Have you noticed the learning objectives section in the Bible lessons you are teaching? Have you ever wondered why they were even there or what you were supposed to do with them? You aren’t alone.
Learning objectives are a list of usually three to five sentences of what students should learn from a particular lesson. As a teacher, you may have skimmed right past them, believing they were either obvious conclusions from the lesson or unnecessary information.
If you have ever taught children for very long though, the real reason for learning objectives becomes very clear. Children are curious by nature. Questions are one of the ways they learn new information and begin putting bits of seemingly random information together in meaningful ways.
Let’s pretend your lesson is on Noah. You skip over the learning objective section and focus on the Bible story and activity. As you tell the Bible story, hands start going up all over your classroom. “Did dinosaurs go on the Ark?” “How did the elephants fit on the Ark?” “How did Noah feed everyone for that long?” “What was the name of Noah’s wife?” The questions can be endless. Suddenly, you glance at the clock and realize you barely have enough time left to start your activity.
Now here is the important question. What did your students learn from the Bible lesson? Did they just hear an interesting story? Did they become fixated on the answer to one of the questions the students asked? Did you end up going down a path that ended up so far from Noah, many of your students forgot it was the lesson?
While student questions should be encouraged and answers given, those learning objectives can help a lot. You can use them to point out connections or bring the focus of students back to an important biblical concept. Why? Because learning objectives give you a plan. They point out the two or three things you want the students to leave your room having learned. Your students may not master those concepts, but at least they will realize they exist.
When you know where you want students to end up intellectually and spiritually by the end of a lesson, it can be a lot easier to lead them there. Your questions can direct them back to the learning objectives and not just focus on the details of the story (which can also be a learning objective). Your answers to their questions can reinforce the learning objectives or help explain them in ways students can better understand.
The next time you prepare for teaching the Bible to children, pay attention to the learning objectives. If there aren’t any, go to our website (www.teachonereachone.org) and use the ones we suggest for that story. As you study the rest of the lesson, keep referring back to those learning objectives. How do the various things you plan help students learn those three or four important concepts? It’s important, because using learning objectives will help your students learn the things you want them to learn from your lessons.