I recently shared with you characteristics of an auditory learner and ways to effectively teach them God’s word (View it here). I thought we’d have some fun and make some stringed phones for you to try with your class. Tin cans look cool, but paper ones work best (and are easier) so that’s what I will do here.
Step 1: You will need your supplies. It’s just 2 paper cups and string (as long as you’d like). Oh, and something to poke a hole in each cup. I used a pencil tip but something a little smaller may be better.
Step 2: Poke a small hole, just large enough to put your string through, in the bottom center of each cup.
Step 3: Push string through the bottom of one cup, tying a knot on the string inside the cup. This will prevent kids from being able to pull the string out when tightening to talk.
Step 4: Repeat with the other end of the string on the second cup and you’re done! You’ve got a stringed phone.
Once you make a set, how do you use it to teach? Good question! As kids arrive to bible class, let them pair up with a set of stringed phones. They can talk to their partner about anything! This is just a fun warm up. If they need prompting, list some questions they can ask each other and answer, a getting to know you time. Or, you may write questions out on a bunch of cards and hand each person a set as they arrive. They simply select a card and ask that question. Examples:
What’s your favorite animal, ice cream, drink, holiday…
What’s food do you hate the most?
Who’s your favorite person in the bible?
Now for the lesson, the heart of the class where you share God’s word and pray that it sticks with them throughout their lives. Enthusiastically tell the bible story asking plenty of questions as you go. Now that they have heard the lesson, it’s time to reinforce it! The kids should be in pairs (if you have an odd number, the teacher participates too).
Ask a question about the lesson. Keep questions short enough for kids to repeat.
One person from each pair repeats the question in the can.
The person listening now gives the answer. If the do not know it they say, “I don’t know, do you?” Now the first person gets a chance to answer back.
After kids are done, the teacher gives the correct answer.
Repeat asking another question alternating who asks the question into the can.
Trust me. The kids will have a blast and learn so much!
“The kids are going to love this!” I thought. “They get to play with slime all through class! They are going to invite their friends and beg to come back next week! Our children’s bible classes are going to spill over with so many kids.” Well, that’s what I thought as I put the lesson together and excitedly set containers of sparkling galaxy slime at their seats. Unfortunately, I did not take into account the need for training others on presenting the lesson. I thought slime was full proof, but I was wrong. I was so very wrong.
Kids need to know the bible is real and full of life. When you really look at the bible, and I mean really look, you will find so much interesting information as you turn the pages. Kids are fascinated as you point out strange or gross things from the scriptures. Don’t sugar coat God’s word. Kids are not interested in boring. They want on the edge of your seat thrilling! And how you share God’s thrilling message matters. Are you stoic or are you lively? Are you simply reading the words or are you giving them life?
Teaching bible class does need to be fun for kids so they look forward to coming, but it is more than just the activity. Back to my experience I mentioned earlier, the kids were so excited when they walked through the door and saw slime, but that quickly faded. I was disappointed as I peeked through windows in doors to see kids with blank stares. They were far from engaged. In one of my elementary classes, the teacher was reading the lesson with guided instructions for what to create from their slime. So what was the problem? There was no life, no enthusiasm in the reading of the lesson. For kids to engage, you have to show them the bible is alive, show lots and lots of enthusiasm, of excitement. I decided to test my theory as I subbed for a class and wow! The kids had a blast, they learned and asked if they could have this for class again. Presentation matters.
God’s word is fascinating when we tell it like it is. Just this past week I taught elementary kids about Joshua, a mighty warrior for God. He was on a roll defeating countries left and right as the Israelites took the land God had promised them. As he defeated nations, he captured kings and made a statement with their dead bodies. He stuck a pole through their bodies and put them up on display for a day. He didn’t do this just one time either. The kids were wide eyed and paying attention. They could not believe this was really in the bible. Show them how interesting it is and when the are paying attention, you can talk more about what we can learn from these accounts in scripture.
Asking kids to put themselves in the bible individuals shoes helps kids relate, makes them real. As you talk about Adam and Eve walking through the garden with God, ask them what that might have been like. Can you imagine walking around your yard with God just like he was your best friend? Do you think this might have caused them to see God differently than we do? We look at him with awe, almost untouchable, but for them, God was always there. It may not have seemed like a big deal to them. We can begin to see people from scripture as human when we ask questions like these.
The bible is far from boring so let’s make sure we portray it that way. Let’s help our kids engage in God’s word by sharing it with energy and enthusiasm. Give kids a reason to be wowed by God’s word! Stoic or full of life? Your decision may change the way a child relates to God’s word so give it your all.
I have the Tasmanian Devil in my second grade class. She interrupts, blurts out comments that are completely off topic, walks around the classroom during teaching, messes with the kids sitting next to her and at times, simply refuses to participate. A study by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention stated that according to a parent report from 2011-2012, approximately 11% of children ages 4-17 years old (6.4 million) have been diagnosed with ADHD. I am one that believes this condition is overdiagnosed; however, there are many, many children that really do suffer from this. And these are often our “problem” children. So how do we handle this as bible class teachers?
First, try handling these children in the classroom. Start with teaching in a manner that kids with discipline problems learn best. They are typically your kinesthetic learners. They need movement! They need to be hands on. I have found that play-doh and similar items work amazingly well! Guiding them to create things you talk about in the lesson as you teach keeps them hands-on and focused! All kids like this stuff so when you teach for these kids, all kids love your class! When this does not work and you feel you need to go to the parents for advice, remember the Oreo method. Say something positive about their child, then share the problem, then end with another positive. For example, “Amy is a bright energetic little girl. I love seeing her big smile every week. I was wondering if you had any suggestions for how I might best keep her in her seat for the lessons. I’m afraid she has too much energy to sit and listen so I wondered what you have seen that works. She’s as sharp as a tack! When I ask a question she knows the answer so I know she’s listening!” (Compare that to, “Amy won’t stay in her seat and is disrupting the class. Do you have any suggestions?”)
If you have a child that is a discipline problem in your class, chances are, they are the same way at school. Their parents are used to hearing about their child causing problems for teachers but it doesn’t make it any easier to hear again and again. I was one of these parents when it came to my youngest. I would get calls that my daughter was walking around the classroom during instruction time, making noise with her pencils or fingers on the tables, and my favorite, barking like a dog at the other kids in the lunch line. She would never behave this way at home because she knew it was unacceptable; but at school, she was the child I am sure the teacher’s wished would stay home sick more often. Getting a call from her bible class teacher was the icing on the cake. Knowing the teachers were trying to work with my child, trying to find a solution was reassuring. Hearing that they found positive in my child helped me at the time; so please keep this in mind when addressing parents. Oreo! Positive – Negative – Positive.
As a bible class teacher, we want our kids excited about coming to class! We also do not want our parents dreading a call from us or avoiding us at church, wondering what their child has done now. Take every opportunity to praise the kids when they do well and share good behavior with their parents. This encourages parents to come back again and again, knowing their child’s teacher knows how to teach their child and enjoys having them in class. And when you don’t enjoy it, look for alternative ways to teach, alternative ways to capture their attention. It’s incredibly rewarding when you find what works! These are kids so finding fun ways to teach typically does the trick.
Is bible memorization still important? As a kid I grew learning a new bible verse every week, sometimes more than one. When I started working with the K-5th grades at my current congregation, this was not being done at all. I wondered if this intentional or just a lack of planning? I tried making a game our of memorizing a scripture many times but it was not a priority to the teachers so if they were short on time or wanted to pass out snacks instead, bye-bye bible verse.
What about the parents? How do they feel about memorizing scriptures? The only way to know the answer to this was to ask them. That’s just what I did. I pulled up Survey Monkey and sent out four simple questions.
Do you feel bible class attendance is important for your children?
Do you feel memorizing scripture is important?
Do you feel that knowing how to find the books of the bible is important?
What other things do you feel are important for your kids to get from their church family?
I didn’t get an overwhelming response, but enough to learn that the parents do feel that their children should be in class but they do not feel that memorization is important. With this being the case, I would need to offer some pretty good incentives to get the kids motivated enough to work on memorization outside of bible class when I know their parents are not going to be pushing them to do this. So after much thought and time in prayer, I decided that instead of fighting an uphill battle in this area (when there are many more important I chose to take on), I would focus on one thing year round. We would memorize the books of the bible. Every time we meet we sing the Old and New Testament bible book songs. Then, with the younger children, we play games where they have to tell me if the book I shout out is found in the Old or New Testament. The fourth and fifth graders actually look up the books in their bibles. I figure that if we teach them the bible, where the lessons are found, and we teach them how to find the books of the bible, they will be prepared. And as they get older, Google is usually there, but knowing how to find answers in God’s word on your own is a valuable skill to have.
If you feel that learning the books of the bible is something you would like to add to or modify for your children’s program, here are a few games we play. Make sure to print cards with each book of the bible on a card. I draw cards out of a cup for all of these games so they are random and could be any of the 66 books of the bible.
Bible Sides: Label one side of the room “OLD” and the other “NEW.” As you name a book, kids quickly walk to the side they think the book belongs to. After everyone chooses, give the answer and all the ones that got it right get super excited. No one moves yet. Now give the next book and let kids move again. Continue until a timer goes off or do like I do and make this the last part of class so you go until the bell rings.
Bible Airplanes or Ball Toss: Set two baskets along a wall. Label one “OLD” and the other “NEW.” If you play with airplanes, let them spend 60 seconds making a paper airplane (they love this). Then, choose a card and let them throw their plane or ball (paper balls work great) into the appropriate basket. Then, choose one plane from the basket, choose a book and toss the plane back to that student as they tell you where it’s found. Continue until all planes are returned, then start over.
Bible Parachute: They love this too! Have kids grab a handle on the parachute. As you sing the Old Testament song, have them walk to the left. As you sing the New Testament song, have them walk to the right. Then, name a book, toss a small stuffed animal (or paper ball) in the center and let them bounce it softly as you give them different books to tell you where they are found. You may even put two items in the middle and label them Old and New.
Bible Tunnel: The K-3rd LOVE this, but you do have to remind them why they get to travel through the tunnel or they may just laugh instead of sing. Kids make their way through the tunnel as you sing all the books of the bible. Then, they line and take turns letting you know if the book you name is found in the Old or New Testament. The first several times of this game I let them go whether they are right or wrong, just go for trying. After they’ve had plenty of practice, they get to travel through the tube if they answer correctly.
I recently read an article called, “Are Your Cute Lessons Turning Kids Into Atheists?” As you can imagine, when I read the title I had to see what it was all about. It shares Barna’s latest statistics on the Gen Z generation (those born from 1999-2015). Sadly, they found that Gen Z does not associate with any religious identity more than any previous generation. This is very disheartening! But, I dare not limit God. He can do anything including take a deprived nation and turn it around. Let us be the hands, feet and mouthpieces of God allowing Him to work through us to reach our children turning the church around.
Let’s take a look at some of the survey results for the cause of this depravity:
29% – I have a hard time believing that a good God would allow so much evil and suffering in the world.
23% – Christians are hypocrites.
20% – I believe science refutes the Bible.
19% – I don’t believe in fairy tales.
15% – There are too many injustices in the history of Christianity.
12% – I used to go to church, but it’s just not that important anymore.
6% – I had a bad experience at church or with a Christian.
37% believe it is not possible to know for sure if God is real.
58% believe many religions can lead to eternal life.
46% say they need factual evidence to support their beliefs.
49% says the church seems to reject much of what science tells us about the world.
27% say the church is not a safe place to express doubts.
24% say the teaching they are exposed to is shallow.
This is an eye opener for sure. As we minister to children, we need to stay focused on the truth. There is no need to sugar coat God’s word. Life isn’t all sweet and pretty. People are in it so it is quite messy. Let’s teach our kids how messy people are and how much God steps in to help us. As our kids get a little older, let’s remember to teach them Christian apologetics. Let’s show them how we can know that the bible is truly the inspired word of God and how it doesn’t contradict science, but constantly proves it is in line with it.
Are you wondering now if your curriculum fits the bill? Is it too”cute” to raise kids rooted in truth? I venture to guess that your curriculum is probably good. We want kids to hear God’s word come to life and most of the time the curriculum does a good job of this. I would bet that all that is needed is a tweak or two. The easiest and perhaps the most relevant, you just need a brief time to ask kids to wonder, making them walk in the bible person’s shoes for a moment. What do I mean by this? This week I am teaching our kids the story of the bronze serpent. As the Israelite’s are traveling through the desert, being forced to go the long way to their destination on account of the King of Edom, I wonder what they thought. There’s not any water, they don’t get a bunch of food choices, it’s probably hot and definitely dirty. I wonder what they were thinking and feeling. This makes it more understandable when they complain. But now let’s look at it from God’s perspective. He’s rescued His people from slavery, taken care of them and they are complaining again. I wonder what God was thinking? Now they understand the snakes. The Israelite’s are told to simply look to the bronze snake if they are bit and they’ll live. I wonder what they were thinking. This brings bible history to a level we can relate and not some shallow faith where we just can’t believe the Israelite’s kept turning their backs on God.
If you are looking for a change in your curriculum, I highly recommend a chronological study helping our kids see God’s word as one big giant story with a purpose. As the “plot” develops, it takes us to the cross. Let our kids see this. In the story of the bronze snake, did you know Jesus referred to this very story in the New Testament? Yep! He sure did. He compared himself to the snake when talking to Nicodemus. See for yourself in John 3. (Or watch here.) Help kids see how the Old and New Testaments work together, that the Old Testament isn’t a gigantic boring history book, but full of thrills and meaning. There are a number of curriculum you can turn to for this. I’ve heard good things about The Gospel Project. I personally write my own and even create 3-5 minute videos. Kids use hands-on items every week to keep them focused, having fun and remembering the lessons. Feel free to use them in your classes (all free and on this website).
Our K-5th graders recently learned about Korah’s rebellion against Moses, Aaron and God. We’ve spent weeks learning about God’s people being rescued from slavery, then turning away from God a lot. They questioned Moses and Aaron’s leadership too, even though God put these men in charge. It was because of the people’s lack of faith that they were not going into the land God promised Abraham, but they blame Moses and Aaron. We learned that 10 of the 12 spies said they should not invade Canaan because the people and city were too strong? And the Israelites followed their lead being fearful instead of trusting God. God decided that since they continued to distrust Him, they would never see the Promised Land. They were so sad; they mourned. Then, they were in denial. They decided to try to take the city anyway, even though Moses said God would not be with them. Shocking, without God, all the people that went into battle died. Now they are mad! And Korah does not control his anger, but instead riles up others to take a stand against Moses. God steps in and the earth swallows Korah, his family and the other men leading the charge alongside him. How did we make class fun during this very disturbing scary story? We made an “earth gobbler.” Incredibly enough, as I was showing the second grade teacher how to make one, one of the kids sat down, saw what I was doing and was done with his before me! (It’s the fortune teller’s they make at school.). Feel free to make one with your class the next time you tell this story. Download directions and the earth gobbler too!