The best teachers know every student in their room is a different learner from the others. Some kids come into the classroom with a wealth of lifetime experiences and having read hundreds of books. Others may barely know how to read. Even in classes which are supposedly leveled to have similar learners in the same class, teachers know they will still have a wide variety of learners.
Your Bible class or tutoring group is going to have that same dynamic. You may have children whose parents regularly read the Bible to them. Some of those kids may know more details about Bible stories than you. Others may not even have access to a Bible in the home. You may not have really thought about it, but notice the next time you teach. When you start telling a story, do you have a couple of students who tell you they have “heard” that one before? Are they the same students who easily answer any Bible question you ask? On the other hand,, do you have a few students who struggle knowing there is an Old and a New Testament or remembering details of even the most well known Bible stories?
If you have been given any sort of literature, it is generally written for children and teens who get little exposure to the Bible outside of church. That’s why so many of the kids who get a lot of Bible at home, begin hating Bible classes – they are bored out of their minds. Instead of writing off these kids who are potentially the future leaders of the church, why not adapt a few things to make Bible class enjoyable for them too?
The first thing you can do is look at the activities suggested for the lesson. Are they hands-on, requiring your students to get up and move around. This should not be an overly simple craft. It doesn’t have to be Martha Stewart worthy, but even crafts should be extending the lesson. Any activity should help your students experience something in the story for themselves (or as closely as possible!) or make them think about the message behind the story.
Once you are teaching the lesson, it helps to remember you are teaching to two basic levels (although most kids will fall somewhere in a spectrum between the two). First, you want to make the story interesting enough for someone whose family has not created an environment where there is a passion for reading scripture. Think of these students as reluctant readers. What you would do to interest a child who didn’t like to read secular books to read is what you need to do for these students to get them interested in the Bible.
These students who have little Bible knowledge also need you to give them some background and some perspective on the current story. Who is this person and where do they fit in time and place compared to Jesus (someone hopefully all of your students will know)? What happened right before this to make this story important? You want to give your students a “peg” to hang this Bible story “hat” on in their minds.
For those students who know their Bible stories almost by heart, you need to take it up a notch for them. I have found very few sets of literature ask students to do much reflection, synthesis or evaluation. As you are reviewing the details of the story for the ones to whom it is new, throw in higher level thinking questions for the Bible “experts”.
Sometimes I will even ask the students to think about these questions while I am telling the story. This discourages them from zoning out while I tell a story they have heard many times. Hopefully, they are now listening for clues to help them answer your questions.
My favorite types of these higher level thinking questions are “Why do you think God put this story in the Bible?” “What lesson do you think God wants us to learn from this story?” “What godly principle did the person in the story have or lack that made him/her make the choices he/she did?” “If the person suddenly made godly/ungodly choices (the opposite of what they actually did) how might the story have ended differently?” “What godly trait does God want us to learn is important from this story?” “What practical things can you do today and tomorrow to practice the godly trait God taught in this story?” “Why do you think the person made the choices they did and why do we sometimes make the same bad/good choices?”
It takes a few more minutes of thought and a bit of practice and refinement, but you can differentiate your Bible classes so all of your students walk away learning something new about God and how to live a godly life. Some of the resources we provide on Teach One Reach One, may help you with planning. If you can’t find something you need, or have more questions, please feel free to contact us and we will get back to you as soon as we can with any ideas we have to help you.