One challenge I experienced with curriculum was that the activities and workbook pages were too difficult for the students in my class, even though it was designed specifically for the age group of my students. As we began the activities in the workbook, it quickly became apparent that it was too difficult.
In this primary-age class (Grades 1-3), the students were asked to write a sentence telling how they could worship God. However, my students were mostly first graders who were just learning the alphabet, and how to combine the letters to make words. They could barely recognize and write each letter, and most of the students didn’t even know what a sentence is. How can they write a sentence, if they’ve never learned what a sentence is? Obviously, the activity was too advanced so I decided to move on to the next part of the lesson.
In a different lesson, the same students were asked to decode a message. The message was written with a code made up of combinations of small dashes and dots which represented the letters of the alphabet. For whatever reason, the children had great difficulty distinguishing between the various combinations of dashes and dots, and could not figure out the message. Once again the activity was too difficult.
Another message-decoding lesson, which was a great success, used small pictures of food items to represent the letters of the alphabet. For example, a hamburger might represent the letter “H” and an “I” might be represented by ice cream. Delighted by the small pictures of food, the children figured out how to decode the message quickly. The little pictures of food seemed to be easier for the students to figure out, and they enjoyed doing this activity. Toward the end of class they were even beginning to complain about being hungry. Is this the power of suggestion at work?
These lesson activities taught me several lessons. First I learned that using simple pictures of objects instead of geometric shapes can make lessons easier and more exciting. Complex pictures of shapes can make lessons more difficult for younger children. Pictures that the children can recognize from daily life make it more exciting than using complex pictures that the children may or may not understand. This showed me how important clarity and simplicity of expression can be when putting together and/or presenting lessons in class.
Secondly, these experiences taught me that lessons need to be designed to meet the students’ abilities. Though you may have a few slow learners in class, the bulk of the lesson must be created at a level of medium level of understanding for that age group. If you have students that excel and finish ahead of time, they can assist the slow learners.
I realize that it’s difficult to know exactly how a lesson will work with a specific grade level. Perhaps, if a curriculum designer questions the appropriateness of a lesson for a specific age group, he or she could try putting it before a sampling of students in the desired age group. If the material is too difficult, it would not take long to figure it out.
Sometimes Bible curriculum can have so many activities in them that they cannot be completed in the allotted class time. This can be a good thing because it gives the teacher choices of activities to do in class. Also, sometimes the activities planned for certain lessons do not actually back up or support the lesson for the day, rendering them useless in this lesson. But having a few extra lesson activities or segments can help teachers make their lessons better. On several occasions I substituted alternative activities in my lessons because the one provided didn’t have anything to do with the lesson of the day.
Bible activities are wonderful teaching tools. However, one challenge I faced required the teacher to locate a multitude of various items to bring into class for one 15-minute activity. Among these items was a selection of clothing for the students to play dress-up during class time.
Dressing up can be applicable if your students are doing a drama activity or if they are learning how the people in Bible-times dressed. If you are teaching how people dressed in Bible times and have a selection of clothes that are from or similar to that time period, the lesson could be beneficial. This activity can work if “dressing up” supports your lesson or its application and the teacher has the items readily available, and doesn’t mind carrying a large load of goods to church. However, carrying a large amount of clothing to church can be cumbersome, and dressing up may take a large part of your allotted time period that could be used in a better way.
Most of the time just playing “dress up” doesn’t really teach the students much about God’s word and, in my opinion, is a waste of class time. Though dressing up can be fun for children, what do they learn about the Bible and Christian living from it? Most of the time it is only a fun activity the children could do at home in their spare time. Why waste our class time playing games that do not relate to our Bible lessons?
Another activity from a different lesson suggested the teacher bring various children’s toys, including place settings of dishes, plastic food items, a toy shopping cart, and other miscellaneous items to class for one fifteen-minute class activity. If the teacher has these items at home, and has the time to gather them up, this could be workable. However, if the teacher has to spend a lot of time searching for these items, borrowing them from friends, or purchasing them for one class activity, this can become too much. Many teachers struggle to find time to plan or review their lesson before presenting it. Why would a teacher want to spend time chasing down a bunch of items for an activity that really doesn’t have anything to do with the Bible lesson? This is simply too much!
In addition, I don’t believe purchasing this multitude of items for one 15-minute time segment is being a wise steward of God’s resources. The money would be better spent purchasing items that could be used repeatedly in Bible lessons or in making Bible-based crafts or other projects that can be used to provide the children with “memorable moments” or with reminders of the lessons they learned.
As teachers, we need to get the most we can out of the money and the time we have been given to teach Bible classes to our students. If we waste our money or our time that’s allotted for teaching Bible classes, we have missed our opportunity, and we can’t get it back.
It’s Too Much Like School:
One year, while teaching a Sunday School class of fourth through sixth graders, I had the daughter of our young pastor in class. She was well behaved but she continually complained that Sunday School was “too much like school.”
This young girl attended a local Christian school during the week. She was well education about a lot of Biblical subjects. Her classes at this Christian school may have been similar to our class. So I can understand why she became bored at times and wanted more fun and games, even though we already did some of those in class.
I considered her request, but for the sake of the students who attended public school or got now Biblical training at home, I could not grant it without compromising the lesson and hindering the learning of the other students. In addition, our class lasted only 45 minutes and I was challenged when it came to covering the lesson plan in this time period.
As I stated is some of my previous writings, “learning Bible should be exciting, not boring.” However, entertainment, fun and games, cannot be allowed to regularly take the place of our Bible teachings. After all, learning about God, His word, and His kingdom is the main reason for having Sunday School.
As teachers, we have a responsibility before God to try our best to teach our students. Our task is not “babysitting detail” or “entertaining.” We need to guard our hearts and be careful not to fall into these traps set by our adversary, Satan and his allies. Our enemies would love it if we got distracted and failed to teach our students about God and the principles in His word.
As teachers we need to make sure our time is used appropriately—for the benefit of all our students. However we may have challenges from individuals that we cannot give in to because doing so will compromise the rest of the students in our class. We need to teach our students to focus on learning about the things of God. We should also teach our students to keep focused on Jesus, especially during times of suffering, trial and temptation. Our lesson and educational activities should be structured with the intention of attaining that goal.
If you have a student who repeatedly complains about Sunday School being “too much like school,” remind them that Sunday School is “school.” The main purpose of it is for teaching and learning about God, His kingdom, and His word. If the problem persists—and you’ve done all that you can to fix it without compromising the teaching of other students—you may need to speak to the church leadership about the situation. Perhaps they can speak with the parents about the issue. But be of good cheer because God promises to deliver us from all of our troubles.