We’re giving you 9 knockout activities for a boring curriculum so kids will conquer their yawns and actually learn something. Or will they squirm in their chairs while the lesson drones on for an interminable 45 minutes?
In this corner, weighing 165 pounds: Brad Fife, Sunday school teacher extraordinaire.
In that corner, weighing .10 pounds: the champion, fuddy-duddy Sunday school curriculum.
If your Sunday school curriculum is decreed by your denomination or imposed by a board and turns out to be dull, boring, pencil-and-paper work, you can conquer it. If your curriculum calls for kids to simply read a passage, answer rote questions, or fill out worksheets, go to your corner and come out swinging with these replacement activities.
Knock Out Reading Material
1. Shorten it.
Form groups of two or three. Assign a paragraph or short section to each group. Tell groups the reading material is too long and you want them to make it really short. They should put as much information as possible into 10 words or less. When groups are finished, have them each read the shortened material.
2. Order it.
Photocopy the reading material and cut it into paragraphs. Glue each paragraph to a piece of construction paper. Attach a string to the construction paper so kids can wear each paragraph like a necklace. Make one for each child. Give each child a part of the lesson. Have them reassemble the story by lining up the paragraphs in the correct order.
3. Relay it.
Form teams of two to five. Have a small platform, stage, or milk crate for each team. Give each team an assortment of costumes or props that might suit the reading material. For instance, if you’re reading about a missionary in China, include chopsticks, a Bible, a flashlight (light of the Word), a crown (kingdom of heaven), a boat, and rice. Teams don’t need the same props.
Have teams line up at a starting line with their props and a copy of the reading material. Teams must read the first paragraph of the material, choose a costume or props that fit that paragraph and send one costumed child to the stage with the props and the reading material. When teams each have their player on stage, have the players read the first paragraph in unison and then run back to their teams to prepare the next paragraph. Continue as long as interest is high.
Take a Swing at Questions
4. Play spoons.
Collect a plastic spoon for each child. With a permanent marker, write a number on each spoon’s bowl. Number small slips of paper to match the spoons.
Have kids sit in a circle with the spoons in the center. Ask the lesson’s first question. Play music. Stop the music suddenly as in Musical Chairs. When the music stops, have each child grab a spoon. Draw a number from the small slips of paper. Have the person who grabbed the spoon with that number answer the question and keep his or her spoon. Have kids put the rest of the spoons back in the center. Continue until all the questions are answered.
5. Pass musical envelopes.
Write each question on a different 3×5 card and tack the cards to a bulletin board. Write the answer to each question on a different 3×5 card and place the cards in separate envelopes.
Have kids stand in a circle. Give one envelope to each child. Read the first question from one of the cards on the bulletin board. Play music. Have kids pass the envelopes one by one around the circle. When the music stops, have kids open their envelopes. Have the child with the answer to the question tack the answer on the bulletin board next to the appropriate question. Place the cards in the envelopes and play again. Continue until all the questions are answered.
6. Run for the answer.
Write the answers to questions on sheets of brightly colored paper and hang them on the walls. Read a question and say “go.” Kids run to put their hands on the right answer. This works best with one- or two-word answers such as “Who denied Jesus? Peter.”
7. Act it out.
Form two teams. Give one team all the questions and the other team all the answers. Have the team with the questions act out the first question Charades-style. When the other team thinks it knows the answer, act out the answer also.
Punch out Word Games
8. Expand word searches.
Copy the word search from the lesson onto newsprint, a plastic tablecloth (rescue one from a church picnic and use a permanent marker), or on the parking lot (use chalk). Make 8-inch squares. Give children each a word to find and have them cover their words with their body parts. This is the most fun if some words go diagonally.
9. Make human crossword puzzles.
Lay sheets of construction paper on the floor in the shape of your curriculum’s crossword puzzle. Black sheets of construction paper serve as filled-in spaces. One sheet of construction paper stands for one space in a word. It helps to make the spaces different colors and to number the first space of each word.
Give each child 10 3×5 cards and a marker. Assign each child a section of the alphabet; for example, A through D.
Read the questions from the crossword puzzle and let the children work together to figure out the answers. When they think they have the answer, have the children with the letters to the word each write their assigned letter on a 3×5 card. Then have them stand on the appropriate construction paper spaces. After a word is discovered, have kids each lay down their letter, leave the puzzle, and start over.
Terry Vermillion is a former director of a preschool program in Missouri. She has worked with children for 21 years.
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