Classroom

Suggestions for Classroom teaching situations
(Sunday school, Adult Bible classes, confirmation classes, etc.)

A new teacher has two big questions: “can I keep them quiet?” and “will I run out of material?”
The suggestions below will help with those two concerns, and more.

Select your area of interest, and then scroll down to it:
Classroom Management and Discipline
Motivating the students
Setting realistic goals
Planning the class hour
Leading the class hour
Testing and Evaluation
Assignments and Homework
Finding or writing teaching materials

 

Classroom Management and Discipline
By “Management” I mean keeping students from disrupting the class, and
by “discipline” I mean the long-term nurture that leads eventually to mature self-discipline.

As a first year teacher, I was discouraged by the misbehavior of the students.
In the following years, the misbehavior was still there, but I realized it was normal.

Ways to prevent disruption and keep the class under control:
Forestall problems by planning to keep them busy and move smoothly from one activity to the next.
Keep eye-contact (don’t have your nose stuck in your notes)
Keep walking around the room, and especially up to potential disrupters
Give them enough chances to move around so they won’t become antsy
Keep improving your personal relation with each student

What to do when someone disrupts the class:
Always call them on it
Appeal to them to be quiet
Talk to them privately after class
Tell them the consequence they will receive if they disrupt others

How to nurture students toward self-discipline
Make sure they know the importance of respecting others and becoming mature
Provide consequences for misbehavior. It should be a consequence that you will be able to enforce.
Praise them for progress

Motivating the students
Introduce the topic in a way that connects with the emotions
Explain why this topic has personal practical value for them
Introduce material in small steps that can be achieved — achievement motivates toward further steps

Motivating adult students. In addition to the points above, the following are important:
Adults learn best if they can apply the knowledge to solve problems that are experiencing in life or work.
Adults learn best if their personal experiences and skills can be drawn on and shared with the others.
Adults learn best if they have a part in setting the class goals.

Realistic Goals
You need goals for the entire course, for the unit, and for the individual class session.
For the class session, you need two types of goals: educational goals and spiritual goals.

Some advantages of goals:
Goals help you select strategies that meet the goals and avoid unrelated busy work.
Goals provide you with a basis for evaluation (See testing and evaluation, below).

About Educational Goals: The concepts that you hope the students will master.
A single class session might have one to three educational goals.
These goals are what the students will be able to “do” to show that he or she has mastered the material.
An educational goal for a single class session should be: concrete, measurable, and achievable.
Example of a goal: The student will be able to tell two reasons why David was willing to face Goliath.
This goal is concrete because it specifies what the student will be able to show. It is measurable because it includes a number (two) and a method of revealing mastery (“will know”). It is achievable as long as you make sure that the students learn enough about the story to  determine David’s options and thought processes.
At the end of the class, you would find ways to determine whether the goals have been reached.

About Spiritual Goals   —: the growth in faith produced by the Holy Spirit.
You cannot make these goals occur (only the Holy Spirit can), but you can set the stage.
It would not be fair to lower a student’s grade for not meeting these goals.
One clear way to think through a spiritual goal is to use the sequence “goal — blockade — Jesus.”
(This is my personal way to express the traditional sequence “goal — malady — means.”)
Goal = What does this lesson suggest about God’s will for me? That is, what does God want me to do?
Blockade = why don’t I always do it? (this gives new insight into my sin nature)
Jesus = how is Jesus the answer to my disobedience? It is always in two ways:
Jesus has forgiven my disobedience at the cross.
Jesus lives in me to change me so I want to do God’s will in this matter.
At the end of the class, the closing prayer would include words of repentance and faith that match the goals.

Planning

Planning — the essential attitude
Learning is not what you do, but rather what  the students do.
Planning means you decide how you are going to get the students to do those things.
On this site, the things you get the students to do are called “learning strategies.”

Example. Consider all the neat things in this lesson plan:    .

What the Teacher Will Do:  What the student will do
tell personal story to get attention  ?
tell why the topic is important  ?
preview main points to be learned today  ?
Explain each point with examples  ?
Summarize all important points  ?

Do you agree this is a great lesson plan with lots of variety? I admit that all the things the teacher plans to do are good things to do. What I would like you to think about is what the student is doing during the class. The second column above is be titled “What the student will do.” Although the teacher column has great variety, each corresponding box in the student column will contain the same word: “listen.” “Listening” has been found to be the least effective way to learn. Your challenge in teaching is to see how many different things you can put in the second column.

For starters, it is easy to include the other two of the three main gates to learning: listening, watching, and  doing. It is also fundamental to try to involve what are called the “three domains:” cognitive (thinking), affective (emotions), and psychomotor (skills).

The teacher could have added “watching” by playing a DVD clip and by outlining those main points on the board. the teacher could have added “doing” by providing a worksheet to fill out, by having students move to different parts of the classroom to indicate their response to certain questions. In our example, the teacher did include “cognitive” by explaining the material, and did involve emotion through the personal story. Skills will not be learned unless the students actually do something, such as taking notes or re-arranging materials in some way.

The section below titled Learning Strategies will add many more ideas for student involvement. First, though, you need an overall guide to planning:

Planning — overall guide

Visualize the planning process for a class session as follows:
Draw a square. In the middle, write: learning strategies. On each the four outer edges, write one of these words: Goals — Content — Situation — Students
The combination of these four factors will determine effective learning strategies.

Situation includes such things as:
Time available
room size and seating arrangements (tables? desks?)
materials available (whiteboard? Videos?)

Content is expressed in a syllabus that consists of main points and sub-points.
The most helpful way to write a syllabus is to use complete sentences.
A successful syllabus proceeds in small logical steps from one point to the next.
As you arrange the concepts in order, add the unknown by building on the known.

Teaching does not mean that you read the syllabus. Teaching means that  you select the points and concepts from the syllabus that can fit into one class period, and arrange teaching strategies so that the students master those points. Even if you have a textbook, you still need to arrange the strategies by which the student will master the content in the textbook. In preparation for a given lesson, go through the syllabus and select the terms and ideas that you must build into concepts during the lesson. If you need to write your own materials, see Suggestions for Four Types of Bible Studies.

Students refers to the characteristics of the people you will be teaching. That would include:
How students at the age level you have behave and learn.
The academic readiness of the particular students you have.
The background they already have in the subject  matter you will be teaching.

Now let’s combine all four factors: Apply goals to content, with a particular group of student sin mind, within your constraints of time and equipment, to determine which learning strategies will be effective. The sections below give you principles to use in selecting or creating learning strategies.

Learning Strategies
Your strategies are  those ways you get the students to inter-act with the material in order to master concepts.
If you have a textbook or workbook, you should figure out if it includes any strategies, or if it only includes content.
Your students will learn more as you think of other activities they can do besides “listen.”
A typical class period will have 2 to 4 such activities by which students learn.

Levels of learning:
Use higher-level learning as well as “lower-level” learning.”
Briefly, lower-level learning means exposure to facts, and higher level learning means working with the facts in various ways until they become concepts and enter long-term memory.

Examples of lower-level learning include memorizing and recalling.

According to a list of levels called “Bloom’s Taxonomy of Educational Objectives,” there are five additional types of activities that comprise “higher-level” learning. They are listed below, with examples.
Comprehension. Put things in your own words, explain to someone else.
Application. demonstrate, illustrate, make use of.
Analysis. means “take apart;” contrast, differentiate.
Synthesis. means “put together;” summarize, list in a different way
Evaluation. Make a judgment as to good or bad, appropriate or not appropriate; rate; assess.
Your hope in lesson planning is to make use of strategies that involve some of these higher levels.

You need to present the material, then the students need to inter-act with the material, and then the material must get into the long-term memory.

Presentation methods.
Lecture: try to involve the eye through charts and pictures, and movement through filling in blanks.
Reading. Prepare for the reading assignment by telling them what to watch for.
Research. Provide step by step instructions with clear ways to express results.

Inter-action methods. For the student to master the material, the student must inter-act with the material. Here are some examples of inter-action that involve the various types of higher-level learning. There are many more ways; these are listed here to spur you on to creativity:

Speaking: pretend to be an eye-witness reporter doing an interview.  Ask one another questions.
Writing: Provide the end to a story. Write headlines. Write a test. Make a dictionary.
Worksheets. Fill in blanks. Identify symbols.
Act out. Guess who I am. Make up a skit on the spot.
Music. New words to known tunes. Select songs to fit subject matter.
Adapt common games. Board game or TV quiz show formats.
Drawing. Invent a symbol. Draw a scene from a story. Create a diagram.
Movement. Line up in response to instructions, such as being a Bible character and standing before or after other characters in chronological order; standing in various places in the room as though it were a map.
Manipulate objects. Make figures, put together puzzles, sort out items.
Collaboration. Divide into groups of 3 to do a task or evaluate a question.

Engaging long-term memory. To get more concepts into long-term memory, there has to be a purposeful effort. The student needs to want them in long-term memory. A lot of time must be spent on review, not just rote review, but by making use of the concepts. Engage sight through diagrams, and engage movement through writing. the student should write down summaries in his own words of the concepts to be mastered.

 

Leading the class hour
I often memorize the first sentence I will say at the beginning of the class.
A typical class hour will include these four parts:
Motivate through attention-getter — state goals — do learning strategies — see if goals were reached
Following is more detail on each of these four parts.

Attention-getters. The purpose is to involve the student emotionally in the subject matter. Personal stories, object lessons, pictures, dilemmas, short dramas, and intriguing questions are examples of useful approaches.

Stating goals. I like to actually tell the student what the goals are. This helps the students to pick out the essential information. It prepares the student to listen for what you want them to know.

Carrying out the learning strategies. Each must be explained thoroughly, including the purpose for the activity and the desired outcome. Here are some additional skills the teacher will need for various strategies:

Leading class discussion. Never make someone regret joining in the discussion — thank the person, and find something in the answer that you can commend. Don’t let a few students dominate the conversation.

The art of asking questions. It is most convenient to ask lower-level questions that are merely the regurgitation of statements. Challenge yourself to frame questions that express one of the higher-categories of learning:
Comprehension: How would you say that in different words?
Application: How would you do that if you couldn’t use any words?
Analysis: What are the different steps in making that?
Synthesis: What happens if you put all those ideas together?
Evaluation: which of those would you prefer to take with you, and why?   

The art of answering questions. One common mistake is answering too soon, before you know what the person really wants to know. When answering, give a short answer, then check to see if the person understood what you said so far.

See if goals were reached
Here are some typical methods to determine whether the goals were reached:
Ask “what will you remember most about what we did today?”
State a goal, and ask for a show of hands of “how many of you felt you reached that goal?”

Testing and Evaluation
Careful: do not test for goals that you cannot achieve by human effort. For example, you can test whether students have learned the common explanations for why the tomb of Jesus was empty, but you may not grade the students on  whether or not they believe that Jesus rose from the dead, because that can only be taught by the Holy Spirit.

Assignments and Homework
Don’t assign busywork, but only assignments with clear purposes.
Assignments could be for reflection, review, practice, or preparation for next lesson.

Finding or writing teaching materials

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For more resources about teaching:

See the site Church Education by Dr. Ed Seely