Teaching the Bible to Visual Learners

Teaching the Bible to Visual Leaners - Parenting Like Hannah
Hezekiah’s Tunnel Photo by Bill Lee

We are not quite sure how it happened, but in our house, two visual learners gave birth to an auditory learner. Since we homeschool, I had to change my teaching from my preferred learning style to the one best suited for my daughter. Even the way she studies most effectively is very different from what worked for me.

Shift to most Sunday morning children’s and teen classes and the mode is almost entirely auditory. An adult tells the story and perhaps asks questions or makes an application. An activity is provided which may or may not actually be what an educator would call “hands-on” learning. Once in awhile, the teacher may pull out some old flannel graph or the unit might come with a poster or coloring page.

If your child is a visual learner, they probably reacted the way I did to Sunday School. “What did the Tabernacle actually look like? I can’t tell from the way you are describing it.” “Where is Assyria? I don’t remember seeing that on a map before.” I couldn’t picture a lot of the things I was reading about, because there was nothing in my town or my culture I could compare to it. Since I couldn’t visualize many things, a lot of what I read and heard did not have as much meaning for me as it could have had.

When our daughter was little, we went to Florida for a wedding. After doing the obligatory day at Disney, we checked out what was then the Holy Land experience. (It has since been purchased by another group, so I can’t speak to its current state.) For the first time in my life, so much about the Bible finally clicked for me. They had a full scale model of the Tabernacle with everything in it that would have been in the original. The priests were dressed in the same outfits described in the Bible. Finally, I had a visual for what I had read for years.  So many things suddenly made sense to me.

Children need to see as much as possible what the things in the Bible were like – especially visual learners. The higher the quality of what they see, the better they will understand and remember it. So if a drawing is all you have, that is better than nothing. If you have photographs or models, those work even better. If you are blessed to have access to actual artifacts or places (in museums or through travel), that is the best possible option.

We have also had a lot of success with maps and timelines when working with older children and teens. Geography may or may not be a subject they have studied very much in school. Many of the countries mentioned in the bible have different names or boundaries today. It helps young people (especially visual learners) to understand where things happened in relation to them and to be able to understand how places mentioned in the Bible relate to the places they know today.

Time lines are a great way for visual learners to see how the Bible and the history they are taught in school overlap and intersect. Especially from the time of the kings forward, timelines can be purchased that are very accurate. (Dates before that are often debated in Bible and secular history.) It is especially interesting to see what is happening in Asia, southern Africa or other places not in the Bible as various events in the Bible occur.

Whether you are teaching your child at home or teaching a Bible class at Church, try to incorporate high quality visual, auditory and hands-on learning. If you are not an educator, this prevents you from having to analyze which learning style each child may prefer. Including all three, will help every child get as much from a Bible story as possible.

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Thereasa Winnett

Thereasa Winnett is the founder of Teach One Reach One and blogger at Parenting Like Hannah. She holds a BA in education from the College of William and Mary. She has served in all areas of ministry to children and teens for more than thirty years and regularly leads workshops for ministries and churches. She has conducted numerous workshops, including sessions at Points of Light’s National Conference on Volunteering and Service, the National Urban Ministry Conference, Pepperdine Bible Lectures, and Lipscomb’s Summer Celebration. Thereasa lives in Atlanta, GA with her husband Greg, where she enjoys reading, knitting, traveling and cooking.

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