Thursday, November 11, 2010

The Life of Joseph in Genesis

Dear friends,

A few years ago, when I taught a middle school English class for a home school co-op, we did a few literature units on the Bible.   We started with the life of Joseph in the book of Genesis for two weeks, and also did a week each on Psalms and Proverbs, and a couple of weeks on the student's choice of either Daniel or Esther.   (See links below.)


Here are some of the questions I used for the study of Joseph.  Since this was an English class, I incorporated some facets of language arts skills in with the inherent history and Bible.  I categorized them by Setting, Plot, Bible History, Symbolism, Word Skills, Vocabulary, Spelling, Punctuation, Grammar.  In other words, these are not the most comprehensive Bible study questions.  I also skipped some passages.

I used the New International Version for this study, so some of the words may need to be adjusted if you choose another version.

The painting shown here is "Joseph Reveals His Identity" by Peter Von Cornelius.

Reading Activities #1 for Genesis 37:1-11
  1. SETTING: What do we find out about Joseph’s lifestyle in this story?
  2. PLOT: Underline all of the possible sources of conflict in this paragraph.
  3. VOCABULARY: What does the word sojournings mean in verse 1?
  4. SPELLING: Notice that sheaf is a singular word for a bundle, which is grain in this story. What is the plural for this word? There can also be a sheaf of paper or other objects.
  5. SYMBOLISM: In Joseph’s dreams, we see the use of symbolism, in which something represents another thing. What do the sun, the moon, and the stars represent in his second dream? 
Reading Activities #2 for Genesis 37:12-24
  1. PUNCTUATION: In verse 17, we see a quote within a quote. Note that the words Let us go to Dothan are enclosed in single quotes instead of double quotes.
  2. GRAMMAR: List all of the proper nouns in these verses.
  3. PLOT: What did Reuben do and why?
  4. PLOT: The story of Joseph is full of ups and downs in the direction of his life. This is his first down, and it is in the realm of family life. The ups and downs will affect wider and wider spheres of influence as the story progresses. 
Reading Activities #3 for Genesis 37:25-36 
  1. VOCABULARY: What is a caravanWhat is myrrh? Where else is myrrh listed in the Bible? What is Sheol?
  2. SUFFIX: The suffix -ite means that a person is associated with a place, doctrine, leader or system. For example, an Israelite is from Israel. List two other words in this passage which end with the suffix -ite.
  3. PLOT: Notice that the brothers did not tell their father what happened to Joseph, either true or false, but they let him assume something that was false. In other words, they intentionally mislead their father by not telling the whole truth, even though they technically did not make any untrue statements. This is just as evil! 
Reading Activities #4 for Genesis 39:1-23
  1. PUNCTUATION: The word LORD is written with all capital letters at various places in the Bible. It translates a Hebrew word for God which means Lord Almighty. The capital letters show respect.
  2. PLOT: What do we find out about Potiphar’s wife and her character?
  3. PLOT: This part of the story shows an UP, a DOWN, and another UP in Joseph’s life. Tell what the UP and DOWN parts were. Who caused the UP parts? Who caused the DOWN parts? Was God still in control even during the DOWN parts of the story?
Reading Activities #5 for Genesis 40:1-23

  1. VOCABULARY: What does the word custody mean? What does interpretation mean?
  2. PLOT: Explain how the dreams of the cupbearer and the baker are specifically related to each person’s job.
  3. Like -ite, the suffixes -an and -ian can mean that a person is associated with a place. For example, a Brazilian is from Brazil. What word like this can you find in this passage?
Reading Activities #6 for Genesis 41:1-36
  1. PLOT: The timing makes a huge difference in the plot! Joseph didn’t get out of prison right away after the cupbearer made a promise to speak to Pharaoh on his behalf. How much later did Joseph get called to help Pharaoh? Why do you suppose that God allowed him to stay there that long?
  2. PLOT: Why did Pharaoh have two dreams that essentially showed the same thing? 
  3. PLOT: What was Joseph’s plan in response to Pharaoh’s dream?
  4. PUNCTUATION: Note in verse 34 that the fraction word one-fifth has a hyphen between the numbers. Write the words for ½ and ¾.
  5. VOCABULARY: What does the word reserve mean in verse 36?
Reading Activities #7 for Genesis 41:37-57
  1. PUNCTUATION: We use quote marks to show when someone says something. Copy down at least three quotes from this passage. Pay careful attention to how quotes are punctuated, especially when they are part of a larger sentence. Sometimes a quote is interrupted, such as in the following example: “For,” he said, “God has made me forget all my hardship and all my father's house.” 
  2. PLOT: What are some of the “perks” (special benefits) that went with the position Pharaoh gave to Joseph?
  3. PLOT: This passage represents another UP in Joseph’s life story. Besides his important position and his valuable work, he gained three family members. What are their names?
Reading Activities #8 for Genesis 42:1-38
  1. PLOT: The plot thickens! The very brothers who sold Joseph into slavery are now at his mercy, and they don’t even realize who he is! Why does Joseph question and accuse his brothers? What does he find out about their heart attitudes?
  2. WORD SKILLS: Find all of the proper names listed in this passage and write them in alphabetical order. Include the names of seven people and three places. 
  3. BIBLE HISTORY: Note that there are two names for Joseph’s father. Which one did he get at birth, and which one was given to him later by God?
  4. PLOT: Why doesn’t Jacob want Benjamin to go to Egypt?
Reading Activities #9 for Genesis 43:1-34 
  1. PLOT: What is Joseph’s attitude toward his brothers in this passage? 
  2. PLOT: What was so amazing about the seating arrangement in verse 33?
  3. VOCABULARY: What does the word abomination mean in verse 32?
Reading Activities #10 for Genesis 44:1-34 
  1. PUNCTUATION: In the second paragraph, there is a quote-within-a-quote. A pair of single quote marks (‘ and ’) are used to enclose it. Note that the ending single quote mark is right next to the ending double quote mark, so it looks like this: ’” Write your own quote-within-a-quote with proper punctuation.
  2. PLOT: What do we find out about Judah’s character in this passage? 
Reading Activities #11 for Genesis 45:1-28
  1. PLOT: What does Joseph say is the reason that all of this stuff has happened to him?
  2. PLOT: Who is ultimately responsible for everything that happens to us? What kind of attitude should we have toward our troubles in life because of this?
  3. PLOT: How does Jacob respond to the news that Joseph is alive?
Reading Activities #12 for Genesis 46:1-34
  1. PLOT: Copy the promise that God makes to Jacob.
  2. PUNCTUATION: In verse 26, you will notice that the word sixty-six has a hyphen in it. This is how most two digit numbers are written as words. What words for two digit numbers do not have hyphens in them? (Hint: There are 17 of them.)
Reading Activities #13 for Genesis 47:1-31
  1. VOCABULARY: What does the word languish mean in verse 13?
  2. PLOT: What happens to the people who have run out of food?
Reading Activities #14 for Genesis 49:28-26

  1. PLOT: Why did both Jacob and Joseph want to be buried in Canaan?
  2. PLOT: The key verses in this entire story are found in Genesis 50:19-20, as well as Genesis 45:5-8 on page 13 of this study guide. Write a paragraph telling what you have learned about how God’s providence guides each event of our life, whether it is pleasant or unpleasant.
  3. PLOT: Why was Joseph able to forgive his brothers for their horrible sin against him?

Twiddling Your Curriculum Choices: Small Changes Can Make a Big Impact

Dear friends,

Have you ever started out using one curriculum and then realized it wasn't working for you or your child?  What do you do next?  This has happened to me many times in the past two decades of home schooling.   Sometimes, I see what I can do to adjust the curriculum so we can keep using it, picking and choosing from it what is helpful and what is not.  Other times I switch to another resource to use at least for a while.  Much of home schooling is a matter of trial and error since each child can be so different from the others, and some curriculum just doesn't click!  Also, there are times when we buy something that we haven't used before and we don't know yet how it will perform in the daily scheme of things.

For about four years, our family was enrolled in a structured home school co-op where each teacher selected the curriculum that would be used by his or her students.  This was, of course, necessary to keep things in order so everyone could be "on the same page" and make it easier for the teacher to plan assignments.  However, I have always loved picking curriculum, so this was one trade-off I had to make.

However, this past spring, having decided we would go back to what my husband calls "true home schooling", I relished the opportunity to go resource hunting again.   There is a wonderful used bookstore near us that carries a lot of curriculum, and I noticed some middle school Earth Science books from a Christian publisher on clearance for $6 a piece.  I bought two identical ones, because the child who would be using them likes to read to me, and it's easier for me, as a visual learner, to follow along if I have my own copy right in front of me.  Well, we used this text for about 12 weeks, but it seemed like he was having a hard time motivating himself to read the chapters, and hunting down the specific answers to the questions always slowed the process down even more.  I asked him about this, and he said he really wanted to learn about a whole variety of science topics, especially physical science, chemistry, technology, etc.

I didn't want to buy anything new for him right then, so I started looking on my shelves for what we already had.  I hit the jackpot with a science encyclopedia (published by Dempsey Parr) which was written for his age level.  Each page spread covers a different topic, with plenty of visually appealing diagrams, charts, and photos.  There are also experiments in the back of the book.  I showed it to him and he was absolutely delighted.  Each day he reads four pages and then writes a paragraph about what he has read.  He prefers this kind of open-ended written narration rather than comprehension questions anyway, so this is perfect.  I love reading what he has learned each day.  Science has become a joy for him instead of drudgery!

One small change, one big impact!  I'm not saying we should be wishy-washy or give in to every sign of discontent in our children, but we do need to give it careful thought and see what we can do.

Don't be afraid to adjust curriculum as needed.  It is not a sign that you "failed" in picking something out the first time, but of sensitivity to your child in being willing to change!  It gives your child the message that you care. 

Oh, what happened to the two Earth Science books I had bought?  I brought them in to sell back to the used bookstore, and oddly enough, the on-line resale price had shot up to $60 each.  The store pays about 50% of expected sales price if you choose to take store credit, so I came out with $30 in credit for each $6 I had spent!  Sweet deal!

Blessings,
Virginia Knowles
http://www.continuewellhomeschool.blogspot.com/
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