Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:4-7

25 February 2013

Top Teaching Tips - DELIVER

1.       Cover your main point from several different angles - tell a story, ask questions, do an object lesson, class or group discussion, drama, drawing, writing...this caters for all styles of learners and reinforces your teaching point over and over.  Change the focus of the lesson (listening to doing, noisy to quiet, active to passive) a few times in your lesson.  If your class is easily distractible, avoid the noisy activities.  And in a school setting, try to finish up with a quiet activity so that you return the children to their class teacher in good shape. 

2.       That said, don’t labour a point for too long.  It isn't necessary for every child to understand every concept or point before moving on.  Hang around on a point too long and you will lose your class.

3.       Personalise concepts as much as possible.  Compare people, places and practices in the Bible with modern day, child focused equivalents.  i.e., “Mary and Joseph walked from Nazareth to Bethlehem.... that would be like us walking from ______ to _________ (fill in the blanks with familiar local locations.)"

4.       If there is space in the classroom, think about how you will seat the children – on the floor or at their desks.  If on the floor, in a group or in a circle.  Different seating arrangements work for different lessons and for different groups.  Make sure they can all see you (and you can see them) during your direct teaching time.   If you have children on the floor in a group for direct teaching, stretch out your arms in the shape of a V (as per the photo) so that both of your arms stay within your peripheral vision.  There is a point at which one or both arms will drop out of your peripheral vision and you have to turn your head slightly to see it (which means you now can't see the other arm.  (Go onTry it.)  Have the children seated between that V that takes in the full sweep of your peripheral vision (which will mean about three in the front and about ten by four rows back) and then you will be able to see all of them at once.  And always think through how you will execute movement around the classroom.

5.       Use concrete materials as much as possible - pictures, charts, puppets, props, active participation games – anything that can be seen, held or experienced.  BUT make efficient choices.  Don’t bring every prop you own to a lesson – you’ll spend too long managing the props rather than managing the children.  Sometimes less is more.

6.       Make big use of child involvement – for readings, demonstrating points, holding up a chart, writing answers on the board – as well bringing them up the front to play a game or participate in a challenge.  But again plan the movement around the classroom – keep things efficient and don’t create empty spaces when nothing is happening...because children are highly accomplished at filling those empty moments... 

7.       Consider having a connecting theme run through a series of lessons or for the whole term such as game (like a timed challenge that you run each class) or a character (maybe a puppet) or an object (today in my mystery box I have a...) that appears every lesson. This will help the children to get into the zone quickly. 

8.       Turn as many parts of your lesson into a game as you can:-
*  need to ask some questions?  For every right answer they can have a go on a giant naughts and crosses game.                 
*  or ask a question that has a tricky word as its answer (like "disciple") and write the answer you are after on the board as an anagram to unscramble or play a game of hangman to solve the answer to the question.
*  as you tell a story, if there is going to be a word you use frequently, get them to stand up sit down/put their hand up/cheer every time they hear it.

9.       Some questioning techniques:-
*  Use closed questions (usually start with what, who or is and are answered with a single word) to check comprehension and to involve lots of individuals in the lesson quickly.  You can get ten kids participating in the lesson in a couple of minutes with a series of short, snappy questions.  A great technique if you are losing them.
*  Use open questions (usually start with why or how and are answered with a phrase or more) to delve deeper or to bring out a shy child. 
* Wait seven seconds before taking an answer to allow for thinking time.   Sometimes we all need a little bit of time to process our thoughts.  Seven seconds isn't too long to wait.
* Don’t just ask the children with their hands up to answer your questions.

And when NOT to use questioning:-
*  Try not to ask questions when you are giving an instruction. 
Eg. “Who wants to listen to a story?”  or  “Would everyone like to play a game now?” 
We do this to be generous and inclusive. But don't.  Because they will all answer you which will create unnecessary noise that needs to be quelled.  And it will lead to a divided camp – some will say yes and some will say no...and everything will unravel very quickly after that.  Take it from me.  I know.

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