Ten Tips for Teaching Ages 8 – 11

Age8to11-300x300Here are 10 things to keep in mind when teaching ages eight through eleven:

1. They want to be busy doing productive things. They enjoy projects. They learn best by touching and doing and seeing visual aids. Plan your lessons to include lots of activities.

2. They like to show their skills and abilities and want to feel like a valued member of the group. Delegate tasks to them when possible. Trust them to get the job done.

3. They are becoming spiritually sensitive and are beginning to see their need for God. Plan your content to address this need.

4. They want to see how God is real and how he relates to everyday life. They want to hear adults’ testimonies about how God is working in their lives, and they want to tell about what God is doing in their own lives. Invite adults to come in and share. Provide times for the children to share, too.

5. They continue to understand the flow of time. Even if your curriculum is topically oriented, explain the historical context of the Biblical passages used.

6. They easily feel inferior if they are put down or if they feel incapable. Use encouraging words as you coach them. Choose classroom activities that are age-appropriate.

7. They have a growing understanding of symbolism. They are increasingly able to understand deeper dimensions of faith, like lordship, stewardship and peacemaking.

8. They are able to sit still longer, but are still inclined to wiggle. Trust that they are listening even if they are not sitting still.

9. They are concerned about what’s fair and just and are more consistent about discerning right from wrong. Listen to them when they want to express their observations about justice in current events or in their personal lives. Be careful not to “correct” them, but accept their observations at face value. Honor their assessments.

10. They memorize more easily. Age nine is often called the “Golden Age of Memory”. These are the perfect years to ramp up the memory work. For scripture memory ideas see my Sword Fighting book.

May God bless your relationships with the 8 through 11 year olds in your life!

Happy teaching!

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(Originally posted 5/8/14. photo courtesy morguefile.com)

Seven Tips for Teaching Seven-Year-Olds

In my last post I talked about teaching six year olds. By the time those children turn seven they have changed a lot. Equipped with insights about this new stage you can continue to teach them with confidence and effectiveness. So let’s look at some basics about sevens:

1. Seven-year-olds understand the flow of time more accurately.
The second grader’s concept of historical events continues to develop into a more accurate understanding. A chronological overview of the New Testament, continuing from a first grade overview of the Old Testament, helps second graders see that the Bible is not simply a collection of stories told like Aesop’s fables, but is one whole meaningful story in itself.

2. Seven-year-olds are curious and want to discover.  They like codes.
Because of their inner desire to discover, try to include an element of discovery in each storytelling session, some sort of code, or puzzle. The children will listen to the story to discover the meaning of the codes.

3. Seven-year-olds need structure and rely on teachers.
Take time to plan and structure your sessions. Teachers play a key role in drawing children into activities as well as in guiding conversation toward an understanding of the theme of the session.

4. Seven-year-olds like to review.
Include brief reviews of previous lessons at the beginning and end of each session.  Create these yourself, or choose a curriculum that includes a review element.

5. Seven-year-olds like to be read to.
Sevens tend to be good listeners. It is a great age to read to them from the Bible, and other materials relevant to the lessons.

6.  Seven-year-olds often like to work by themselves or with a partner, but not often with a large group.
Sevens are more self-conscious so large-group activities may not be as interesting as working solo. Although they are hard workers, they can be moody and intense.

7. Most sevens write more clearly than they did when they were six.  
However, seven year olds still find it difficult to copy material from a white board.  And some, especially boys, don’t enjoy writing at all.  So it is a good idea to keep writing activities to a minimum.

Let me add more more general point about sixes and sevens: their emerging ability to comprehend the flow of time can be a huge advantage in teaching them the Bible chronologically. By giving children a broad look at biblical events in the order in which they happened, it sets the stage for future study of the Bible in its traditional out-of-sequence order. It is important for children to see the Bible as a whole story so that when they learn the books of the Bible and study the traditionally ordered Bible, they can know, for example, how the events of Jesus’ life fit together and how Paul sent letters to different churches and people as he traveled. They will begin to see how Jesus was and is at the center of God’s plan for bringing the world back to Himself.

Happy teaching,

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6 Tips for Teaching Six-Year-Olds

Understanding the developmental characteristics of children at different ages is an important component of effective teaching. Here are six things to keep in mind about 6 year olds:

1. Six year-olds are beginning to understand the flow of time.
Sixes have a newly developing awareness that events progress from beginning to middle to end.  It is the perfect age to begin teaching the Bible in chronological order. Giving them a chronological overview of the Old Testament helps first graders understand that the Bible is not simply a collection of stories told like Aesop’s fables, but is one whole meaningful story in itself.

2. Six year-olds can distinguish between fantasy and reality.
Unlike preschool children who confuse fantasy and reality, six year olds can separate what’s real and what’s pretend.  While they still enjoy pretend stories, they enjoy real-life themes as well.  They are fascinated by the amazing and miraculous.  You can take advantage of this interest by emphasizing the amazing and miraculous real-life attributes and deeds of God as told in the Bible.

3.  Six year-olds want to have friends and to be active and productive.
Six year olds need to continue to have a variety of hands-on experiences to help them learn and remember.  They enjoy games and artistic expression. You can incorporate groups, activities, and productivity so that first-graders can take an active part in discovering biblical truths.

4.  Six year-olds have limited writing and reading abilities.
Boys of this age usually have more difficulty with writing than girls.  So make sure any reading is simple, and is either optional or done as a group so that children who have difficulty reading do not have to feel embarrassed.

5. Six year-olds like surprises.
Because six year olds enjoy being surprised, try to incorporate an element of surprise in each storytelling session.  Let the children take turns discovering the surprise element and then listen for how it applies to the story.

6.  Six year-olds are imaginative, curious, and enthusiastic.
They tend to be busy and noisy, and their enthusiasm often finds its way into competition.  Six year olds may be more interested in the process of an activity than in the finished product.  This often translates into speed and sloppiness.  Six year olds are usually in a hurry.  When planning lessons it helps to have a large variety of activites to accomodate the needs and interests of your sixes.

Whether you teach in home, church or school, this tips will help you be more effective in communicating with six year-olds. Happy teaching!

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The 3 Values Behind My Curricula

BuildingBlocksI began teaching Sunday school when I was fourteen, so I’ve spent a lot of time in the classroom.  I was raised studying the Bible and continue to read it and ponder God’s teachings, and because of my classroom experience, I’ve always tried to think of how to explain it’s teachings to different age levels.  In college, I took education courses, including curriculum, and graduated with a degree in elementary education and a certificate in early childhood.  Not too long after that, I was recruited to write Sunday school curriculum by a professor at the University of Hawaii.  He was the one who really taught me how to write curriculum, although what we worked on together never saw the light of day.

1. Age-appropriate
Because I was actively teaching, I wrote for myself.  I knew what I wanted for the children:  something that would engage them, relate to their world (age-appropriate), and enrich their spirits with solid biblical teaching that could carry them into their own growing relationship with God. I also knew what I wanted for myself as a teacher:  a curriculum that would be clear, flexible, fun to teach, and re-usable. In other words, once I’ve taught through a curriculum, I have all the materials and the practice to use it again the next year with a different group of kids. I know I’ll do a better job next time. The first year is the hardest, because the teacher is learning how to teach it. But after that, working with the curriculum should be easier.

2. Economical
For this reason all my curricula are non-dated. In other words, teachers can use them for as many years as they wish and not have to purchase something new every year.  This is economical. I’ve used curricula from different companies over the years, and I hate to see a church spend big bucks purchasing lots of fancy material, much of which is left on the shelves, “old” after a year or so only because the curriculum company has come out with their new line of products. I know they have to do this to make money, but as a teacher, I’m interested in being economical. I recommend one teacher guide (about $15) per teacher per quarter–no materials kits to purchase. All take-home pages are included in the guide for photocopying. There are, of course, materials recommended for most activities, but these are items like paper, glue, cotton balls, etc., readily available at discount stores.

3. Teacher-friendly
I also write my curricula with the new teacher in mind. I hope that after teaching each quarter of my curriculum, a teacher will be better trained to teach again.

Meanwhile, happy teaching!

Karyn Sig

 

 

 

Photo courtesy of morguefile.com

Planning Your Route

GlassesMap1-300x300What is curriculum? It’s a map. It tells you how to get where you want to go. It will have overall goals for your age group. Through the year, the lessons will take you toward that goal. Lessons are the points of interest you pass as you travel the route on the “map.”  Each lesson you pass puts you one step nearer your overall goal.  In fact, each of these interest points (or lesson plans) has goals of its own that fit into the bigger picture.

Plan for all possibilities

I used the same curriculum, the same lesson plans, for eight years.  Each year was different.  One year I had twelve children in my class.  The next year I had twenty-eight.  One year my students included several foreign children.  Another year I had a child in a wheelchair.  One year the kids listened eagerly at group time.  The next year, they were into rough-and-tumble wrestling instead of listening.  I’ve taught in tiny classrooms and huge classrooms.  I’ve taught in situations where I had only 45 minutes to complete the activities, and others where I had 90 minutes. Can one lesson plan cover all these possibilities?  No.

When you get your lesson plan, read it and ask yourself some questions:

Does this fit my class needs?
Does this fit the time schedule I have?
Does this fit the materials available to me?
Does this fit the abilities and interests of my children?
Does this fit the space available to me?

Delete or add activities according to your answers to these questions.

Broaden your choices

How do you find activities to add? You need resource books. Good activity books broaden your choices. You may also think of some activities on your own. If you are really going to be child-sensitive, you’ll opt for more original arts and crafts as well as other types of activities.

As you think about the activities you need, remember to “Take AIM.”  Make your lessons Age-appropriate, Interesting, and Meaningful.

Children want to be where the action is. Where the excitement is. Where it matters. Where you care. And they know you care when you spend the time to help them enjoy the lesson through age-appropriate, interesting, meaningful activities.

Happy teaching!

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Teachers, Take A.I.M.

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One of my mentors, award-winning writer Kathi Appelt, reminds me that form should serve story.  She says, “It’s easy to get lost in the exercise of form and lose intentionality.”  She encouraged me to ask:  “Is this form deliberate and appropriate for the subject?”  Intentionality means making choices deliberately, for particular reasons – which means that the writer knows there are choices in the first place.  The writer knows what those choices are and purposely selects what best serves the story he or she is trying to tell.

Form vs Intentionality – Who does it serve?
It occurred to me that this principle of being deliberate and intentional, of making form serve story, is a principle that I use all the time when I write curricula. I know there are choices, and I know what the choices are. I try to choose a method of storytelling that serves the Bible story. I also try to choose activities that serve the story and the goal of the lesson.

But activities and storytelling methods should serve the students, too.  If we are serious about communicating, we not only ask, “Is this form deliberate and appropriate for the subject?” but we also ask, “Is this form deliberate and appropriate for the students?” When we work with children, “it’s easy to get lost in the exercise of form.”  In other words, it’s easy to get locked in to a particular method or schedule. It’s easy to rely on what feels most comfortable to us and say, “This is the way it’s done. Period.” It’s easy to get “set in our ways” and avoid trying anything new, even though some new type of activity or different way of telling the story might serve the story and/or the students more effectively.

That’s why:

  1. I tell teachers that their lesson plans are simply suggestions. They know their students. They are responsible for communicating in ways that will give their particular students the greatest opportunity to become involved and grow.
  2. I give teachers lots of activity choices in each lesson plan.
  3. I ask teachers, “Do you go into the classroom to teach the material or to teach children?”
  4. I say:  Make your teaching choices by taking AIM–
    Age-appropriate
    Interesting
    Meaningful.

In other words, be intentional and deliberate.  Let your form serve your story and your students.

Historic Beginner’s Bibles (sold out)

00 Front CoverThe original Beginners Bible, by Karyn Henley, illustrated by Dennas Davis, was published in 1989. It was in print for about 15 years, selling several million copies and published in 17 languages. It has been out of print since 2004 but we have 32 new copies in our stockroom that we are releasing for sale, just in time for the Christmas season.

Because we consider these books to be historically significant, rare for their condition, and of  limited quantity, we are selling them for a premium price of $24.95 each, limit of 2 copies per credit card billing address, non-returnable. We will only ship to the United States. Once they are gone, they are gone.

The original Beginner’s Bible contains 95 timeless children’s stories, written in easy reader style — Including These: – A Big Picnic (Jesus Feeds the Five Thousand) – Long and Strong (Samson) – Best Friends (David and Jonathan) – Trumpets and Torches (Gideon) – The Most Special Baby (Jesus is Born) – Fish for Breakfast (With the Risen Jesus) – A Secret Message (Joseph and Pharaoh’s Dreams) – A Basket Boat (The Baby Moses) – Wind and Fire (The Day of Pentecost) – Money in a Fish (Peter and the Taxes) – The Chariot of Fire (Elijah and Elisha) – Spending the Night with Lions (Daniel’s Faithfulness) – Lost! (Jesus in the Temple) – Helpers and Friends (Jesus Calls His Disciples) – Inside a Fish (Jonah) – A Room on the Roof (Elisha and the Shunemite Woman) – The Angel’s Secret (Gabriel Visits Mary) – Surprise (The Resurrection) and many more.

You can see a few sample pages below.

SOLD OUT