Although many churches divide students by age, one-room Sunday School classes are the only option for churches with few children and even fewer teachers.
However, grouping children of different ages together can actually be beneficial and fun! You might ask, “But how can I keep a 5th grade boy entertained without leaving the kindergartners in the dark?” Here are 10 tricks to make the most out of your class:
1. Change is Your Friend
While it is great to have a set routine for your class (such as: prayer, song time, lesson time, scripture memorization time), kids of all ages will get bored when every Sunday feels like a clone of the one before
Come to class one day dressed as a Bible character to surprise the kids.
Tell the kids that today, everything will be done backwards: first they must answer the questions, and then hear the story.
Turn one Sunday into show-and-tell day, allowing the kids to share something God has taught them or bring in an object from home that reminds them of a Bible Story or verse.
2. Squash the Family Feud
A classroom full of kids of all different ages can be like a family, in a good way or a bad way.
Encourage the older kids to partner with younger ones for craft projects, verse memorization, and even during story time. They’ll feel like “big brothers” and the “little brothers” will benefit from the help and attention they receive.
3. Positively Perfect
Using positive reinforcement is much more effective than resorting to negative discipline.
Make the classroom rules clear and brief, and post them in plain sight. Reward children with points or candy when they follow the rules.If you use a point system, hold a “store” once a month in which kids can trade points for prizes.
Use universally appealing prizes; nothing is more embarrassing for a 5th grade girl than to receive a pack of Sesame Street hair clips after working hard to memorize a verse.
4. Turn the “Zeros” into “Heroes”
Yes, we’ve all had that one kid who knows exactly how to push our buttons, and rile up the rest of the class with his impressive “leadership” abilities.
More often than not, these “zeros” are often older students who have no interest in obeying and learning, and prefer to turn the younger students into minions who copy their every move. You can let them be the center of attention, but in a good way: turn them into your heroes.
Give them specific tasks that will make them feel important and help them become good role models for the younger students. Learn what skills they possess, and put them to use in your classroom.
For example, an 11-year-old guitar learner can become your new worship leader. Ask the class clown to bring a joke related to next week’s lesson and share it with the class. Tell your fifth graders that they are responsable to make sure that the kindergartners are paying attention, and have them sit interspersed among the younger children.
You’ll be surprised at how quickly your crazy classroom will become a place in which the little ones feel safe and the older kids become your helpers and heroes.
5. The “Sight” is Right
One thing that kids of all ages have in common is that they love to SEE and not just HEAR.
Imagine a college lecturer, droning on and on about molecular biology, without so much as a powerpoint to illustrate his points. An adult attention span may be able to handle it, but children can generally only pay attention for the number of minutes equal to their age, plus one.
By showing instead of just telling, you can help both the young and the old to focus on the lesson.
Be creative with your visuals; they don’t have to be drawings or outdated felt figures. You can draw while the kids watch, play a movie, bring objects that pertain to the lesson, and even dress up the kids and use THEM as visuals!
Check out this video in which the teacher uses a large quantity of different visuals very creatively:
6. Ready, Set, Action!
Many children learn by DOING, and all children pay more attention when their fingers and mouths, and not just their ears, are put to use.
Object lessons, which can range from simple demonstrations to full-on science experiments, will instantly capture the attention of even your sleepiest toddler. And what’s more appealing for a 5th grader than seeing his teacher play with fire?
The first and fifth tricks in the video below could even be used in a controlled environment to demonstrate visually how the three Hebrew children survived the fiery furnace.Always put safety first when performing object lessons, but don’t get stuck in the rut of only using old standbys (such as demonstrating how faith works by sitting in a chair).
7. Ten Minutes to Win It
Since all children have short attention spans, especially the youngest, change your activity every five to ten minutes.
For example, tell a Bible story in a dynamic way for ten minutes, and spend another five asking questions. For longer Bible lessons, teach for ten minutes, perform an eye-catching experiment, and then teach for another five.
Singing is a simple activity that all kids can do together.
Besides getting children in the mood for listening to God’s Word, it’s also a great opportunity for older kids to help lead the songs and practice playing instruments in front of their peers. Here’s an example of a peppy song with some choreography to get groggy kids moving on a Sunday morning:
9. Be Real
Don’t gloss over real-life situations that kids face in your culture.
Talk about iPad and cellphone use (even 3rd graders have them these days), and the rampant parental disrespect prevalent in today’s society. If there’s a certain TV show that you hear the kids discuss every time they walk into your class, don’t just pretend it doesn’t exist.
Engage the kids in a discussion as to what good lessons (or bad ones) they may be learning from their favorite cartoon. Chances are, your kids will be surprised and excited to find out that you want to talk about their interests. Discuss toys, games, and shows that are relevant to different ages within your group and allow the kids to express their opinions as to what God might think of their choices.
10. There’s no place like…this tiny room
Even if your classroom space is smaller than that storage closet filled with out-dated Sunday-School material, make it unique, and let the kids make it their own.
You can decorate it every week according to the topic you’ll be teaching, or dedicate one Sunday every season to making decorations for the classroom with your pupils.If you’re blessed to have a large room, even decorating one wall will do. They’ll feel like the room is their second home and will be excited to walk through the doors each week.Share this post: