We love to listen to Go Fish!

Thanks to a recommendation from my Sis over the holidays, our family is now LOVING songs from the album “Snazzy” by Go Fish! I bought this on iTunes a few weeks ago.

GoFish Guys - Snazzy | Kids Music, Sunday School Songs, Children's Bible Songs, Christian Children's CD

My current favorites are “Superhero,” “Snazzy” and “Bible Book Bop.” Their rendition of “The Itsy Bitsy Spider” is very catchy as well. My 5th grade Sunday School class started making a video for “Bible Book Bop” today, which I hope we’ll finish with some green screen videography next week.

The Go Fish Guys ROCK!

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Fruits of the Spirit

Update 26 Dec 2014: The podcast links for BLASTcast in 2009 are unfortunately broken due to a server change. 🙁

Cross-posted to the BLASTcast blog and podcast.

We continued our discussions [in our 5th grade Sunday school class] about why God created us and how we are called to live by:

  1. reading and discussing Galatians 5:22-23 today in class
  2. listening to the song “Fruit of the Spirit” by Uncle Charlie (watching the lyrics too on DVD)
  3. recording a five minute podcast about our thoughts on these fruits of the spirit.

As we continue to go to school, work, and home in this Christmas season, we want to remember that Jesus is the “reason for the season” and we should focus on the gifts he gives us, when we invite God’s Holy Spirit to enter into our lives and direct our actions.

We brainstormed some of the “Non-Christian Messages of Christmas” in class today. This is what we came up with:
1. Just give gifts
2. Santa Claus
3. Christmas Lights
4. Buy me / purchase stuff
5. Christmas Tree

We also discussed some of the “Christmas Messages / Symbols” of the season, including:
1. Christmas Star (Jesus)
2. Candy Cane

Next week we will talk more about candy canes, again in the context of “Why I am I here?” and “How am I supposed to live my life?”

We reviewed that the candles of the advent wreath represent:

  1. Hope
  2. Peace
  3. Love
  4. Joy

In reading, discussing, and listening to Galatians 5:22-23 (both in the NIV version and “The Message“) we discussed these fruits of the spirit and what they mean to us in greater depth. According to the Apostle Paul, writing to the Galatians, the “fruits of the spirit” are:

  1. Love
  2. Joy
  3. Peace
  4. Patience
  5. Kindness
  6. Faithfulness
  7. Gentleness
  8. Self-control

Just as we recognize a tree by its fruits, other should recognize we are Christians by seeing these “fruits of the spirit” in the way we act toward others every day. In addition to remembering and focusing on the meaning of the four candles of Advent, we also want to focus our minds and our efforts on demonstrating the fruits of the spirit this Christmas season.

We sent a parent letter home today, which you can also download in PDF format. (This online version does NOT include the password to join our new online learning community, however, the link to our iSHARE project spreadsheet or home/cell phone numbers. Alternate online contact information/methods for Wes are available.)

Please listen to our podcast this week and discuss these ideas with your family at home this week!

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Why did God create me? (Lesson intro and class podcast)

Cross-posted to the BLASTcast blog.

This morning in our 5th grade Sunday school class we started a new unit with the theme, “Why did God Create Me?” We read and discussed the following verses:

Ephesians 2:10
Psalm 139: 1-12
Romans 5:8-11

We recorded a five minute podcast in class (unfortunately no longer available online due to server changes), sharing these verses and some of our own ideas about what they mean in the context of God’s purposes for our lives. It is important to think about these ideas as we celebrate Thanksgiving here in the United States this week, and as we move into the month of December to celebrate Christmas.

We started off our lesson today talking about the following advertisement I saw at Pier 1 this weekend, and what the advertisers might be saying “our purpose” is in the world.

Sleigh Bells Ring, Are You Gifting?

God HAS made us to share our gifts with each other, but he has made us for so much more than to just buy things! He has made us to love him, to worship, and to be his hands and feet on earth. We are called to do his good works each day of our lives.

In December, we’ll be discussing questions like:

How Come I’m Not Perfect?
Why Didn’t God Make Us Like Robots?
What Does God Want from Me?

Next week (Sunday, November 29th) we will meet in Creation Station to make advent wreaths along with other elementary students. In December we’ll be back in our “normal” classroom for Sunday school.

If you have comments and feedback for our 5th graders on their podcast or on any of the ideas we’ve shared here, please leave a comment here on this post! Thanks for visiting our blog and listening to our podcast. We’d love to hear from you, and will share comments / feedback we receive here during class.

Here are some additional photos from our brainstorming, discussions, and prayer time today.

Key verses for today

Prayer concerns today

Elgg learning community for 5th grade Sunday School created

I’m going to be teaching 5th grade Sunday School this year at our church for a third year, and this time around I think we’re going to try using a walled-garden learning community website powered by the open source platform Elgg. Last year we tried using Moodle, but that didn’t work really well. Parents had lots of trouble logging in, and I wasn’t pleased that students didn’t have their own “profile pages” like they do on other social networking sites and couldn’t “friend” each other. The first year I taught the class we were going to use Imbee, but didn’t, and ended up trying to use the Grapple-provided website which was really just an online bulletin board powered (I think) by phpBB. It wasn’t a learning community or a social network, and it wasn’t engaging for the kids– it was basically a flop. I’m hoping to change that this year. Last year when Moodle didn’t work I switched to just using a blog to share updates with parents as well as media we created, but I don’t think that was really very successful either, in terms of reaching many parents. I should have surveyed them at the end of the year, but I didn’t.

One of my main goals in setting up our Elgg learning community is to keep parents in the loop, and encourage both students and parents to discuss what we talk about / learn about in class each week when they go home. I was enthused to find an Elgg plug-in tonight that supports prayer requests and praises (Kneemail) and am activating that on our site now.

I’m looking forward to hopefully learning more about Elgg in the weeks and months ahead. Our church is rolling out a new website in about a week that is supposed to have more social networking / learning community support built into it, and I’m supposed to learn more about that from our outgoing webmaster / communications director at the end of the month. There’s a chance we could use that new church website for our 5th graders, but I’m thinking I’ll go with Elgg since I’ve heard great things about this platform for youth learning communities (mainly from Jim Klein) and am looking forward to the opportunity to learn more about Elgg through this use of it for 5th grade Sunday School! I’ll post more about my learning here during the year. I’ve joined the “Elgg’s “Walled Gardeners” group” and I’m sure I’ll find lots of ideas and support there for this effort!

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The Power of We

By Shelly and Wesley Fryer
28 December 2008

This past Christmas our family was blessed by “the power of we.” No, we are not talking about a Nintendo “Wii” console game system. Rather, we are speaking of the power which grandparents and grandchildren, living life as connected, extended family members, have to love, to share, and to grow together.

Some of the writers of Psalms and Proverbs addressed the importance and role of grandparents in our families. Psalm 71:9 states, “Do not cast me away when I am old; do not forsake me when my strength is gone.” Proverbs 16:31 reads, “Gray hair is a crown of splendor; it is attained by a righteous life.” Living as we do in the early twenty-first century, many of us are separated by space and time from our grandparents, or as grandparents ourselves we are separated from our grandchildren. While grandparents and grandchildren may not be able to be physically connected like extended families living under the same roof were in decades past, there are different ways grandparents can remain connected to grandchildren for mutual benefit.

Time is a finite commodity which we have to use and give each day, but which we can never get back. We can spend time, we can waste time, and we can invest our time. Time grandparents spend investing in the lives of their grandchildren is never wasted.

Time is often perceived differently for the very young and the very old. For grandparents, time may be passing by very quickly. For children (especially when waiting for Christmas to arrive) time can pass very slowly. The “power of we” for grandparents and grandchildren begins with TIME. Because of different perceptions of time, grandparents and grandchildren seem to have greater powers. These include:

1. The power to listen.
2. The power to love.
3. The power to experience joy together playing simple games.

Reading together and cuddling together, grandparents and grandchildren can exemplify the love, the peace, the joy, and the hope represented by the candles of the Advent wreath. Saying those three simple words, “I love you,” grandchildren and grandparents edify and build up each other in powerful ways which are likely to leave indelible marks upon the heart.

Grandparents are people of extraordinary importance in our lives. Yet unfortunately, many of us may underestimate how valuable they (or we) are to the present generation and to the generations to come. Where does a child’s perception of a “father’s love” or a “mother’s love” come from? Here in Oklahoma, we have more grandparents raising grandchildren than any other state in the U.S. In many cases, it is the grandparents who are the caregivers, responsible for the health, welfare, and ethical development of their children’s children.

If grandparents and grandchildren are geographically separated in your family, or you are a grandparent living apart from your grandchildren, new technologies can provide opportunities for interaction and sharing. The free software program Skype (www.skype.com) permits anyone to videoconference using a computer, a webcam, a microphone, and a high-speed Internet connection. These “video phone calls” are free to make if you already have the previously mentioned equipment: No “per minute” charges are assessed. In addition to video phone calls, the website “Grandparent Games” (www.grandparentgames.com) offers grandparents and young grandchildren a website to interact, play, and talk together online. The website Grandparents.com (www.grandparents.com) offers more helpful suggestions and resources for grandparents to use to better connect with children and grandchildren.

We live in fast-paced times, when family dinners together may be few and far between. Time seems to be in short supply, yet the truth is we all have twenty-four hours each day. How are we investing those heartbeats together? Over the past Christmas holidays, we watched our own grandparents invest their time with grandchildren in different ways, and the “payoff” for each was very positive. As we consider our resolutions for the new year, let’s resolve to learn from these examples of grandparents and grandchildren.

May our homes and families reflect the words of the prophet Zechariah (8:4-5) who wrote, “This is what the LORD Almighty says: ‘Once again men and women of ripe old age will sit in the streets of Jerusalem, each with cane in hand because of his age. The city streets will be filled with boys and girls playing there.’”


PreSchool Christmas Program from 2007

Last December, I helped my wife record and produce this preschool Christmas program for our church in Edmond, Oklahoma. The video was shown at a family church gathering prior to Christmas, but not at any of the actual services in the sanctuary prior to Christmas or on Christmas Eve. The video is 6 minutes and 58 seconds long.

Since these were preschool students, it would have been impossible for them to perform this program “live” in front of an audience. By recording these segments in pieces, however, we were able to create a complete Christmas program which featured these young stars.

I have also uploaded this video to GodTube. (It is still awaiting admin approval.)

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Christmas caroling around our church neighborhood

This evening for the 3rd year, the Childrens’ Ministries department at our church hosted an evening advent night for families of caroling, eating and fellowship. This is a short (49 second) video of our group caroling at one of the houses just across the street from our church.

This year we met at 4 pm and ventured out to start caroling BEFORE we ate chili and enjoyed hot chocolate! This worked a lot better for several reasons. First of all, it was not dark so we could actually read the words in our caroling songbooks! Second of all, it was great to come back after getting cold walking around the neighborhood and enjoy some hot food and drinks!

We had a good turnout for this event and it was a lot of fun for those who came, especially all the kids. I really enjoy holiday caroling and it is wonderful to share this tradition with our church family. I also think it is important to share the spirit and joy of Christmas in this way with the families as well as students who are living in our church neighborhood. Several of the people we sang to really seemed to enjoy and appreciate this outreach experience. I certainly enjoyed it, and know our kids did too!

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Lesson plan on my iPhone

Our fifth grade Sunday school class has been using the Grapple curriculum from Group Publishing this year. I have been pretty pleased with the curriculum topics and activities. Generally when I have taught a lesson (we have several co-teachers so we rotate the lesson leadership periodically) I’ve brought in a projector and speakers so I could show videos, use Google Earth, and sometimes share a slideshow. This morning it would have been nice to have the projector and computer to use, but I didn’t want to take the time required to get everything setup. I did, however, need a copy of my lesson plan to bring with me and use, which is in PDF format, but I didn’t want to print out a hard copy or bring my laptop to church.

To bring my lesson plan with me, I turned to readdle, a website developed for the iPhone offering free and commercial hosted services for mobile document access on the iPhone. In less than ten minutes, I setup a free account on readdle, downloaded my lesson plan PDF file from the Grapple website, uploaded the lesson plan to my readdle site, and was able to login and pull up my lesson plan on my iPhone. I was thrilled! No need to print out the lesson plan… I was able to refer to it prior to and during my lesson without any problem. Our classroom is on the ground floor of our church and for some reason the cellular network coverage there is very poor. WiFi is not available, but this was not a problem, since I loaded up the document using readdle in the iPhone’s Safari web browser earlier. Because I didn’t close Safari, the document remained open and accessible even though I did not have access to an EDGE network connection or WiFi connection in my classroom. My free account on readdle permits me to upload up to 50 MB of documents, which is very generous, and if documents are not needed I can delete them to free up more webspace. The website let me create an organizational folder for my Sunday School documents. I’m looking forward to using this website to “bring other documents” with me to other meetings in other contexts of my life.

Thematically I have been very pleased with Grapple this year, but I have found the online interactive potential of the website to be very wanting. The interactive elements are basically limited to a text-based bulletin board (I think they use phpBB) and our students have not been able to really practice much Internet safety in creating a website with a profile, like social networking sites permit. My thought for next year (I am going to co-teach 5th grade again) is to setup a Moodle course that we can use for discussions and interactions in between our classes, and invite students to setup accounts on Imbee.com to have fun, learn about safe social networking, and extend our conversations beyond class times. I’ve wanted to utilize Imbee with students for several years now but have not had an opportunity– I think next year we’ll use it and learn together about how Imbee can help learners of all ages practice via experiences safe online social networking.

5th Graders speak: “Who Is Jesus?”

5th grade students in the Sunday school class I’m co-teaching this semester contributed to this four minute audio podcast on the theme, “Who Is Jesus?” Some of these recordings were made during our Sunday school class last week using Audacity and an external microphone, but most were made by students and teachers from home using their phones and the free Gabcast service.

Lots of online discussions!

Our 5th grade Sunday School class is using Group Publishing’s “Grapple” curriculum this fall, which includes an online “walled-garden” social networking environment for students. This is a screenshot of student and teacher postings in the discussion board to date. (We just finished our sixth week.)

Lots of Grapple Discussions!

If I’m doing my math correctly, we’ve had 34 total posts and replies in the first 3 church-related categories, and 121 posts and replies in the “Let’s Talk” category which is open for students to appropriately discuss whatever they want. We’ve had lots of polls about school, favorite singers, TV shows, and other topics. These formative results show the importance of providing an open forum for students in a distance learning or distributed learning context.

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