Broken Lesson #4
Out of Their World
The teacher holds up a white paper heart to begin his object lesson. He says, "This is what my heart looks like in the morning. I wake up and start a brand new day with a clean heart. As I go through my day, I make choices that can change my heart. The choices might keep my heart clean or they might dirty my heart." As the kids watch, he tells them about one of his typical days. As he does this, he makes marks on his heart. He gives an example of someone cutting him off on his way to work, how he reacted to different situations at work, and so on. When he's finished, his heart is all smudged. Then he explains that Jesus makes our hearts clean again if we ask, and he shows the kids a clean heart.
This is a great object lesson! It shows how our choices, good or bad, change our hearts in different ways. But the kids get lost when the teacher gives examples from his adult life. Most kids don't quite understand the concept of being cut off while driving. And they may not be able to identify with the situations the teacher had at work. For learning to be maximized, kids need to identify with the examples.
- Know your kids and their lives. Find out what their days are like as you provide examples that bring the Scriptures to life.
- Think like a child. Give examples of things they'd recognize by talking about an experience when you were their age. Help them connect to you.
- Pull from kids' experiences. Ask kids to provide the examples as you teach your object lesson.
Broken Lesson #5
Missing the Moment
As the 4-year-olds in one room work on a craft, a little girl talks to the leader sitting next to her about something going on in her life: "I don't ever get to see my daddy." As she says this, she reaches for someone to listen to her. The leader responds, "When my parents got divorced, I didn't get to see my dad much, either." End of conversation.
This is a prime example of a teachable moment. A young child brought a concern to her trusted leader, but the leader missed the opportunity to talk to her about her feelings and give her a word of encouragement-or just an understanding ear. God gives us little moments in time to connect with children, to help others grow, and to reach out. Teachable moments present themselves to us in so many ways when we teach children; we just have to listen and look.
- Ask for more. When children open up a teachable moment, ask questions to draw them out: What happened? How does that make you feel? How can I pray for you?
- Listen. Really listen. The girl in our example just needed a friend-who could've changed her life.
- Pray! Don't stop at that last question. Actually spend time, just you and the child and God, talking about what's on the child's heart.
Broken Lesson #6
Learning Styles vs. Teaching Styles
In a second- and third-grade setting, the leaders choose different children to read portions of the Bible story. Children take turns, and everyone eventually has a turn to read. Then the leaders hand out a worksheet for kids to complete. When kids finish the word scramble on the worksheet, they turn it over to answer questions and fill in blanks about the story. They get most of their answers right. In closing, the teacher says a prayer.
As teachers, we get comfortable doing certain activities, either because we've done them so many times or they're what we're good at. We tend to lead lessons the same way each time, and it's the way we teach best, rather than the way children learn best. This is an easy mistake to make. This lesson was much too focused on the learning style of reading-to the exclusion of other learning styles. It can take time to build a lesson for different learning styles or different groups of children, and we may not feel like we have the expertise to do it well. So here are a few ideas to get you going.
- Make connections. Form groups where kids learn the Bible story and connect it to their lives in different ways. One group may be the creative arts group, another may recreate the story in drama, while another may actually read the story and write something about it. For more on creative ways to teach for each child's style, go to Web Extras at www.cmmag.com.
- Give kids choices. Let them choose how they'll learn each week. Then let them choose how they'll apply that learning to their lives. You can give them three or four options to choose from, but make the ultimate decision theirs.
- Create a learning profile for each child. Keep notes of ways children learn, interesting characteristics about each child, and things you do that work or don't work.
If your lesson is broken, you're missing reaching every child in your classroom. Use these fixer-uppers to fix your lesson so you'll reach every child, every time.
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Zach was diagnosed with cancer and given only a few short months to live. What he did with the time is simply amazing.
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