After we enjoy the story, we can’t possibly keep it to ourselves. The Expression Time is when the children do their own work of their choosing, something generated from the interaction of the story with his or her own creativity. This activity becomes a thank you prayer to God.
This is often the scariest part of Godly Play to new teachers because they’re still thinking in terms of giving the children a “craft” to do, and the Godly Play books contain no craft ideas. Nope, it’s not a craft we give the children. We want the children to be completely invested in their work, and the only way that this happens is if they have a big part in choosing what it is that they do, so that their own creativity is tapped.
So how do teachers do that? Just turn them loose with a table full of craft materials and see what they come up with? Not exactly. That might work with a few children, but most need gentle guidance in figuring out what they want to do.
Younger children (first grade, maybe, and younger) probably will need choices of a limited number of options so they don’t feel overwhelmed, with more details spelled out.
When I’m telling the story, I give a good bit of thought to this and try to come up with a good list of 3 or 4 good jumping off ideas from which they can springboard. These might include ideas from the following categories:
- Create items from the story so that each child, in effect, makes her own Godly Play set which can be used to retell the story at home.
For instance, with the parable of the Good Shepherd, you could have boxes on hand and plenty of materials for them to make the parts of the parable. Instead of telling them how to make the individual things, you would ask them, “I wonder which of the materials you could use to make a sheep? What about the fence? The pool?” Kids are so much more excited about their work when it comes from their own ideas. Plus their ideas are often so much more creative than mine!
It is helpful to have fresh, plentiful materials (markers that aren’t dried up, etc.) and to introduce new materials from time to time.
- Make part of the story in a three dimensional way. Create a temple out of pieces of wood. Make the tower of Babel.
- Retell the story in a two dimensional way.
Children could: draw, do a watercolor, paint the story, work with a group to make a mural on butcher paper, make a cartoon book of the story, see how big they could make the tree that comes from the mustard seed, for example. Write it up as a newspaper story.
- Retell the story in drama.
If several children want to work together to do this, let them act out the story and videotape it. Or let them play characters in the story and interview each other about what just happened.
- Think about themes from the story that have to do with their own personal lives, and encourage them to choose work around a particular theme.
For instance, with the story about Jeremiah, we talked about Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” In our wondering questions we asked what kind of future God might want for us. During the Expression time, some children made individual collages using photos from a magazine about what they thought might be the answer to that question. As they worked the children had interesting discussion about the value of possessions, and what God would really want for them.Other themes might include forgiveness, being a good friend, what to do when we make a mistake, trust, love, grace, etc.
Can we keep on working?
Our most common problem is that we run out of time. We’ve designated one table in our room as the Works in Progress table, where our children can safely leave projects that they’re not finished with yet. They can continue working on them as long as they need to. They don’t have to rush.