It’s Sunday morning, and your students seem to have either eaten way too many donuts for breakfast or chugged a can of coke on the way to church, because they’re way out of control. The little ones are running around the room and underneath the chairs, and the older kids are pinching and poking each other and fighting over Ipads. As you yell to try to get the students’ attention, you wonder if maybe the sound booth would have been a better ministry to serve in. If you’re a Sunday School teacher, you know exactly what I’m talking about.
How can you gain control of a class that looks and sounds more like a zoo than a quiet place to learn? What can you do about the whisperers, the irreverent gum-chewers, and the whiners? What about the ring-leaders— those three pesky older kids who might just be the real cause of all the trouble?
Here’s a few tried-and-true tips to get your class back in order, and make it actually FUN for you to teach. That way, when you wake up on Sunday morning, you’ll no longer get that awful feeling of dread the moment you remember that it’s your turn to lead the Sunday School. And changing ministries won’t even be on your radar. After all, there are already plenty of guys to run the sound booth— but teachers always seem to be scarce!
Get their attention quickly!
Yelling is not the best way to call your class to attention when it’s time to begin; it only makes your face red and gives you a sore throat.
Save some money on throat lozenges by developing a “call and answer” system. For example, call out, “1-2-3” and teach the kids to say, “eyes on me” as a response. This makes them stop whatever they are doing and focus on you. Since the previous example is a bit boring, you might want to invent a phrase that has to do with your current Sunday School unit, or something comical that the kids will enjoy saying.
For example, for a unit on Jonah, you might call out, “Jonah was a dude” and have the students respond “with an attitude!” If you do this at random moments during the class, the kids will get the hang of it and you’ll have no problem getting their attention when it’s time to start class.
Choose your material wisely.
The best way to calm the troublemakers is to distract them with a GREAT Sunday School curriculum. Boring classes tempt kids to focus their attention on anything BUT the lesson. Find material that gets kids excited and curious about the Bible. The old crusty booklets with faded black-and-white drawings just don’t cut it with today’s kids, so don’t be afraid to try something new and modern!
Use the “oldies” but “goodies”.
Put those old tactics to use in new ways. Teachers have long asked disobedient students to switch seats when they just won’t stop talking with the student beside them. Instead of moving the kid to just any seat, move him to a special seat at the back that is all by itself. He won’t be able to distract others easily from there. Sometimes a student will argue, but you must only calmly repeat the instruction to move and simply wait for him to do so.
Ask any helpers you may have to sit interspersed among the students to gain more control over the class. If your class is made up of children of different ages, you can assign the older ones to this task.
Use positive reinforcement more than negative punishment. Make your classroom rules clear and reward students who follow them with points or prizes. Use your reward system consistently and fairly.
Many kids act up because they know that their teacher might not give out a prize that day anyway, so they see no point in behaving. The more consistent you are, the more respect and order you’ll receive from the students.
Turn the 3 stooges into the 3 amigos.
There are three main types of students who cause most of the trouble for your class: the passive-aggressive silent leader, the bully, and the class clown.
The silent leader is often the sneakiest— he’s the one who whispers constantly or throws little pieces of trash at the girls in front of him as soon as your back is turned.
The bully tends to get angry easily and picks fights, often trying to get others to fear him.
The class clown wants nothing more than to be the center of attention— and he WILL crack that fart joke when you explain that Daniel ate only veggies and beans.
But have no fear— you can turn these three stooges into your amigos in a jiffy. Speak with them after class to ask them if they would be interested in being your class leaders. Give them a special task or two, individually or as a group. It should be something that involves leadership, like leading a game or song, or sitting with the younger kids to make sure that they behave.
Find out what talents they may have, and put them to good use in your classroom. If one of them knows how to play the guitar, ask him to accompany the class during song time. If another one loves science experiments, ask him to prepare one for the next class (you can turn it into an object lesson!). The computer-savvy kid can help you project your powerpoint presentations or movies.
The possibilities are endless, but so are the rewards.
The kids that act up are the ones who need your help the most. Since they already have leadership experience persuading others to do wrong, help them influence others to do RIGHT. Put these tips into practice, and you’ll be able to take on even the worst troublemakers. And not only that, but you’ll surprised to find how great an impact you can have on their future.