Monday, August 26, 2013

Brunch + the Spiral Curriculum in Godly Play

I am trying to get back into blogging on a regular basis. It has just been a busy season for our family. Thanks for your patience!

Yesterday was our church's first Brunch of the new school year. I decided to start off with "The Great Family", the story of God's promise to Abraham and Sarah. This story is from the genre of what we call "Sacred Stories" in Godly Play and addresses the question of identity: who we (the worldwide church) are as a Christian family, where we came from, and how the individual child fits into it all.

The body of Godly Play stories are divided into core stories and extension stories. The core stories, of which "The Great Family" is one, are told in each stage of childhood: early, middle and late. In early childhood, only the core stories are told. Extension stories begin to be added in middle childhood once the children are thoroughly familiar with the core stories. Berryman writes in Teaching Godly Play that "it usually takes three encounters with a lesson for a child to become familiar with it and its context in the liturgical year". By late childhood, the children are so familiar with the stories and how the classroom functions that they can listen more closely to the words and apply a broader meaning. Berryman goes on to write that this upward spiral of learning is advanced by three distinct circles: the circle of the creative process in each child, the circle of dynamics in the class, and the circle of the church year.

I have to admit that I had been practicing Godly Play for some time before I realized that it had a spiral curriculum. In fact, it wasn't until I had some e-mail correspondence with Jerome Berryman in my third year that I heard the term in relationship to GP. While a spiral curriculum works well in a setting where the children attend church each Sunday, I have to say that it is quite challenging in my context. Less than 1 percent of Berliners attend church on a regular basis, and a regular basis means once a month. In our church plant, I see the children 1-2 times a month if I'm lucky. And in our after-school clubs, I might see the same children only 4 weeks out of an entire school year. 

I can't say that I've figured it out yet, but my strategy right now is to keep repeating the core stories as much as possible with all the kids and fight the urge with in me to want to do something new. And that's why I started out this school year with "The Great Family". Each child in the room had heard it at least once and some 2-3 times already. I did notice as a result that the Wondering was deeper with the children who had heard the story more often. Another child who had heard the story only once before was confused about some of the characters and stopped me to help her get the names straight. Yet another reason to keep repeating the core stories.

Some highlights from the Wondering: one child shared which character he liked best rather than which part of the story he liked best. It was Isaac, whose name means "laughter".  Another child shared that she liked God coming close to Abraham.  One child though the most important part was that Abraham and Sarah found out that God was everywhere, not just in their home city of Ur. When I asked what we could leave out and still have everything we needed for the story, one child responded that we could have left out the part about the parents (Abraham and Sarah) dying. 

During the Response Time, an 8-year-old girl drew this picture.

When I asked her if she wanted to tell me about it, she responded, "It is nighttime outside and God is there. He gives us this bouquet of flowers."

Although Godly Play is full of repetitions, it is completely different each time. : )

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