Writing parables about thankfulness, generosity and money
- To use classic texts as a stimulus for creative writing.
- By the end of the lesson, each child will have been introduced to the key features of the written parable and encouraged to write their own on a given theme.
Creative writing is taught for all kinds of purposes - including writing stories that carry a message. The art of persuasion can be subtly practised through telling stories with a key idea as a narrative. One of the greatest exponents of persuasion through story was Jesus of Nazareth with his parables.
A parable is a simple story with a clear message, a word picture that works as a kind of extended metaphor. Since the key ideas are woven into the narrative, there is no need for a final 'moral of the story' to explain its meaning. The Gospels of the Christian Bible record around 30 parables told by Jesus as part of his teaching ministry. As Mark puts it, 'With many similar parables Jesus spoke the word to them, as much as they could understand. He did not say anything to them without using a parable. But when he was alone with his own disciples, he explained everything' (Mark 4:33 - 34, NIVUK) Why? Because some stories work like seeds, sprouting new ideas in the minds of their audience as they visualise them.
Many of Jesus' parables used everyday events and concerns about money, status and possessions to make their point, although Jesus rarely explained them. This lack of a clear 'moral of the story' probably made them more memorable - and they continue to be among the most famous 'traditional stories' in the world.
This session is all about using some parables of Jesus as a stimulus to get your pupils writing their own parables on a set theme. You will need to choose two or three of the parables provided to share with pupils, and older pupils will need access to their own paper copies for annotation. Each parable will need to be downloaded and displayed separately on an interactive whiteboard for discussion purposes. Older pupils may benefit from being able to use highlighters and coloured pens/pencils for annotation.
Show a mobile phone, discussing its usefulness for sending messages. Then ask the children how many other ways they can think of to send a message. Have a quick discussion, then encourage feedback. Explain that one of the most powerful ways for passing on an important message is... telling a story! Stories can be a very clever way of transmitting messages between people - because stories are easily remembered and passed on, like jokes. Any short story carrying a powerful message is called a parable. Today, we're going to be looking at some famous parables, and then having a go at writing our own.
One of the most famous tellers of parables was Jesus of Nazareth, and his stories still get told around the world today - but they all contain hidden messages. Jesus hardly ever explained what the messages in his stories were, because it made people think harder. I wonder, what do you think the hidden messages are in these parables we're going to look at now?
Stories about treasure and a pearl
'God's kingdom is like a treasure hidden in a field. One day a man found the treasure. He hid it again and was so happy that he went and sold everything he owned and bought the field.
'Also, God's kingdom is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. One day he found a very fine pearl. He went and sold everything he had to buy it.'
Matthew 13:44-46 (ERV)
A story about people invited to a dinner
One of the men sitting at the table with Jesus... said to him, 'It will be a great blessing for anyone to eat a meal in God's kingdom!'
Jesus said to him, 'A man gave a big dinner. He invited many people. When it was time to eat, he sent his servant to tell the guests, "Come. The food is ready." But all the guests said they could not come. Each one made an excuse. The first one said, "I have just bought a field, so I must go [to] look at it. Please excuse me." Another man said, "I have just bought five pairs of work animals; I must go and try them out. Please excuse me." A third man said, "I just got married; I can't come."
'So the servant returned and told his master what happened. The master was angry. He said, "Hurry! Go into the streets and alleys of the town. Bring me the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame."
'Later, the servant said to him, "Master, I did what you told me to do, but we still have places for more people." The master said to the servant, "Go out to the highways and country roads. Tell the people there to come. I want my house to be full! I tell you, not one of those people I invited first will eat any of this food I prepared."'
Luke 14:15 - 24 (ERV)
Jesus said to his followers, 'Once there was a rich man. He hired a manager to take care of his business. Later, he learned that his manager was cheating him. So he called the manager in and said to him, "I have heard bad things about you. Give me a report of what you have done with my money. You can't be my manager anymore."
'So, the manager thought to himself, "What will I do? My master is taking my job away from me. I am not strong enough to dig ditches. I am too proud to beg. I know what I will do! I will do something to make friends, so that when I lose my job, they will welcome me into their homes."
'So the manager called in each person who owed the master some money. He asked the first one, "How much do you owe my master?" He answered, "I owe him 100 jars of olive oil." The manager said to him, "Here is your bill. Hurry! Sit down and make the bill less. Write 50 jars."
'Then the manager asked another one, "How much do you owe my master?" He answered, "I owe him 100 measures of wheat." Then the manager said to him, "Here is your bill; you can make it less. Write 80 measures."
'Later, the master told the dishonest manager that he had done a smart thing. Yes, worldly people are smarter in their business with each other than spiritual people are.
'I tell you, use the worldly things you have now to make "friends" for later. Then, when those things are gone, you will be welcomed into a home that lasts forever.'
Luke 16:1 - 9 (ERV)
The Holy Bible: Easy-to-Read Version (ERV) is copyright by World Bible Translation Center.
Older children should read the parables for themselves, annotating/underlining to show details relating to settings (where is this taking place? Note the lack of description for the setting!), situations, dilemmas, feelings and the key message.
Discuss the first two parables and share ideas - what's the key message here? Is the setting important to the plot? How do you know what the characters are thinking? Does the ending surprise you - and why?
Plan and write a short parable about one of the following messages:
- Being careful with pocket money, and not letting someone trick you into wasting it.
- Being generous. That could mean being generous with giving time and attention to someone else.
- Being thankful, not greedy or grasping.
Tips for writing a parable
- Use realistic settings (e.g. shops, school, a club or a home), situations and characters.
- The first sentence should explain the situation (what's happening, where are we?).
- Include someone facing at least one interesting dilemma (a difficult choice).
- Show what the different characters are feeling by describing what they do.
- Do not have a moral at the end - but your title might contain a clue about the message!
SEN/Less Able - may benefit from writing frames and sentence starters such as:
Paul was walking along the street towards the shops when ______.
The man said, '______.'
Paul didn't know what to do. Should he ______ or should he ______?
'I know!' he said. 'I'll ______!'
So he ______.
After that ______.
Finally, when he got home and told his mum, she said, '______.'
More Able - pupils should be challenged to think more deeply about their message. Any dilemmas faced by the characters should be extremely difficult. Characters should ask really important questions that highlight the theme. Can pupils construct a surprise ending to their parable that reinforces the message in a powerful way?
- Recap on the key features of parables, then ask pupils to share examples of their work.
- Can the rest of the class guess the key message?