It’s been a month since I got to teach Sunday school, but finally today I was the lead teacher once again; Susie, who had been the lead teacher last week, was the assisatant. Three of our regulars came to class today — Heather, Zach, and Dorit. We sat down in a circle, and Dorit immediately said, “Can tell about a good and bad thing?” Zach and Heather both said, “Yeah!” I said that we would do check-in as usual, but we had to do attendance first, and light the chalice. Susie took attendance, and when it was time to light the chalice, both Heather and Zach put their hands up.
Susie pointed out that Heather had been lighting the chalice a lot lately. I proposed that Heather light the chalice first, then blow it out, then Zach would light it. Heather and Zach said that Dorit should get to blow it out. After a more discussion, that is what we decided to do. Heather lit the candle in the chalice. Dorit blew it out. Zach lit the candle, and we were ready to begin.
We were about halfway done with check-in when tow more people walked in: Bobby, and his father William. (Bobby usually attends the 9:30 Sunday school.) I explained what we were doing, and asked them to join us in the circle. We continued the check-in; I had to explain to Bobby that just one person talked at a time (I believe they don’t do check-ins in his regular Sunday school class). Heather had gone on a sleep-over; Zach had had a good football practice; I had seen a car accident on the way to church; William had gotten a good letter from a client; Bobby wasn’t ready to say anything yet. When we got done, Dorit had “two more things” she wanted to add to her check-in. At last check-in was done.
“Because we have some new people, let’s go around the circle and everyone say our names,” I said. By now, our regulars are used to doing this, so we went around the circle twice and said our names. I asked who could say everyone’s name, and Dorit said she could, and she did.
The children found it hard to settle down and focus today. Zach and Heather and Dorit were that way before Bobby (and William) showed up, and with the addition of a new child, they seemed even less settled. The class has been doing a unit on King David from the Bible, and I tried to get them to review the stories they had already heard about David, but they simply couldn’t focus. So I began telling today’s story, the story of Abigail and David from 1 Samuel 25.2-42 which I posted yeterday on this blog.
As soon as I started reading, the children settled down. Pretty soon, most of them were lying down, either on their stomachs or on their backs (except Bobby, whom was probably still feeling a little unsettled by being in an unfamiliar class). I got to the end of the story, and asked what they thought. Zach opened his eyes and put his head up. “That’s a weird story,” he said.
We talked about it a little bit. I asked who was the hero of the story. Both Heather and Dorit said simultaneously, “Abigail.” I asked if David did the right thing. Dorit said yes, Heather said no. I asked Dorit why she said yes. “Because he protected –what was that guy’s name? [Nabal.] — Nabal’s sheep and didn’t steal from him and didn’t do anything bad.” I asked Heather why she said no. “Because he was going to go and kill all those guys, and, I don’t know, he was just… not nice.” But although the children were engaged by the story, they just couldn’t seem to focus, so I said, “Let’s go sit around the table.”
I wanted to try to make a comic book about the story with the children, and I had an idea: that I would get them to create a storyboard of the story, and based on the storyboard get each child to draw one panel of the cartoon. Unfortunately, it was now five minutes till noon. Furthermore, I hadn’t really thought out how to make a storyboard with children. All year I have been talking the children through the process of breaking down a story into scenes with characters and action; but it’s a big leap to go from that process, to a process where you’re looking at a storyboard template and trying to make sense out of it. Using a storyboard is so natural to me that I hadn’t given adequate thought to how to teach the concept to children.
I began trying to show the children how to do a storyboard. They sort of got it. William said, “It’s just like making movies.” He obviously knew how to do a storyboard. “Do you use storyboards in your work?” I said. He said,” Oh yes. I’ve sat in on many storyboarding sessions.” And I asked him to show the children. One by one, they took a storyboard template, and either copied what William was doing (Heather and Dorit), storyboarded later events from the story (Zach, the oldest), or drew a new scene from their imagination based on the story (Bobby).
“Can we just do free drawing?” said Heather at last. I said yes, and handed them out paper. while they were drawing, Susie told them the story from last week: how David had come to live with Saul; how Saul had black moods where David’s music would calm him down; how he had made friends with Jonathan, Saul’s son; how Saul had tried to kill him; how David had escaped, and later spared Saul’s life. As soon as Susie started telling the story (and she did a fabulous job, telling it from memory), the children quieted right down, focusing on their drawing while they listened.
Parents began coming in to pick up children, and it was time to go. I told the children that maybe we would try to finish the comic next week. During the bustle of leaving, William showed me the letterhead of the letter he had mentioned during check-in — it was from a major film producer. The children didn’t know that they had just heard about storyboarding from someone who had really worked in the movie business.