Have you been frustrated while teaching your children’s Bible class because your students are so fidgety? Has a student told you he “can’t sit still” because he has ADHD? Do you have students disrupting learning for others, while their parents are saying it’s because they don’t take their medication on Sunday?
These issues are becoming more and more common in Bible classes around the country. Volunteers are often confused and frustrated. Learning can be disrupted for one or more students. What can you do to show love to your students who may be struggling, while not ignoring the needs of other students to have a controlled learning environment?
The good news is there are actually several things you can do to improve the situation. It may take a few tries to find the best solution for your particular issue, but here are the things to try which will work in most situations.
- Make sure activities are age and situation appropriate. A preschool child is not developmentally ready to sit still for a 45 minute lecture. Children who have already been in school for eight hours and then after school care for another two have been pushed to their limits. Asking them to sit still for another hour is unrealistic and borderline cruel. Make sure what you have planned is appropriate for the ages of your students and takes into consideration what has happened before they entered your class.
- Keep them moving. For young children, you should change activities every few minutes. Even upper elementary children should shift from lesson to activity during a typical class. When possible have them change locations, too. Perhaps they can sit on the floor for the lesson and then the table to do art work. Any kids who really struggle should be the ones to pass out materials or do other physical “helping” chores for you.
- Remove unnecessary furniture. Most Sunday School rooms are way too small. Then for some reason, everyone thinks the solution is to cram even more furniture into the limited space. Take out any furniture you don’t absolutely need. I have even taught entire quarters with no furniture in the room at all. The extra space allows kids to make smaller movements to get out the energy without bothering another student.
- Give students who struggle something to do with their hands. Not fidget spinners, which distract everyone. A stress ball, bean bag or silly putty is more subtle and can help. Or give older kids a notecard and pen. They can write down questions about the lesson for you to answer later or doodle if it doesn’t distract them or others.
If these strategies don’t help, privately ask the child why he/she is struggling. Have them share what strategies have worked elsewhere. For very young children, you may need to ask the parent. It’s important not to ignore behavior issues distracting students. You want every child to get as much from Bible class as they possibly can. Taking a little extra time and effort to help struggling students adapt, can improve learning for everyone (and lessen your stress). It’s definitely worth it.