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Annette's Notes, Issue #023 -- Keeping Students Interested
March 20, 2017

Keeping Students Interested

Awhile back, I received some questions from a Sunday school teacher regarding how to make her lessons fun and keep her 5- to 9-year-old students interested. She also asked about what to do if a student is doing something wrong or annoying.

I thought I’d share some of my answer to her in the hopes that you will also find it helpful:

You can look at the curricula on my website, Curriculum, and notice how I structure the class to keep kids interested. I like to have a set schedule week after week, so students know what to expect. They learn when they can get up and move around and when they are going to be asked to sit awhile.

Include enough activities in your class schedule so that you are not spending too much time on any one thing. I do not go over 20 minutes on any activity.

I wrote my first curriculum, (I Love My Bible), for a group of 5- to 10-year-olds. It is more difficult when you are trying to teach that many ages all together, but it is possible to make it fun and interesting for everyone. Speak more toward the older kids than the younger (don't "dumb" things down). Ask older students to assist younger ones.

If you do not have classroom rules, you should make some right away. Be sure the kids know what you expect from them when they are in class. Keep the rules simple. We have five, and we review them every week right before the Bible lesson. We call ours Power Hour Promises. They are posted in the classroom where everyone can see them. You can print ours if you like: Power Hour Promises

How many students do you have? Sometimes adding another teacher or helper can help a lot with any misbehaving students. You don't want to have to interrupt your teaching to correct a child, as that will draw more attention to the inappropriate behavior. Having someone who can work with a disruptive student while you keep the rest of the class on track can really help.

I make a special effort to build personal relationships with any students who have trouble sitting still or who like to talk out of turn, etc. As I do that, I can often figure out what will motivate them to behave better: Will sitting next to them help? Do I need to take them out of the class to talk? Do I need to talk to their parents? Will a reward for good behavior help?

I try to reinforce and reward good behavior. Sometimes just a compliment helps. I've also been known to give a penny to each student who is paying attention during the Bible lesson. They can use the pennies to operate my candy dispenser (gumball machine filled with small jawbreakers). I prefer to reward good behavior; however, I do not hesitate to address disruptive behavior, because it is not fair to the rest of the kids if one student takes all the attention.

Another thing I have seen work is to create competition and positive peer pressure. Divide the class into two groups (for example, the left side of the room against the right side or boys versus girls). Blow up three balloons for each group and attach them at the front of the class, where each group can see their balloons. Tell the kids that one of their group’s balloons will be popped if someone in their group breaks one of the classroom rules. If their group still has at least one balloon left at the end of the Bible lesson, everyone in their group will receive a prize (for example, a snack, stickers, candy, small toy, etc.). If all their balloons have been popped, no one in their group will receive a prize.

Something we have tried in our classroom recently is purchasing (via a few “fidgets”--small items students who have trouble focusing can hold and fidget with during class. This can help calm some students, helping them focus when they are required to sit quietly. Keys are that the item be small and silent and that the student not use it to distract others. We are still experimenting with these, so if you have any experience in this area, please feel free to pass along suggestions.

Above all, pray for your students and your class. Ask God to anoint you as you teach. Ask Him to give you wisdom to deal with every situation that arises.

"If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him." James 1:5

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