Interactive Learning: The Latest Classroom Transformer


“I really like the idea of letting kids do group work,” Ruth
said, “but every time I try it, they get off task.” Ruth isn’t
alone in her experience. She’s heard about the benefits of
interactive learning and wants to try it in her classroom. So she
lets the kids interact, and before she knows it, the kids are
interacting about everything but the lesson! How can we train
teachers to get interactive learning to work for them instead of
against them?

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Interactive learning, also known as cooperative learning, is the
latest thing in public school educational methodology. In
interactive learning, kids learn together in groups. Unlike
traditional “group activities,” which can be dominated by outgoing
students, interactive learning requires each student to contribute
to the group’s success. Students in interactive learning groups
understand that they’ll “sink or swim” together.


Interactive learning offers kids the following benefits:

Social skills-In interactive learning classrooms, kids
develop positive social skills as they depend on one another to
complete a task. Interactive learning also provides an excellent
model of life in the body of Christ. Kids learn firsthand that each
person in the church performs a different but equally important

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Increased learning-Kids learn more by pooling their
knowledge. They’re motivated to learn by the joy of discovery
rather than the prodding of a teacher. And they remember more of
what they’ve learned because they’ve discovered answers for

Positive peer relationships-As children work together,
they get to know their classmates and often form lasting
friendships. The formation of positive Christian friendships equips
kids to help each other live out their Christian faith.


Establishing and maintaining interactive classrooms isn’t easy,
but the results are well worth the effort. The following guidelines
will help you train teachers to use interactive learning in their

Have a heart. Commit to helping teachers establish
interactive classrooms. Think about the kids in your ministry and
how the benefits of interactive learning will affect each child.
Pray that God will guide teachers and students as they journey
together toward authentic learning.

Set up classrooms. Have teachers move the furniture in
their rooms to allow kids to interact. Kids in each group need to
be close enough to see and talk to each other without raising their
voices. Groups need to be situated far enough apart so they don’t
distract each other.

Establish guidelines. For successful interactive
learning, help teachers form a plan to deal with situations that
may get out of control. Have teachers explain to children that
they’ll be trying a different way of learning. Tell kids that this
new way of learning might be a little noisier, and ask them to
think of rules that’ll keep them from disturbing other classes.

Choose an attention-getting signal. An
attention-getting signal can be a simple noisemaker, a rhythmic
clap, or a raised hand. Explain that when kids hear the signal,
they should stop what they’re doing, give the response, and listen
quietly for the next instructions. Kids can respond by raising
their hands, clapping, or giving you a “thumbs up” sign.

Form base groups. Groups can vary in size from two to
four. Have teachers consider children’s wishes in group formation
but definitely have the final say. Put male and female, active and
passive, and reading and nonreading students together. Visitors can
jump into an existing group with friendly regulars who know the

Use interactive learning techniques. Simply assigning
kids to groups doesn’t guarantee that they’ll cooperate and work
together. Structure group interaction for optimal learning
experiences. See the “Interactive Learning Structures” box for

Reward positive groups. Tell teachers not to give all
their attention to a rowdy group. Rather, focus on the group that
seems to exhibit the greatest degree of cooperative interaction.
Praise that group’s success. Soon other groups will follow their

Encourage problem-solving. Have teachers refrain from
jumping in to save the day if there’s a problem. Have kids consult
with each other, then with another group, before teachers offer
help. Cheryl Reames, a certified elementary teacher, suggests
having kids use problem-solving steps such as “listen to everyone’s
side,” “don’t interrupt while someone is explaining,” and “try to
find a solution that’ll make everyone happy.” If you’re constantly
intervening, evaluate the situation with kids. Ask why they think
things aren’t working. Often, kids will say, “We don’t understand
what we’re supposed to do.” Clarify any questions kids have, and
encourage them to move on.


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