Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Learning about the Structure of the Bible

St. Jerome once said, "Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ." This quarter I'm focusing on different aspects of the Bible with all my students, and my 6th graders have been learning about the content, structure, and origin of the Bible.  We started with this Bible Scavenger Hunt using Google forms to help them navigate their Bibles. (Note that most of these questions are very specific to the particular edition of the Bible each student has- the Fireside NABRE, but you could use it as inspiration for the edition of the Bible you use in your classroom!)

We do a lot of learning using our Chrome books- videos, Google Classroom projects, etc., but sometimes, good old paper is a necessary tool.  I also wanted them to have some things that they could keep, even tucked into their Bibles, to continue to use as a resource.  I've linked all these printables at the bottom of the post, and will share with you the pictures of how I used them- but there are tons of possibilities based on the needs of your students and the content of your curriculum.

This printable has all the Books of the Bible and all of the types of Biblical Literature.  The students were tasked to use their table of contents and color code the books and their matching categories.  Color choice was their own, but had to show the groupings of Books.

They used those newly colored books to create a "Bible Bookshelf" with shelves for the Old Testament and New Testament sorted by category. Next year I think I'll give them a slightly larger piece of paper, or I might print the same activity slightly smaller so that it could be done on side by side pages of a notebook.  Teachers- we can barely finish an activity before thinking about how we want to do it differently next time, right?  Here are a couple of student examples:

A tip- make sure they do all of the coloring and THEN the cutting, keeping categories as whole rectangles, not individual books.  That will save so much time!

While I think that it is super valuable even for older students to still do fine motor tasks like coloring and cutting, you might want to shorten this activity and have a solid set of books all ready to go.  Because of that, I also have the same printable in full color as you see below.  It does take away the work of figuring our which books go with which categories, but you can check understanding of that in other ways, of course.

You can use the same printable to make sorting activities.  Use the white version to help them practice putting the books of the Bible in order.  (We also listened to these videos with songs for the Books of the Old Testament and New Testament.)

Or print out the colored version and leave them in chunks to sort and order the Books in their categories:

Next, we worked on figuring out why the Books of the Bible are broken into these different categories.  This booklet has a section for each category (again, matching our edition of the Bible, but you could certainly adapt if your Bible calls them the Pauline Letters instead of the New Testament letters, for example).  We used this as a jigsaw activity- pairs of students chose one category and read the 1-2 page intro of that section in their Bible.  They came up with five or so main points that described the types of Books in their category and why they fit together.  Through this we were able to also talk about the great variety of styles of Literature within the Bible and their purpose.  The pairs reported back to the whole class, and we condensed their findings in our notes.

I also made another booklet with a list of major events in the Old Testament on one side, events in the New Testament on the other, and a spot to write favorite Bible verse and stories on the back page.  Now when I suggest they spend sometime reading their Bible during our prayer time, they have a place to start.

So we moved from the broad structure of the Bible, to the categories of literature, and then narrowed down to individual books.  After the previous activities, the students got to pick one Book in the Old Testament and one in the New Testament to do a "Book Report" on.  Using the info from the Book introduction, they completed these sheets, moving from the general to the specific.

We're wrapping up this week with a final digital "Museum Display" project, but I really like these printable resources and think that taking the time to get to know the structure of Scripture was helpful for all of us!

Click on these links to print your own Bible Resources:
Books of the Bible Black and White
Books of the Bible Color
Biblical Literature Booklet
Major Events in Old and New Testament/Favorite Bible Verses
Old Testament Book Review
New Testament Book Review


  1. Thank you so much for sharing your resources! It is all about the Salvation of Souls!

  2. Hi Katherine. Are you able to share what you wrote in each box for the biblical literature booklet? Would really love to have that as an exemplar!

    1. Yes, I'd be happy to do that! Our notes were a summary of the chapter intro in the specific Bible my students use, but it still would be helpful to others. I added that to my blogging to-do list and will hopefully return to it soon! If you would like it asap, send me an email at looktohimandberadiant (at) gmail (dot) com and I'll get you a copy.

    2. Katie, could I also have a copy of your example?
      Thank you!

    3. I'm sorry, I forgot to get back to that, and it is all packed up in my classroom for the summer. I'll make a note to pull those out and post pictures of the ones we made last year. Thanks!

  3. Hi Katie, I am a brand new teacher this year, teaching 6-8 religion and I just wanted to tell you THANK YOU SO MUCH. I literally just went through every page of your blog and planned out the year around your activities. Thank you for sharing all of them and being so wonderful in your explanations for activities.

  4. Hi Katie, I'm so glad to be able to use these in my homeschool this year; thanks for sharing them! One question: I see 1+2 Maccabees are under Biblical Novellas, but a different color from the others. Do they have a separate category? I'm a convert, so not familiar with the deutero-canonical books. Thanks.

    1. Hi! There are always some variations in the categories/genres that Books of the Bible are divided into- the Bible translation that I use in my classroom has 1 & 2 Maccabees into their own genre- they don't quite fit in with the characteristics of the others, have a different literary style, and are from a different time period. There isn't a hard and fast rule for that category!