Welcome to a new series all about learning styles in the classroom. In this series, we’ll be taking a look at some great ways to engage kids in the classroom through the senses. There will be some great suggestions for helping kids to connect to the lesson through visual methods, kinesthetic methods, with logic and more.
For today, I’ll introduce the series with a look at two classrooms. I’d love to hear – what does your class typically look like?
Exhibit A: Miss Mary Beth and the Stale Crackers
Mary Beth stands at the classroom door, welcoming the kids on Sunday morning. She is excited about the day’s lesson and is looking forward to getting started. As the last few kids trickle in, she closes the door and announces the topic for the day: “Prayer”. She asks kids to sit in their assigned seats and then writes the word “Prayer” on the board. As she is writing, a few girls begin talking about their week and Mary Beth pauses her writing to quiet them. She asks the class to name things they know about prayer and nods after each answer, but doesn’t take the time to write the answers on the board behind her.
Mary Beth gets out her own Bible and turns to Matthew 6. She begins reading the words of Jesus only to be distracted by a boy tipping his chair backwards to lean it against the wall. Mary Beth knows how important prayer is to Christian living, so she closes her Bible and tries to communicate what a privilege it is to talk with the Creator of the world. She’s not harsh with the kids, but they certainly sense the shift in moods as she “gets serious” with them. Afterwards, she again opens the Bible and finishes the Scripture passage, having to talk over a few kids whispering in the back of the room.
Frustrated, Mary Beth skips over the discussion of the passage she had planned and goes straight to the craft. For today’s project, kids are to cut out pictures from magazines representing things they can pray about and glue them to some construction paper in order to make a “Prayer Collage”. The kids’ eyes instantly light up as they scramble to grab scissors, magazines, and paper. They quickly jump into the project and as Mary Beth watches, she feels a sense of relief but also a sense of discontentment. She’s grateful that they are finally quiet and engaged, but she’s not sure they really grasped the heart of the lesson.
Exhibit B: Mr. Jason and the Fresh Baked Bread
Jason is a little nervous about class today. He’s decided to try a new approach with the kids and isn’t sure how it will go over. His topic today is “Prayer” and he’s prepared a giant poster with the word “pray” painted and sprinkled with dry kool-aid and salt mixture (to engage sight, touch, and smell). As the kids filter into the classroom, he allows the kids to touch and smell the poster, laughing as one kid remarks, “This is like the wall in Willie Wonka’s factory!”
After the last kid has made his way into class, Mr. Jason has them sit at tables and write out things they usually pray about. Kids who can’t write well are encouraged to draw pictures instead. After about 5 minutes of working, kids take turns holding up their pictures and explaining their work. From here, the kids move to the floor and sit in a circle as Mr. Jason reads “The Lord’s Prayer” from a Children’s Bible, showing the pictures as he reads.
Once the Scripture passage is completed, Mr. Jason moves to the board and asks kids to list out loud the things that Jesus prayed about in Matthew 6. Kids eagerly shout out different parts of the Lord’s Prayer as Mr. Jason writes the answers on the board. After the list is complete, they take a little time to discuss each component and how it relates to kids today.
For the final activity, kids are allowed to pray by themselves or with a friend and encouraged to follow the pattern of Jesus’ prayer from the day’s lesson. As Jason looks over the kids, huddled in prayer in various nooks around the room, his heart fills with joy. He hopes the seeds that were planted today continue to grow, especially in the area of prayer.
What Does Your Class Look Like?
It’s clear that both Mary Beth and Jason love God and love kids. Both are passionate about prayer and both want the kids to be excited about praying too. Both teachers clearly prepared for their lesson and thought about activities for the kids. However, Jason’s class was much more engaged in the lesson.
Jason harnessed the power of learning styles and as a result, his lesson had a much greater impact on the kids. We know that engaged kids learn better. The question is: what does your class look like?
Of course, you are preparing your lesson and studying the Scripture, but are you creating ways for all types of learners to get involved in the lesson? Are you relying on the old “stale cracker” stand-by of your regular classroom routine? Or are you mixing in “fresh-baked” ideas each week in order to keep kids on their toes?
In this series, I’ll be discussing learning styles and will be giving concrete examples of ways you can engage all the students in your classroom. Many of the given suggestions overlap into a few learning styles, but I’ve placed each idea under the learning style it seems to be most associated with. Be sure to check out the end of this series as well for some great resources to help you stock up on fresh ideas for your class.