God communicates with fish

Asking about God with Jonah - encouraging children to ask questions by dealing with a biblical story

Preliminary considerations for dealing with the core curriculum in the GS

In order to give children the opportunity to develop a questioning attitude in the sense of the didactic guidelines of the core curriculum, questions in religious education should be expressly supported and the common constant search for answers should become a teaching principle. Therefore, students should be challenged again and again to make connections between biblical-Christian content and their experiences or to make age-appropriate attempts at interpretation. If teachers consciously pursue the concern of eliciting their own ideas, thoughts and questions from the children, then this also implies an acceptance of the unpredictable and unexpected - perhaps sometimes absurd - contributions in the classroom.

The specific subject of the lesson, the world of biblical stories and Christian traditions, opens up the vast field in which the content-related skills can develop and show. At the same time, the lessons prepare a ground on which facets of religious education develop that are multi-dimensional and located on other levels. The process-related competencies take up this thought: Understanding and interpreting, perceiving and describing, communicating and participating, designing and acting. They take up various aspects of the competencies of religious education, which, in addition to cognitive components, also take into account communicative and creative aspects as well as religious practice.

It has been proven that the development of relevant skills depends not only on methods and media, but also on a trusting atmosphere in the classroom and on the structure of relationships between teachers and teachers. Keeping an eye on this level beyond the verifiability and verification pressure is not only of great importance for the primary school sector, but for all school types.

In terms of teaching methods and forms of work, this means that they are stimulating and diverse, but should always be selected with a view to their potential to deal with the relevant content.


The competence area of ​​the core curriculum: Asking about God

Both in the first and second as well as in the third and fourth school year, three essential aspects of the question of God are expressed in the desired content-related competencies:

  • the question of ideas about God in the biblical context,
  • the question of one's own ideas about God,
  • the question of God as a contact person and addressee of religious expressions.

When designing the lesson, it should be considered to what extent the ideas of God conveyed in biblical stories can be brought into conversation with the students' own ideas. In elementary school lessons, not least for developmental psychological reasons, it has proven useful to develop thoughts with children from the perspective of biblical characters and to focus on the level of the respective story. From the perspective of characters or in dialogue with them, children can develop profound thoughts that are definitely relevant to their own living environment. Depending on the respective cognitive abilities of the children, the everyday world can be addressed more directly at the end of the lesson sequences, but this should not lead to superficial lip service, but should enable authentic discussion.


From the core curriculum to teaching implementation

Using the following teaching example, a small excerpt should be shown as an example of how these preliminary considerations can lead to practical implementation.

Based on the central question of the core curriculum "Asking God", we take an example of an excerpt from the Jonah story "under the microscope" and ask:

  1. What potential is there in this section of the biblical story to enable children as diverse as possible to access questions about God?
  2. Which practical teaching decisions can help the children to acquire skills and through this sequence open the question of God?


Practical teaching ideas

The text excerpt
The teaching example refers to the text excerpt from Jonah 1,4-2,11. This section describes the scene in which Jonah is on the ship with the sailors, the storm rises, Jonah is thrown overboard into the sea, is swallowed by the fish and there prays to God. The text excerpt appears to be particularly suitable because asking about God can be vividly presented in different contexts of experience and from different perspectives:

  • God gives Jonah an assignment.
  • God is in the "background" while Jonah flees from him.
  • God speaks to Jonah.
  • The sailors shout "each one to his God".
  • Jonah is inwardly concerned with "his God" in very contrary life situations: as fleeing, as threatened, as hopeful, as courageous, as desperate, as ...

The changeful fate of Jonah results in an equally changeable and multifaceted image of God in the background:

  • God who challenges
  • God who is distant and viewed with fears,
  • God who sends help
  • God who is invisible and visible by Jonah's side,
  • God who strengthens and sustains.


The lesson steps
In the individual lesson steps, narrative sections are linked to the concern “to ask about God”. This “asking” can be done by giving children space to express their respective situational questions and thoughts. In addition, it can also be stimulated and supported by the fact that impulses and questions challenge the teacher to reflect and thus enable questions if necessary. At the same time, access routes are chosen that are cognitive as well as action and experience-oriented.


First narrative section:
Jonah and the sailors on the ship; the storm is rising.

Possible questions:

  • What do the sailors think what will happen now?
  • What is on their mind?
  • What do they call to their God? (Prayers)
  • What is Jonah's mind?
  • What does Jonah say / ask God?


Second narrative section:
The sailors throw Jonah into the sea. Jonah is swallowed by the fish. He sits in the fish belly.

Possible tasks, questions, impulses:

  • Contemplation of the etching "Jonah in the Fish"

- What can be seen on the picture?
- Assume the posture that Jonah shows there.
> How do you feel in your body?
> Which thoughts / questions come to you in this attitude?

  • A photocopy of the etching is distributed to each child, along with an empty thought bubble.

- What does Jonah think?
- How does Jonah think about God?
- What does Jonah say to God?

  • Each child creates a small paper figure as a symbol for themselves (alternative: each child receives a glue dot).

- Where are you in the picture: in the fish, in the sea, on the ship, on land? (Figure or glue point is glued to your own copy)

  • The individual viewpoints are combined to form a scene:

- The fish is shown in as free a space as possible: blankets, cloths, "cave" elements.
- If necessary, a CD with a heartbeat rhythm supports the idea of ​​the interior of the fish.
- The fish's outer area is reminiscent of water, represented by foils, blue cloths, water noises, ...
- In the water, chairs, tables and other structural elements represent the ship.
- In the distance, possibly at the edge of the room, the shore, the land of Nineveh, is indicated by simple props.

  • The children are asked to empathize with the scene and to choose a location.

- Find your place where you want to be now.
- Take your place.
- Which posture fits here?
- Look around where the others are. Who can you see / hear Who not? (Possibly try out several positions)


  • The teacher conducts interviews with the children.

- e.g .: Who are you?
- How are you here?
- What happened here?
- What do you think will happen next?
- What do you think: where is God? What do you want from god


  • The teacher photographs each child in their own place.

- The photo is glued into the etching (photo montage).
- Task: "Write a text about this picture."
> Write down thoughts that you have at this place in the picture; or:
> Write a report for the newspaper; or:
> Write a song, a prayer or a letter.


  • The following questions could serve as a further stimulus for conversation or inspiration for writing:

- Suppose the fish is a gift that God sent Jonah - What did God want to do for Jonah? What can Jonah experience now in the fish belly?


Third narrative section:
The fish spits Jonah out on land

The scene after the turning point in Jonas' behavior can be used to offer children the opportunity to independently and creatively develop ideas for interpretation through rather open tasks. It is not only the repetition that plays a role, but rather the challenge of associating Jonas' possible situation and state of mind and pointing to God. This allows children to use and demonstrate skills they have already acquired, but at the same time they are encouraged to develop skills further.

Possible impulses:

  • Jonah sits on land and thinks about what he experienced with God ...

- If he were to paint a picture for it, it would look like this: ...
- If he were to collect objects from nature or from the classroom, he could create a floor picture like this: ...
- If he were to invent a song or a poem, it would sound like this: ...
- If he were to tell with musical instruments and sounds, it would sound like this: ...
- If Jonah were to describe God to another person who knows nothing about God and has never experienced him, then he would say that about God: ...

If the children have thought about God from the perspective of the characters in the context of the Jonah story, at the end of the story the opportunity can be used to move beyond the level of the story and to think further on a meta-level. First of all, it could be considered together why people continued to tell the story of Jonah and what they might and want to say about God with it. Possibly the opportunity can be given for the children to express or shape what people experience with God today. The children can either refer to possible personal experiences or to the experiences of others. - Possible open questions about God and man could be visibly recorded in writing and taken up again in further lessons.

If one works accordingly in a lesson sequence on the Jonah story, the content-related competences aimed at for the question of God can develop or show through questions and thoughts of the children. With regard to process-related competencies, understanding and interpreting as well as communication and participation are initiated in particular.