So it’s like this. Two weeks ago I got a little note in the mail from a lady at my church. She asked if we could have a short meeting after church the following Sunday. THEN I remember that’s she’s the Sunday School superintendent. YEESH!! Sure enough, the “short meeting” is actually a gathering of teachers for the coming church year. How can I say “Mary, you never actually ASKED me!” (She knew what she was doing, she did) So now I’m going to be team teaching 2nd and 3rd graders. I’m forty-six and have managed to avoid this particular duty all these years. In different congregations I have done a wide variety of things. Up in Lansing I even gave a couple of sermons(I was chair of the worship committee and we were between pastors) But nothing has freaked me out like the idea of teaching Sunday School. I don’t know why this is. At least the young lady(a high school senior) who will be with me has two years of experience under the belt) My only firm idea is that I don’t want to “talk down” to them. I hated that when I was a little kid.
Anybody got any other advice to offer?
Just tell them lots of stories of the Lady Moon and the Sky Father, to help them learn why we celebrate Solstice, Beltane, Samheim and the other holy days. Children that age love to sing and dance, so perhaps you can work on a set of special songs and a dance for MidWinter. Having them choose their favorite creation story to illustrate is a great way to get into a discussion of the many faces of the God and Goddess, and which ones they’re most comfortable with . . .oh, wait . . .
Is this a Christian Sunday School? I mean, they have Sunday schools in Christian churches, right? Well, you’ve got to have songs and stories to tell–I understand that Christianity has a rich literary heritage. So it’s just the same, the religions are radically different, of course, but children are the same–help them understand what you do in your religion, help them to be comfortable with the Deity, and to invite Them–Him, I guess in your case–to be with them always. Singing, dancing, drawing and stories–always works for me when I teach Sunday School.
Good luck, Baker, they’re a great age to teach, you’ll have fun. Blessed Be.
Songs go over well. The kids just don’t want to be bored. If you’re bored, they probably will be too.
I always liked having a picture to draw that related to the lesson or story. Word games are good. I always loved hangman. That’s a bit morbid now that I think of it.
Actually, if you look at children’s menus in restaurants you can find good ideas. They’re trying to do the same thing you are; keep everyone from being bored/insane. I think if you go to a local christian bookstore, you should find books with tons of ideas and activies.
Baker, most denominations have some kind of Sunday School curriculum that they use. If your congregation doesn’t use one, you can probably go to a local Christian book store, (or call the publishing arm of your denomination) and get at least a leader’s packet for your grade level. You can either use it as the lesson plan, or raid it for ideas.
These packets are really quite good. They tend to have a Bible story, activities (crafts, puzzles - probably more than you can use in one session, you pick one or two), pointers about the learning styles of kids that age, and all kinds of useful stuff. Always try to do some kind of craft that they can take home, they enjoy it and it gives them something to look at during the week.
Another helpful hint: Try to associate each week’s story with a visiual of some kind, display them in the room, and give an informal review at the beginning of each class. You can ask them what they remember, or prompt them yourself, but this really helps retention.
And plaster-of-paris handprints in a pieplate mold.
I almost forgot [kicks self firmly]: the most important thing you are doing is not imparting information, it is building relationships.
Learn their names. (Take pictures the first day if you have to. Line them up against the wall holding their name tags. You can make a display or something for the room.) Use their names when you talk to them.
Send them short notes during the week, telling them something specific that they did in class that you liked. Kids that age love getting mail, it makes them feel important, and knowing that you noticed them specifically gives them a real dose of warm fuzzies. This also forces you to pay attention during class!
Give them lots of positive feedback.
Smile at them.
Get down to their level when you talk to them. It makes a huge psychological difference, and you won’t be as likely to talk down to them.
If you see them around town, go up and say hello, and talk to them, not their parents.
And make a point of praying for them every day (especially the one that drives you nuts-that’s the kid who really needs it).
They may or may not remember exactly what Abraham did, but they will leave knowing that someone at church cared about them, and that can make all the difference in 10 years.
The Punkyova, that was beautiful! And precisely true. Plus the macaroni pictures and plaster handprints.
I can add one thing: the nametags are not just for you but also for them. Kids often aren’t real good at learning each other’s names.
You’ll find it heartwarming and satisfying. I got roped into helping Wife with kindergarten VBS and those days I worked late and couldn’t make it all she heard was “Where’s Mike?” Awwwwww, the cute li’l bastards!
Oh, and it’s probably all for the best if they don’t remember some of the things Abraham did (or almost did).
I do have a curriculum outline and a lesson plan, and there are lots of resources and craft materials. We teachers have a lot of freedom within the outline, so I hope I can make things interesting. This first Sunday IS supposed to be devoted just to getting to know each other(and parents if we can catch 'em) with maybe just a short Bible story. Maybe if we get to the story of Noah someday I can bring in my Bill Cosby tape, “Well, you want to get that ark out of my driveway? I have to go to work this morning!” or “And you never even looked in the bottom of that ark! Who’s going to clean up that mess down there? Not me I’m telling you!”
It’s just that I’ve never had a fear of speaking in front of adult groups, but I’ve NEVER had to guide a group of kids, and I don’t know how I’ll do. I want to like it though so I guess I just need to relax(and pray!) Further bulletins as warranted.
I taught Sunday school from freshman year during high school, and although there were mornings when I was sure God was punishing me for something (like when one of my kids vomitted all over the stage while the rest were complaining that they didn’t want to be in the Christmas pageant), I really got a lot out of it. Everyone’s suggestions so far are great – coloring, word games, crafts, name tags. Two things no one else has mentioned that my kids loved – needed even – were physical activity and snacks. It’s sometimes difficult for them to sit still in a school-like atmosphere, especially during the weekend, so often, we’d take our little ones on scavenger/treasure hunts with clues relating to that week’s theme. Even a game of Duck Duck Goose if you finish the lesson early works… As for the snacks… well, let’s just say that there were days when I wasn’t above bribing my kids with sugar to get them through the morning.
Yeah, Wife ALWAYS brings something to eat. But Kindergarteners can’t go as long as 2nd and 3rds, so maybe it’s not a requirement for your class. But the littles also get fed during services, so I sit there trying to listen to the sermon but all I can hear is crunching and cookie wrappers. Grrrrr! In MY day we had to fast from MIDNIGHT!
I teach kids karate. And I have a few basic guidelines for you:[ul]
[li]Show you are the boss on the first day. This is way important! If you don’t show them that you aren’t going to be taken advantage of, they’re gonna walk all over you.[/li][li]Be excited! Excited is exciting. Smile! Walk around the room.[/li][li]Hi Opal! (I always wanted to do that!)[/li][li]Include the kids. Have them read, call roll, pass out papers. Pick a kid who was the most attentive last class, or improved most on a test or whatever to be your “golden child” that day. Kids will clamor to pass out the papers.[/li][li]Have I mentioned be excited?[/li][li]Get on your knees to talk to them. Touch them in non-red-flag areas. Pat them on the head, take their hand. They will appreciate it. You may even get hugs! (I love hugs!)[/li][/ul]Kids are easy if you keep an open mind and go with the flow. It’s fun to let them wander off track. If you planned to discuss Abraham and the kids want to know what kind of critters were on the Ark, let it be! Have fun!
I always loved to get our music minister in our class: I would ask him to dress up in Biblical costume and tell a story from the Bible from a character’s point of view. One time, when he told the story of Saul/Paul on the Damascus Road, it was really awesome!
I agree with the writing notes thing. I remember it was special when I got mail at that age. It lets the children know somebody cares.
Now, only if the adults would remember to do the same sometimes…
I am in PRECISELY the same situation.
(hugs Baker overtightly and doesn’t let go until a socially awkward period has passed)
All I can suggest is that you try what I’ve been advised/learned slowly.
Take their pictures and stick them on the wall. They’ll feel part of the place. If we’re going to do it we may as well do it properly.
Try to get your group as close in ages as possible. If you’re forced to deal with 5-12 year-olds, take it up with a leader: it may change nothing, but at least ask if something can be done. The difference in mental ages will make it harder to develop relationships. If stuck put the older kids in charge of the younger kids.
Involve the parents. Try giving the kids little reports on what they’ve learned, and so forth. The parents should take responsibility during the week too - that way it’ll be much easier for you. Sunday school is not just somewhere to dump the kids during a service. Similarly, there’s no reason why ANY child who can learn “Baa baa black sheep” can’t learn some kind of memory verse. Change it from “God loves us” to “God loves me”, etc, so it’s more personal.
Prepare and pray well in advance. Seems you’re together enough to do that already. I tried getting the lesson together a few hours beforehand: doesn’t work. You need time to let God get back to you on your worse ideas. And pray immediately beforehand too. You really can’t do too much of that. Teaching the kids to pray is a great idea. I haven’t managed it yet because the ages are too varied… but look, I’ll get my whole group this Sunday to pray for yours, okay? Imagine fifteen Scottish kids praying for “Baker”… cos that’s what youve got.
By the way people will object to what you’re doing. That’s just how it works. Ignore all but the wisest.
Just a few ideas. We’ll (gulp) get through this…
PS: a five year-old some months ago, while I was giving a story, fixed me with his eye and mouthed “You’re gonnae die…” His parents are leaders in the church and he’s one of the better-behaved. Don’t fear the little ones. They can smell fear…
ppps: I hearda story a while ago about guy in America’s pioneer days who started The First Sunday School in some lady’s kitchen. THEY TRASHED THE PLACE and it took him months to get them under control. Kinda makes you feel better, doesn’t it?
Just wanted to come back once and say that I’ve had two Sundays so far, and tomorrow will be the third. Both of the first two days were more registration and getting to know the kids. Tomorrow will be the REAL thing. We are going to be talking about saints, in preparation for All Saints Day. That’s Nov 1 I know, but all the classes will be putting a banner together beforehand. Our cathedral has a set of windows that show pictures and symbols of the twelve Apostles, so I am going to take them in there and explain what the symbols mean. When we get to Bartholomew I think I will just say “The knife means that’s how he died” although kids these days may not flinch at ALL the gory details. Then we will go back to the classroom and talk about modern saints, or “renewers of society” as some people call them. There’s Mother Teresa, Martin Luther King, and so on. And we will ask them if they know anyone in their lives who is special to them, an inspiration if you will. These are good kids, a little fidgety sometimes but of course WE were NEVER like that, hmmm?
It sounds like you’re teaching Catholic Sunday School? I don’t know if this will be applicable, but the kids really dug it.
I taught Hebrew school last year, and we had a chart of the kids names and all the stuff they had to learn. When they had memorized and could explain the meaning of a certain blessing, they got to pick a sticker and put it in that spot in the chart. My students were fourth and fifth graders and very competitive. If they saw that one student had finished with the blessing over candles, then gosh darnit, they had to do the blessing over candles too! It sounds like cheating, I know, but it was a great encouragement to get the kids learning. At that age, most aren’t really into spiritual fulfillment as a reason for memorizing a bunch of mumbo-jumbo.
Good luck! Teaching religious school can be pretty frustrating, but also very rewarding.
Not Catholic, Episcopalian, but I imagine in God’s eye there isn’t a whole lot of difference. The kids may like getting out of the classroom and going on a “field trip” too. That idea about competition is an interesting one. I’m going to discuss it with the other teacher and maybe we can come up with something.