What is a Carousel session?
A 45 minute session using material from both our Story planners and our Re:verse game planners. We suggest these sessions are delivered using a work-shop style model where children rotate around three zones. We call these Carousel sessions.
What’s different about a work-shop style session?
Groups of children rotate around three Zones: a Story Zone, a Craft Zone and a Game Zone. Each Zone has one teacher who prepares one element, then delivers it three times. Using the principle of team teaching, sessions are simple to prepare and deliver.
Similar to a child’s day at school where a numeracy lesson might follow a literacy lesson, during a Carousel session there is no planned link between the game (taken from our Re:verse game planners) and the Bible story (taken from our Story planners) this means stories can be taught chronologically and a new topic introduced every month. See our Curriculum
Three simple steps to teaching a Carousel session:
1. Divide your teaching space into three zones
A Game Zone, where children play games to explore a topic. A larger space with room to run around would be perfect.
A Story Zone, where children hear a Bible story. A cosy carpeted space would be great.
A Craft Zone, where children make a take-home piece of artwork that relates to the story. An area near to a sink would be ideal.
You might like to add some furniture and resources to your areas too – a whiteboard and CD player in your game zone, some cushions and a rug in your story zone, and tables, chairs and stationery in your craft zone.
You will also need a space for the children to congregate for registration.
2. Organise your children into groups
Make sure you have no more than three groups.
Groups can be made according to friendship, age or by gender.
It will be helpful if your groups are roughly equal in size.
The children will be in the same group each session so try and ensure that the children
are happy with the group they are in.
Give each of your groups a name or a colour.
Organising your teachers and helpers
You will need three teachers and three helpers.
Each teacher is allocated a zone.
Teachers lead the activities organised for their zone.
Each helper is allocated to one of the three groups.
Helpers welcome and register children as they arrive, guide them around the zones and help them as they join in activities.
3. Rotate your groups around the three zones
To help children rotate around the zones, the groups are given timers.
When the group arrives in a zone the group’s helper sets the timer for 15 minutes.
When the bell rings the group moves on to the next zone.
Tickets and tokens
Each child coming to a Carousel session is given a ticket according to which group he or she is in.
On the ticket is written the order in which they will visit the zones.
Each group is given a different order to ensure that no two groups are in the same space at the same time.
Just before the children leave a zone they are given a token.
This token reminds them what they have just learnt.
Using a sticker the children fix the token to their ticket.
When the children have visited all three zones and the bell rings for the third time they wait in their groups to be collected by a parent or carer.
To set up and run Carousel workshop-style sessions in your church you will need the following resources:
3 x clock timers
3 x A4 zone signs
Q1. We have a small Sunday School with a few children. Can I run Carousel with just one or two groups?
A. Yes. Carousel works just as well with one or two groups as it does with three. A single group can still rotate around the three zones.
Q2. How do we run Carousel for a very large Sunday School?
A. The Bible Curriculum planners provide you with enough material to rotate three groups of children around three zones. We suggest that group sizes are between 5–20 people. If you have more that sixty children consider the following:
Add an extra zone, i.e. a Drinks Zone or a Prayer Zone
Think Holiday Club and teach the Story and Game Zones from a stage.
If you have enough space and staff double-up the Zones and divide your children into six groups.
N.B. The size of each group will be restricted by the available room space, teacher’s ability and available helpers.
Q3. For which age group is Carousel designed?
A. Carousel is designed for primary-aged children. However we have seen it work well for pre-school children who, accompanied by a designated helper, have been allowed to dip in and out of activities. For older children a buddy system may be appropriate where older children help out with younger groups. Try using ‘buddies’ as group leaders and Zone Helpers; they especially like the Craft Zone and an opportunity to act.
Q4. How many teachers and helpers will we need?
A. You will generally need one teacher for each zone and one helper for each group. i.e. three teachers and three helpers. However make sure you comply with your church’s policies and procedures regarding child/helper ratios; for large groups you may need more helpers.
Q5. Does Carousel take a long time to prepare?
A. No. It is relatively quick because each teacher prepares just one third of the session, but delivers it three times. Helpers have no preparation; their role is pastoral. However, bear in mind the more time you can give to preparation the better each zone will be.
Q6. Can I email each session to my team?
A. Yes. The planners are designed to email to team members, alternatively just pass on The Bible Curriculum web address and teachers can download their own material
Q7. Will we need to buy lots of additional resources?
A. No. But you will need to buy resources for the craft activities. We only use materials that are readily available from craft shops, websites and supermarkets.
Q8. Why are the Lesson Planners date-specific?
A. Every year our curriculum runs chronologically through the Bible but Easter is not a fixed calendar date. To ensure that the Easter stories are taught at Easter we rearrange our material for every year.
Q9. Can we add more zones of our own?
A. Yes. We think that Drinks Zones, Worship Zones and Prayer Zones are a great addition. We love Carousel but we are not precious about it. Please feel free to make it your own.
Q10. Why doesn’t the Game Zone relate to the story or craft?
A. There is deliberately no planned correlation between the Bible stories and the Christian Topics taught in the Game Zone; this is so that stories can be taught chronologically and children can explore a monthly Christian Topic like ‘Prayerֹ’ or ‘The Bible’. It’s just like learning literacy followed by numeracy at school.
Q11. We have a ‘Shack at the back’ prayer space. How do we make it fit with Carousel?
A. A prayer space makes a great additional zone or a place to gather for reflection and prayer at the close of a session.
Q12. Why are the stories taught in chronological order rather that in series?
A. Children love to know the ‘big pictureֹ’. Teaching chronologically helps children understand the Bible as a continuous story rather than a collection of individual events and characters. Every autumn children hear stories from the Old Testament, every spring a selection from the Life of Jesus and every summer a selection of stories from the Early Church period.
Q13. Can we go deeper with Christian Topics?
A. Yes. There’s information readily available in online commentaries and resources. If you have a number of teachers you could get together and discuss how you could structure an ‘in-depth’ look at the topic and Bible verse over the coming month.
Q14. Can we include an all-together worship time with Carousel?
A. Yes. A worship time is a great way to start or end a Carousel session. Try to choose songs that relate to either the month’s Christian Topic or the day’s story.
Q15. Can Carousel be run in one hall?
A. Carousel works well in a single space like a hall or even one room. In a hall dividing screens or gazebos will help to create cosier, quieter spaces. In a small room you could run Carousel with a single group. Use three different walls as focus points/Zones and encourage the children to move around the room congregating at each ‘Zone’.
Q16. Does Carousel work as an after-school club?
A. Carousel works well in schools as an after-school club. It has also been adapted successfully for assemblies and collective worship. Make sure the Head Teacher is happy with the material before it is introduced to a school.
Q17. Does Carousel take a long time to setup?
A. It takes as long as you want. Each zone could be set up in 15 minutes; an elaborate zone with gazebos, bunting, lighting, sun umbrellas etc. would take longer. Go on – be creative!
Q18. We meet for an hour. What could we do for the rest of the time?
A. There are several things you could do: extend the time children spend in each zone; introduce additional zones like a Prayer Zone or add a worship/reflection time.
Q19. We only have a short time with our children. Can we adapt Carousel?
A. Please feel free to adapt Carousel. You could tell the story in the Craft Zone before or after children make a craft or miss out a zone altogether.
Q20. How does Carousel help to engage the older children in our group?
A. Try using older children/young adults as buddies, group leaders and Zone Helpers; they especially like the Craft Zone, an opportunity to act or read out the instructions to a game. Older children will appreciate a little responsibility. Buy them special T-shirts or caps to help them be a part of your team.
Q21. How often do you send out material?
A. Planners are available to download from the website approximately a month before a teaching session.
Q22. What is The Bible Curriculum?
A. The Bible Curriculum is at the heart of Carousel. It is a Programme of Learning that ensures the whole Bible is taught and that themes central to the Christian faith are explored. It includes two elements: the story plan and the Re:verse programme.
Q23. What are Flashcards and how do we use them?
A. Flashcards: the Bible in 30 images. To help children understand the Bible as a continuous story we've created three Flashcard sets: The Old Testament, The Life of Jesus and The Early Church. They help to put Bible stories in context and ‘set the scene’ before telling a story. Available as Powerpoint downloads or simplified A4 laminated sets.
Q24. How do we put the stories into context?
A. See Flashcards above or create your own Bible storyboard by cutting out images from a children’s Bible and attaching them to cork display boards.
Q25. Who came up with the idea of Carousel and what is their experience?
A. Carousel has been developed by Jenny Shrimpton, a creative writer and mother of three, with over twenty years experience in teaching children in a church setting. Jenny is an accredited Minister with the CiC ministry network, an individual member of the Evangelical Alliance and a member of the Association of Christian Writers.
Q26. Can we follow you on Facebook or Twitter?
A. Yes, please do. Social Media is a great way for us to keep you up-to-date with relevant information and a great way for you to give us feedback.