Free Download: Holiday Treasure Hunt

treasureboxI hope you are enjoying your Christmas holiday! We’ve been having lots of fun…especially because we’ve had a chance to spend time with extended family.

When we all get together, we often play a game or do a puzzle.  This year, one of our activities was a treasure hunt. I wanted to share it with all of you…please feel free to download it and use at a family or neighborhood gathering, or for your church or youth group. It can easily be modified to fit the needs of your group…and most importantly, this Treasure Hunt provides a hands-on holiday message about the BEST gift ever.

Click here to download: Christmas Treasure Hunt

Remember…Christmas technically lasts until January 6 (Epiphany!), so don’t be shy about  keeping the theme of this wonderful season for a few more days. And, if you are turning the page and taking down decorations, print this out and tuck it in with your ornaments, and you’ll have a ready-to-go activity for Christmas 2013!

Happy hunting!

Great Gifts: Adaptive First Eucharist Preparation Kit

Communion is such a sacred part of the Christian tradition, and one of the most difficult to grasp! For children who struggle with abstract language, mastering higher-level concepts and sequencing, this sacrament can prove difficulty. In addition, sitting still and remaining quiet are awfully difficult requirements for some children with special needs.

eucharist kit1

A young man named Brendan Rizzo has some personal knowledge of how hard this can be: his sister, Danielle, has autism. Brendan developed this kit as part of his Eagle Scout project, and Loyola Press published it. The kit contains a short picture book called I Receive Communion, a picture schedule for mass, picture cards for communication, three  puzzles to reinforce the concepts and symbols associated with communion, a card explaining “Who Is Jesus?” and a Helper’s Guide.

Here are some reasons to love this resource:

  • Fabulous visuals. Many children with and without disabilities are able to better process information visually.
  • The I Receive Communion book is written is in a straightforward manner, allowing children to know what to expect.
  • The Picture Missal, which provides a schedule for mass, will help children learn the order of worship, as well as calm any anxiety about “how much longer” they’ll need to sit; the pictures very clearly show all components of the service.
  • The communication cards will make it easy for students who need a break or a reminder to be successful during the worship time.
  • The tools help people with disabilities meet the requirements necessary in the Catholic Church to receive the sacrament of communion; this is a very important milestone for families who observe the Catholic traditions
  • At the back of the Helper’s Guide are two pages of helpful tips for supporting students with disabilities at church.
  • This kit can be modified for use in a variety of denominations!

The best reason to love this resource is the heart of the student who made it. In  The Helper’s Guide, you’ll learn this:  “Brendan noticed that during the Eucharists celebration, the priest says the words, ‘Take this, all of you, and eat of it.’ Brendan wants Danielle and other children like her to be part of that ‘all.'”

If you know a family or church program that could benefit from this tool, please visit the Loyola Press website to learn more!

Great Gifts: “Why Do We Call It Christmas” DVD

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?'”

buckdenverFrom 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!

Glad tidings~