Christian Deeper Learning: One Teacher at A Time

This post is for the teachers who embrace the incredible inspiration that Christian Deeper Learning provides but find themselves in a position where their school is simply unable to adopt one of the schoolwide CDL frameworks. How do they nurture the passion impressed upon their hearts and plant the seeds of CDL in a practical way within their individual classrooms? Oh, let me count the ways! Or at least let me begin by introducing one way that I cultivate them in mine.

As an instructor of English for over 15 years spanning grades 4-9 at various schools, the driving goals for my students have continuously evolved, but it was the definition of Christian Deeper Learning that transformed those goals into what Teaching for Transformation refers to as my Deep Hope: that my students would truly come to see themselves and others as people of God’s story, who are fearfully and wonderfully made for His purposes and called to engage in real work that directly impacts themselves and the world. Unpacking this deep hope through guiding questions and brief mini-lessons throughout the year has fostered a uniquely Christian lens through which my students and I see ourselves and the work we do in the classroom.

Some of those guiding questions include: What is God’s story and how do we fit into it? Who are His people and what does it mean that we are all made in God’s image? What does “real work” look like? What does it mean to be fearfully and wonderfully made for His purposes rather than our own? And what impact as Christians do we really want to have on our families, classmates/colleagues, and the community at large? Below is an exploration of the instructional practices and resources I use to answer the first guiding question above: What is God’s Story and how do we fit into it? I hope in future posts, I may expand upon the remaining guiding questions and share more bite-sized actions teachers can harness in their own classrooms.

What is God’s story and how do we fit into it? Very simply, I first engage my students by asking them to answer the guiding question as a quick write or entry slip. Next, their thoughts are shared either within groups or as a whole class, depending on the allotted time. Answers usually reveal their depth of thinking on the subject, but also any pat answers they may gravitate toward because they believe “that’s what the teacher wants to hear.” Then, over two to three mini-lessons I illustrate plot elements on a “roller coaster” graphic organizer using God’s unfolding narrative as our example. I also use brief videos from Timothy Mackie and Jonathan Collins’ BibleProject to reinforce their understanding. Finally, the visual of the graphic organizer is enlarged and prominently displayed in my room, so we can keep His narrative as a constant frame of reference throughout the year. 

This roller coaster includes the exposition as Creation; the catalyst and rising action are the Fall/Rebellion; the climax is Jesus and his Resurrection; and the resolution is Christ’s return or Restoration/Consummation. One may notice that I did not mention the falling action. According to Litcharts.com, falling action “…begins with the climax… ‘winds down’ the tension…sometimes introduces a new conflict…and ends with a resolution.” Thus, the falling action is exactly what I use to help my students visualize where we fit into His story. When justified through accepting Christ, we can rest in knowing that he is our Savior, and the new conflicts that are introduced become the basis for the real work he calls us to do while we await his return. 

Key videos from BibleProject provide scaffolding since each of my students arrive to class with varied levels of Bible knowledge and are moving at different paces in their walk with the Lord. If not familiar with BibleProject, their mission is to “help people experience the Bible as one unified story that leads to Jesus,” and they adeptly fulfill this mission through intricate storytelling and animated sketch notes of all the books of the Bible. An incredibly helpful, free resource, it plays a major role in helping convey the heart of CDL in my classroom. To deepen insights regarding the first guiding question, I refer to their video series called How to Read The BibleIt is broken up into four sections, which are then broken up into different episodes. I use the ‘Intro to the Bible’ section, episodes 1 and 2 for a brief overview and the ‘How to Read Narrative’ section, episode 1 on plot to complement our plot elements roller coaster. I then wrap up the mini-lessons by asking students to answer the guiding question again, so they may reflect and self-assess growth in their understanding of God’s story. I can attest to the ease with which these lessons can be taught as well as the imminent rewards as students begin to connect more with God’s greater narrative. 

My personal journey with Christian Deeper Learning has ignited a fierce passion for seeking Him and Him alone in my daily work as an educator; the use of intentional guiding questions has refocused the lens in my classroom, so my students can also seek Him in their daily work. Foundational questions like “What is God’s story and how do we fit into it?” challenges them to filter all stories–their own included–through the lens of God’s greater narrative. Oh, what a simple yet powerful way to help them begin to truly discern and act upon His Truths!

References:

“Falling Action,” LitCharts, October 20, 2021,

https://www.litcharts.com/literary-devices-and-terms/falling-action.

“How to Read the Bible,” The Bible Project, October 20, 2021,

https://bibleproject.com/explore/how-to-read-the-bible/.

“Our Deep Hope: Guiding Us on Our Learning Journey,” Teaching for Transformation,

October 20, 2021,

https://www.teachingfortransformation.org/our-approach/deep-hope.