Everyone would agree about poetry’s value as an insight into the people and the time period when it was written. But did you know that you could teach your kids character using the psalms, which is Hebrew poetry?
One of the most valuable ways to use poetry is to teach your kids character. And this is especially true when you teach your kids character using Biblical poetry. Kids don’t always recognize the Psalms as poetry, partly because it doesn’t rhyme. (Not that all poetry rhymes!) But Biblical poetry, as expressed in the book of Psalm, is Hebrew poetry.
But instead of repeating sounds, Hebrew poetry has repeating ideas. Teaching character using the psalms gives you a great opportunity to examine attributes of God as well as those character qualities we want to instill in our children.
Teaching character using the psalms
It would be incredibly useful to go through the psalms and examine all the character qualities embedded in them. If you have younger children, you might be interested in viewing the psalms, stories, and videos on Psalms for Kids. (Parents, take a look at it first to make sure it aligns with your families’ beliefs.)
Especially for middle school on up, reading through the psalms in your favorite Bible translation is probably best.
As an example, let’s look at Psalm 8.
Teaching character using Psalm 8.
1 O LORD, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!
You have set your glory
above the heavens.
2 From the lips of children and infants
you have ordained praise
because of your enemies,
to silence the foe and the avenger.
3 When I consider your heavens,
the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars,
which you have set in place,
4 what is man that you are mindful of him,
the son of man that you care for him?
5 You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings
and crowned him with glory and honor.
6 You made him ruler over the works of your hands;
you put everything under his feet:
7 all flocks and herds,
and the beasts of the field,
8 the birds of the air,
and the fish of the sea,
all that swim the paths of the seas.
9 O LORD, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!
Important Character Concepts and Activities from Psalm 8
When we consider the glory of God and all He created, we should be in awe and amazed just as David was when he wrote this poetry! God’s majesty lies before us in all of creation and He never lets us forget His greatness.
- Character concept: Humility…which of us could create an animal or put stars in the sky?
- Possible related activities: 1.Take a nature walk and note every possible thing that could only be created by God. Discuss how we should be humbled that a God so awesome not only created us but loves us above all of the rest of His creation. Have your students draw something observed from your walk, and include Psalm 8:9 as copy work under your drawing. 2. Answer the following questions: What does God say about Himself in Psalm 8? What does He say about “man” (people)? What does He ordain man to do?
- Character concept: God places man “a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor.” With this glory and honor comes responsibility and stewardship. How do you think God expects us to treat His creation?
- Possible related activity: Make a chart of the many parts of God’s creation from which man benefits. In one column, note the creation and then in a second column, specifically list benefits. For example:
Plants | medicine, herbs, food, art, cleaning the air
Ocean | medicine, food, beauty, and leisure
Expanding your character study using the psalms
- Memorize this Psalm or another one
- Have your high school student choose another psalm and write “character concepts” and “possible activities” as we have in these last two posts. Use that to teach a younger sibling or friend.
- Assign your middle school/high school student to find five psalms and list the character lessons in each one.
Teaching character using the psalms is one of the best ways to teach your kids about God as well as themselves and their place before Him.
Which psalm is your favorite for teaching character? I would love to hear about it in the comments!
Editor’s note: This post was written in collaboration with Beth Hempton, formerly with Train up a Child Publishing. You can read more from Beth by going to her website at Classes by Beth Plus.