I have a new favorite Christmas DVD.
It’s not “Elf” or “Miracle on 34th Street…” it’s “Buck Denver asks,’Why Do We Call It Christmas?'”
From the creators of “Veggie Tales,” this film reconciles popular culture with Biblical truth. Much to the surprise of viewers, most of our Christmas traditions, including stockings, Santa Claus, and Christmas trees all share something in common: Jesus! Creator Phil Vischer writes, “Almost every Christmas tradition out there–even the most secular–got its start from and ultimately points back to Jesus in some way.”
Through animation, puppets, music and a charming story line, the DVD, which is part of the “What’s in the Bible” series, helps families put this holiday into context. Rather than isolating scenes from Bethlehem and emphasizing their importance, the DVD places the the manger in a central location, demonstrating its connection to our year-round faith, as well as to the traditions that threaten to overpower it.
Here’s what I love about this DVD:
- At the beginning, Phil Vischer appears onscreen to tap children’s background knowledge and create anticipation for what they’re about to learn. This is a critically important part of any lesson, but even more important when the “teacher” is on DVD; this sets a purpose for viewing, and helps children know they are on a mission for information as they watch.
- Important vocabulary is introduced and emphasized. We adults know that mastering certain words helps us to read the Bible and grow in our faith. The creators of this DVD know it, too, and they help children by using the words in context, repeating them and also printing them in “thought bubbles” on the DVD.
- The lessons are short (5-10 minutes), making them accessible for students who struggle to pay attention.
- The story line includes historical context for some of the traditions we use in our Christmas celebrations today. The creators show the evolution of these traditions visually, which is an helpful strategy for some children who have disabilities.
- The themes of invitation, seeking, and celebration are used repeatedly…helping children to grasp the importance of seeking Christ, accepting His invitation and celebrating His time on earth.
- The original songs for this DVD are quite catchy, increasing the likelihood that kids will learn and repeat them (My favorite was “A Guy Who Loved Jesus.”)
- The Gospel message is shared at the end of the video, again, within the context of Christmas. The characters discuss the message in a matter-of-fact way, which is critically important for all children, but especially for some children with special needs.
- Several traditional carols are included in a sing-a-long format in the Bonus Features section. Kids will love singing along with the characters! In addition, this might be a wonderful tool to help some children prepare for Christmas Eve, when church services are sometimes more formal and musically-driven.
- In addition to the DVD, curriculum is available to reinforce the concepts. Amy Dolan, who leads Curriculum Development for “What’s in the Bible,” comments, “an activity after each video (segment) helps children process what they’ve seen.”
Potential Modifications for Students with Disabilities
- Many children with special needs struggle to understand idioms and figurative language. To ensure that these students grasp the dialogue in this video, teachers can pre-teach some of the phrases used (such as “(Jesus) washes me whiter than snow” and “Jesus can wash the bad right off of me.” By pre-teaching, students will be able to focus on the important messages conveyed in the video.
- Students who struggle to process language often need a “preview” of content before they hear it. It may be beneficial to summarize each section of the DVD prior to playing it for students.The subtitles provided by the creators will be helpful for those students who can read.
- Repetition is often necessary for students to learn new content. This DVD lends itself to multiple viewings, because it is both fun and full of information; students with special needs will benefit from watching the sections more than once so that they can enjoy the humor and dialogue.
- The DVD includes the Christmas story told through “popsicle puppets.” Creating similar puppets for the children to use would be an excellent tool for helping them retell the story and aid in comprehension.
- The Gospel Message at the end of the DVD contains quite a bit of dialogue (with good reason!) It would be helpful for teachers or parents to explain (or reinforce) the Gospel Message using familiar language with the students prior to viewing that section of the DVD.
And…guess what? In the spirit of Christmas, the folks at What’s in the Bible are giving a free DVD and curriculum away to the readers of this blog! Do you want this wonderful resource? If so, leave a comment below or email me here. I will announce the winner on Monday!