Themed Ideas as Learning Resources for Your Childrens Group
How to implement themed ideas into your lesson plans
Learning Resources for your group of children, to create more fun and rewards.
It is so much easier when organising and running children groups if a theme is running through from one time to the next. This not only creates a sense of anticipation, but greatly aids the preparation stage. The theme can grow over several days, which means that ideas will be seen and thought of from all different places and aspects of life, culminating in them all coming together on the day with clarity and a sense of getting a message across in many different ways. Children need variation and stimulation to keep their attention. By planning around a theme, this can be achieved easily without losing the desired message. When planning activities, care should be taken to ensure that the children don't have to sit still for long periods of time. Their participation and concentration will increase significantly if they are encouraged to move around as much as possible. By alternating quiet activities with more lively ones, the children will remain focussed and not wear themselves out all at once. Music is a great way of getting a message across and keeping them involved. Of course this will vary a little depending on the children's ages and it will be easier, where possible, to keep the different age groups separate.
How To Keep Children's Attention whilst Storytelling
Prepare well by going through the story several times beforehand and getting a feel for it yourself. On the day, if you put yourself into that story by conveying lots of emotion and passion, you will have the children captivated! I have often found myself truly moved by the story I was preparing.
Some Of My Favourite Themed Stories -
And how we used them as a learning resource
Stories for children have always been a great way to encourage their imagination, teach them ideas and concepts and give them ideas for creative play. It also gives them a rare opportunity to sit still and relax for a few minutes, which can be a godsend with groups of lively children! Here are a few ideas that could fit in with the themed ideas above. I have given one example from each category.
- Emotions with Mr Men- Mr Mean and Mr GenerousThe Bible story of the Good Samaritan brings out both of these characters. When we did this story we acted it out, with different children playing different roles- they loved it!
- The senses: taste- I am wonderfully made
A story of an eastern wedding (such as the first miracle in the Bible when water was turned into wine). We laid out a big cloth with different eastern types of food to try, eastern music playing in the background and puppets to tell the story.
- Colours: black We told the story of Funnybones, by Janet & Allan Ahlberg, which was a cute story of skeletons going out into the town at nightime, which we combined with role play and songs and hiding under a blanket. This was our first colour week and we lit candles at the end to bring in some light.
- Numbers: Three The story was about Pinocchio (using a puppet and pictures) which culminated in the thought of wishing and dreaming, from the theme song: when you wish upon a star. We had previously looked at triangles, with three sides and made them into stars.
- Animals: This lends itself to so many animal stories, but we started off by telling the story of creation and having lots of props when it came to rain, plants, funny hair, the earth and all the animals, which were lots of soft toys scattered/hidden around the room, which the children had to find and we put them into groups of land animals, sea creatures and those that fly. We ended by proclaiming that we were the best bit that God created!
- Light: Lanterns The Bible story can be told of the ten bridesmaids, half of whom did not have their lamps ready and so missed the all important event of the wedding. You could make lanterns with the children beforehand and use them in the story.
- Heroes: We introduced this theme by allowing the children to tell us who their heroes were and why. Any story could be told about one of them, taking note of what they did or didn't do to make them special. In our Kids Church group our hero was Jesus and we talked about who his friends were who followed him and why they did.
- Famous Children: Our favourite was probably the Bible story of David and Goliath (we had great fun throwing paper stones at our previously coloured life size paper cut out of Goliath), but there are plenty of modern day children to choose from as well.
- The Care Bears: Dream Bear We told the story of Joseph and his coat of many colours. It was his dreams that got him into trouble with his brothers, but the following week we brought in Forgive bear who helped us see the big change around when Joseph forgave his brothers. We sang the famous Joseph song: "I closed my eyes" for these weeks and enacted Joseph's journey to Egypt, using puppets and rhymes throughout, playing 5 currant buns when it got to the bit about the baker's dream!
Engaging Circle Time Activities
Incorporating more of your themed ideas
Children groups benefit from circle time because it is a way of bringing everyone together, so that the whole group can be addressed together. It can be a time to hear the children's news and what's on their hearts before they go into a time when they need to listen to you. With younger children, it is helpful to have a soft toy (we used a Care Bear when that was our theme) that the children pass from one to another when it is their turn to speak. This helps them with the concept of speaking one at a time. If the circle time takes place later on during the session, then news time can happen more informally whilst doing a craft or something similar. For those of us who love music, it is a must to include sing along songs, with instruments as well and even if you are not particuarly gifted in this area, the children will still love it and not even notice if you are singing out of tune! Interspersing story time with appropriate songs really helps the story to come alive as well.
Reinforcing Your Themed Ideas
As you decide on the theme of the session with your group of children, choose themed crafts that help to emphasize it. Anything practical and creative that the children are able to participate in will have a greater impact on them. The advantage is that children's crafts can be something that they can take home as a reminder of the message that they heard. Children love to show off their creations and it is certainly a great opportunity for adults to give them praise. Here are a few examples of craft activities and school crafts for some of the themed ideas above:
Theme; Touch- playdough, with which they can explore what happens when pliable dough is rolled, pressed, pushed etc. Just make sure they don't try it on their sense of taste as well!
Hearing- make telephones with plastic beakers and string, which can be decorated.
Taste- make and decorate cookies
Black & white- paint white spotty patterns using cotton buds onto black background paper, make snowflakes from white doilies, cutting and sticking onto black paper.
Number one- we talked about circles (with one side) and made clocks from paper plates, which we used in circle time when we sang rhymes and had a story about the time.
Number two- draw around their hands (we did lots of rhymes about hands and games and quizzes about pairs) which they colour and write an appropriate caption on the picture.
True Heart (Care) Bear- who listens to his feelings-make smiley faces on paper plates, stick on wool for hair.
Love-a-lot Bear- each child has a big cut out heart with the message from the session written on one side. On the other, they cut out and stick pictures (from magazines) that show friends and family loving one another.
Funshine Bear- stick yellow crepe paper onto the sun that has been outlined on a big piece of paper. You could also give the children a picture of Funshine Bear to colour yellow, like the bear.
A Sample Themed Lesson Plan
Overall Theme- Colours, This week's theme- BLUE
This is a sample of one of the weeks at our children's group (aged 4-7s).
As they arrive: Carry out various water experiments which are constantly supervised on a table where the children can join in as they arrive.
Introduce blue:Sit the children on a parachute (or suitable cloth to be used later) and discuss. What things are blue?...sky, water, eyes, cold......
How do we use water? Look at some props together e.g. toothbrush, sponge, soap, beaker, watering can, measuring jug.
Theme Games: play game with props, take them away and see who can remember them all. Older children can write it down. Younger children can make a list with you as they remember.
Songs on and around parachute, such as:
1. When I was one I ate a bun the day I went to sea....(when you get to)- we're going this way, that way, forwards, backwards, over the Irish Sea..(all hold edges of parachute and do the motions).
2. Row, row, row your boat (for second verse throw crocodile onto centre of parachute)
Add in other sea songs.
Story using parachute as a prop for water where appropriate, e.g. Bible story of Jesus walking on the water or Simon goes fishing all night and after seeing Jesus he pulls in a huge catch of fish from the other side of the boat.
Quiet Period: Get the children to all lie on top of the parachute and play some soothing music, such as Sounds of the Sea. Give them one or two thoughts from the story time that they can imagine. Don't keep them there too long though!
Crafts: Make some boats and fish stamps from halved potatoes (bring with you or buy) and allow the children to paint or colour a blue sea scene onto which they stamp out the stamps which have been dipped into paint and onto a long sheet of paper. You could write a caption on the top.
Learning Resources Tip
Put words to music as a fun and easy way to teach children things such as Bible verses, the alphabet, numbers or sayings that you want them to remember.