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Sometimes curriculum (teaching materials) will bring several unrelated ideas or topics into one week’s lesson. This can be detrimental because it distracts the student’s away from the main point of the lesson and creates difficulty in linking the thoughts together into some type of mental order. Having too many topics can also create confusion, making it difficult for the students to follow the lesson and learn the main points. It leaves the students wondering, “What was the main point? I don’t get it.”
In addition, using several unrelated ideas or topics in one lesson can overload the student’s mind. Most people cannot remember too many different things at once. So as teachers, we need to look over our lesson to make sure it is clear, concise, and easy to follow.
As you plan or prepare your lesson, consider each activity or topic and ask yourself, “Does this reinforce what I’m trying to teach or does it distract my students away and point them to something else?” Or we should ask, “Is the lesson material appropriate for the age of my students.” Or we should ask, “Is there too much material for my students to remember in this lesson?” If an activity or a topic doesn’t maintain or reinforce the lesson you are teaching, then you should consider saving it for another day, and finding something different for the lesson you are preparing.
Occasionally we have infrequent attendees or visitors. For some it may be their only chance to hear about Jesus, especially if they don’t regularly attend a church. We need to make every moment count, and focus on a few concepts or principles that our students can remember long enough to take home with them. Remembering a few key concepts is much easier than remembering a multitude of information or topics.
If a lesson is too full of material for anyone to remember in one small time allotment, you should break the lesson into two or more weeks or choose the most important parts and scrap the rest. In this case, more is learned by reducing the multitude of facts into smaller chunks, and teaching each chunk in a separate lesson. One or two things are easier to remember than a multitude, especially for children.
To illustrate my point I will use three examples of lessons called Poor, Better, and Best. Please take some time and examine these to see if you can find the differences in them:
Example A Poor:
In this example the teacher presents a lesson to her class on the promises of God. She teaches them that God always keeps His promises, and we can always trust Him. The teacher uses the Bible story of Noah and the great flood to teach her class.
After the Bible story about Noah, the teacher brings out a coloring page or craft on Joseph and his coat of many colors. Though the children may get excited about the coat of many colors, it doesn’t add anything to the lesson of Noah or the promises of God. If anything, the children may forget all about Noah and the lesson they heard. Consequently, this teacher may have undermined her lesson on Noah and left the students wondering more about Joseph and his coat of many colors. This teacher just presented her class with what I call a “Time Killer.” (Please read the curriculum challenge called Time Fillers, Time Killers, and Time Redeemers. Coming later.)
Example B Better:
For this example let’s use the same teacher, the lesson about Noah and the flood, and the principle that God keeps His promises. This teacher shares the story with her class, and tells them about God giving us the rainbow as a reminder that He will never flood the earth again to destroy all life.
After the Bible story, this teacher has a craft time, and each student is given a sun-catcher or stained glass ornament--shaped like a rainbow--to paint. The students get brushes and paints, and color in their ornament with bright colors. Then they set them aside to dry and have a quick snack. At the end of class, when the paint is dry, the teacher suggests that the students take their sun-catcher home as a reminder of the promise God made them.
Notice how the craft activity helps the students stay focused on an aspect of the lesson taught. It also provides a memory of the lesson, and a conversation piece that could encourage the students to share what they learned with their family at home.
Do you think the students will remember the lesson of Noah, the great flood, and the rainbow? I think so. Also, God will remind them whenever they see a rainbow in the sky.
Example C Best:
Let’s use this same example with Noah, the flood, and the rainbow craft again. This time the teacher brings the story and craft together and shows the students how they can apply the lesson to their daily life.
As the students are painting their rainbow crafts, the teacher reminds them of God’s promise to Noah in Genesis 9:12-15 which establishes the promise God made with His people and the creation of the rainbow to remind the people of God’s promise not to flood the earth again to destroy all life.
After the craft time is over and the paint is drying, the students have snack time. As they are sitting down and eating their snacks the teacher tells them, “When class is over, take your sun-catcher home and hang it up on a window or mirror (with a suction cup) in your bedroom. Then you will see it every day, and the next time it rains, look at it and remember God’s promise that He will never destroy the earth again with a flood. This will reassure you, in your heart, that the rain will eventually stop and the sun will shine again.”
This application of the lesson has just provided the student with a reminder of God’s promise, and His faithfulness at keeping His promises. It brings the reality of God into the lives of the students on a personal level. What a wonderful way to present God’s divine power to a class of students, especially children.
If God wills it, on the day you teach this class, it will rain and you may see a rainbow in the sky. This happened to me one day when I taught about Noah and the flood. After the story, the students opened the curtains of the room to look outside and there was a big rainbow in the sky. God had demonstrated His divine power and promise, and the students were delighted!
In conclusion, these three examples illustrate the following:
1. Activities should reinforce the lesson, not take away from it.
2. Activities should provide hands-on experience and make good use of class time.
3. Activities should be focused on Jesus and/or the Bible principles, and should be encouraging and fun for the students.
4. Lessons and activities should present only a few related topics so they don’t confuse, distract, or overwhelm the students.
5. Activities or object lessons can be effective visual aids for demonstrating lesson points.
Remember that it’s important to carefully consider each activity and topic within the lesson to see that they reinforce or add relevant information to the lesson. It’s also important to make the most of your time, and to show the students how to apply the lesson to their daily lives. With the Holy Spirit dwelling in and using you, you can really make a difference.
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