Sunday, May 6, 2018

Get Low-to-No Prep Symbols of the Holy Spirit Lesson Ideas

Are you looking for low-to-no prep ideas for focusing on the Holy Spirit before Pentecost? 

Perhaps the lesson I did with a once-a-month co-op class I teach will inspire you.

The lesson requires few materials and can work just as well in a classroom as it can with a family!

Welcome and Introduction to the Liturgical Season

After welcoming students, I opened with a simple chat, which hit on these points:

  • What season have we been in in the Church? (Easter)
  • What season came before that? (Lent)
  • How long is Lent? (40 days)  
  • How about Easter (50 days)
  • When does the Easter season end? (on Pentecost)
  • What happened on Pentecost? (The Holy Spirit descended.)
  • Who is the Holy Spirit? (the Third Person of God)

The Pentecost Story

I, then, invited the children to gather around me while I read "The Coming of the Holy Spirit" from The Children's Bible. (If you don't have this books, you could read the Pentecost story from any other Bible here or read about it in The Holy Spirit.)

While reading, I paused to engage the children in making wind blowing sounds and hand gestures, acting out what tongues of fire might look like, etc.  Then, after reading, I asked which signs and symbols of the Holy Spirit they noticed in the story.  Of course, after our sound-effect pauses, they remembered wind and fire!

Signs and Symbols of the Holy Spirit

I, then, asked if anyone knew any other signs or symbols for the Holy Spirit and suggested that we collect at least eight ideas on paper.

To do so, I handed out paper and led the students in folding it in half length-wise, then in half and in half again the other way, so each child ended up with eight rectangles.  Then, I offered markers, colored pencils, and pencils, and, in each rectangle, directed the children to write words and images to represent eight signs and symbols of the spirit.

1. Wind

As the children wrote or drew an image of "wind" in one rectangle, I explained that the original Hebrew and Greek words for "Spirit" can be translated as"wind".  I also suggested that the wind that appeared on Pentecost was reminiscent of the wind that blew over the waters at the beginning of Creation.  Further, I pointed out that the symbol of wind can call to our attention to the Holy Spirit breathing new life into the Church.

2. Fire

Then, we drew "fire" as we talked about how the tongues of fire at Pentecost were reminiscent of the burning bush from which God spoke to Moses on Mount Sinai and also of the column of fire that the people of God were led by at night during the Exodus.

As a movement break, we got up and acted out following the column of fire.

We also talked about how fire has a transforming energy and the Holy Spirit can transform us.

3. A Dove

We talked about how the dove is one of the most common symbols of the Holy Spirit and thought of places in the Bible we have heard about doves: A dove signaled the end of the flood in Genesis and the Holy Spirit descended as a dove during Jesus' Baptism.  The dove tends to be a symbol of purity and harmlessness; when we are open to the Spirit, our love for God becomes more pure and our life is filled with less harm (or sin).

4. A Lamp or Rays of Light

We recalled the Easter Vigil and how candles lit up the darkness.  Then, we talked about how just one candle, light, or lamp can bring such a flood of light into a dark place, and, how, when one candle lights another, the darkness fades further and further away. 

We likened this to the Holy Spirit in the role of Enlightener - our source of insight, inspiration, guidance, and direction.

Related, we talked about Rays of Light and
 recalled the Annunciation and how the Holy Spirit came upon Mary.  We looked at images of the Annunciation and saw the rays of light - thinking about how the Holy Spirit sends us rays of light from Heaven.

5. A Cloud

We talked about how clouds provide life-giving water, like the Holy Spirit.  We also noted that clouds frequently in both the Old and New Testaments of the Bible - the pillar of cloud that led the Hebrews by day during the Exodus, the cloud when Moses received the Ten Commandments, the cloud when Jesus ascended into Heaven, and more.  Moreover, we chatted about how clouds, in Bibles and religious art, often appear with an image of light - symbolizing God, who is mysterious and hidden, but also luminous and revealing. 

6. Water

Of course, when water came up, we talked about how it signifies birth and life, representing the life-giving action of the Holy Spirit at Baptism.  We also recalled many times in the Bible that water is significant - Jesus' Baptism, the water that flowed from Jesus' pierced side and is depicted in the Divine Mercy image, water from the rock, and more

7. Oil

We discussed how Sacred Chrism is used at baptism, Confirmation, and Holy Orders and how the Oil of the Infirm is used for the sick or injured. We also recalled some of the places in the Bible oil is used - by priests in Hebrew Scriptures consecrated in the power of the Holy Spirit, to consecrate the meeting tent, the Ark of the Covenant, and its furnishings, to make Saul King, to make David kind, etc. We recognized that oil reminds of us the Holy Spirit uniting us with Jesus, the Messiah, the Anointed One.

8. A Hand or Finger

We talked about how Jesus blessed people and healed the sick by laying hands on them, and, in His name, the apostles did the same.  We also talked about how "It is by the finger of God that Jesus cast out demons". 

We then chatted about how God' s law was written on tablets of stone "by the finger of God" and how, later, the Spirit of the living God wrote, not on tablets of stone, but on human hearts.

The Holy Spirit is written in our hearts.  The Holy Spirit can bless and guide us. 
All of this conversation was presented with leading prompts and questions, drawing the children's ideas out and helping them to make connections.

Since we had some religious art and a picture Bible on hand, we also paged through to related images and stories when appropriate.

Come Holy Spirit, Come

Once we had captured eight signs and symbols of the Holy Spirit on our papers, I asked the children to cut their papers on the folded lines to make cards. As they did so, I asked if anyone had ever heard a prayer to or about the Holy Spirit.  Then, I read the children, Come Holy Spirit, Come:

Come, Holy Spirit, 
fill the hearts of your faithful.
And kindle in them the fire of your love.

Send forth your Spirit
and they shall be created.

And you will renew the face of the earth. 


by the light of the Holy Spirit 

you have taught the hearts of your faithful.
In the same Spirit 
help us to relish what is right 
and always rejoice in your consolation.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.

I suggested that although this prayer may be a it long for some of them to memorize and pray right away, we can all remember and pray one line from it whenever we need extra strength or guidance - Come, Holy Spirit, come.

Then, to help us remember that very brief prayer, we used two children's sets of cards to play a "Go Fish" game with the signs and symbols of the Holy Spirit, but, instead of saying, "Go Fish", we said, "Come, Holy Spirit, come," when drawing cards from the "fish" pile.

The children loved this!

Holy Spirit Kites

Finally, I asked what happens when we don't let the Holy Spirit into our lives - we get stuck!  However, when we do, when we open ourselves to the Holy Spirit, we are moved!

To help us remember to let the Holy Spirit move us, we ended out class by making "Holy Spirit Kites".

Basically, we colored and cut out patterns of doves and, then, folded and stapled them into 3-D shapes with wings out (almost like a paper airplane).  We punched a hole in the tail, tied ribbon to it, then, ran around, noticing how when we moved, the kites flew, and remembering:
We must allow ourselves to be moved by the Holy Spirit!

The children loved this activity, too!

Two More Ideas for Kinesthetic Kids!

Because my students had a lot to say when we were drawing out different signs and symbols of the Holy Spirit, then, enjoyed playing the Come Holy Spirit, Come card game and flying their kites so much, we ran out of time before I was able to present two more "on your feet" activities.  Thus, I had to "back pocket" my final two lesson ideas for use in our next class (which will be this month). 

These ideas are ideal for kinesthetic kids that prefer movement activities to drawing/crafting ones.

1. Build a Holy Spirit Teaching Prop

Using their choice of Stackadoos, Picasso Tiles, or SmartMax Build & Learn, challenge small teams of children to build a prop that can be used to teach something or tell a story related to signs and symbols of the Spirit.  (Legos, K'nex, or even recyclables and odds and ends from your craft closet could be used for this challenge, too!)

2. Let the "Holy Spirit" Lead You Through and Obstacle Course

Talk about how life is filled with challenges or obstacles. Then, ask the children to spend 1-2 minutes placing chair and tables around the room to represent obstacles.  

Then, blindfold someone and challenge them to walk across the room without bumping into any obstacles.  Is it hard to do on your own?

Suggest that we do not have to walk alone in life.  If we are open to the Holy Spirit, the Spirit will guide us!  

Have another person act as the Holy Spirit for the person with the blindfold, offering verbal commands about where to step right, left, etc.

Take turns being blindfolded and giving guidance to navigate the obstacle course, all the while reminding students of Galatians 5:25: If we live in the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit!

To quiet and center children after these activities, the following prayer would be lovely.  (It can also be used for copywork!)

St. Augustine's Prayer to the Holy Spirit
Breathe in me, O Holy Spirit, 
that my thoughts may all be holy.
Act in me, O Holy Spirit, 
that my work, too, may be holy.
Draw my heart, O Holy Spirit, 
that I love but what is holy.
Strengthen me, O Holy Spirit, 
to defend all that is holy.
Guard me, then, O Holy Spirit, 
that I always may be holy.

You may also draw inspiration from these posts:

 Celebrate Pentecost with Symbolic Eats

Flashback to 2015


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