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All people learn differently -- regardless of age. Whether you
look through the lens of Gardner's Multiple Intelligences, the
Index of Learning Styles, or another learning-style model, it's
important as a teacher to recognize the variety of ways kids best
absorb information -- especially if you're charged with teaching
kids God's Word to impact their lives.
Research shows, though, that most teachers unconsciously teach
in the way they learn best. So if a teacher learns best through
lecture, he or she is most likely to spend the majority of
classroom time lecturing to kids. This leaves kids who learn best
in another way disengaged and disinterested -- and not learning to
their full potential.
That's why we've created this handy checklist based on the
latest best practices in education. Copy the checklist and keep it
in your classroom as a reminder to vary teaching styles and methods
so all kids get to experience lessons in a way that speaks to them.
Simply check off the best practice as you use it, and when you've
checked them all, there's a great chance you've connected in some
way with each child.
1 GESTURES AND EXPRESSIONS -- Your gestures and
facial expressions add another layer of communication to your
message -- and they help children grasp meaning. One teacher
compares teaching with acting: "It's like stepping up on stage and
performing" -- meaning you speak, act, and gesticulate differently
than you do in casual conversation -- and doing so is a valuable
What it looks like: You're animated, enthusiastic, and engaging
when teaching. You make a conscious effort to simulate activities,
events, and emotions from lessons, such as demonstrating planting
seeds in the parable of the sower. Kids see you're excited about
what you're teaching.
2 PHYSICAL MOVEMENT -- Borrowed from language
acquisition techniques, Total Physical Response (TPR) is the basic
premise that when children respond to commands or requests
physically, it "imprints" their brains with the new information and
a parallel physical action. So children who act out biblical events
are more likely to remember and make a mental connection to what
What it looks like: Children perform impromptu dramas and
role-plays. It's common for kids to physically perform activities
from the lessons, such as casting a net, grinding corn, and washing
one another's feet. Kids know when they're in your class, they'll
3 MEDIA -- Visual and auditory media is an
important contributor to kids' learning experiences. Kids respond
to the visual storytelling and other stimuli present in media
What it looks like: Media sources such as videos, music, and
even the Internet enhance and reinforce your lessons. Kids look
forward to experiencing media in measured portions as it highlights
key points and develops background and contextual information about
events and people.
4 VISUAL TOOLS -- Items such as pictures and
models help kids make visual connections to what they're reading or
hearing about, increasing their comprehension and interest and
reinforcing the subject matter.
What it looks like: You use visual aids to communicate
additional information about your lesson, such as an image
comparing the size of Noah's Ark to a football field or various
ethnic interpretations of what Jesus may've looked like.
5 GRAPHIC ORGANIZERS -- Charts and diagrams --
created by kids -- help kids categorize, organize, and sort the
information they're learning. These tools not only help kids grasp
and think critically about abstract concepts, they also reinforce
What it looks like: T-charts, Venn diagrams, four corners
charts, webs, and other creative sorting tools enhance each lesson.
Kids' creatively designed diagrams and charts decorate your walls.
Kids can explain how they've organized the information and what the
chart communicates -- whether it's a family tree or a comparison
between two people from the Bible. For samples of graphic
organizers, go to www.childrensministry.com/diagrams.
6 THEMES -- Themed teaching helps kids mentally
organize and contextualize information. So when kids learn a lesson
about the prodigal son, they learn how that event fits in the
larger theme of forgiveness. Themes help kids see the bigger
picture and give them a sense of predictability.
What it looks like: You promote and discuss your larger theme of
study with kids -- and you talk about why the smaller pieces, such
as individual lessons, fit in the theme. When asked, kids can
identify the monthly or quarterly theme and can reason through why
individual lessons fit within it.
7 PEER INTERACTION -- Kids connecting with
other kids and building relationships is a critical component to
learning. A noncompetitive, accepting, safe environment fosters
healthy peer interaction. Children need opportunities in each class
to interact with their peers in a developmentally appropriate time
frame and manner.
What it looks like: All children feel welcome and at ease in
your class. You give kids several opportunities to discuss
pertinent topics and build relationships. Even quieter children
feel comfortable, though they're less likely to speak up, and all
kids understand the basic rules of respect for others and letting
everyone have a chance to talk.
8 FUN -- Kids learn when they're laughing, and
a happy classroom is a healthy classroom. Educational games boost
memory and offer opportunities for kids to digest and strategize
the information they've received.
What it looks like: Kids play games specific to subject matter.
Cooperative, team-building games where everyone wins are prevalent.
Kids have fun -- all within the context of Christian education.
9 VERBAL EXPERIENCES -- A fantastic tool for
helping kids absorb what they're learning is to have them verbalize
the information to someone else. If kids can discuss what they're
learning, they're more likely to comprehend and absorb it.
What it looks like: You get kids talking by challenging them to
verbal games such as 20 Questions or Find Your Match (quizzing
others about a mystery identity). Kids have a blast doing mock
interviews, singing songs, and doing biographical sketches to share
with peers and parents. You intentionally create opportunities for
kids to investigate and then talk about people from the Bible.
10 COMPREHENSION STRATEGIES -- Teaching kids to
think critically about what they're learning -- before they learn
it -- is a key best practice that's engaging and lets kids ponder
what they're going to learn.
What it looks like: You show kids the lesson materials (images,
props, craft supplies, and more) as you're introducing the lesson
and ask them to guess what the topic and point might be. Kids are
intrigued and exercise their creative thinking skills as they
survey the information you give them and make educated guesses
about what they'll learn. cm