One of my mentors, award-winning writer Kathi Appelt, reminds me that form should serve story. She says, “It’s easy to get lost in the exercise of form and lose intentionality.” She encouraged me to ask: “Is this form deliberate and appropriate for the subject?” Intentionality means making choices deliberately, for particular reasons – which means that the writer knows there are choices in the first place. The writer knows what those choices are and purposely selects what best serves the story he or she is trying to tell.
Form vs Intentionality – Who does it serve?
It occurred to me that this principle of being deliberate and intentional, of making form serve story, is a principle that I use all the time when I write curricula. I know there are choices, and I know what the choices are. I try to choose a method of storytelling that serves the Bible story. I also try to choose activities that serve the story and the goal of the lesson.
But activities and storytelling methods should serve the students, too. If we are serious about communicating, we not only ask, “Is this form deliberate and appropriate for the subject?” but we also ask, “Is this form deliberate and appropriate for the students?” When we work with children, “it’s easy to get lost in the exercise of form.” In other words, it’s easy to get locked in to a particular method or schedule. It’s easy to rely on what feels most comfortable to us and say, “This is the way it’s done. Period.” It’s easy to get “set in our ways” and avoid trying anything new, even though some new type of activity or different way of telling the story might serve the story and/or the students more effectively.
- I tell teachers that their lesson plans are simply suggestions. They know their students. They are responsible for communicating in ways that will give their particular students the greatest opportunity to become involved and grow.
- I give teachers lots of activity choices in each lesson plan.
- I ask teachers, “Do you go into the classroom to teach the material or to teach children?”
- I say: Make your teaching choices by taking AIM–
In other words, be intentional and deliberate. Let your form serve your story and your students.