Yikes! I am daydreaming about food while the teacher is talking about something I’m supposed to learn. What is he talking about? Focus, focus, focus. No matter how hard I try, I cannot seem to stay focused. Have you ever found yourself zoning out in a class? Of course you have! We all do this at one time or another. We all zone out sometimes, but kids zone out ALL the time if their little minds are not engaged. They do not yet have the self discipline to force themselves to listen when they are not at all interested. So, when you see eyes wondering around the room, kids fidgeting in their seats, or a couple messing with each other, you know you have lost them. They are in another world now.
As teachers (and parents), it is important we remember kids are kids. They are growing and learning. It is our job to help them. Telling them to focus may help occasionally, but it is not necessarily the answer. We need to get creative finding ways to engage their young minds so they naturally focus. This prepares them for what they should be doing so that as they get older, they have practiced and more easily pay attention. But for now, we have to train them. The first step is knowing what type of learner we are teaching. There are three main learning styles. Last week we covered the auditory learner. (Read about it here.) Next week we will talk about the kinesthetic learner. Today, it is all about the visual learner. Studies convey that approximately 65 percent of the population are visual learners. (Jeni Sebora, Herald Journal Publishing 2008) That’s over half the population making this learning style extremely important!
The most basic way to stimulate the mind of a visual learner is simply with pictures. Although any old picture is better than nothing, you really need bright, vibrant, current day pictures that kids respond to. If you are showing them dated pictures, no matter how perfect you think they are, please try again. Think about what they are looking at these days. Get online and look at what picture books are popular. This is a good start. As you are telling a story, give them something appealing to look at. They focus on the picture and relate the words you say to that. Take note: Keep things moving. Staying on one picture too long does not work either. Their attention span is short… very short! So keep the pictures changing.
Stimulate the mind with moving pictures. Short videos, approximately three to five minutes are fantastic. Again, their attention spans are short so a video longer than five minutes is risky. There are so many options available these days with YouTube, GodVine and Vimeo. (Make sure they are approved to show to groups though. Copyright laws can get tricky.) Use video before a lesson to give kids an overall picture of the lesson before discussing in detail or as a review after a lesson. I do this both ways.
Puppet shows and skits, when done well, are great at capturing the visual learners attention! This works especially well when the puppets talk to the kids and allow children to respond. These methods are “live” so they perk children’s interest. The fluctuation in a puppet’s or character’s voice draws in interest too. And I truly believe vibrant colors and interesting characters are the most powerful.
Another effective way to engage the visual learner is with objects. Show them physical items that relate. For instance, you can definitely grab their attention with these items:
- A flashlight, water, plants, animals, and more for creation
- An ark full of animals for Noah’s ark
- A water bottle that lightly sprays a mist of water for Jesus calming the storm or Jonah during the storm
- Super large nail when Jesus dies on the cross
- Tent peg and hammer when Jael nails the tent peg through Sisera’s temple
You get the idea. A strong visual gets kids attention and leaves a lasting impression, helping them to retain God’s word.
Object lessons are powerful too, especially for the older kiddos. Letting them see a glass of water become dirty with sin and then perfectly clean again because of Christ paints a strong picture of forgiveness. When you are actively doing something in front them, they watch attentively, waiting to see what will happen next. The suspense is almost more than they can handle sometimes, but they are most assuredly focused!
This is so much fun once you get the hang of it! When it’s interesting the visual learners will have their eyes glued on what you show them. Better yet, they will engage and retain so much more of what you teach when taught this way. You will be amazed! I know I am all the time! It is incredibly rewarding and encourages all of us teachers to keep going!