from sliding around, which could be frustrating for the children.
Books. Reading books with younger children is often a way to calm and comfort them when they feel sad or angry. If a child consistently struggles to join the group or participate in Explore options, consider inviting another adult to come and read books individually with the child. For today’s session, a book well-suited for younger children is Sweet Dreams by Sandy Lloyd-Jones.
Routine. Are the younger children settling into the routine? Are they showing growth in how they use the materials and relate to other children? Even the most experienced teachers face challenges with young children. You may periodically need to step back from the planned content for a given session and show children how to use the materials in a positive way, how to sit in the group setting, and how to treat others with kindness. This is the groundwork for the entire year, so even though children might miss something from the session, it will allow for more positive engagement in future sessions. Remember to be patient with the children and with yourself! Growth happens over time.
Peace notes. Skip the first portion that involves counting and discussion of the negative family dynamics. Focus instead on the last paragraph of the section, emphasizing God’s love for every person.
Sharing the Bible story. If you have very young children in the group, you may want to read or sing the Bible story that is on page 1 of the Early Childhood leaflet. Yes, it is very simple, but that would allow you to read it several times. Children are likely to just remember small bits of a story the first time they hear it, so a simple version is suitable.
Explore (Retell). You may want to have children retell the story using the storytelling props rather than walking around the room. Sometimes children will get out of control when they start moving from place to place, or will be distracted by things they walk past. Being seated with story figures and other props can be a helpful way to have children actively exploring the story without added movement.
Early Childhood leaflet. On page 3 of the leaflet, you will need to guide children in what to circle. Lead a child through it independently if possible: “You have a mom. Circle one mom. You have one brother. Circle one boy.” The child may want to circle multiple people or may just point to a person on the page. That is okay. The hope is to prompt discussion about how special each child’s family is.
End of the quarter. Younger children often struggle with transition. If you have been the teacher for the entire quarter or even the last few weeks, children will expect you to be there the next time they come! If you aren’t teaching in the next quarter, invite the new teacher to join you for a portion of the session so the children can become familiar with the new person. It’s also important to brief the new teacher about the routines you have established and the things you have learned about the children. Let that person benefit from all your hard work!