Monday, January 3, 2011

Bible Curriculum: Positive Action For Christ, a TOS Crew Review

Positive Action For Christ produces Bible curricula for churches, Christian schools, and homeschoolers from a fundamentalist perspective.

I'm still learning how to teach my girl, still learning how she learns, still trying on curricula, products, and resources that are a comfortable fit for us. I look for resources that are easy to adapt to our needs, learning style, attention challenges, developmental delays, etc. This curriculum is something we can use; we are able to adapt and shorten sessions (and take more days than suggested) to complete lessons, take longer to cover material if/when we need to.

Positive Action For Christ sent us an extremely well-packaged teacher binder and student workbook for first grade written by Cherie Noel, Enjoying God's Gifts.

I like this curriculum. I like the intent behind the curriculum. And I like the developmental scaffolding used over time with the curriculum. I'll quote from the materials, "...Students will begin during the second semester of first grade to find easily located Scriptures to answer questions. Second and third grade students will focus on a specific book of the Bible and follow the story line through the book to find scriptural truth. Fourth through sixth grade students will be able to use the entire Bible as their source with passages from various book s used in each lesson." (Preface, page 4, of the teacher binder)

Author Noel spends several pages in the preface explaining teaching strategies that spotlight growing the thinking skills of a child. I'm working with a child with developmental delays who is a very concrete, literal thinker. We have a consultant who guides us in a developmental approach to growing thinking skills. Making the connections that Noel describes is much more challenging for a child with developmental delays. I have to keep that in perspective as we work through the material. Some children w/ special needs may be academically at grade-level, and still have delays in thinking skills; if you're the parent of a learner with special needs, be sure to keep that in mind as you choose a level for your child. You may need to take a step back to get the developmental understanding level.

Positive Action for Christ provides 35 lessons with weekly lesson plan outlines for five, four, and three-day weeks. (I'd like a two-week plan for a child who needs longer to process and learn.) There's a memory verse component; a study skills/thinking component; a character trait component; a life application/thinking component; and vocab. Check out the sample here.

The teacher guide gives me enough direction to get through the lesson and enough leeway to customize for my special-needs learner. I like the way the story is told for me so that I can tell it in my own words, simplifyng where I need to for my learner. The teacher binder gives me ideas to use with a felt board or bulletin board if I choose. We can sketch parts on our big white board, too.

I am trying to be creative with the vocab words and memory verses. I can prep by putting vocab words and definitions or memory work into a copywork generator and have worksheets ready to go. Or I can create a "quiz" where we can match definitions to vocab words. Or I can make a fill-in-the-blank worksheet.

Especially for the special needs learner: I can skip concepts that I think are outside our developmental zone. I am becoming more skilled at picking "good enough" parts and letting go of the rest (thank you, Relationship Development Intervention), and at this point, I think we can go through the curriculum twice, with hopefully enough growth happening that the second time through, we can get the pieces we weren't ready for the first time through.

The character trait component is a challenge for our situation. Sounds crazy, doesn't it?! When a child has poor impulse control, they are sometimes labeled "bad" and a "behavior problem" and are told to be "good". They can develop a kind of pass/fail mentality where if they mess up, they think they are all bad, all failure. Positive Action for Christ begins with "creativity" and "orderliness"; moves to "orderliness" and "thankfulness"; then "thankfulness". Week four is "love"; Week five, "work". Those are easier concepts for us, and I really appreciate how the curriculum begins with those. I feel challenged with "obedience" (that pass/fail, good/bad thing); worship (she can't see anything that she's singing about, praying to); "faith". (An aside: I know this is not a curriculum for students with special needs; I would so love some help teaching, showing some of these abstract concepts to a concrete, literal learner.)

The accompanying 100-page workbook for the student is colorful and inviting. I had to stop Li'l Bit from working through it ahead of me. There are a variety of activities that go along with the lessons. She was drawn to the workbook as soon as I removed it from the packaging. That's a good thing at my house. ;) (The answers to the workbook are in the teacher's binder.) The workbook could be longer; you may want to supplement with homemade worksheets or worksheets from a worksheet generator.

We were not given the music that accompanies the lessons; I'm not sure we would have used it, anyway. Li'l Bit sometimes has sensory issues with songs and music that I can't predict or explain.

When we get to the place in the second semester where the student is supposed to look up Bible verses, I think I will begin by printing out the chapter, or an exerpt of a chapter, on a single page. Using the whole Bible is overwhelming and I think she'll experience less anxiety with one printed page. We'll see.

When I completed a survey for TOS Crew of Reviewers, I specified that I wanted curricula for younger children. My daughter is not ready the material that a lot of kids her age use. Positive Action for Christ sent me a Bible curriculum, "Enjoying God's Gifts," for first graders, which *is* mostly developmentally appropriate. But my daughter doesn't know that. My biggest complaint is the fact that they put "1st Grade" in huge letters on the front of the book. My homeschooler, who is on the autism spectrum and has academic delays, protested having to do work in a book for first graders. (I told her that this is what they sent for us to review and asked if she'd help me with it, anyway, even though she's not a first grader. She agreed.) I would prefer that companies choose some other way to differentiate developmental levels than with school-building-school grades. At some point, as my student becomes more self-conscious about where she is, academically, a product that features the grade level in huge print on the front will be a deal breaker for me.

The teacher manual is priced at $33.95; the student workbook, $12.95. (The teacher manual on CD-rom is less expensive, priced at $19.95. While I do like to hold the curriculum in my hand in binder form, there is enough repetition within lessons that make me comfortable working from a CD-rom; I will likely purchase the next level in CD-rom).

I like this product. I like the Bible study; I like how it guides me; I like the material. The framework is right for me, the mom who is adapting and modifying work for a child with unique learning needs combined with developmental delays. I find it very adaptable for our situation. I do not have experience using Enjoying God's Gifts with a typical first grader, though, and some of my Crewmates do. We reviewed a variety of grade levels, too. Please head over to the main Crew blog and read their reviews of this product.

Positive Action For Christ sent me a copy of the teacher's manual and student workbook to Enjoying God's Gifts so that we may use it and review it for you. I am not paid for this review and am not obligated to provide a positive review.


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Lori said...

Thanks so much for sharing that! I may look into getting this for my daughter who has Down Syndrome. It sounds like it would be perfect for us.

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