ABC Bible Verse Teaching
This October, I began volunteering as an assistant Bible School teacher for my church’s ESL program, which is held once every month. When they discovered I was currently involved in an ESL Methods class, they were even more excited to have me on board. We have one main Bible Study teacher, three volunteer assistants, including myself, and about six bilingual volunteers that are a part of making this all happen. The main teacher leads the lessons and oversees all of the English Language Learners (ELLs) to track progress and help them really enjoy picking up the language, along with all of the stories we learn from the Bible. My role as an assistant is to target the higher and lower levels of fluency within the students, as well as spend some time working with them to provide clarification and encouragement. Volunteers sit amongst the ELLs to help facilitate conversations and make their comprehension of the material easier. I knew I needed this experience to both challenge me and prepare me as I become a future educator; I know I have loved the moments I have experienced with it thus far.
When the program first came to be at our church about four years ago, one of the first decisions the church committee had to make was what kind of curriculum to use to reach the students the best: secular or Bible-based. Typically, a Bible-based program will result in most of the attendance being students that are already Christians. Since we are a church who doesn’t exclude anyone of any beliefs and want to reach as many ELLs as possible, we decided to go down the secular path.
Before our Bible studies begin, the main teacher, the three volunteer assistants, and the other volunteers all meet roughly 45 minutes before to pray for the schools and teachers. We do this because education is super important for ELLs and we want the teachers to be a part of their experience in learning a new language, while feeling confident in teaching them. We also hold a strong desire for the students to learn English quickly and adapt well to life in America because it can be a scary experience. Following prayer, we use the remainder of the time to set up any games, the Bibles, and/or snacks for the students.
Once everyone arrives, we start off our night with a devotional. It is a small portion of our class time, approximately ten minutes, so that we aren’t losing the attention span of the students. Devotionals are a great instructional piece for ELLs during our program because we order special devotional books that target the main languages we experience in our class, such as Spanish and English. It’s also not as complex as the actual Bible, so it’s easier to break down verse by verse. We like to pull verses from the Bible that relate to the students the most and focus on those. This is also where our bilingual volunteers are a great asset. If it is the student’s first couple of classes and they aren’t speaking English very well yet, the volunteers are on hand to help them comprehend the material.
We additionally provide Bibles for the students because we would never want anyone to come and not have their own copy to look at. The copies we give them use simple English, such as the NIRV (New International Readers Version). They are also provided with highlighters, which enable them to highlight anything important that we cover in the lesson. Recently, we have been fortunate enough to provide the students with iPads as their replacement Bible, due to it having the feature of speaking back to the ELLs and providing pictures.
Now is when we move into the lesson. One example of a lesson we did began with a short film over the book of Matthew. It was a kid friendly film that also was taken word for word from the Bible so that ELLs could refer back to the Bible and remember the story exactly. After we watched it one time, we would watch it again, but the second time we would pass out a fill-in-the-blank worksheet that correlates with the short film. The ELLs didn’t have to worry about not catching the words because the film was a slow enough pace for them, a word bank was provided, and there were English subtitles. This is really good for them as it strengthens their vocabulary. We opened up the floor after the film to answer any questions and go over what just happened by asking some questions of our own. This in particular made me remember when we learned in class about Reading Comprehension and we were told to use questions afterwards to avoid difficulties in the reading. This is also how we can “help students extract and construct meaning for themselves.”
Some of the students struggled with this portion a bit, so me and a couple of volunteers took them to the other side of the room, where we went over the film and worksheet again. By doing this, the students could see and hear each sentence of the film script once more. We even dove deeper into a pronunciation practice so that they could really gain an understanding of how to say the words properly. Additionally, students could listen to the bilingual volunteers give simple descriptions from the various scenes in the film and provide more information to help the students move along for the rest of the lesson.
The next part of the lesson was when we brought out the iPads. Here, we opened up Quizlet and inside were pictures with their corresponding scene titles. The students had to match the jumbled titles to their correlating picture while also putting the scenes in order. It was super fun and the ELLs seemed to get this best! I think it is super cool that we can use the iPads to reach our students. I can’t help but think back to when the guest speakers from Mrs. Moody’s class came in and spoke about how technology really helps ELLs understand the English language; it really has a lasting impact.
Finally, we end our lessons by doing an “ABC” Bible verse teaching. We use “ABC Devotions” by Karen Gibbs for this part. Below is her attached plan that we use for our students: