The Picture Smart Bible: Reviews

Carol Barnier   
Delightful Speaker, Entertaining Author, Adequate Wife, Pitiful Housekeeper   
Author of... 
How to Get Your Child Off the Refrigerator and On To Learning 
If I'm Diapering A Watermelon, Then Where'd I Leave the Baby?
The Big WHAT NOW Book of Learning Styles 
"I'm always on the lookout for products that come at a familiar subject in a fresh way. I know that children learn with a variety of styles, so my radar is consistently searching for teaching methods that incorporate a new approach. I'll admit, I was intrigued when I ambled upon the Picture Smart Bible booth at a recent curriculum fair. 
In essence, it's a Bible. It goes through the Old and New Testament, book by book. But it encapsultes the essence and intended lesson of each book in picture form. Don't think coloring book. These are not the typical coloring pages you're used to. They don't have a scene of Adam and Eve in the garden to represent the chapters on creation. Instead, they use pictures that are so simple as to be symbolic - a powerful memory tool in and of itself. So, for example, the page on Genesis is covered in symbols. 
My first concern was that my extremely distractible child was going to be overwhelmed by the input of all these symbols at once. But because the authors of this program give the student a worksheet with very faint outlines of the sumbols on it, the student almost don't see the symbols. In fact, they basically see only the ones they are working on.  
Here's how it works: The student is given this page of faintly lined symbols. You, as teacher, then direct the student to outline and color in one specific symbol, while you proceed through the teacher's section, reading the information and Bible verses that illuminate the meaning of that symbol. Pretty basic. And very easy to execute.  
Two things surprised me in the process of using this material.  
  • First - my child loved it. And she is not a kid who likes to color! Nor have I ever before found an honest to goodness Bible study that would really hold her interest. 
  • Second - and this was the unexpected benefit - the format of the program allowed us to progress through the material in an unhurried, even relaxing manner. I worked through my own worksheet alongside my child and found there's something about taking the time to color that actually slows the world down a bit. There was an unrushed sense of pondering a single symbol, while taking the time to fill in the margins, that was so satisfying to me. There were moments of meaningful silence. Much of our schooling seems tense and pressed. But this was a mental break in our typical frenzy that we both came to look forward to. It fed us on several levels. 
I know that not all approaches work with all children, but this method is truly different from much of what is available. If you haven't found success in typically presented Bible material, this is definitely worth trying. And as with all great materials, you get to learn right along with your kids." 
Cathy Duffy in "Cathy Duffy Reviews"

"The Picture Smart Bible is a unique tool for teaching the Bible to students from about fourth grade level through adults. In spite of the title, this is not a Bible but two books for learning about
 the Bible, one for the Old Testament and one for the New Testament. Each lesson teaches the entire story of one book of the Bible, or sometimes a group of books such as the minor prophets Hosea, Joel, Amos, and Obadiah. The New Testament book begins with an extra lesson, "The Bridge," covering the intertestamental period after Nehemiah. (Note that the deuterocanonical books of Maccabees cover some of this time period.)

The Picture Smart Bible was originally designed for a classroom setting with an overhead projector, but it has become most popular with homeschooling famlies who often use it with the family seated around the kitchen table. The unique aspect is that it teaches through drawing. "Master" drawings are shown in the book. (See illustration at left.) At the back of each book are "patterns" (called Screened Drawing Masters) printed with gray outlines, dotted lines, and major features that can be quickly traced while the parent/teacher tells the story. The parent/teacher should make copies for students to create their own drawings. In a classroom, the teacher will probably make a transparency of the pattern and place it on a projector to create the drawing so students can easily see and follow along. Since most homes don't have projectors, the parent can simply draw on his or her own copy with children sitting where they can watch and listen while they copy to create their own drawings.

Before starting to draw, the parent/teacher presents a brief orientation about the book or books of the Bible to be taught, tying the upcoming chapter to what has gone before. Generally, the story drawing starts in the top left corner and moves over and down as the story progresses. The Picture Smart books have thumbnail illustrations next to suggested commentary to help the teacher step-by-step. Of course, teachers are encouraged to use their own words and add personal illustrations whenever possible. You might take a few days to a week or more to complete one lesson depending on the ages and abilities of students. You will be stopping to read Scripture passages from time to time, so it does take quite a bit of time to complete a drawing.

Once the drawing is complete, there are "Applications for Life" questions to discuss. Your students are likely to raise questions of their own, too. Then they might want to take time to color in their drawings.

The technique is cartoon drawing rather than realistic drawing. Extra helps for developing drawing skill are included, but this is not difficult! Even those lacking drawing ability should be able to participate. There is a page of drawing practice for faces and figures. Another page has commonly-used symbols such as the "good news starburst" highlighting Old Testament passages that point to Jesus or the crown illustrating a king or kingdom; the symbols serve as shortcuts in storytelling drawings.

At the back of each book there are blackline maps and timelines that should also be useful. Permission to Copy is generous if you are using The Picture Smart Bible for a church or school. The publisher says, "You, as the original purchaser, may copy "Screened Drawing" Masters ... for non-commercial purposes, such as teaching or promoting your ministry within your church or organization."

You can purchase one or both books; a CD-ROM that contains the content of both books (runs on both Windows and Mac), or a set of all three items. A separate test and quiz packet is also available, but it is not essential."


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