Avoid the Read-Aloud Rut!
Are you stuck in a read-aloud rut? Most of us have experienced it at one time or another. The read-aloud rut is when we get stuck presenting a Bible story to our class of children in the same way week after week.
We find it is easier to prepare and present a lesson if we simply open the Bible and read the story aloud to the kids. Reading aloud stories from the Bible is wonderful, but if we use the same approach week in and week out our children can become bored and tune out. Even we can become bored as teachers and begin to coast through our Sunday morning lessons. We never want the Word of God to grow boring or stale because it is quite the opposite. “For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword” (Hebrews 4:12). By adding some creativity and variety to our storytelling will can keep the Bible engaging for both our children and for us as teachers.
The following five ideas are ways to take your traditional Bible story lesson and present the story in a fresh way.
1. Pick a Passage Card
This idea will work with children who are old enough to read.
Before the teaching time on Sunday take your Bible story passage for the week and break it down into small parts. Write the scripture passage for each part on a separate slip of paper or “passage card”. On Sunday morning ask for volunteers who would like to read aloud. Each volunteer receives a “passage card” and the students share the load of reading through the Bible story passage out loud.
This approach adds variety by changing up whose voice the children are hearing. Some children love to read aloud which will engage them in the story; while others will enjoy the refreshment of hearing other voices beside the teacher read the story aloud.
2. Reader’s Theater
This teaching strategy must be prepared ahead of time. The Bible story will need to be adapted into a type of play which will be read aloud. There can be a narrator or two and how ever many characters would speak in the story. Make enough copies of the script, so each reader receives a copy. At the beginning of class volunteers will be assigned a part and can then use a highlighter or yellow marker to mark their lines in the script. The volunteers then stand across the front of the room with their backs to the audience. Whenever it comes to their part, the child turns around to face the audience, speaks their line and then turns their back again.
Add some fun by giving each reader a prop, such as a hat, to help identify who they are in the story. A simple hat or headband could be made out of paper to display the reader’s character name. Sentence strips from a teacher supply store work great for this!
3. Kids Dramatize
A fun way to get the kids involved is to have them act out the story. The teacher can bring a variety of props to class to bolster creativity. Depending upon the number of children present, divide the children into small groups where they will read the Bible story together. The children will then plan a short play using props of their choice to act out the story. After a pre-designated rehearsal time has been given, the small groups will perform their plays for one another. Paper headband character names would be a helpful addition to this activity, too.
For this activity each child will need a white sheet of paper and a pencil. Have each child fold their paper into fourths. Before coming to class the teacher will have sectioned the Bible story into four parts which make for good stopping points. When ready, the children will put their pencils down and listen to the teacher read aloud the first section of the story. When the teacher has finished reading the first section they will pause and say, “Draw!” The children will then draw what just happened in the first part of the story inside one fourth of their paper. Emphasize to the children this is a quick draw activity meant to portray the story and not intended to be a work of art. As most children finish their drawing the teacher will begin reading the second section of the story. This sequence continues for the remaining three sections until the entire Bible story has been read and each child has completed four drawings.
In Listen-n-Draw the teacher is still doing a simple read-aloud, but with the addition of pauses and drawing, the children will remain engaged and thinking about the story as they hear it. The drawings can also be used by the children to retell the story to their peers or to their parents after church.
This idea requires the most preparation time and perhaps a teacher with an inkling for acting. To present a familiar Bible story in a fresh light, the teacher can create a monologue version from the main character’s point of view. The teacher can dress up in a costume resembling that of the main character and then perform the monologue for the children. This approach would be great to use if the same Bible story is being used over a period of several weeks. Performing a monologue will give the children a new way to hear and think about the story.
Some of these ideas require extra effort on the part of the teacher and some require extra effort for the children, but all of the ideas may be just what is needed to pull yourself out of a read aloud rut. Just like it would not be effective to read aloud a Bible story in the same way every week, it would also not be effective to get stuck on one of these ideas every week. The purpose of this article is to give you ideas to spice up your lessons and add variety to keep your children interested to hear what the Bible has to say each week when they come to church. We don’t want our children to develop an early habit of tuning out due to the monotony of our presentation, but instead to remain excited to listen to what God has to teach them through His Word.