Thursday, June 23, 2011

Learning Vocabulary from the Bible

Dear friends,

I've tried to cultivate a habit of reading a chapter of the Bible to my children each morning.  When our school year ended, I got pretty lax with this, but this week, we picked back up in the book of Acts.  I was struck as we read through it how many vocabulary words we could learn, so whenever I came to a word that I thought some of my children wouldn't know very well, I stopped and discussed it with them.  I feel that this really brings out the meaning of the passage and helps them think about it more fully.  Since we aren't doing much formal schooling during the summer, this gives me at least a little time to engage their brains in deeper thinking, too.

I use the New International Version (NIV) 1984 translation for daily reading with my children.  You can find this and other versions on or download it onto a mobile device such as an iPod Touch or iPhone using the YouVersion app.  You can also probably find a Bible dictionary if you need help with some of the words.  I could have used the app on my iPod Touch, but I wasn't thinking about that then.

I usually read and discuss the Bible with my five youngest children, ages 5 to 14.  Middle school students probably get the maximum benefit from a vocabulary activity like this, but I would introduce it little by little around third or fourth grade.  

Look with me at just the first half of Acts 19.  The bold underlined words are the ones that I covered in our impromptu vocabulary lesson.  I could have done a lot more, but I didn't want to drag it on too long since my kids (ages 5-14) do not have infinite attention spans and we were reading the entire chapter.  If a word had an alternate meaning, we talked about that, too.  For example, interior generally means inside.  In this context,  it means inland or away from the coast.  But we also have interior decorators who design the insides of houses.  We mentioned a few antonyms (opposites) as well.  The opposite of interior is exterior.  

We asked questions, such as "Why did the people who were renouncing sorcery burn their scrolls publicly instead of selling them or burning them privately?"  (Answer: They didn't want other people to stumble in spiritual darkness by using the scrolls, and they wanted to testify boldly to the community that they were now following Jesus rather than sorcery.)

We also tried to apply the concepts to modern day life as well.  When we talked about people who weren't Christians invoking the name of Jesus to cast out demons, I commented that a lot of people talk about Jesus to get people to believe them, but they are using his name for their own purposes, rather than to accurately represent or glorify him.  So we need discernment to know what is really right and true.  We get that by studying the Bible for ourselves.

Here is the passage:

Acts 19:1-21

1 While Apollos was at Corinth, Paul took the road through the interior and arrived at Ephesus. There he found some disciples 2 and asked them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?”
   They answered, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.”
 3 So Paul asked, “Then what baptism did you receive?”
   “John’s baptism,” they replied.

 4 Paul said, “John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance. He told the people to believe in the one coming after him, that is, in Jesus.” 5 On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 6 When Paul placed his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied. 7 There were about twelve men in all.

 8 Paul entered the synagogue and spoke boldly there for three months, arguing persuasively about the kingdom of God. 9 But some of them became obstinate; they refused to believe and publicly maligned the Way. So Paul left them. He took the disciples with him and had discussions daily in the lecture hall of Tyrannus. 10 This went on for two years, so that all the Jews and Greeks who lived in the province of Asia heard the word of the Lord.
 11 God did extraordinary miracles through Paul, 12 so that even handkerchiefs and aprons that had touched him were taken to the sick, and their illnesses were cured and the evil spirits left them.

 13 Some Jews who went around driving out evil spirits tried to invoke the name of the Lord Jesus over those who were demon-possessed. They would say, “In the name of the Jesus whom Paul preaches, I command you to come out.” 14 Seven sons of Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, were doing this. 15 One day the evil spirit answered them, “Jesus I know, and Paul I know about, but who are you?” 16 Then the man who had the evil spirit jumped on them and overpowered them all. He gave them such a beating that they ran out of the house naked and bleeding.

 17 When this became known to the Jews and Greeks living in Ephesus, they were all seized with fear, and the name of the Lord Jesus was held in high honor. 18 Many of those who believed now came and openly confessed what they had done. 19 A number who had practiced sorcery brought their scrolls together and burned them publicly. When they calculated the value of the scrolls, the total came to fifty thousand drachmas20 In this way the word of the Lord spread widely and grew in power.
 21 After all this had happened, Paul decided to go to Jerusalem, passing through Macedonia and Achaia. “After I have been there,” he said, “I must visit Rome also.” 22 He sent two of his helpers, Timothy and Erastus, to Macedonia, while he stayed in the province of Asia a little longer.
Give it a try!  And please send me your ideas on teaching Bible to children of any age!

To see blog posts on teaching Bible to elementary age children, click here: Bible articles on StartWellHomeSchool.  My posts on teaching Bible in the middle school grades (especially through literature) are here: Bible articles on ContinueWellHomeSchool.

Virginia Knowles

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