How to make the genres of the Psalms more interesting

This week I tried something new when it came time to introduce the genres of the Psalms. In the past, I would lecture and sample. This didn’t interest my students, at all. So I gamified things a bit! I divide my classes into cohorts for a variety of reasons. One of those reasons is for exercises like the one pictured here:

How does it work? Well, first, students are given a packet of psalms (Pss. 20, 22, 30, 51, 60, and 67) to read. Then I provide them with the brief descriptions of a few genres: Royal Psalms, Individual Psalms of Lament, Communal Psalms of Lament, Blessing Psalms, Thanksgiving Psalms, and Psalms of Repentance. Once everyone has had a chance to read their packet of psalms, and do some annotating, I give them the matching sheet. Now the race is on.

How do I determine the winner? Well, criteria #1 is accuracy. So, if someone goes 6/6, that’s ideal. What’s the tie breaker is more than one group is perfect? Speed. So, let’s say Cohort 3 finishes first. I check their result and see they got 4/6 but then Cohort 5 finishes a few seconds later and gets 6/6, then Cohort 5 wins. Obviously, the carrot at the end of the stick is bonus points that can be added to past assignments to boost their grades. Obviously.

Not only were students more interested in thinking about how psalms might be divided into various genres but in order to ‘check their work’ (or to challenge the results) they wanted me to explain how a psalm fits into a particular genre. Not only was it fun for them to do, and fun to watch as they scrambled, but far more effective at getting them invested than previous years’ lectures.

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