Zacchaeus Montessori Inspired Bible Lesson
Elaine is visiting us from her blog called, Planting Peas. On her blog she shares her Montessori homeschooling story with her two awesome boys. She puts a lot of thought and passion into each of her blog posts. I am delighted that she is sharing a Bible Unit Study with us here on CMN.
Anytime is a good time to tell your preschoolers about the story of Zacchaeus (Luke 19:1-10), but fall in particular brings about many related activities that can be done as part of a unit study. Here is a list of 12 Montessori-inspired activities you can do with your children to reinforce the story of Jesus and Zacchaeus.
1. Story prop. We used Lego because we had all the pieces we needed (really just a tree and a few Lego figurines). Moving the figurines around as I tell the story helps him to understand what’s happening because he can see a concrete representation. I usually leave the Lego diorama out on the shelf and will sometimes catch him replaying the story by himself.
2. Climb a tree! There’s no better way to live the story than to allow a child to actually experience climbing a tree. (Please note I would never condone letting a child climb a tree on his/her own, so please exercise your own good judgment and safety when doing this activity with your child.)
3. Parts of a Tree puzzle. When you’re out trying to climb that tree with your child, show and talk about its parts – the trunk, branches, leaves and roots. Then when you’re home, let your child work on this puzzle. Ask him/her which part of the tree they think Zacchaeus sat on. (If your child is young, you may have to hint that Zacchaeus sat on the branch). If you don’t have the puzzle, you can easily make your own with felt.
4. Types of trees identification cards. Put out photos and labels of 3 very different trees that your child can easily tell apart. One of them should be a sycamore fig tree and the other two should be easily found around your neighborhood. Tell your child that Zacchaeus didn’t climb just any tree, but a sycamore fig tree in particular, which can commonly be found in the Middle East. Do a 3-period lesson on all these trees, and the next time you go out for a walk, point to and name the trees he’s learned, but ask “Did Zacchaeus climb this tree?” Don’t be surprised they think you’re being daft. For a very young toddler, collect leaves and laminate them for a simple matching exercise, or to make a sensory bin. You can see an example here.
5. Tree art with play dough. We made a simple tree trunk using a hand print. Then we pinched out small pieces of play dough as leaves. Don’t forget to write your child’s name and age, and keep this piece of his/her childhood! There are many variations of this art/craft, use one that suits your child. If you don’t feel like dealing with the mess, you can easily download free tree trunk and fall leaves printables here.
6. Sing the Zacchaeus song! Break into song whenever you feel like it, especially when you’re doing these 12 activities. Here’s the link to the lyrics and melody. If your child likes to watch animations, this is a really nice one.
7. Montessori red rods. Mine is a DIY, so it’s not red (not yet anyway). I took out 2 rods and showed him short vs tall. Explain that Zacchaeus is short like the short rod. This is great for vocabulary expansion.
8. Montessori cylinder blocks. We used the one that has the same diameter but growing in height. The first and last cylinder will show the greatest difference between short and tall. Again, vocabulary expansion.
9. Russian dolls. I find this works the best, maybe because they had faces painted on them. It was easy to show that Zacchaeus was very short, like the shortest doll, and that’s why he couldn’t see over the crowd of people.
10. Craft stick people. These worked well too after I drew smiley faces on them. Sort them by short vs. tall.
12. Multiplication. Zacchaeus promised to repay 4 times the amount he took. This is a great chance to introduce some simple multiplication to a young child. An older child can probably use the multiplication board or practice with various multipliers.
Elaine blogs at Planting Peas