One Way Sunday School Teachers Can Encourage Active Participation in Class

Kindergarten teacher and children with hands raised in libraryIt is well known that kids learn best when they are actively participating in class. One way teachers can encourage active participation is by asking good questions. Good questions give kids the opportunity to think and respond and discuss.

Teachers should respond to the answers students give in a way that will encourage active participation.

What are the most common types of answers kids give and how should teachers respond to them?

Silly Answers

Expect silly answers to questions and plan ahead of time how you will respond in a way that encourages further answers and discussion.

It is best to simply ignore silly answers. Say thank you and then turn to a student and rephrase the question you just asked.

Incorrect Answers

We learn from our mistakes, from being wrong. So, if a student gives an incorrect answer it is a great opportunity for learning for the whole group. You will want to do two things – tactfully correct the wrong answer and come up with an encouragement for the student to correct wrong thinking.

Don’t put-down or embarrass the student. This only makes students less likely to speak up and participate. Instead, point out where they went wrong in their answer and then provide hints, suggestions, or follow-up questions that will help your students understand and correct their answers. “Not quite, but what if…” “Let’s all look at verse 11 again.”

Correct Answers

When students give correct answers, you want to reinforce the answer and encourage the discussion to continue. Students need to learn how to have a discussion in class. One thing that can easily happen is for students to stop participating because a question was answered correctly. As the teacher you need to encourage your class to keep the discussion going even after a correct answer.

So, reinforce the correct answer by paraphrasing it or summarizing it and then ask the kids to provide another example to support or contradict the point just given. This encourages discussion to continue. Direct your students to respond to one another. “What do you think about the idea Emma just gave.” “Can you think of another way to solve that problem?” “Can you think of a Bible verse that talks about that?”

On-the-Right Track Answers

Sometimes, kids will give answers that are on-the-right track, but not quite there yet. They are specific but are just missing a piece. When this happens ask the responder to refine a statement or idea. “Is that response to the situation always the right one?” “Can you think of a Bible story or verse that talks about this situation?”

You want to respond in such a way that encourages students to keep thinking. Ask the rest of the class to respond to the idea that one kid just presented or ask the student who answered to explain the thinking that led to her answer.

Vague Answers

When students give vague answers they may be parroting back something they have heard or giving generalizations of what they have heard in class. Vague answers demonstrate a lack of understanding.

When students give vague answers you want to respond with clear instruction and questions that will help them clarify their thinking.

If an answer is too general, try to draw out specifics. “That’s a good observation, Leona. Can you give me another example of mercy?

Ask the student to clarify a vague comment. “Can you explain what you mean?”

If the kids are parroting answers encourage them to explain or define in their own words. Then you can get a better understanding of what they know and what you need to teach.

No Answers

Sometimes you will get no answers when you ask a question. First, allow for silence. A lot of teachers are afraid of silence, but silence is a good thing. Silence allows students to think before they answer and to put their thoughts together so that what they say makes sense when they do answer. After a minute or so, ask the question again. If there are still no answers you may need to rephrase the question. Maybe the kids didn’t understand it. If there are still no answers, you can answer the question yourself or choose to come back to the question later.

Another idea is to have kids write their answers on an index card. This allows them some time to think and encourages everyone to respond. You can choose to have the kids give their index cards to the person next to them, read them out loud themselves, or hand them in to you.

 

Encourage active participation in your Sunday School class! Ask good questions and respond to the answers students give in such a way as to encourage thinking, learning, and participation.

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Teach Kids to be Bible Detectives!

I think one of the greatest skills you can teach your class is to study the Bible themselves.

One fun way to teach kids how to study their Bibles is to teach them how to be Bible detectives!

childrens-ministry-bible-detective

Great detectives ask lots of questions and observe carefully. Great Bible detectives ask lots of questions and observe the passage they are studying carefully for clues.

In order to know what types of questions to ask, Bible detectives have to first observe the passage being studied. Is it a narrative or story? Is it teaching like one of the epistles in the New Testament? Is it poetry or wisdom literature?

If the passage is a story, Bible detectives will ask questions like:

  • Who are the characters?
  • What is the conflict? What are they doing?
  • When does this story take place?
  • Where does this story take place?
  • Why did they character do what they did? React the way they did?
  • How does the conflict resolve?

If the passage is teaching, Bible detectives will ask questions like:

  • Who wrote this passage? Who did they write it to?
  • What is the topic of the passage? What is the argument?
  • When did the author write this?
  • Where was it written?
  • Why did the author write it?
  • How does this passage apply to my life?

If the passage is poetry or wisdom literature, Bible detectives will ask questions like:

  • Who wrote this passage? Who did they write it for?
  • What genre is this passage?
  • When and where is the context for this passage? (ex. Psalm 51 was written after King David sinned )
  • Why did the author write it?
  • How does the style (or genre) inform our understanding? How does this passage apply to my life?

Who

This category of questions is all about people. Who are the people in the story? Some good follow-up questions would be, “What is said about the person or people in this passage?” and “What does the person say?”

  • Who is speaking?
  • Who was there?
  • Who is it about?
  • Who are the main characters?
  • Who wrote this passage?
  • Who is this passage written for?

 What

This category of questions is all about action. What are the main events taking place?

  • What is happening in the passage?
  • What happens to the characters?
  • What does this passage say about God?
  • What caused the trouble or conflict?
  • What is the subject covered in the passage?
  • What do you learn about the people in this passage?
  • What do you learn about the events taking place in this passage?
  • What do you learn from the teaching in this passage?
  • What instructions are given in this passage?
  • What is the argument?
  • What is the writer trying to communicate?
  • What is wrong with this picture?

 When

This category of questions is all about time. Questions are related to when things happen. What year; what time of day, etc? These are key questions in figuring out the order of events.

  • When did it happen?
  • When did it take place?
  • When do or will the events occur?
  • When did or will something happen to a particular person, people, or nation?
  • When did the events occur in relation to other events in Scripture?
  • When was the writer writing?

Where

 This category of questions is about location. Did the story take place in the wilderness; on the sea; in a boat; on a mountain; in Egypt; in Jerusalem?

  • Where did it happen?
  • Where did it take place?
  • Where will this happen?
  • Where was it said?
  • Where was it written?
  • Where are the people in the story?
  • Where are they coming from? Where are they going?
  • Where is the writer?
  • Where were the original readers of this text?

Why

 This category of questions is all about motivation.

  • Why did it happen?
  • Why is something being said?
  • Why would or will this happen?
  • Why at this time?
  • Why this person?
  • Why does this passage follow that passage? Why does this passage precede that passage?
  • Why does this person say that?
  • Why does someone say nothing?

How

 This category of questions is all about the mechanics of a situation and/or the application of a passage.

  • How did it happen?
  • How did lives change?
  • How did the story end?
  • How does this apply to my life?
  • How will it happen?
  • How is it to be done?
  • How is it illustrated?

Here’s an Example

Mark 4:35-41

35 That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.” 36 Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. 37 A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. 38 Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” 39 He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.40 He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” 41 They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!”

Who

Who is in this story?

  • Jesus and His disciples (v. 35). We know it’s Jesus by looking a couple of verses earlier in verse 33 (context is really important).

What

 What happens in this story?

  • A storm hits (v. 37) and the disciples in the boat are terrified. Jesus stops the storm (v. 39).

When

 When does this story take place?

  • Evening (v.35)
  • After a day of teaching by the lake (vs. 1-34).

 Where

 Where does this story take place?

  • On the sea (this is inferred since the disciples get into a boat in order to get to the other side).
  • Bible detectives have to go all the way back to the beginning of chapter 4 to discover where this story happens. In verse one we find out that Jesus is teaching by the lake, probably the Sea of Galilee.

 Why

 Why was Jesus able to calm the storm?

  • Because He is the Son of God and has power over nature.

How

 How does this story end?

  • The disciples ask who Jesus is (v.41). The identity of Jesus is key.

Good observation skills and the ability to ask good questions are just the start of becoming Bible detectives. Teach your kids these skills and then give them lots of practice!

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My Week at Camp – Friday

childrens-ministry-big questionIt’s the last day of camp! Wow, the week went by so fast! This morning in chapel we are asking the BIG question, “Does God make a difference in our life?”

And the answer is a resounding “yes!”

The first big difference God makes in our life is what happens when we become Christians.

“Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” 2 Corinthians 5:17

Thank you, God, for making us new!

God makes us new – with new desires to love and obey Him. And God helps us to become more and more like Jesus. That is the second big difference God makes in our lives. As we change on the inside, it shows on the outside in how we act and in how we treat others.

“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouth, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen…Get rid of all bitterness, rage, and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” Ephesians 4:29,31-32

I have a Winnie the Pooh pez dispenser. I love pez dispensers because they dispense sweet, delicious candy out of their mouth. With God’s help, we can be like pez dispensers and dispense sweet things out of our mouths. Instead of anger and unwholesome talk, we can dispense kindness, compassion, and forgiveness.

As God changes us to become more and more like Jesus we will dispense more and more sweet things from our mouths and the way we act and the way we treat other people will become sweeter too!

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My Week at Campt – Thursday

childrens-ministry-big questionI love hide and seek! Is your favorite part the hiding or the seeking? The theme this week has been “Seek Him!” Today’s BIG question is “What does it mean to seek God?”

That is a very good question. Because of what Jesus did for us when He died on the cross, we can be friends with God. Our relationship with God is restored. But we want that relationship to grow. We want to get to know God better.

Seeking God is all about building our relationship with Him. We seek God in order to love Him more and get to know Him more.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek His will in all you do, and He will direct your path.” Proverbs 3:5-6

Lost and Found vs. Buried Treasure

If something is lost, we will look for it. It could be something valuable or something we could live without. We won’t look forever, though. We may eventually find it or we may not.

A buried treasure isn’t lost. Someone knows where it is, we just need directions to find it. A treasure is something valuable. If it’s really important to us, we’ll keep seeking until we find it.

God is like a buried treasure. He’s not lost. He’s given us the directions to find Him in His word.

We find out who God is and what He wants us to do by reading the Bible. Even though we can’t see God, we can seek Him and find Him in the Bible!

We can also seek God in prayer – we can talk to Him even though we can’t see Him!

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My Week at Camp – Wednesday

I can’t believe it’s Wednesday already! Camp is half over. Today in chapel we are answering the BIG question, “Why did Jesus have to die?”

childrens-ministry-big questionThat’s a big BIG question!! To start we are going to play a game of The Price is Right! Two cabins will compete to guess the price on some very important consumer products – M&M’s, ketchup chips, double bubble, and a hot wheels car. Once they have finished I will tell them I have one more item and will show a sign that says ‘forgiveness of sin.’ How much money would it cost to buy this? The answer is that no amount of money can buy forgiveness of sin. The sign is turned over and it is revealed that Jesus’ death on the cross paid the price for our sins.

Why did Jesus have to die? Because sin has to be paid for and that payment required the death of a perfect person. Jesus is that perfect person. Jesus sacrificed His life to save us.

“For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him.” John 3:16-17

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