One way to help children to think about quotes and memorize them is to turn them into a kind of puzzle, with jumbled-up cards. For example, let’s say that the quote to be memorized is “The earth is but one country, and mankind its citizens”. The teacher would gather up small index cards or strips of paper, and on each of these, write one or two words of the quote. So the first card might say “The earth”, the second one, “is but”, and so on. These cards would be shuffled and presented to the children during the class; they would have to rearrange the cards in the correct order, such that they spell out the entire quote. Just like a regular jigsaw puzzle, younger children would benefit from a puzzle with fewer pieces; older children can be given a puzzle with more pieces, perhaps one for each word.
That’s only the start of it, though. There are plenty more things you can do with the cards to help the process of memorization along:
- Ask the children to recite the quote by reading all the cards in order. Then, remove the cards one by one, each time asking them to recite the whole quote (along with the missing words). Eventually, they’ll be able to recite the whole quote even though all the words are missing.
- Give a card to each child, and ask them to draw an object or a scene that represents the word on that card (excluding words like “the”, “a”, “and” and so forth). For example, a drawing of a globe might represent “earth”, and a group of different people circling around the globe might represent “mankind”. Words that describe concepts that are more abstract or difficult to draw can be represented by drawings of simpler, related concepts, for example, a flag for “country” and a passport for “citizens”.
- Ask the children to close their eyes while you hide the pieces of the quote throughout the classroom. The children must then gather all the pieces and arrange them in order.
- If you have about the same number of words in a quote as there are children in the class, you can play a ranking game based on the children’s height, age, birth date, or some other continuous quality. For example, ask the children to line up in order of the tallest to the shortest, or youngest to oldest, or the earliest birth date (e.g. Jan. 1st) to the latest (e.g. Dec. 31st). Next, distribute the cards to the children randomly, and then ask them to exchange cards until the order of the words matches the order of the line, that is: The first child in the line holds the first word, the second child in line holds the first word, and so on.
A quote jumble as used in a children’s class in Japan. (Photo: Eva S.)
The “step game” is a movement-based activity to help children memorize quotes and prayers. It’s especially appropriate for kinesthetic learners, or children who “can’t seem to stay still” during class.
- Write out a quote or prayer in large print on a piece of bristol board, so that it can easily be seen from a distance.
- Have one child hold the bristol board (or hold it yourself) on one side of the room, behind a “finish line” (this can be a line of tape on the floor, or some other marker), and have the rest of the children stand against the wall at the other side of the room. They should be able to see the entire quote.
- The children should slowly advance one step at a time in turn, each reading one word of the quote or prayer in sequence when they step ahead. For example, the first child in line would recite the first word of the quote, the second child would recite the second word, and so on; when the last child has read a word, the first child reads the next word, and so on.
- The children continue in this fashion, repeating the quote if necessary, until they cross the finish line.
This game works best if the children are able to read well; younger children might have greater difficulty. If this is the case in your class, however, you could always ask the older children to help the younger ones when their turn comes. We also found that the game works better with fewer children, as the “line” advances more quickly this way.
One really nice thing we’ve done with our children’s classes is to get the children to make their own prayer books, with copies of the prayers they’ve learned during the year in them. They can also add some of their own artistic creations to every other page—drawings, paintings, collages, colouring sheets or otherwise. Apart from giving them a way to read and memorize prayers on their own, This gives them a project to work on during the year that they can take home as a keepsake—a reminder of their progress in the class.
One issue to address with a prayer book project is that the children will have to have their book on hand for every class, even if they bring it home during the week to study the prayers on their own. Children may often forget their books at home if they’re not reminded, so devising a system to help them remember is crucial. Calling their parents with a reminder the day before the class will help; if you’ve arranged to pick up the children yourself before class, you can remind them yourself at that time. If too many children are forgetting their books too often, it may become necessary to keep them yourself and give them out when the children arrive. This is less than ideal, since it means the books won’t be available for the children to study outside of class—but every teacher will have to figure out a system that works in his or her situation.