When I give seminars on increasing meaningful, life-changing learning in Bible classes for children, I am usually asked to address a sensitive topic. Most churches and ministries have purchased some sort of prepared Bible curricula for their teachers to use in their Bible classes. Yet, the teachers often find the curricula frustrating and at times practically useless for real, meaningful learning to occur.
The reasons most are unhappy with any curricula they can purchase for children’s Bible classes are varied, but one fact is important to remember. Although, I feel certain most authors and publishers have the best of intentions, they face certain economic realities. Many churches still have an environment which encourages their teachers to make little or no preparation for their classes. They want everything “in the box” so they don’t have to put in one second more in preparation time than absolutely necessary. The publishers have to meet the demands of their average client in order to make a profit on the product.
Just because your church or ministry gives you prepared or “boxed” curricula does not mean you shouldn’t do what you can to enhance student learning. Ultimately, your students will learn as much as they can from what you give them. If you give them little Bible or make it boring – they will learn very little. If you can make it meaningful, hands-on. experiential and memorable – they will learn a lot and remember your class and what they learned for years to come.
If you have prepared curricula, but know your students won’t learn as much from it as they could, making several tweaks can dramatically increase what they learn and how well it is retained. Here are some of the top tweaks you can make to improve your prepared curricula:
- Add learning objectives. Does the literature contain learning objectives for the lesson? If so, do they really match what you think students can easily get from the lesson? Is there some special concept your students need to learn from the lesson? If there are no objectives, what are two to four things you want them to learn and remember? Not sure what a learning objective is or how to create one? You may want to read a recent post on the topic or check our website for the learning objectives we chose for each Bible story to give you some ideas. Having clearly defined learning objectives helps you and the students stay focused on the important parts of the lesson.
- Double check the Bible story. Some curricula add so many details to their telling of the Bible story, they can actually change the original intent God had in some way. Rarely, they may even get a detail wrong or take it from some legend instead of the Bible. Does the lesson have any direct quotes from scripture? If so, what version do they use? We strongly suggest at least part of the story is read directly from an NIrV Bible. It’s a translation (making it more accurate than a paraphrase) and since it’s written on a third grade reading level, it’s easier for them to understand. It’s important for your students to get used to hearing the unique phrasing in the Bible, so it will feel familiar when they start independent Bible reading outside of class.
- Add more sensory elements to the lesson. Most curricula depend entirely upon sight and sound (your voice) to teach a Bible lesson. The more senses you can add, the more students will learn and remember. Students may have hearing or sight slightly impaired from childhood illness of undiagnosed problems. Adding other senses gives them more input to use when trying to understand the story. Senses like smell are also tied to stronger memories. Look at your story and see if there are ways to incorporate more interesting sights and sounds, smell, touch and even taste.
- Interesting Facts. Does the story contain cultural information that won’t make sense to your students in light of your culture? Have archaeologists discovered something mentioned in the story? Is there an interesting tie to someone they will learn about in their secular history classes or some other interesting little fact? Sounds silly, but adding a couple of interesting facts to your lesson can really spark student interest. You can check each of our Bible lessons for a couple of commonly known interesting facts about a lesson to share with students.
- Change the activity to something more meaningful, hands-on, experiential and memorable. Look at any activities given with a critical eye. Are your students going to have fun, but not really learn anything new? Is the activity going to bore them or have them focused more on what color marker to use than the lesson? Then it’s time to replace the activity with something that will extend learning and be fun and memorable for your students. We have lots of ideas on our website and are getting ready to add many more. You can also adapt activities you find on Pinterest.
The next time you receive your curricula, take a quick look. Find out what you need to adapt and take the extra time to do it. Your students will learn so much more and in the end, you will feel more fulfilled with what you have taught them. It really is worth the extra time and effort.