Sunday, December 15, 2013

The Annunciation

 Today is the third week of Advent. Due to the snow and ice, we had only 8 children in the atrium this morning. They all went right to work when they entered the classroom. Many times the children work on their own while I give individual or small group lessons. Now that we've introduced more works it is so interesting to see what work the children return to over and over. 

This morning I introduced the Annunciation work to the whole group of children. I don't prefer to give these kinds of whole group lessons because, frankly, not all of the children are quite ready to sit for the whole lesson. Due to our time constraints, I chose to give the lesson to the whole group anyway. 

The Annunciation is part of the Infancy Narratives. We introduce these lessons during the season of Advent for obvious reasons. This year we will cover the birth of Jesus and adoration of the shepherds and the visit of the Magi (near Epiphany) in addition to today's work. Next year we will also cover Mary's visit with Elizabeth and the Presentation in the Temple. 

We always read the story directly from the Bible in the translation the children will hear at Mass. I gave a little background information about the Land of Israel and the cities we have been learning about (Bethlehem, Jerusalem and Nazareth) to help ground the children in the idea that Jesus was a real person born in a real place. We remember our reading from last week about the 'People who dwell in darkness shall see a great light." And remember how long they had to wait. 

After reading the story of the angel Gabriel and his visit with Mary, I re-read the scripture verses with the materials. We then take some time to ask some wondering questions after we remember all the key players (Mary, the angel Gabriel). I wonder how Mary felt when the angel appeared? I wonder what she did when the angel left. The children's answers and ideas are always so thoughtful. 

It opens up scripture for me in ways that are often new and exciting.

After the lesson we invite the children to use the materials whenever they would like. There is a scripture booklet that goes with the materials and we let them know that they just have to ask if they would like us to read the scripture with them. When the first child took the materials from the shelf I heard, "What's this Miss Beth?" Sometimes we let the children discover things instead of showing them right away. This child found the little red bag with the materials. I did not show it to them when I gave the lesson. 
We opened the bag and found a dove. We remembered that the dove is the symbol for the Holy Spirit. Eventually the children may remember that red is for the Holy Spirit as well (which is in our Liturgical Colors lesson). I don't mention it, it will come in time as the child makes these connections and works with the materials. We introduced the dove as a symbol for the Holy Spirit when we learned about the Land of Israel. In that work the dove is placed over the city of Nazareth......get it?

I love how the materials work together to help the child make connections over time, as they work with each material again and again. 

Monday, December 9, 2013

A Time of Waiting

This photo is from my training, not our atrium, but it shows the items we used on the prayer table yesterday.
This week in the atrium we introduced a new color on our prayer table, purple. Purple is the color for waiting, which we learned in the Liturgical Colors lesson. One of the many things I love about the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd is the celebration of the seasons. Our culture has been gearing up for Christmas since October it seems. It is such a joy to be able to talk with the children about this time of waiting that we call Advent. 

Although this is the second week of Advent, it was our first week in the atrium during Advent. We start by gathering outside the atrium until all of our friends have arrived. Each child receives something to carry (the purple prayer cloth, the Bible, a candle-we had five today!- a picture of Mary, etc.) We line up and walk on the line silently to the prayer table. It takes a lot of effort for some of the children to remain silent and not to bump into the person in front of them. And, of course, they are not all silent nor do they all remain on the line! It is amazing how well they do process, however. Reminds me of the congregation walking up for Holy Communion.

After we set our items one by one on the prayer table (more waiting and practice in being patient) we talk about the items on the table. Today, in addition to talking about the color purple and the four weeks of waiting, we remembered what we are waiting for - the birth of Jesus which we celebrate at Christmas. 

We also talked about special people who lived in the land of Israel long before Jesus was born. These people we call prophets. Prophets were special people that listened. They listened to God. One of these prophets was named Isaiah (which elicited an exclamation from one four year old about his friend at school named Isaiah!). 

The children listened closely while I read from our new Bible, Isaiah 9:1. The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light. What were the people waiting for? A great light. We wondered what the great light could be. We talked about what it is like to be in the dark (scary!). We talked about the lights in our lives (night-lights, kitchen lights). We even remembered that Jesus said, "I am the light of the world."

We talked about how hard it is to wait. We talked about listening, like Isaiah. Just as we were finishing I encouraged the children to stop and listen by being silent (which sometimes I have to remind them means we aren't talking!). At our moment of silence we heard beautiful church bells from outside. We talked about how we would never have heard the beautiful bells if we hadn't been quiet. 

We finished our time at the prayer table by learning a song with the lyrics, "The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light."

What a beautiful beginning to Advent in the atrium. I am looking forward to the next two weeks with the children and hope that you and your family are finding ways to stop, be silent and listen as we wait for the birth of Jesus.