Articles From the July 1995 Unification News


So You Want to Teach Sunday School... Effective Teaching Techniques

by Vicki Henry-U.C. Sunday School Principal, Minneapolis, MN

When I first became the principal of our Sunday School, I was inundated with many people saying they wanted to teach. But as the first year went by, many of those same people became tired or disillusioned with teaching and/or frustrated with feeling they didn't know how to teach. As I started into the second year, I developed a Teacher Survey. Each teacher or person who comes to me saying they want to teach is required to fill one out. It not only helps me, as the director of Sunday School, see how much they have really thought about teaching, but tells me what their understanding of education is. It also helps the other begin to organize their own thoughts and feelings about teaching and Sunday School in general.

The questions include:

1. Why do you want to teach Sunday School?

2. How much are you committed to teaching Sunday School? (Include how much time you can commit both in actual teaching and in preparation for lessons.)

3. List your personal traits, experiences, etc., that you feel can contribute in teaching children.

4. List the pros and cons of our current Sunday School system in Minneapolis (include curriculum, supplies, facilities, etc.).

5. What would you want to see accomplished this school year in Sunday School? (List whole purpose and personal goals.)

6. How much and what kind of direction and/or help would you want in teaching Sunday School?

What characteristics should a teacher possess?

(Excerpts here are from Creative Bible Learning for Children Grades 1- 6 by Barbara J. Bolton and Charles T. Smith, International Center for Learning, c. 1977.)

Each person who guides children should be a growing person. Prayer must be a regular, meaningful part of your life. Pray for each staff member in your department as well as for your own personal needs. Pray by name for each child in your class. Know his needs so your prayers can be specific. Pray for guidance in your lesson preparation.

Those who guide children must be teachable. Be willing to learn new and better ways to do your job. Keep abreast of today's educational trends by reading and studying current publications. Be open to the suggestions of others. Visit Sunday Schools in your area as well as public school classrooms. Also attend teacher workshops.

To help make the content of teaching material relevant to the needs of the children, a teacher needs to be flexible. One who guides children must be able to change his role according to the situation and interests of the children.

The one who guides children is a person who cares. He becomes excited when he sees a child discover an evidence of God's love or show loving concern for another in response to God's Word. Express your concern by loving and accepting each child. Understand the individual differences in children; become aware of the needs and potential of each child. Share the child's feeling of wonder and discovery. Enjoy his achievements with him.

Your role is to plan and guide children in Bible learning experiences through which they can discover, create and accomplish things for themselves.

Those who guide children are listeners. A child's words and actions are clues to his needs and understanding.

Build the teacher/student relationship.

Plan for children to have a choice of activities in which they will participate.

Providing an environment which stimulates learning is another teacher responsibility. Begin by keeping your room clean and attractive. Avoid clutter. Arrange materials so they are seeable, reachable and returnable. Use bulletin board space to display some of the children's Bible learning activities or similar work.

Recognize positive behavior.

Have realistic expectations.

Be enthusiastic.

Teaching style

There are as many styles of teaching as there are types of personalities. The important point to understand in developing your teaching style is always to have a dynamic classroom environment. In order to accomplish this, you need to go with the flow of the children in your classroom. Basically, this means you have to adjust to their learning styles. This has a twofold understanding connected to it. One is understanding the age level you are teaching. What are they capable of understanding? What is their attention span? The second thing is realizing that not everyone learns the same way as you. Some children are very visually oriented. Books with big, bright illustrations, video tapes and bright posters are necessary for those students. Some children learn by listening, so make sure your voice is loud enough and clear enough. Don't mumble to the floor when you speak. Still other children need to move or touch. Keep all these things in mind when teaching as well as when setting up your classroom space.

Facilitating teaching

In order to begin teaching, you need a strategy. Usually when you think of teaching, the image of the teacher standing in front of a class, lecturing and writing on the blackboard while the children listen is what comes to many people's minds. This, however, is only one form among many that should be used. I personally feel that a teacher of elementary-school age children should use the blackboard and lecture technique very sparingly. Exploring the following strategies in your classroom will lead to that dynamic classroom spoken of earlier.

*Cooperative learning. This is when each member of the group has ownership over the content, and children are encouraged to work together toward the final product. The teacher acts as the facilitator providing leadership, but not as the sole source of information.

*Dyads. This is when children work in groups of two. The teachers carefully matches the children so a comfortable working relationship may be productive for both students.

*Each one teach one. This strategy is where each participant in the group is responsible for a component of a unit of teaching. Individual projects are in this category.

*Learning centers. These are designed by the teacher to allow the children to work at an independent pace at activities which support the ongoing curriculum. Children may be held responsible for completing certain tasks which are outlined at each center. (Side note: you will usually need a big space for this kind of strategy, unless activities are in a folder format which can be stored in a file cabinet of some kind.)

*Demonstration. This is where a teachers models certain behavior. Role playing can be in this category.

*Inquiry. This is a process of framing questions, gathering and processing data relevant to those questions, and drawing inferences or conclusions about the data. The teacher's responsibility in inquiry learning is to help students find ways to gather and evaluate evidence; and to help them with the skill of generalizing and of inferring from their data.

*Reflective thinking. This is designed to give learners the opportunity to be philosophical-to consider, discuss and argue issues. Reflective thinking deals with questions that cannot be answered solely by data.

*Creative Expression. This is activities such as: poems, photographs, murals, skits, stories, drawings, paintings, radio programs, models, booklets, puppet shows, television programs (video), plays, games, dioramas

Developing your teaching voice

Whenever you talk to children, talk from your heart-really mean what you say. You will use your voice to get the children's attention, teach a lesson, to discipline, to reward, to acknowledge, to warn and to soothe. Studies have shown that most people "tune out" after about five minutes of someone talking. Because of this, teachers need to develop an interesting voice that holds children's attention. One way to do this is to develop the art of storytelling without a book. With no illustrations to help with your delivery, you must rely solely on your voice to communicate and "paint pictures" in the minds of the children. Try it with your own children or the children of a friend or relative.

Giving directions

Did you know that the most asked question in school is "What are we supposed to do?"? This question is usually whispered in the ear of the neighboring child. As stated before, all children have different learning styles. Because of this, children cannot absorb a complex set of directions; in fact, most adults can't, either. A good way of giving directions is to have them written down on the blackboard and/or on a paper for them to read, as well as giving them orally. Teachers of very young children can have illustrated directions.

The major points here are:

1. Always make eye contact with all your students to make sure they are understanding the directions.

2. Give directions visually and auditorily (have models made of each step in an activity if constructing something).

3. Keep directions simple.

4. Don't give too many directions at once.

How to use a lesson plan

A lesson plan is a self-imposed guideline. Writing a lesson plan forces you to clarify what you want to accomplish and organizes your methodology. Remember, however, always to remain flexible when actually teaching in order to meet the needs and interests of your students.

The following is the lesson-plan format that I use and what each heading means:

1. Goal/Subject Area: Basically, this is your topic. Is it a Bible story, Divine Principle chapter, some aspect of U.C. tradition or history, True Parents' lives, etc.?

2. Time Period: How long is your presentation? activity? Will the lesson be longer than one class session?

3. Objectives: These are your desired outcomes. What is it that you want the students to learn? Be specific.

4. Activity: What will the students do/make? How does it tie in with your objectives?

5. Materials and resources: A detailed list of every single item you need to present and carry through with your lesson. If you will need an extension cord, put it down. There is no excuse for spacing out your supplies.

6. Format: How you are going to present and carry through your lesson. List every step, including what you will say and ask the students.

7. Evaluation: How are you going to measure the success of your lesson? Your evaluation should coincide with your objectives. Ways of measuring include: observation of children, children's participation in activity, and question and answer.

Making it all work

All prospective teachers need to know what's in store for them. They should be told exactly what is expected of them. They need to know the lesson topic, how long they are to teach (for that class as well as how often they will teach), and what will be provided in the way of equipment and literature.

This preparation and communication is best facilitated through each grade level's Head Teacher to each of their respective teachers. I have found that this stage in Sunday School development is the most crucial of all. If there is no communication or not a good working relationship between the Head Teachers and their teachers, the entire Sunday School will collapse.

Consequently, it is an absolute necessity that your Head Teachers be strong, self-motivated, organized, consistent and responsible. The Head Teachers are the Sunday School Principal's "right arm" to achieve an effective Sunday School.

picture #1 caption:

Visuals and student participation help facilitate your teaching.

picture #2 caption:

Some children learn by moving. Here children try out a Korean dance that they saw on a Little Angels videotape.

picture #3 caption:

Be sure to include creative expression in your lessons.


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