UNIVERSALIST ALPHABET: OVERVIEW
to the revision of the curriculum that was first published in 1989.
There are changes in format, the addition of sessions, and additional
activities for older children in some sessions. With the curriculum
on the website, revisions can be made and sessions can be added, so
please check the site periodically.
materials from this curriculum may be copied as needed, with a
notation of the source on the material as it is used.
focus of the Unitarian Universalist Alphabet is to provide a
comfortable environment for children and the adults who are working
with them in the congregational setting, while providing content that
can be built throughout this and subsequent years. The Alphabet
is developed on a model of "relational religious
education," which acknowledges that children first connect with
a community of faith through contact with people, followed by
identity based on content;
introduces the child to Unitarian Universalism through
stories of important people in our faith heritage and in their own
church environment, and the Unitarian Universalist Affirmations
focuses on the developmental level of the preschool
child and early elementary aged child, using consistent activities
from week to week, as well as a variety of activities. Activities for
older children have been added in some sessions.
presents suggestions that can be expanded and modified
to meet the needs of the group, the congregation’s available
resources, and the interests of the teacher(s); and can be
integrated into the broader church community, as the children learn;
includes awareness and attention to the diversity and
multi-cultural perspectives of the faith community, as noted in
various activities and selection of the "Special Persons."
The order in which the letters are used is variable. However, “All
About Us” and the Letters A, B and C contain basic information
about the curriculum and about developing their own group community,
so are suggested to be used at the beginning.
Curriculum Overview Chart notes suggest content by letter, including
cross-references. For example, Emerson is also mentioned in the
stories about Chester Daniel French and Henry David Thoreau. In
addition, the Timeline gives a quick reference to contemporaries.
STARTED: This format is suggested in all of the lessons as a way of
establishing continuity. It is a time for welcoming each other, for
getting a sense of what is going on with the children, and for
introducing the letter and activities for the day.
In the “All About Us” session, attention is paid to what
names they want to use. This also establishes the attendance sheet.
The Letter A session talks about attendance and absence in the sense
of being glad to see each other. The welcoming that is done in the
first session can be repeated as a ritual, basically saying each
person’s name, followed by “Welcome, (name)” by the
group. The advantage to doing this each week is that each person is
acknowledged and each person’s voice will been heard at least
once during the session.
welcoming includes leaving an empty chair for someone in the group
who is not present, and for someone who has not started coming to the
group. A stuffed animal may sit in the chair, or a "Welcome"
sign may be placed on it. A person who comes for the first time or to
visit may sit in the chair, or they can have their own chair and
still leave a chair empty.
letter necklace of the letter of the day for the person with
that letter as an initial increases personal identity with the
letter. The necklaces can be made by cutting out letters or having
large letters drawn on construction paper squares, with yarn through
the top. If a person is not present to wear an initial, the letter
can be sent to him or her, recognizing the letter connection and
acknowledging that the person is missed.
about the things that the children have brought related to the
letter, such as pictures, stuffed animals, or puppets. These will be
returned at the end of the session. To the degree possible, link the
items to the church setting, and note things that may be mentioned
later in the session (like animals with the specific letter). In the
session on Letter A, there is a discussion of a special place as an
altar. After the presentation, things can be put in this special
place until the closing. Children do not have to bring things in
order to be part of the group.
a letter bag is another way of presenting items. Discuss the
items related to the letter as the leaders or the children pull them
from the bag. Take time to think of other words for the letter that
may not have been part of the presentation. Only a few words will
become the focus of a specific session. The focus in the sessions is
generally on nouns that are concrete and likely to be known to the
children. However, geographic areas have their own names for things,
and local usage should be encouraged as it relates to understanding
of the church community. Local differences will also be evident in
the animals used and snacks that are available.
PERSON: This is a brief story about the person from our Unitarian
Universalist heritage. More than one person has been used for a few
of the letters. It is important in presenting the people that the
Unitarian Universalist connection be verified. For example, Jane
Addams was included in the first edition of this curriculum.
Important as she was, Unitarian or Universalist connections could not
be confirmed. Therefore, the person in Session A was changed to
Susan B. Anthony.
the sake of this web site, individuals are identified as Unitarian
they were raised Unitarian, Universalist, or Unitarian
and/or at some time in their lives regularly attended
or joined a Unitarian, Universalist, or Unitarian Universalist
and/or at some time in their lives identified
themselves as Unitarian, Universalist, or Unitarian Universalist in
theology or membership.
are selected for inclusion based on:
Diversity in the overall curriculum (ministers and
laity; Unitarians and Universalists; citizenship, gender,
occupational, cultural and racial diversity, and sexual affinity).
Information that is available that can be used in
anecdotal or story form.
are two variations from the usual pattern. For the Letter Q,
"Quillen," which is a first name, was used instead of the
last name. For the Letter J, Jackson, I could not verify the
membership of Helen Jackson in a Unitarian or Universalist church.
However, she is noted to have "Unitarian connections," and
was a friend of Emily Dickens and Oliver Wendall Holmes, both of whom
were Unitarians, and Ralph Waldo Emerson carried one of her poems in
people included in the curriculum are suggestions. People from the
local faith community can be used with or in place of these
suggestions. The letter V is a demonstration of this. William
Vaughan was a member of the Augusta congregation. For all of his
prominence in the community and the congregation, the children knew
him through their visits to his farm. People from the congregation
can be included in several ways. The stories can be told about the
person, the person can come to the session and tell his or her own
story, or a person with the same initial can come and present the
story that is in the curriculum.
many of the people included in the curriculum, pictures are available
from various sources. These are noted on the Curriculum Overview
The Affirmations are from the Bylaws of the Unitarian Universalist
Association, Principles and Purposes that provide guidance for
learning about our faith community. Various versions have been
developed for children. The inclusion of the Affirmation is for
beginning recognition, rather than deep discussion that will come
Affirmations will be noted at various places within the lessons,
usually following the story. It is suggested that the Affirmations
be posted in the room. In addition, specific ones could be noted in
specific parts of the room, such as
Everyone is important, by the place where
nametags are kept or coats are hung;
is the place where we learn together, with the name of the
take care of our world, with the place for special things and the
body picture (session B)
the Affirmations Chart that can be hung up in the room. (Separate
second part of the Principles and Purposes is the Sources from which
we draw in our Living Tradition. The awareness of these Sources is a
basis for the selection of materials in this curriculum, but the
sources are not mentioned in every session. One session that will
include these will be the discussion of sacred books in Session B.
the Affirmation, there may be specific activities or discussion
related to the Special Person or the Affirmation. For example, in
Session A, the Affirmation relates to the "democratic process,"
The activity is development of "Guidelines for Living
Together," using the democratic process.
LETTER IN THE CHURCH
may be key words starting with the letter of the session that are
important in the church community but which do not directly relate to
the Special Person or the Affirmation. For example, Session B
includes a presentation of books from different religions, and the
Unitarian Universalist Hymnbook.
variation for older children is to think of/find other words starting
with the letter in the church setting, and discuss the place of that
item in the life of the congregation. Congregations will have their
own unique spaces and items.
Additional parts of every session:
for the universe: Each week there will be a focus on animals,
both domestic and wild, common and endangered. If possible, create a
space for animals to be remembered, such as a bulletin board for
pictures or a net for stuffed animals. At the end, letter Z, there
will be a focus on zoos and other kinds of animal conservation areas.
While we will name several animals each week, we will focus on only a
of each person and taking care of ourselves as part of the
interdependent web: Sessions include awareness of respective body
parts. Each week, a part of the body that starts with that letter
will be noted and labeled on the Body (Session B). Talk about the
function of that body part, and what happens when it does not work.
This includes varying abilities, and how to help people who may have
special considerations or needs.
Each session takes time to consider things related to the
Note the date of the session and the letter that is
being used. (In planning for the sessions, the leaders can note the
letters to be discussed by dates and, if there is a team of
teachers, who will be leading, as the sessions are planned.)
Add or mark events that start with that letter to the
calendar, as noted in the Session Plan.
Put the birthdays of each person in the group on the
calendar. (This is an activity under Session B.)
Note celebrations and events in your local
congregations, in addition to the suggestions in the Session Plan.
This will provide an opportunity to explain the importance of
congregational events and possibly to be more intentional about
inclusion of children in the event.
To the degree possible, snacks can match the letter of the day. This
is an optional part of the program, and is not noted in a specific
sequence in the lesson plans. Allergies that children may have, such
as lactose intolerance or allergies to nuts need to be considered in
A standard closing is suggested that acknowledges the learning from
the session, and an acknowledgement of the activities for the next
session. This is also the time to make sure that the things that
have been brought for sharing are returned to be taken home.
FOR OLDER CHILDREN
the curriculum focuses on Preschool and Kindergarten children,
additional activities can be used to expand the age range of the
material. Congregations have used the material with older children,
and there is an expressed need for material that can cover several
ages, particularly for smaller congregations with wide age span of
children. Therefore, a new part of this curriculum is "Variations
for Older Children" at the end of the session plan.
MATERIALS FOR USE
are some questions to consider in deciding whether and how to
implement the Unitarian Universalist Alphabet in your setting.
THINGS TO CONSIDER
UNIVERSALIST ALPHABET NOTES
Is this theme of interest to many
or a few of the people in the congregation or involved in the
Religious Education Program?
The theme is introduction to the
Unitarian Universalist community of faith. Focuses on words and
activities starting with specific letters related to the church
setting and to Unitarian Universalist tradition.
Are the goals/objectives of the
curriculum consistent with those of the religious education
Children learn that their faith
community is a comfortable place, and start learning about the
Unitarian Universalist Affirmations and Sources.
GROUP AND GROUP SIZE
the expected age group and group size?
material be easily adapted beyond the group?
regular attendance required for continuity or the continuation of
the material fit with the group?
Is the material inclusive?
GROUP AND GROUP SIZE
is Preschool and Kindergarten, with additional suggestions for
elementary age children.
size is flexible, and most activities can be done with only one
child or a group.
space available adequate for the activities of the curriculum?
Does there need to be space for
Suggests that there be some
specific areas in the room, such as a place to put pictures of
animals, or things that the children have brought on a given day.
sessions be combined, rearranged in order, omitted without losing
the impact and intent?
How can the curriculum fit into
the church calendar?
Sessions that are designed to
stand alone, including the beginning and the ending, and more than
one session for some letters. Sessions used and order (except for
beginning and ending) is flexible. Sessions will be added from
time to time.
What is the expected length of a
session? Can this be altered?
45-60 minutes. Activities can be
deleted to shorten.
specific teacher training recommended? If so, how available is
many teachers are required?
How much preparation is indicated?
training is needed, but imagination is.
single teacher is needed per session.
About 1/2 hour-hour preparation is
needed. Suggestion: Read the session plan, think about the letter
for about a week so that you have your own ideas to add. Some
sessions suggest inviting guests or have activities that are
better with some planning.
Is specific preparation of the
parents or the congregation needed?
Children are encouraged to bring
items related to the letter being discussed, but this is not
required for participation. However, in order to do this, the
children need to know what letters are being discussed in advance,
as telling them at the end of the sessions, what is coming next.
What are the strengths and
weaknesses? What is the age of the material? Do you have the
of activities and usage.
Some letters lend themselves to
activities more readily than others, possibly creating some
session plans are written so that they can be used independent of the
curriculum as a total. The focus would be on the Special Person and
related parts of the congregational life, possibly not using the
Animals, Body or Calendar sections.
session can be put into a large bag with the all of the items needed.
The bags can be stored in a box for quick use.
© Helen Zidowecki 10/2007