One of the first things I learned as a Sunday school teacher was the power of routine should not be underestimated. Routine does not mean boring. It means active participation everyone can anticipate and enjoy. Many children do not attend Sunday school every single week, so having a set schedule helps them know what to expect each time, and that makes them feel more comfortable as soon as they walk in the door. It also helps me cut down on prep. time during the week. Since we go through the same basic steps each Sunday, all I have to do to prepare for each class is:
1) review the lesson for the week and
2) decide on the craft or game to reinforce the story.
When I made this revelation, my prep time was immediately cut in half (poof!) because I wasn’t trying to come up with things to do for a whole hour. Then suddenly, my lessons became more focused and rich. Imagine that!
We are Episcopal, so I have rewritten the outline to try and accommodate all denominations. If you, too, are Episcopal and wish to see that version, please email me and I’ll be happy to send it to you.
Below is the basic flow.
Before class begins:
1. Ready the room:
- Write the subject for the day on the board.
- Write the verse on the board.
- Open the Children's bible to the passage the Reader will read.
2. Distribute light snacks. Allow the children to talk freely while they eat. This gives them a moment to settle in and mentally prepare for class. They need time to catch up with friends. We are all better listeners when we have had the opportunity to first share our own current events. Not only is it a social bonding, but it releases whatever emotions are taking up our brain activity at the moment so that we are more open to receiving incoming information.
3. Record the attendance for the day if your church takes attendance.
4. After the kids have had a few minutes to visit, ease them into class mode by assigning helpers. Put each helper's name on the Helper Chart. Keeping a record assures everyone gets a turn at even intervals. I let them volunteer. We never have a shortage of volunteers! They love having responsibilities, and look forward to being a helper.
Reader - reads the scripture for the day. (This will need to be omitted for first and second graders. Perhaps replace it with Page Turner or Bible Holder.)
Calendar - moves the liturgical wall calendar marker.
Candle - turns the candle on before class and off at the end of class. We have a battery-operated candle for safety reasons.
General - helps pass out papers or whatever is needed.
Bell - rings the bell at clean up time.
Treasure Box - retrieves (& returns) the treasure box to the shelf, if anyone is due to go to the treasure box that day. (More on this later.)
5. Ask the Calendar Helper and the Candle Helper to perform their duties immediately.
6. Call the Reader to the front of the class to read the scripture. When choosing a passage, be sure to keep in mind the reading level of the reader. Third and fourth graders do pretty well, but I stay close so I can discreetly whisper an unknown word. Fifth grade and higher will probably only need assistance with unusual names/words.
7. Say an opening prayer.
8. Retell the story from the lesson in your own words. Kids prefer hearing the story in an informal, relaxed mode. It will get them more involved in the story. Allow discussions to happen naturally. Once the discussion heads off into other directions, proceed on to a craft or game.
9. I know it doesn't sound it here, but the bulk of the class time is spent on games/crafts/worksheets. I have many suggestions. The rest of my blog is devoted to these activities.
10. About eight minutes before the end of class:
- Ask the Bell Helper to ring the bell signaling time to clean up.
- Hand out stickers for everyone to put on the sticker board. After 5 stickers, third and fourth graders are allowed to go to the treasure box. First and second graders will need a shorter time, such as after 3 stickers maybe. The rule is, as long as the student's behavior has been respectable, they get a sticker.
- If anyone is due to go to the treasure box, the Treasure Box Helper performs his/her duties.
- The Candle Helper should turn the candle off.
- Lead closing prayer.
Click here for a downloadable version of these instructions.
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