Many of you have emailed me saying, “I can’t keep the kids’ attention,” or “I lose them halfway through the story.” I get it. Even well prepared, seasoned teachers with perfect groups of kids fail at teaching sometimes. Of course, I’m not sure who that teacher is, or where those perfect children exist.
We all need to work at our teaching and classroom management skills. I’m excited to have Joy Feemster here to share some great Engagement Tips with you!
The boys in the back row are punching each other, some of the girls are giggling and whispering, there are eyes rolling in places around the room..let’s face it, you’ve lost them! It’s time to step back, reassess and see what can be done to keep your kids engaged with your lessons.
Engagement Tip #1:
Before anything else, you need to be prepared to teach your lesson. Mark your Bible, so you don’t have to hunt passages down. Have any props you need ready and waiting. Don’t wait till kids come in the classroom to start getting them together. Spend time in advance to prepare your lesson. Don’t come sliding in sideways a few minutes before the kids get there and expect to effectively teach your lesson!
Engagement Tip #2:
Once you’re ready to teach, you have to get their attention. Find some attention getting ploys that work for you. There are many techniques. Some teachers use a noisemaker, like a bell or whistle, which is a signal to stop talking and listen. Others use little phrases, like “Alligator, alligator..”, and the kids respond “chomp,chomp!”, or “1-2-3, eyes on me”. Check out attention getting strategies on Pinterest for a wealth of ideas.
Engagement Tip #3:
Once you have their attention, don’t waste it! Keep your lesson short and sweet. Kids have an attention span of about the same number of minutes as their age. Plan accordingly. Make sure your lesson is active and focused, not rambling. Vary the volume of your speaking, use hand gestures and props, and move around to help keep them focused on you. Use lots of energy! If you have a “talking time” that needs to be more than 10 minutes, I would suggest splitting it up into segments with an activity in between.
Engagement Tip #4:
Which brings me to hands-on activities – kids (and adults!) learn more from doing than just listening. It is vital to have some sort of experiential component in your lesson. For instance, if you’re teaching about Jesus calming the storm, have kids sit close together on the floor, rowing as hard as they can, while swaying back and forth with the waves. If you can supply sound effects and spray them with a water bottle, even better! Kids learn a lot from being “in” the story.
Engagement Tip #5:
Hands-on activities also help kids experience the emotion of the story. Ask, “How would you feel if you were in a terrible storm out on the sea?” “Have you ever been in a terrible storm? What was that like?” Emotions help tie memory and experience together, which helps with retention.
Engagement Tip #6:
Now take those emotions, memories and experiences and give them life application. For instance, ask, “What does the phrase ‘storms of life’ mean?” “If Jesus can calm a real wild storm on the sea, do you think He can calm a storm in your life?” “Is anyone going through a storm in your life right now? Let’s think about how Jesus can help you.” “Has Jesus helped you through one of life’s storms? Tell us about it.”
Engagement Tip #7:
Finally, end with a challenge, a question, or a prompt to do something. You could say, “This week, look up and read this story in the Bible (Matthew 8:23-27), and write down any thoughts or ideas about this Bible event. Bring in your paper and we’ll..” post them on the wall, give you a piece of candy, – whatever works for your kids.
Try some of these ideas this week. Find what works for you in your context. Engaging kids with the lesson requires more prep and effort on your part, but the payoff is huge in their understanding and retention.
Joy Feemster is a 20 year veteran of Children’s Ministries, currently Director of Christian Education at Neely’s Creek Church in Rock Hill, SC. Her passion in life is pointing people to that “1 Thing” relationship with Jesus Christ. (Luke 10:38-42).