Updated: May 25
One of the foundational components of any program of study following classical methodology surrounds the idea of memorization. Memorization provides fodder students use to fuel conversation and depth in Bible study skills development. It equips students of the Bible with knowledge that they will use for the later portions of the program, and so this stage is called the Equip Phase in Bible Quest. Being not only useful, the Equip Phase is accessible to all ages and particularly lends itself to be some of the most fun.
There’s no single, right way to structure a memorization session, but I thought it might be helpful if I shared how I run an Equip Phase when I do Bible Quest clubs and why I do it the way I do. First, while it might make sense to start with Scripture (the answer to Bible Quest’s weekly “What?” question) or Biblical people (the answer to “Who?”), I actually choose to begin with the Big Bible Story Song. I do this because the song is a bastion of familiarity; it’s the one part of the program that everyone will eventually know and can easily join in on, even if they aren’t always able to make it to every session. Furthermore, it is a structural message to all the students saying, “Do you remember this song? It’s time for Bible Quest!” The song is a signal to students of all ages that it’s time to start, and would serve this effective function in a single-family environment just as well as it does in larger groups.
After the Big Bible Story Song, I ask the students if any of them know the verse for the week prior. Of course, the amount of time that families spend reinforcing our material makes the biggest impact on what a student retains, all students that attended the previous week will have some familiarity with the material. That’s the point: to build student confidence while accomplishing the all-important goal of reinforcement. My volunteer student comes to the front of the group and helps us all go over the material again:
giving the student the opportunity to present material to a crowd in a setting where they can instantly be successful (I’m right there to help!).
giving the other students a chance to see that sort of success.
giving everyone a chance to review.
Once we’ve reviewed the verse from the week prior, I kick off the new week with the “Who?” question: Who was David? Who is God? Who was Ruth? We answer the questions together with the statements in Bible Quest, line by line, and I use this time in particular to give the students specific kinesthetic actions that they can use to help reinforce the material that we’re practicing. Whenever I can, I try to use the same actions over and over. For example, if the word “father” is used, I will use the ASL sign for “father” (an open hand held out with the thumb touching the forehead). That way, when we encounter the word again, it can help the student remember the word that much faster and even contribute to cross referencing later on in the Empower Phase! If the students are able to help me make actions, I’m perfectly fine with that and I never stop them from using ones that they want to do, but I mostly want new students to see how I model making up actions so that when the time comes for them to make their own, they’ve seen someone do it.
After we’ve reviewed all of the “Who?” statements, I take the students on to the “What?”, the opportunity to memorize verbatim the Word of God. I always begin with the question prompt and then I will walk through the verse a bit at a time verbally, making an action to go along with it every few words of the verse song. During the action-making for the verse, I have the students help make the actions to an even greater degree. When possible, I adopt and use the actions that they give me. Bit by bit, I’m modeling and then mentoring their own memorization tool-making skills. (See The Resource Conundrum for more information on helping kids build their own memorization toolboxes.)
After memorizing verbatim Scripture and facts about the people of the Bible, we move to looking at the “When?” - a chance to review how the week’s people and events fit in the Biblical timeline. It’s always best to start with helping the students to see where the week’s material fits on the poster and the in the Big Bible Story Song, but that doesn’t take long, so I usually play a few simple games, a snippet of which might sound like this:
“Which event was first, Creation or the Exodus? Run to that side of the room if you think Creation was first and that side of the room if you think that the Exodus was first. How about Israel Falls to Assyria and the Exile - which was first?”
For a less active option, lay out the timeline poster and simply have the students find which event is first or last. More advanced students may find that memorizing the timeline note provides even better historical context.
If chronology lends itself to kinesthetic (action-oriented) interactions, geography is even more so. Maps are uniquely suited to use kinesthetic/tactile (tactile indicates "physical touch") approach, and I always start by making sure that my students see and touch the geographic location on a map. I especially like to use our large maps that include most of the Biblical geography for the Testament that I’m working on. After the students have seen and touched the location on the map for the week’s “Where?”, I like to have the students play with the map for awhile as we review other geographic locales from previous weeks, being sure to touch those locations on the map. Younger kids tend do very well with this sort of touch-based and motion-based activity, and I sometimes throw in bits of information that I know about the locations as I think of them in the moment (though that's by no means necessary). Here’s what you might hear me say when I’m working with students in the “Where?” portion of the program:
"Here's Jerusalem - that's where Solomon built the temple, right? Touch Jerusalem! Now, here's Egypt - that's where the people of Israel were slaves before Moses led them out. Touch Egypt! Good! Now... touch Jerusalem... Egypt! Jerusalem! Egypt! Jerusa-Egypt! Nice one! I almost got you, but you caught me on that, didn't you?"
Bringing it All Together
Upon completion of the four Big Questions in the Equip Phase, I read the “Bringing it all Together” section. Older students at the dialectic level or higher will especially gain advantage from seeing how the Big Questions relate, but grammar students may also benefit.
After all this, the Equip Phase is over. I use any remaining time for review games. Games that lend to review are memorization tools, and only help students to master the material you’ve invested time in helping them to learn. Not only does such a strategy give the kids an enjoyable end to a great Equip Phase, but it helps to seal and solidify all the information that they’ve learned regarding God’s Word.
That makes for an Equip Phase that makes a real difference.