Godly Play is a Montessori-based curriculum developed by Episcopal priest, Jerome Berryman, who is a graduate of the Center for Advanced Montessori Studies in Bergamo, Italy. According to Berryman, Godly Play’s goal is to “use the language of Christian tradition to encounter God and find direction in their lives.” By using the Godly Play method of teaching, the storyteller shows the children the art of how to use religious language to make meaning, and perhaps even encounter the mystery of God’s presence as a depth dimension in that meaning. Let me try to unpack these statements.
The basis of Godly Play is story telling. Children are asked to enter the classroom ready to not just listen to a sacred story from the Bible but also to experience the story. You may hear the door person ask your child if they are “ready” to enter the classroom. Once the storyteller begins telling the story, the students are invited to “enter” the story. The story materials (Noah’s Ark, the animals, a desert box full of sand) can be “played” with but they are more than just toys. It is a tactile way of learning. Children listen to the story as the materials are presented.
After hearing the story, the students are given the opportunity to interpret the story together. They are encouraged to ask questions and wonder about the story, the people it is about, and the place(s) where the story takes place. What do you think it was like for Noah and his family to encounter and take care of so many different animals as they all lived on a boat? How do you think the Israelites felt about wandering around the desert for so long? How do you think it felt to return to the Promised Land?
After hearing the story and wondering aloud, the children are directed to respond by working with the story (touching the materials, retelling the story to one another) or work on an art project of their choosing. After work time is over, the children are invited back to the story circle for prayer, reflection, and a feast (snack is referred to as the feast.)
After the feast, it is time to clean up and prepare to leave. Some teachers prefer to dismiss each student one at a time. There is a rhyme and reason to this. Entering and exiting the Godly Play room is an important component of the method.
Attending a Godly Play class is a perfect way for a child to get ready for their busy school week. Personally, after hearing or telling a Godly Play story, I am ready!