Customizing Activities For Your Sunday School Class
Sudden changes to your plans can be unsettling. Practicing (and preparing for) adaptability will help you teach more confidently.
Do you have a larger class than expected? Just one student? Readers? Preschoolers? A Mix? Make the ideas in lessons you find fit your needs. Pay attention to what succeeds and what doesn't. Try something you're not good at -- the kids may be great at it!
Here's some ideas to get you started.
Make more than one set of activities, and break up the class into teams or groups. Juniors love to compete, especially boys against girls. Or set up stations, and have groups rotate through them.
Involve the students every chance you get. Have one or two act out parts while you read the story. Have students pass out materials, clean up, and participate as much as you can.
Buddy up. When you have a range of ages, buddy up older students with younger ones. The older students can assist with crafts, keep students on task, and answer questions.
Assign responsibility. Keeping older kids engaged when the class has much younger children in it can be difficult. Assign older students an area of responsibility to give them a feeling of investment and relevance. Keep it focused on one task and be specific about expectations. For example: assign one student to make sure all craft materials are passed out, another to assist younger kids with challenging tasks, or a third with running the electronics.
Use this chance to have discussions about the lesson and how it applies to them personally. Participate with the class when they do arts and crafts. Share your personal experiences with them to build trust and relationship. Concentrate on the skills they need most. Ask them lots of questions.
Unusually small classes can often run through prepared material more quickly than expected. Keep a few "if needed" games on hand to handle unexpected empty times - like when a sermon runs long or there are too few kids to play a prepared game. I keep a couple Bingo games ready, review using true and false, or a couple other class favorites. Let the kids run the game themselves whenever possible.
Give them plenty of structured chances to move. Make them stand to answer questions. Attach activities to the wall and have them walk up to participate. Place answers around the room and have them stand in the corresponding spot to make their choice. Give them a reason to move around acceptably, e.g. for true and false questions, make them stand in front of a "true" or "false" sign.
Make reasonable allowances
Every class has kids on all ranges of a bunch of different spectrums. A gifted child can be as restless and unengaged as an autistic child, or a rebellious child. Don't be afraid to make reasonable allowances.
Allowing a student to keep their hands busy with a toy - as long as they are not disruptive to others - can be better than disrupting the class yourself by constantly interacting with the student.
If necessary, explain to the class that your class is just like a family - there is one goal, but different paths for different people to meet that goal. The best path for one student is not always the best path for another.
Reaching every child when some have years of Biblical instruction and others are new and inconsistent attendees can be challenging. All these students deserve a lesson that impacts them. The simplest way to ensure this is to focus on application, rather than just knowledge. What does this mean to them, today? Application changes as students grow older and more experienced.
My training slideshow of the Levels of Learning provides descriptions each level of understanding and includes specifics questions to ask to guide students to various levels, as well as what level different age groups can reasonably attain.
You can use the students who already know the story to help tell pats of the story, or read the verses. They can also do a tv show-like "previously on Sunday Morning...." summary of last week's lesson for those who are not brought each week.
Don't know whether the students already know this? Read part of a verse and ask students what they think will happen next.
Everybody knows the story? Tell it from another character's point of view. Tell the creation story from the serpent's viewpoint. Tell Noah's story from an animal's viewpoint, or a non-survivor's viewpoint.
Encourage students to do their lesson homework
Use lesson book questions to encourage homework. Allow students who have done the lesson to use their homework during an activity. Students who have not must rely on their memory. This is more subtle than calling on students who have not done the work and embarrassing them. Bible baseball was designed to be played using the questions from a classbook.
Have a monthly drawing and offer tickets as motivation. Give away bonus tickets for excellent answers, improved behavior, bringing friends, etc.
Before the lesson, tell each student that you will do a review game using questions they make up. Give them an index card and pencil, and have them make up a question during or after the lesson.
Lesson 'Bingo'. Make a list of 8 words they should be listening for during the lesson, and have them cross them off as they hear them. Everyone who gets all the words gets points, or a tiny candy.
InvestmentTo keep students engaged and invested in the class, make them part of the decision making process. Give them choices and let them pick, e.g. provide two service opportunities and let them vote on which one to do. Make them part of rule setting and they will help enforce them. Repeat and explain rules so they know the WHY as well as the WHAT. I have a full powerpoint on effective classroom discipline if you want more guidance in this area.