October 5, 2014 Story Update

family newsletterEach week we write a Constant Contact e-mail targeted to young families (and our elected vestry members! We’re sneaky that way…) At first we just listed upcoming schedule changes and that sort of thing, but we decided it was a good forum for opening a window into our classrooms for the parents. So each week I’d send a little e-mail off to the storytellers (we have two Godly Play classrooms) and ask what story they told, etc.

And each week I’d get a lovely paragraph back describing what happened that day! It’s really the best part of my week, and I am thankful that the storytellers are excited enough to write in such detail. These descriptions below are just as we send them. I edit them very slightly (to remove a child’s name or to edit out some housekeeping comment the storyteller might be sending my way) but otherwise they’re exactly as the storyteller reports. I hope you enjoy!

Last Sunday (10/5), here’s what happened:

The younger Godly Play class heard the story of The Great Family. Really? The best part of our week is receiving updates from the storytellers on how the class went!

Our story was The Great Family, or the story of Abraham and Sarah. It is a very important story and one thing that makes it so is the fact that it gives the kids a real sense of the desert box as a little bit of the desert. We “see” Abraham slipping out into the desert at night to be close to God. We realize how simple the desert is: “footsteps” are left in the sand by wooden figures and small stones are used to construct altars in thanksgiving that God is really there to meet Abram/Abraham wherever and whenever Abram/Abraham looks for God. (After months of watching walls being built of rocks in my yard, I am especially aware of the timeless physical satisfaction of putting rocks together toward a purpose.)

Another revelation of the story is how we are each a part of the Great Family. Abraham and Sarah really do eventually have as many children as there are stars in the sky or grains of sand in the desert. When the story shows us that from their one Isaac and his kind and courageous Rebecca come generations of children, leading at last to “your grandparents, and then your parents and now you,” the story gets very personal. When presented with the usual wondering questions, one child knew immediately where she was in the story–she was a grain of sand.

Although the preamble to this story includes some instruction about waiting until the right time to put hands into the desert box, I can relate too well to how hard the waiting is, and a few brief pokes and strokes to the sand go “unnoticed.”

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Want to experience the story of the Great Family? Pull everyone up to computer and click here for a wonderful video.

The older Godly Play class continued hearing the stories that often are part of the Jesse Tree. With Jesse; we remember not only the family of Jesse, which begins a lineage that leads to Jesus, but the many people of the Hebrew scriptures who prepared God’s people for the coming of Jesus. Our storyteller reports:

We’re keeping it real here: due to the unusually cold weather or the alignment of the heavens, we had NO children show up for our class. Those outside the classroom may not realize that part of the storytelling technique in Godly Play is that the story is memorized – we learn the stories by heart, which (although we grumble on Saturday night) is a great place for the stories to end up – in our hearts.

So on a cold Sunday morning, we had two adults and an empty classroom, and a good story: the story of Jacob, the trickster. So we sat down and the storyteller told the story to the doorkeeper. These stories are not just for children – don’t be mistaken! We spent most of the Sunday School hour talking about nuances of the story: the Stranger tells Jacob that his name will become Israel because “he struggled with God and with man.” The wondering questions work just as well for adults as they do for children!

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September 28, 2014 Story Update

family newsletterEach week we write a Constant Contact e-mail targeted to young families (and our elected vestry members! We’re sneaky that way…) At first we just listed upcoming schedule changes and that sort of thing, but we decided it was a good forum for opening a window into our classrooms for the parents. So each week I’d send a little e-mail off to the storytellers (we have two Godly Play classrooms) and ask what story they told, etc.

And each week I’d get a lovely paragraph back describing what happened that day! It’s really the best part of my week, and I am thankful that the storytellers are excited enough to write in such detail. These descriptions below are just as we send them. I edit them very slightly (to remove a child’s name or to edit out some housekeeping comment the storyteller might be sending my way) but otherwise they’re exactly as the storyteller reports. I hope you enjoy!

Big Work continues in the Godly Play classrooms! Last Sunday (9/29), here’s what happened:

The younger Godly Play class heard the story of Second Creation: the Falling Apart. Our storyteller told us:

In the younger class, we heard the story of The Creation, Falling Apart. The children listened quietly and remained that way even when I asked the wondering questions. We talked about the “tree of differences” and how it is important to see our differences and how we can become more creative when we see differences. We also prayed for God to help us not only see differences but also similarities. When I asked “I wonder what part of the story we could leave out and still have the story the same,” one child responded that we could leave out the Tree of Forever because “they didn’t eat from that tree.” Our doorkeeper added an interesting wondering question as well asking, “I wonder if that garden is still there?” One child said, “Yes or maybe the garden is in many places.” The children then worked diligently until our time for prayer and our feast.

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The older Godly Play class continued hearing the stories that often are part of the Jesse Tree. With Jesse; we remember not only the family of Jesse, which begins a lineage that leads to Jesus, but the many people of the Hebrew scriptures who prepared God’s people for the coming of Jesus. Our storyteller reports:

We enjoyed the life of Abraham, from his call to journey toward the Promised Land all the way to his burial in the cave under the oaks of Mamre. But what is always most captivating about this story is when God commands Abraham to sacrifice Isaac. Wrapping the string (that bound Isaac) around my fingers was challenging, and our students spent most of the wondering time wrapping the string around their fingers, without much comment on the story as a whole. We (adults) felt they might be avoiding the hard truth of it, as they kept deflecting questions afterward. But, when I asked what is the most difficult part of the story, one said, “Telling it.”

We read the story in the Bible, they read some in the “Brick Bible,” and then they built the (very difficult) cathedral almost to completion! It was a good class.

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September 21, 2014 Story Update

family newsletterEach week we write a Constant Contact e-mail targeted to young families (and our elected vestry members! We’re sneaky that way…) At first we just listed upcoming schedule changes and that sort of thing, but we decided it was a good forum for opening a window into our classrooms for the parents. So each week I’d send a little e-mail off to the storytellers (we have two Godly Play classrooms) and ask what story they told, etc.

And each week I’d get a lovely paragraph back describing what happened that day! It’s really the best part of my week, and I am thankful that the storytellers are excited enough to write in such detail. These descriptions below are just as we send them. I edit them very slightly (to remove a child’s name or to edit out some housekeeping comment the storyteller might be sending my way) but otherwise they’re exactly as the storyteller reports. I hope you enjoy!

Each week we try to write a small synopsis of the class. And each week, we think that our parishioners would be beating down the doors to work with Godly Play with your children, if they only knew what a joy it is to discuss the Scriptures with your young theologians!

The younger Godly Play class heard the story of Creation. The storyteller last week just bubbled over with her review:

 As you know we did the story of Creation in the younger classroom and it opens with talking about the biggest present the children have ever received. It talks about the difference in gifts that are alive and those that are inanimate objects and I expected the children to immediately name gifts they had received such as bikes, scooters, etc. and wondered how I would approach it, if they only named objects. When I asked the question, one of the boys raised his hand immediately and said “love.” Well, that started our story off with such a wonderful and positive note and made it very easy to talk about God’s gifts to us in creation. The others followed by naming kittens, cats, and a puppy they had received. No one talked about objects or things. As we proceeded with the story and spoke about the end of each day and I said… “and God said,” the children would say with me “it is good.” They listened quietly, watched the lesson, and then would say “it is good,” All participated in the wondering questions and had quite a bit to say. They are amazing children! When a 7 year old reminds us that the greatest present ever is love, I continue to marvel at God’s creation and learn from his children!

The older Godly Play class continued hearing the stories that often are part of the Jesse Tree, usually used during Advent. With Jesse; we remember not only the family of Jesse, which begins a lineage that leads to Jesus, but the many people of the Hebrew scriptures who prepared God’s people for the coming of Jesus. We talked about foreshadowing – even though our stories will all be from the Old Testament, they offer clues about Jesus, so we’re looking for those clues! We heard the story “The Great Family,” or the story of Abram and Sarai and how they became Abraham and Sarah, the beginning of God’s Great Family. (You can click here to see the story – gather up the children and watch it again as it is presented by Tami Burks, Christian Education Director of Christ’s Church in Rye, New York.) Our storyteller reported:

The older class heard the story of the Great Family, and unprompted, wondered if they were descendents of Abraham and Sarah, somehow, some way. They are a lively and delightful bunch!

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Posted in control cards, Godly Play, Godly Play Story Materials, Jerome Berryman, The Episcopal Church | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

September 7, 2014 Story Update

family newsletterEach week we write a Constant Contact e-mail targeted to young families (and our elected vestry members! We’re sneaky that way…) At first we just listed upcoming schedule changes and that sort of thing, but we decided it was a good forum for opening a window into our classrooms for the parents. So each week I’d send a little e-mail off to the storytellers (we have two Godly Play classrooms) and ask what story they told, etc.

And each week I’d get a lovely paragraph back describing what happened that day! It’s really the best part of my week, and I am thankful that the storytellers are excited enough to write in such detail. These descriptions below are just as we send them. I edit them very slightly (to remove a child’s name or to edit out some housekeeping comment the storyteller might be sending my way) but otherwise they’re exactly as the storyteller reports. I hope you enjoy!

Woohoo! We’ve started! It was great to see everyone back together – our teachers enjoy starting back just as much as the children do!

The younger Godly Play class started out with “The Circle of the Church Year,” so that they will know how the church tells time. Sometimes Time is in a line, and sometimes it is in a circle. This story has one of our favorite lines in Godly Play: “For every beginning there is an ending, and for every ending there is a beginning. It goes on and on, forever and ever.”

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 Many of the stories that we tell have a “Parent Page” that describes the story and offers some insights for sharing the story with your child. “The Circle of the Church Year” is one of those stories, so ask one of the Godly Play team for a copy. They are really well done, and we wish we had them for EVERY story!

The older Godly Play class is trying out a new frame for the fall – we are using the stories that often are part of the Jesse Tree, usually used during Advent. On Sunday, September 7, we talked about Jesse; we remember not only the family of Jesse, which begins a lineage that leads to Jesus, but the many people of the Hebrew scriptures who prepared God’s people for the coming of Jesus. We talked about foreshadowing – even though our stories will be all from the Old Testament, they offer clues about Jesus, so we’re looking for those clues! We heard the story of “Second Creation: The Falling Apart” – the story of Adam and Eve and the serpent. Our class blew us away with their insights on this rather difficult story. We talked about the differences: God/People; Good/Evil, etc. One student suggested the balance he saw in the story, which gave everyone food for thought. (No Parent Page for this one….)

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Our 2014 Fall Godly Play Schedule

IMG_1873First of all, perhaps you missed me. (I HOPE you missed me!) If you wondered where I’ve been, I’ve been puppy wrangling – so here’s a gratuitous photo of Harvey, the Monster Puppy (he’s a 9 month old border collie mix and was 52 lbs six weeks ago…)

As I usually sit at my computer when Harvey is sleeping, blogging time has been limited…

Back to our scheduling. In early September, all of the Sunday School teachers usually meet for a dinner and time to plan or organize in our classrooms (we have two Godly Play classrooms). In our older class (grades 3-5), we try to schedule out every Sunday with story, storyteller, and doorkeeper up until Advent.

IMG_1917We try to come up with a “frame” for our stories. One season it was all the stories we could think of about coming to the table. This year my co-teachers were kind enough to let me suggest an idea that’s been percolating for some time: we’re using the Jesse Tree.

In December 2010 we had an evening Advent Workshop with various seasonal crafts for children. I worked for days making Shrinky Dink patterns to color and bake, with accompanying verses and explanations. I slightly adapted the Jesse Tree symbols to fit  Godly Play – for example, the red heart represents the Ten Best Ways to Live (the 10 commandments) rather than whatever it was the internet source listed. Of course, the number of children at that workshop who were interested in this craft was ZERO. Not a ONE. But I did secretly admire the sample tree I made, and it’s been sitting around my house and then our Sunday School classroom for four years.

The Shrinky Dink Jesse Tree is turning out to be an interesting frame for our autumn story schedule. At our first meeting we talked about the Isaiah verse about the root of Jesse  (“But a shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse, and from his roots a bud shall blossom.”  Isaiah 11:1) We’ve been asking the children to look for clues about Jesus in all of our Old Testament stories. For us, it’s been an excellent additional wondering question.

Here is our fall schedule:

9/7/2014 – Second Creation: Falling Apart (and discussion about the root of Jesse)

9/14/2014 – The Flood and the Ark

9/21/2014 – The Great Family

9/28/2014 – Abraham

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10/5/2014 – Jacob

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10/12/2014 – Joseph

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10/19/2014 – Moses

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10/26/2014 – The Ten Best Ways

11/2/2014 – Samuel

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11/9/2014 – David

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11/16/2014 – Jonah

How do you schedule your stories?

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And in the other camp …

img_9891What does a good cradle Episcopalian child raised by a Godly Play teacher do when she graduates from college? She volunteers with Young Adult Volunteers in the Presbyterian Church (USA) for a year of service in Belfast, Northern Ireland for beginning in August 2014!

Her blog will no doubt be FAR more exciting than this little old neglected blog, but I hope she will inspire me to return and keep plugging along. So go read up. Perhaps I will send her along with the Godly Play story “The Parable of the Great Pearl,” which is her most favorite story of all the Godly Play stories.

Go here to read a little of how she ended up volunteering … and if you have some extra pennies sitting around, feel free to help her out with her fundraising – that July 1, 2014 deadline is looming!

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“Do I really have to memorize the story?”

When people know I am interested in Godly Play, they always ask me this question. And you know what? Every time I dodge the question and try to be supportive. I don’t want to discourage ANYONE from using Godly Play!

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Memorizing “The Twelve” at my desk (I had left the big poster of da Vinci’s Last Supper at the church – and I have to learn it from the teacher’s perspective of looking at the poster upside down!)

However, I do know that I certainly can’t leave out memorizing the story. I’ve always thought that the words were so important that I had to do my best to get them to the children: I only have about 10-15 minutes of a 45 minute Sunday School class for nine months of the year!

(Memorizing the story isn’t the hard part for me; stage fright is. I am terrified, every week, to tell a story, even to children. It fills me with joy, but I am quaking in my boots the entire time. When I tell stories to adults, it’s even worse, with a nice red rash forming on my neck and chest…)

In The Complete Guide to Godly Play, Vol. 1, Jerome Berryman explains it like this:

When I tell a Godly Play story, I don’t read the story, and I don’t even memorize it. I tell it, from my heart. I enter into the story with all the presence and attention I can bring, knowing that each time I tell this story I will discover something new. (…) Our different life experiences, our different developmental stages and different personalities mean that each of us will tell Godly Play stories in a unique way.

Phyllis Tickle hits the nail on the head in her Patheos article “My Six Essentials for Passing on the Faith

Implied in telling is the authenticity of what is being told. The underlying message is that this story matters. It matters because Daddy or Grand-daddy or Uncle Bill knows it all the way through. It matters because Mama or Granny or Aunt Sue loves it enough to know exactly what happens next. Of course, what that also means—and this is the source of the child’s perception of authenticity—is that Daddy and Mama et al. have valued this story enough to know it in detail and have also thought about it before telling it. What telling rather than reading or watching also means, of course, is that the stories of the faith can be pulled out spontaneously when their words and plot lines are apropos of some conversation or situation other than bedtime.

So, I memorize the story. That happens on Saturday night, and I must be diligent. On Sunday morning, I tell the story, leaving what comes out up to the Holy Spirit.

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