Tag Archive | teaching

Weekly Update: Encouraging Words

Hi everyone!  Sorry again for the late update.  It was a very busy weekend, and I’ve finally had a moment to take time to post.

Yesterday, while teaching Sunday school to my early elementary kids, I finished a month long lesson on friendship.  We learned a lot about what it is good friends do – forgive one another, be there for each other, etc.,  but yesterday’s lesson was one I had been looking forward to since the unit began: friends encourage one another.

Anyone knows that words can make or break us.  Like the Scriptures relate, words can build us up or tear us down, and we need to be wise with the words we use, especially when those words are aimed at other people.  I can’t be the only one who has noticed that there’s been a lot of not-so-nice words being used lately (especially on social media), so with my Sunday school kids, I wanted to make sure they learned how they could use their words to encourage.

First, we learned about the story of Job and how his friends responded to all the bad things he went through.  If you know the story, you know that in the long run, Job’s friends weren’t the most encouraging.  They said some pretty mean things, even so far as blaming Job for not loving God enough or secretly sinning to cause so much heartache in his life.  Now we know, in the story, that Job was completely innocent and God blessed him double in the end after he had went through everything, but (as I asked the kids), could you imagine how Job felt hearing his friends’ discouragement?  How did those unkind words effect him, and what could’ve been said instead to make him feel more encouraged?

After our story, we went back to our tables and decided to do a special project.  This was going to exercise the kids’ abilities to think of kind words for their fellow classmates as well as give them some extra practice with using kind words to encourage.

First, they chose a piece of construction paper with their favorite color.

Next, they were given a cut out of a circle where they had to write their name on it.  After they wrote their name, they glued it on the center of the construction paper.

Next, we listed some kind words on the dry erase board that could be used to describe someone.  Examples include “kind”, “funny”, “loves God”, “loyal”, “true”, “honest”, “brave”, etc.  

After that, I handed out more blank circles, and then we went around the room.  I pointed to the child in the first seat and instructed the kids to write down a kind word that described that child.  They could use a word from the board or they could come up with their own (one of the kids wrote “cool” as an example.). 

When they were done writing their word, they were instructed to hold up their circle for me to collect. After I collected the circles, I gave them to the child we talked about.  That child would then glue the circles on their paper and decorate it.

We repeated those steps until we said encouraging words about everyone in the room.

You can see an example of the one I made for myself before class here in case you want to know what the project looks like:


What I enjoyed about this project wasn’t so much the fact that the kids got to practice using kind words (to be honest, they already knew a lot about kind words to begin with), but the reaction they had when seeing what kind things others had to say about them.  It was priceless!  There were smiles all around the room, and some even mentioned how glad they were to hear such kind things said about them as they had heard some mean comments from classmates at school.

The project was a huge reminder at the power of our words and just how important encouraging can be.   How can you be an encouragement to those in need today?

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The Inspiration of Story

During my first year as a teacher, I wanted to make my students inspired.  Inspired to learn, inspired to be good kids, inspired to grow up and become contributing members to society.  And when I had a week to create my own social studies lesson, I decided to try something different.

I decided to teach a lesson about inspiration using story.

It was an interesting week when the lesson was being taught.  During the first few days, we’d gotten hit by a terrible winter storm and the heater in the classroom had went out.  My students were all huddled in the school library having class for the morning, and to four and five year olds, nothing says awesome like being able to have class in the part of the building where all the “big kids” are.  We practiced math, we did some reading and writing, and when it came time for social studies I pulled out a picture.

It was of a young boy.  The picture was cartoonish because I never could quite find a young picture of this guy on the internet, drawn and painted as if from a few centuries back, and the kids didn’t know who he was.  I only told them his name was Alex, and as I held the picture up I began to tell a story.

This young boy had a hard life.  His father left him, his brother, and his mother all alone.  His mother had to raise him by herself.   In the Caribbean, where he lived, his home was ravaged by a terrible hurricane.  He didn’t have much of a chance to go to school after his mother died.  He lost everything and had to go to work at a store while still a kid.  Many times he had to teach himself by reading books.  Life was really hard for him.

After setting the picture down, I asked the students a question.

“How do you think the little boy turned out when he grew up?  Do you think he became a good person?  Do you think he did anything good with his life?”

Every student in the room shook their heads and said no.

“Why?” I asked.

Life was hard.  He didn’t get much of an education.  His dad left.  To the kids, it was simple why this little boy didn’t have a chance in life.  He didn’t have much of a future because he had such a terrible past.

“Alright.” I said as I pulled out another picture.  “Let’s see who this little boy became.”

I pulled out a $10 bill.  On the middle of the bill was a portrait of a famous American founding father named Alexander Hamilton.

“The little boy who didn’t get to go to school much went to America and attended college.” I began, telling them his life story.  “The job he had to work at the store when he was a kid taught him about money.  He became the first Secretary of Treasury in America and helped build the country like it is today.  The hurricane that destroyed his town gave him an opportunity to write for the newspaper about it.  He also wrote something called The Federalist Papers that is considered a classic today.”

The kids were shocked.  They didn’t expect someone who “clearly didn’t have much to work with” actually did some good with his life.  As we went through other stories of famous individuals like Phillis Wheatley and Albert Einstein, the kids became astounded that people who had such difficult or hard beginnings could overcome them and become great people.  After the lesson was over, they became inspired, feeling like they too could make the world a better place no matter what obstacle came their way.

So what was the point of the lesson?  If you’ve ever worked in the education field, you’ll know there’s a lot of hopelessness out there.  Divorce, poverty, bullying, inequality.  Like kids in the past, kids today may have a lot going against them.  I know growing up as the only kid in class with divorced parents, I was ignored and bullied for years for something I knew little about.  When I was in jr. high, however, I read the story of Jonathan in the Bible.  Like me, he had issues with his father.  Friendship was also important to him.  Even though he did the right thing, he sometimes didn’t get rewarded for it.

When I read the story of Jonathan, I felt a connection with his character.  Despite his hardships, he still did the right thing.

And that story inspired me to do the same.  My life changed because of his story.

My history lesson may not have taught my kids much about history.  Being ages four and five, I’m not sure they understood how all of these individuals impacted our world today.  What I do hope, however, is by listening to these stories of hope, they would be inspired.  That just because a parent abandoned them, they still matter.  That just because someone calls them “stupid”, they are actually smart.  That just because everyone thinks they’re nothing, they are actually something, and they are important.

What I hope, more than anything, is they realize their story is inspirational too.