In their Bible as Reader curriculum, the Foundation for American Christian Education (F.A.C.E.) teaches some of the areas of language arts within the context of Bible study. Five courses are available for use with kindergarteners through seventh graders. Three courses for kindergarten, first grade, and seventh grade are identified for those specific levels, while the other two courses can be used at your choice of grade levels: second or third grade for one course and grades four through six for the other. I reviewed Walking with Jesus, the course that can be used for fourth, fifth, or sixth grade.
Courses are to be used to develop reading skills, but they simultaneously teach the Bible in a thematic fashion based on biblical principles and concrete ways those principles can be understood from both Scripture and life experiences. Along the way, students are also learning academic skills through the Principle Approach, the methodology developed by F.A.C.E. Students create comprehensive notebooks as they research, reason, relate, and record. (Read more about the methodology in my review of The Noah Plan.)
The courses assume that the teacher is familiar with the methodology and has some of the other F.A.C.E. resources on hand. For example, you will need the American Dictionary of the English Language, Facsimile 1828 Edition for students to look up and record definitions of words. Lessons teach the key principles (for which the Principle Approach is named) that are taught much more fully within other F.A.C.E. resources. So there is a consistency in methodology and key ideas across subject areas.
The Bible as Reader courses all use the Reading Curriculum Guide, Second Edition: K-12 along with an age-appropriate version of the Bible. For example, kindergartners use The Early Reader’s Bible, while courses for fourth grade and above use the NIV Adventure Bible. (You can read my brief review of the Reading Curriculum Guide within my review of The Noah Plan.)
The course for kindergarten adds the book Phonemic Awareness in Young Children to help parents provide prereading instruction. The Reading Curriculum Guide recommends using The Writing Road to Reading for actual phonics instruction, but it is not included with these Bible as Reader courses. While all courses rely heavily upon the Reading Curriculum Guide, Walking with Jesus begins to emphasize reading comprehension and writing activities appropriate for the upper elementary grade levels. To that end, it has additional components that add more detail and assistance for presenting the course.
F.A.C.E. sells a package for this course that includes the Reading Curriculum Guide along with the Walking with Jesus Student Handbook, Walking with Jesus Teacher Planner CD, the NIV Adventure Bible (required for the course), and a Noah Plan Academy DVD with two sessions for teachers: “Teaching Bible and Reading” and “Words Have Consequences.” The DVD is the only component that might be skipped.
In addition to the resources in the package, the teacher will need The Children’s Illustrated Bible and a study Bible. While the lesson plans refer to The Noah Plan History and Geography Curriculum Guide, you can probably manage without it.
The Walking with Jesus Teacher Planner CD has PDF files with an explanation of how the course works, charts with weekly lesson plans, and reproducible graphic organizers and charts that are essential for the course along with explanations for using them. You will probably want to print out most of these pages. Note that these files sometimes refer to the course as being only for fourth grade. I suspect that other courses will be developed specifically for fifth and sixth grade, but in the meantime, Walking with Jesus can be used at any of those grade levels.
The course needs to be taught using both the student text and the lesson plan. The student text begins each session with assigned reading from the Bible, and then it explains the connections and key ideas to be learned.
The teacher is expected to continually stress the biblical principle and leading idea that are foundational for each week’s instruction. As explained in the notes to the teacher, the overarching principle for the entire course is stated: “How the Seed of Local-Self-Government Is Planted.” This means that students should discover that learning and following God’s principles produces positive results. To that end, each week the lessons teach a specific biblical principle and a “leading idea” that exemplifies that principle. For example, for the eighth week of the second quarter, the biblical principle is, “People suffer the consequences of sinful behavior in disobedience to God’s laws.” And the leading idea that illustrates this principle is “God allowed judgment to come on Israel from foreign nations.”
Assignments that follow each section of text include discussion, notebook work, and other activities. Notebook work includes vocabulary activities, writing memory verses, writing answers to questions, map work, timeline activities, and occasional grammar-related activities. Students will frequently complete graphic organizers to add to their notebooks such as a T-chart, a Story Map, and “People Who Impacted History” chart. Students will learn to paraphrase Scripture passages and explain how they relate to their own lives on a “Paraphrasing from Scripture” chart. In addition, during the second quarter, students will begin to write in a prayer journal.
The work is substantive and thought-provoking, as well as academically demanding. It teaches reading comprehension at a level beyond that of most fourth-grade reading skills resources. Even so, the formation of character and academic skills might be even more effectively accomplished by this course than the development of reading skills. Teachers can adapt activities and assignments to suit each student.
Discussion and interaction are essential throughout the course. This requires a relatively high level of teacher preparation, particularly for those new to the Principle Approach. The preparation time required and the fact that this course incorporates a particular methodology both make it likely that the course will appeal most to those who are using other F.A.C.E. courses and applying the methodology across the curriculum. Nevertheless, Walking with Jesus can be used as a stand-alone course, and it might be one of the easiest ways to try out the Principle Approach.