Here are 4 tips for teachers of multi-age classes:
1. Teach to the middle
For the Bible lesson portion of your Sunday School class, plan and teach for the middle of your age range. If your class is children in grades 1-6, then teach to the grade 3 level. The younger children may find the lesson a bit above their level and the older children may find it does not challenge them enough, but teaching to the middle is the best way to reach all the children in your class. No matter how big of an age gap you have between the kids in your class, teach to the middle of the age range. The other activities you plan will help bring it all together for the kids in your class.
2. Plan application & activities for specific ages
The application and other activities you plan for the Sunday School class will be where you can challenge each age group specifically and make sure that everyone understands the main point of the class.
Application – Split the kids into 2 or 3 age groups for the application time. Give the older kids an assignment that will help them to discover the application in a group. While they are busy, you can discuss the application with the younger kids. You may encourage each group to choose a presenter that will tell the whole group what they discovered during application time. When you have finished with the younger children, get them involved in an activity and then join the older children to find out what they have discovered and encourage them in the right direction if necessary.
Bible memory verse – The younger kids can be given a portion of the verse and the older kids can be challenged to memorize all of it. For example, the younger kids in your class can be given James 1:17a “Every good and perfect gift is from above,” and the older kids can be given the entire verse to memorize, “Every good and perfect gift is from above coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.”
Games & Crafts – Plan games and crafts that are appropriate for the different age groups. While the younger kids are working on a coloring picture or simple craft, the older kids can be working on a group assignment. Make sure all games and crafts that you plan are related to the lesson and specifically to the theme of the lesson.
3. Give the older kids responsibility
Giving the older kids some responsibility in your class will challenge them and help them to feel like vital parts of the Sunday School class.
There are many ways the older kids can help with the younger kids:
- Ask them to sit with the younger kids during the Bible lesson. The big kids can be an example for the younger children of expected behavior.
- The older kids can also help the younger kids look up the Bible passage. If the younger kids have storybook Bibles, the older kids can help them find the story. Then the older kids can show the younger kids where it is found in their Bibles. This is especially helpful as not all Bible stories will be found in storybook Bibles.
- Ask the older kids to read Bible passages out loud. Another idea is to have the older kids act out the Bible story.
- The older kids could help lead a game or craft you have planned for the younger kids. They can also help the younger kids with the memory verse. Encourage them to explain the verse to the younger kids. This will help them in memorizing as well.
4. Teach 1 thing
I have written about teaching one thing before. It is just as important to teach one thing in a mulit-age class as it is in a single-age classroom.
As you are teaching your multi-age class, find different ways to state your theme that will relate to the different age groups.
For example, your theme is “God is the sovereign ruler of all.” The Bible lesson, activities, and memory verse all support and highlight this theme. Repeat it often. If you have preschoolers in your class you could say, “God is the boss,” or “God is the King of everything.” For children in grades 1-3 you could say, “God is sovereign – that means He is in charge of everything. No one is His boss.”
By restating in a few times, you are making sure that all age groups understand and you are explaining the meaning of difficult or new words. All the kids in your class will benefit from that.
It is not easy to teach a class with children of all different ages. As a teacher, you want to make sure that all the children in your class are engaged, learning, and being challenged. These tips should help you as you seek to teach children of any age.