Last week we heard from Megan, one of our wonderful Christian Montessori Network Facebook group members, on Why I Love Godly Play. This week Megan will talk with us a little more about How Godly Play Works. Check back next week where Megan will continue her Godly Play posts. ~Marie
Now that you know all about Godly Play, I’m going to share with you the basics of how a Godly Play classroom functions.
If you’re really interested in Godly Play, I would highly encourage you to attend an official Godly Play training. Check the Godly Play Foundation website to see when and where trainings are offered. They offer trainings as short as a few hours to a few days, and you will learn so much and be incredibly inspired by taking part. It’s truly worth every penny, both as a spiritual experience for yourself and a resource for sharing these beautiful stories with your children.
If you can’t attend a training, read Jerome Berryman’s book, Teaching Godly Play or The Complete Guide to Godly Play: Volume 1. It explores these ideas in depth and answers a lot of questions about how Godly Play works. The subsequent books – volumes 2 through 7 – give the Godly Play curriculum, or the stories to share during the year.
First, a Godly Play lesson begins by asking the children to get “ready.” When children feel they are ready, they are invited to come sit in a circle. Sometimes, a teacher starts with a time for the children to share, a short song, an announcement, prayer or other ritual. Then, the teacher or storyteller goes to get the materials for that day’s lesson, showing where they can be found in the classroom.
The teacher brings the materials to the circle and tells the story, focusing their eyes down on the story, rather than making eye contact with the children. They tell the story slowly, moving the materials precisely and deliberately.
Aren’t you just dying to see hear one of these stories? Here’s one of my favorites, The Great Family, which tells the story of Abraham and Sarah, Issac and Rebekah.
When the story is done, the teacher looks up at the children to begin the wondering time. Most lessons have four questions that they wonder about:
- I wonder which part of the story you like best.
- I wonder which part of the story is most important.
- I wonder which part of the story is about you.
- I wonder which part of the story we could leave out and still have everything that we need.
It’s important as a teacher not to try to lead the children’s answers. Try not to say, “That’s right!” or “No, I don’t think so,” or even imply these ideas. Often, teachers repeat what their students say to validate their ideas, without saying they’re right or wrong. “Shelby says she likes the part about the angel best.” “Max says the most important part is when Solomon reads the prayer in front of the temple.” By the same token, not everyone has to answer, and it’s often necessary to let quite a bit of silence go by before a child might be ready to answer. Be okay with the silence.
After the wondering seems finished, put today’s lesson back and invite each child to choose something to work with. Ideally, children should be familiar with where things are and everything should be on a shelf where they can get it and put it away themselves. Have rugs available so that children can choose a work space. If more than one child wants to work with the same materials, they must ask if it’s okay to join. If a child wants to work alone, that’s okay. Direct the second child to choose another work they’re interested in.
Allow ample time for work and try not to interrupt as much as possible. Be available to assist a child, should they need it, but try not to walk around and comment on their work. If a child makes a painting, talk about it without praising or criticizing. “I see you used red and yellow in your painting. It looks like you worked hard on this,” rather than “What a beautiful flower! Look, everyone, see what a beautiful flower Kelsey made!”
When work time is over, invite the children to put their work away and clean up, and then join you in the circle again. Children are invited to help serve “the feast,” which is part snack time, part communion. I had children volunteer to serve snack to each other, and when everyone had animal crackers and a glass of water, we ate together.
After feast is cleaned up, the children are dismissed one by one to their parents. I tried to say goodbye to each student and tell them something I noticed about their work that day – whether it was how hard they worked to pay attention to the story, or what they were interested in working with, or how they were kind or shared with another student that day – and tell them I was glad they came.
So, that’s Godly Play in a nutshell! What questions do you have about giving a Godly Play lesson? What’s exciting to you about Godly Play? Tell us in the comments.
Megan Cottrell is a mama, writer and journalist who lives in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Megan’s life changed as a Christian when God spoke to her through a summer-long internship on the Westside of Chicago where she learned about God’s heart for the poor. She spent six years writing about race, housing and poverty in the city and was awarded the Studs Terkel award for writers who capture profoundly human stories.
Megan attended a Montessori preschool, but didn’t become formally interested in Montessori education until her son, Teddy, was born in 2012. Through her interest in Montessori, she fell in love with Godly Play, a Montessori-based Christian education curriculum, and has been a Godly Play teacher every since. She and her son work on Montessori-inspired activities at home daily, and she loves to watch him grow in independence and curiosity.
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