If you have taken first aid classes, you know that for many health issues receiving treatment the first few minutes after the incident can be critical to the long term success of future treatment. Your class is the same way. What happens during the first few minutes a student is in your classroom can determine whether or not your students come away with important Bible knowledge and understanding.
So what are the critical components of those first ten minutes? What can you do to improve the chances your students leave your class knowing more about God, what He wants and how to put it into practice in their own lives? There are probably a lot of little things that can make a difference, but here are a few of the most impactful:
- Be prepared. Your students need to feel you are ready for them and they are your top priority. Running around trying to find things at the last minute can leave you and your students feeling frazzled. If students walk into a room that is already prepared for them, it gives them a sense of security needed to learn well. It also keeps their behavior from getting out of control while you attempt to finish your preparations.
- Make your room look inviting and/or interesting. It doesn’t have to be incredibly artistic, but your classroom environment should be warm and inviting. It can be from the decor, music playing as they enter the room, interesting things in sight that will be part of the lesson or activity, food or a host of other things. Don’t be afraid to ask more artistic members to help you decorate if you struggle with art and decorating like I do. You want an environment that will draw students into your room eager to discover what you have to teach them.
- Welcome students warmly. As each student arrives, you should greet him or her by name (or introduce yourself) and give them smiles and hugs when appropriate. Your eyes should light up as each child enters your room. Ask about their week and anything you know that was important to them during the time since your last class. Visitors should be introduced to several students and help them find things in common with at least one other student in your class to make it easier for them to find a class friend. Your students should know they are walking into an environment where they are loved.
- Create a physical environment that encourages learning. If your students haven’t had breakfast, their blood sugar may be too low for them to learn well. If your classroom is too hot, cold, crowded or a host of other environmental issues, it will be more difficult for your students to learn. Look at your environment through their eyes and then do what you can to make it a comfortable learning environment.
- Address the guiding question or the major point of the lesson. There is a study out of Columbia University that is full of statistics, but the bottom line is the most important thing you say during your time with students should first be said during the first ten minutes of your teaching. (Repetition is important, but they are more likely to miss it when you repeat it later.) Our free lessons and activities come with learning objectives and guiding questions. For older students, you may want to write it on a board or some other place where students can see it the entire class period. Your students need to know what you want them to learn from your lesson.
- Show students your passion about learning about God and worshipping, obeying and serving Him. Students absorb your love for a subject or your lack of interest in it. If you aren’t enthusiastic about living a Christian life, you will have a tough time convincing students to love and obey God.
- Have something to draw your students into the Bible lesson. It can be the way you begin telling the Bible story, a replica of an artifact from Bible times, a costume, a photo or a myriad of things. You want to start class with something that will catch their attention and encourage them to become invested in learning more.
Putting extra effort into the first ten minutes of your class can make your entire lesson more effective. Take some time this week to analyze what you have been doing those first ten minutes and make the changes necessary to prepare your students to learn what you have to teach them.