Games are a very effective teaching tool when working with children, studies have shown, and using games to teach Biblical concepts can be useful as a support tool to reinforce learning. The book of Psalms is comprised of 150 chapters written in the style of poems, prayers or songs. Because the book of Psalms is so vast, teaching concepts, ideas and words from it should be done in smaller doses, so that children do not get overwhelmed by the large amount of information.
Using songs to help kids learn Psalms will aid them in remembering the words of the Psalms by using rhythm and tunes. Songs can be turned into games by using actions--hand actions or even full body physical actions. Simple sign language motions can also be incorporated. For example, Psalm 18:1 says "I will love You, O Lord, with all of my heart; You're my strength, my shield, my safety." Children can learn this by not only singing the words, but also by performing the gestures for "love" and "Lord", "heart" and strength" and the rest of the major nouns or verbs in the song.
Because visual cues are helpful in teaching children, they can be incorporated into a game that will prompt children to associate concepts or lyrics they have learned from the Psalms with the visual imagery that many of the Psalms contain. For example, Psalm 1 says, "That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither, whatever they do prospers." The teacher can draw or cut out pictures of trees, fruit, water and people, among other things, that children can put into order to visualize how the psalm plays out.
Acting or Role Playing
Through acting or role playing, kids can get physical and use their bodies to help bring a psalm to life. Some of the chapters and verses in the book of Psalms have lyrics that are active and portray actions that children can easily imitate. After going over the lyrics and meaning of the psalm being taught, the teacher can then have the kids use their bodies to show the actions. For example, Psalm 100: 1-2 says, "Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth. Worship the Lord with gladness; come before him with joyful songs." Children can have fun demonstrating shouting and interpreting "all the earth." The teacher can divide kids up into teams and watch each team bring its own interpretation.
Once children have learned the lyrics to a psalm, the teacher can take each word of an entire psalm, depending on its length, difficulty and the age of the children, or each word from a verse of a psalm and write them on small cards. Then place the cards in a pile. The teacher should have as many piles of words for a psalm as there are teams of children. The team that is able to put the words of the psalm in the proper order the fastest wins.
Alicia Purdy is a freelance writer and editor living in Utah. She has a master's degree in journalism and a bachelor's degree in broadcast communications.