Activity time: 5 minutes
Materials for Activity
- A large basket
- Objects to place in the basket that are related to the story, "A Messiah Is Among You," such as a yarmulke (Jewish head covering) or a piece of paper with the word "Messiah" on it
- A chime, a rain stick, or another calming sound instrument
- Optional: Box or small table and a cloth cover
- Optional: A globe or a world map
Preparation for Activity
- Place the story-related items, the altar cloth if you have one, and the chime, rain stick or other sound instrument in the story basket Place the filled basket in the storytelling area you have designated for Moral Tales.
- If you will make an altar as a focal point for story objects, set up the box or table you will use next to your storytelling area. Do not put the cloth on it yet. It is not necessary to ritualize the altar as a sacred place. It can simply serve as a focal point where objects related to the story will be visible while you tell the story.
- Optional: If you have a basket of fidget objects for children who will listen and learn more effectively with something in their hands, make the basket available during this activity. Remind children where it is before you begin the "centering" part of this activity. See Leader Resources for a full description of fidget baskets and guidance for using them.
Description of Activity
Gather the children in a circle in your storytelling area. Show them the story basket. Say something like, "Let's see what's in our story basket today."
If you are using an altar as a focal point, take the cloth cover from the storytelling basket and drape it over the box or small table. If the cloth cover has a special story, such as who made it, where it comes from, or the meaning of any symbols on it, briefly share the story with the children. Tell the group that the items in the story basket will be placed on this altar or table after the children have passed them around the circle.
Take the story-related items from the basket, one at a time, and pass them around. Briefly name the various objects. Explain that yarmulkes are worn by some Jewish men to cover their heads. Some wear them all the time, others just when they go to synagogue or when they pray. Some Jewish women wear them, too.
Children may ask further questions about some of the items, or start to tell stories about similar things they have seen. Tell them they can talk more about the items after the story. Make sure you invite them to do so once you have finished the story.
Tell the group that the story they will hear is about a class of third graders, their school teacher who is Jewish, and the school teacher's Jewish rabbi. Ask if anyone knows what a rabbi is. Tell them:
A rabbi is a religious leader at a Jewish temple or synagogue, much like a minister in our congregation.
Now ask whether anyone has heard of a "messiah." Explain:
In some religions people believe that God will send a special person to save the Earth and the people on it from our troubles. This person is called a messiah.
As items come back to you, place them on the altar. Objects that are fragile, or which should not be passed around for any reason, can be held up for all to see and then placed directly on the altar. Display the items for children to look at as they listen to the story.
Now remove the chime, rain stick or other instrument from the story basket. Tell the children that every time you tell a story in Moral Tales, you will first use the instrument to help them get their ears, their minds, and their bodies ready to listen.
Invite them to sit comfortably and close their eyes (if they are comfortable doing so). You may tell them that closing their eyes can help them focus just on listening.
In a calm voice, say, in your own words:
As you breathe in, feel your body opening up with air. As you breathe out, feel yourself relaxing.
Repeat this once or twice and then say:
Now you are ready to listen. When I hit the chime (turn the rain stick over), listen as carefully as you can. See how long you can hear its sound. When you can no longer hear it, open your eyes and you will know it is time for the story to begin.
Sound the chime or other instrument. When the sound has gone, begin telling the story.
Including All Participants
If anyone in the group is unable to hold or pass items, or cannot see the items, make sure you or a child in the group offers the person a chance to see and touch each object, as needed.
Some people do not feel safe closing their eyes when they are in a group. If any children resist, respect their resistance and suggest that they find a single point of focus to look at instead.
If you have a basket of fidget objects for children who will listen and learn more effectively with something in their hands, make the fidget object basket available during this activity. For a full description of fidget objects and guidance on using them, see Leader Resources.