Touch, taste, sight, sound and smell. The five basic senses (some scientists argue there are many more) can increase the amount of information students understand and remember in Bible classes.
Hearing the sound of your voice teaching the Bible story is one sense almost every student uses in Bible class. There are ways though to add other sounds and senses to make the Bible story more understandable and memorable.
So what are some creative ways to add more sensory experiences to your Bible lessons? Here are a few of our favorites.
- Sound. Look carefully through the Bible verses for your story. What sounds might someone have naturally heard in the environment where the story takes place? What sounds are specifically mentioned? Don’t forget to adapt for cultural differences. The sound of a horn in the Bible usually refers to a shofar, not a car horn or a trumpet (some modern versions may use that more modern word for clarity). Bring in a shofar and blow it. (You can get them online.) Or find audio clips online to play for students.
- Sight. Your Bible students may be picturing modern items for the items in Bible stories. At times this may confuse the meaning of the story or parable for them. Bring in replica items or show photos. Wear Bible costumes. Create a visual atmosphere in your classroom that helps students feel like they have stepped back in time.
- Touch. Bring in the items or replicas. A spike similar in size and shape to the ones used on Jesus on the Cross. Various fabrics. Wool from a sheep. There are a lot of things mentioned in almost every Bible story students can touch. Try to bring in items you don’t mind students handling. The younger the children are and the more unfamiliar the item is, the more time each student will want to handle it. Touching an item allows them to explore it more thoroughly and obtain lots of helpful information.
- Smell. There are a lot of smells in Bible stories. Because we aren’t used to introducing them in Bible lessons though, you will need to re-read the story to look for ideas. Is there a sacrifice? Bring in a small portable indoor grill and have an adult grill a small cheap piece of meat on it for the smell of an animal sacrifice (use all safety procedures). Is someone cooking in the story? The spices used in Middle Eastern cooking today are the same ones that have been used for thousands of years. Bring in the spices and let students smell them. (If you can do it safely away from students, but close enough for them to smell, you can simmer them in a pan of water to diffuse the smell in a larger area. We don’t know the exact composition of the incense used in the Tabernacle and Temple, but there are enough clues to find an incense that probably smells similar.
- Taste. We don’t notice it, because it’s not an element usually included in Bible classes, but there was a lot of eating in the Bible. (Check for student allergies first.) Rustic breads, pita or naan breads, dates, figs, grapes, cucumbers, melons, quail – even edible locusts/grasshoppers! Students can have small tastes in a regular classroom setting or while they are immersed in re-enacting a Bible story.
Adding sensory input to your lessons takes a little extra time and effort. If you can do it though, students will usually understand and remember more from the Bible lesson.