Monday, June 9, 2014

What Have You Learned Games

Sometimes it can be challenging to get a group of lively children to sit and really listen to what you are trying to tell them.  I try not to have to be negative in my correction.  I know that children do need to be corrected but I have found that if you do it in a positive manner they respond better and are more open to the learning process.  My goal is to get them to listen to what I am telling them not to make them feel foolish or ashamed.  One successful way that I have discovered to get them to listen better is to tell them that when I am finished with my lesson we will play a game to determine how well they listened.  Of course the games come equipped with prizes.  I have so many game ideas that I cannot share them all in one post.  I will begin with the Game show games.  Here are some of my favorites.


 Here is a sample:

Materials needed:  Giant form of Jeopardy game board  using categories:
Abraham :    Bible Verse:     Eliezer:     Rebekah:       Prayer Request:          

Divide the class into 4 teams   
The children choose a game question and if answered correctly their team gains those points.  If incorrectly they lose those points.

Hide a daily double card behind one of the cards.  The child then may wager up to the full amount of points his team has accumulated.  If answered correctly they will gain those points. If incorrectly answered they will lose those points.

Game questions:
Abraham for 100
Why did Abraham send someone else to get a wife for his son?  A.  He was too old
Abraham for 200
Where did Abraham send his servant Eliezer to get a wife for his son? A.  His home land
Abraham for 300
What was the test that Abraham passed?A.  God asked him to sacrifice his only son to him and he was willing to do that.
 Bible Verse for 100
Finish this thought:  Lord who may dwell in your sacred ­­­­­­­­­­­­­_______?  A.  Tent
Bible Verse for 200
Finish this thought:  Lord, who may dwell in your sacred _________.  Who may live on your holy ______________?  Answer:  Tent;  mountain
Eliezer for 100
What was Eliezer asked by Abraham to do for him?  Answer:  Go to his homeland and get a wife for his son Isaac.
Eliezer for 200
Where was Eliezer when he first saw the wife he wanted for Isaac?  Answer:  A well
Eliezer for 300
What fear did Eliezer have about having to find a wife for his master’s son?  Answer:  What if she would not come back?
Rebekah for 100
What was Rebekah doing when Eleizer first saw her?  Answer:  Getting water from a well
Rebekah for 200
What did Rebekah offer to do for Eliezer when he asked her for a drink of water?  A.  Water his camels also
Rebekah for 300
When Rebekah left her family to begin a new life what promises became hers?  Answer:  All the promises God gave to Abraham.
Prayer Request for 100
Who did Eliezer ask for help when he had to choose a wife for Isaac?  Answer:  God
Prayer Request for 200
Eliezer asked God that he would show him which woman was right for Isaac.  He would ask the woman to give him something.  What was going to ask for?  Answer:  a drink of water.
Prayer Request for 300
What was the woman God had chosen for Isaac supposed to offer to give to Eliezer when he asked for a drink of water?  A.  She would offer to water his camels as well.

Wheel of Fortune
Add your point values to each wedge

Materials Needed:  Spin the wheel game. (you can purchase a cardboard version from Oriental Trading Company or make one of your own)
 12 markers to attach to the game of point values from 100 to 600 with a “lose a turn” section.
A mystery message such as,  “God gives us blessings upon blessings.”
Rules:    Divide the class into teams.  Each team will get a chance to answer a game question.  First they spin the wheel, then for the amount of points on the wheel they will answer a question.  When they answer the question correctly it gives them the ability to purchase vowels. Vowels cost $100.00 .  If answered correctly they get the points and the ability to guess a letter in the mystery message.  Each letter is assigned a point value that is added to their score if guessed correctly.  If their guess is correct they may spin again without answering a game question.  They again get to guess a letter.  They continue until they either cannot answer the question or they guess a letter that is not in the mystery message.  At any point the team may try to guess the mystery message but if they are wrong it will cost them a penalty of half their accumulated points.  If the message is guessed correctly 
they get the remaining points from the letters that have not been guessed.


Materials Needed: Game questions; something to keep score with.


5th Grade:

  1. How do you spell Bethuel? (Rebekah’s grandfather)
  1. How many years did Jacob really work to marry Rachel?  14
Where did Rachel live?  Haran
Draw a picture of Jacob’s face as he talked to Laban the day after his wedding.
4th Grade:
  1. How do you spell the woman Jacob loved?  Rachel
  1. How many daughters did Laban have?  2
Geography and Culture
What was the custom when a woman got married that made Jacob not see his wife on his wedding day?
Draw a picture of jacob’s face when he woke up the day after his wedding.

3rd Grade:
  1. How do you spell the place where Jacob met Rachel?  Well
  1. How many years did Jacob agree to work for Laban to marry Rachel?  7
Geography and Culture
  1.    What custom allowed Rachel to have a baby without getting pregnant?  Answer:  Rachel was allowed to give her maid to her husband and the child she had would be considered her own.
  1. Draw a picture of the animal Rachel took care of

2nd Grade:
  1. How many years was Jacob willing to work in order to pay for Rachel?  Seven
  1. How do you spell the name of Rachel’s dad?  Laban
  2. Geography and Culture
What custom caused Laban to play a trick on Jacob on his wedding night?  He gave him his oldest daughter to be his wife instead of the one Jacob wanted.
  1. Draw a picture of the place where Jacob and Rachel met  (well)

1st Grade: 
  1. Spell the name of the one who always keeps his promises?  God
  1. 1 wife Leah + 1 wife Rachel + 1 wife Bilhah + 1 wife Zilpah = how many wives for Jacob?  Answer  4
  2. Geography and culture
Where did Jacob meet Rachel for the first time?  At a well
  1. Art
Draw a picture of the part of Rachel's face that was mentioned as being the most
Beautiful.  eyes


Rules for the game:
 Select 4 children to make 2 teams.  You will ask the first team a game question.  If they know the answer they get the dollar amount assigned to the question.  If they get the answer wrong they are out of the game and a new team is chosen.  If they are not sure they know the answer they may “dare” the other team to answer the question.  If that team answers correctly they get the dollar amount affixed to the question.  The first team gets no dollar amount but they also are still In the game.  If the second team does not think they know the answer they may “double dare” the other team to answer.  The team must then either answer the question or take the “physical challenge” If they are unwilling to take the physical challenge and unable to answer the question they are out of the game and a new team is chosen to take their place.

1.  Make an obstacle course.  One of the team mates will draw cards to let them know exactly how the obstacle course is to be played out.

  1. Go through the course backwards.
  2.  Go through the course only on hands and knees
  3. Go through the course blindfolded with team mate.

OBSTACLE COURSE:  30 seconds.
Use masking tape to mark out exactly the direction the children are to go.
Example course: 
Begin at the beginning line ( in front of class)
 go through the piano
Over the piano bench
Walk on the balance beam toward the puppet stage.
By the puppet stage  (have someone squirt the with silly string and or drop confetti on them)
Around the entire class
Stand up and bow.

  1. Walk on stilts to finish line
  2. Jump on foam pogo shoe 
  3. Body surf on cardboard surf board to finish line using only hands and feet.
  4. Arm wrestle with leader’s choice opponent. ( must last 30 seconds)
  5.  Catch 10 balls into a gunny sack
  6. Coin toss 1 coin into each container
  7.  Marshmallow gun 30 marshmallows into the puppet stage
  8.  Eat 15 crackers and whistle
  9. Body surf on cardboard surf board to finish line using only hands and feet.

SSelect 4 children to play this game.  Have them come and sit at the table as a panel.  Each child may select a “Lifeline” (someone who they will confer with to answer the question) or they may ask the audience.  In using the life line they must give up half of the money the question is worth.  After the first child has answered their question correctly the turn goes to the second child.  If the answer to the question has been answered incorrectly they must choose someone from the audience to take their place.  At the end of the last category of questions has been answered the person with the most money wins the game.  He may use his “money” to purchase prizes.  
 Truth or Consequences
Materials Needed:  Stop watch,  hats with a paper cup attached to the top, empty bowl, picture of water; 2 piles of clothes(pants, shirt, hat, shoes, socks etc.)  Silly string, blind fold and several chairs, music.

Allow 5-6 children to come to the front of the class.  Each child will be asked one of the game questions and they will have 15 seconds to answer correctly.  If they answer correctly they get a candy and are allowed to sit down.  If they do not answer correctly they must take the consequences.

Round 1:  Musical chairs.  Place a chair for each child minus one in a circle.  Blindfold each child playing the game.  When the music begins the children must circle the chairs and find an empty chair when the music stops.  The challenge is that when the music stops you begin squirting silly string at them.  The winner get’s a candy.

Round 2:  Give each child a hat with a cup attached to the top.  Fill each cup with water.  The children must transport the water across the room to the empty bowl and empty the water in the bowl without spilling.  Give them a candy if they can do it.
 Round 3:  Time each child as they dress themselves with the pile of clothing.  They must put on every piece of clothing.  The child that does so in the shortest time wins

Check back  next week for more game ideas that are so much fun your kids cannot wait to get back to your class.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014


I believe that teaching children the value of en-grafting scripture in their lives is one of the most valuable gifts I can leave with a child.  Once the child has experienced a moment of temptation or trouble and a scripture that he or she has memorized pops up in their mind creating an alternate path for them to travel preventing wrong choices they will see and learn to appreciate the Word of God in a whole new way.  How do we do that and keep it interesting?  Here are a few ideas that I have found fun.

This can be played many ways.  You can write the verse on a white board.  Say the verse with your class then select one child to come and erase one of the words.  Continue saying the verse until all the words are erased.  See who can say the verse from memory and reward them in some way.

Another variation of this is to write the words on strips of paper or type them on your computer.  The best font I have found is Ariel Black between 72 and 200 size bold.  Cut them into 1-1/2 inch -2 inch strips.  Behind the words you can:

  • Place a candy
  • Write a description of the prize.
  • Place points (You will have to divide the class into teams and see who can accumulate the most points)
  • Place a crazy card.
CRAZY CARDS are small cards with crazy ways to say the verse such as:
  • Say the verse with your tongue stuck out
  • Plug your nose
  • Stand on one leg
Place the words to the verse in a pocket chart or on the white board.  Say the verse together.  Select a child to remove the word and place it in the "Mystery Box"  Inside the box is hidden prizes.  They cannot look in the box only feel what is inside.  
How to make a mystery box
Use any size box with a lid that you want.  I use a shoe box.  Cut a hole a little larger than your hand when made in a fist.  Cut the toe out of a long sock.  Tape the cut end securely to the inside of the box.  Push the sock to the outside. 

Place the verse on the board or a power point.  Select one or more children to come to the front.  The entire class says the verse and the children up front must hula until it is completed.  Play several times.  See who can say the verse from memory.

This is one of my favorites.  Blow up enough balloons to place either one word or a word phrase on each balloon.  Pin to a bulletin board.  Provide either darts or pins.  Say the verse with the children.  Select one child to come and remove a word by either throwing a dart at the board or using the tack or pin to pop it.  Say the verse until all the balloons are gone.  (It can be fun to fill the balloons with candy or papers with instructions.)

Place the words to the verse on various sized oatmeal containers, coffee cans etc.  Arrange the containers so that the words to the verse can be read.  Fill the containers with a prize.  (You may want to place the verse on a power point or on the board for easier reading)   Say the verse with the class.  Select a child to toss a coin into one of the containers.  Remove that word and container.  If you placed the word on a power point or on the board somewhere for easier reading, remove the word there as well.  Say the verse until all the containers are gone.

Make the game "Doors" by using 2 pieces of poster board.  On one piece cut doors.  Place the door cut poster board on top of the uncut poster board.  Glue around the sides.  It is helpful to place contact paper on the bottom board so that you can change what is said behind the doors without tearing the paper.  
Put one word on each door of the game.  Behind the doors place a prize to be won or some instruction for them to do something.  Once the door has been opened remove the word.  Play until all the doors have been opened.

Place the words to the verse on a felt board. Space the words so that it is obvious that the velcro dart or ball was meant for that word.  Say the verse together as a class.  Select someone to toss a velcro covered ball or nerf dart with a velcro tip.  The word that the ball lands near is removed.  

Make a tic tac toe grid on your bulletin board using masking tape.  Place one word or a word phrase in each box.  Say the verse together.  A child comes and removed a word of choice and places their marker (X or O) in it's place.  The team that gets a tic tac toe wins.  You may want to play it 2-3 times to get a grand champion.

Use several boxes or make a huge grid on the floor with masking tape.  Place a word or phrase on each box or square.  Say the verse with the class then select someone to come and toss the bean bag.  Remove the word that the bag was tossed into.  For fun you may place prizes in each box or square.

You can purchase a cardboard wheel at Oriental Trading or have someone make you one.  Place one word on each pie shaped wedge of the wheel.  Say the verse together.  Select someone to spin the wheel.  The word that the wheel lands on is removed.  

Make a giant puzzle of the verse or just place one word on strips of paper.  Have the children reconstruct the verse so that it is correct.  It is fun to provide two sets and have a competition.


Make a giant Jeopardy game board.  The categories will be the word phrases of the verse.  Select a panel of children to play or divide the class into two teams.  Say the verse together.  A child selects the category and point value he wishes.  The question is then uncovered and asked.  He or his team gets the points for correctly answered questions.  An example is provided below

Do not be deceived
$100                                      Is telling a lie being deceptive?
$200                                      If you do something and blame it on someone else is that
                                              Being deceptive?
$300                                      Who is the “father of lies?”
$400                                      Name one way you can deceive someone
$500                                      Name one way you can deceive someone without “speaking
                                              A lie”

God cannot be mocked
$100                                      Can God be made fun of?
$200                                      Who sees everything you do?
$300                                      Is pretending to be a Christian while following Satan
                                              Mocking God?
$400                                      Is telling lies mocking God?
$500                                      What does it mean to “mock” someone?
A man reaps
$100                                      Who gives us all good things?
$200                                      Who sends evil things our way?
$300                                      When we reap do we get or do we give?
$400                                      When we do something bad or good to someone who sees
                                              what we did?
$500                                      If we “sow” bad behavior toward someone what can we
                                              expect back from them?
What he sows
$100                                      Who sees everything we do good or bad?
$200                                      What do we need to do in order feel good about ourselves?
$300                                      When we sow do we get or do we give
$400                                        What happens when we are rude and selfish? (we sow selfishness and rudeness we reap lack of good friends)
$500                                      What happens when we tell lies to others?(We sow lies we

                      Reap lack of trust)

Make a large copy of the "Are you smarter than a fifth grader  game board.  (look online for what it looks like.)  Using word phrases from your verse determine questions that will be asked for each category.  The child selects his category and point value of his question.  An example is provided below.
5th Grade
Spelling:  Spell the missing word in this verse: 
Be not deceived; God cannot be __________ a man reaps what he sows.  Galatians 6:7
Art  Draw a picture of someone doing the missing word. 
Be not deceived; God cannot be mocked.  A man Reaps what he _________Galatians 6:7
Math  Multiply the 2 numbers in the reference of this verse then add the first number .  Galatians ___________.  (48)
 Be not deceived; God cannot be mocked.  A man Reaps what he sows.  Galatians 6:7
Penmanship Write the missing word.
Be not deceived; God ­­­­­­­__________ be mocked.  A man Reaps what he sows.  Galatians 6:7

4th Grade
Spelling  Spell the missing word in this verse:
Be not deceived; God cannot be ­­­­­­__________.  A man Reaps what he sows Galatians 6:7
Art  Draw a picture of what your face would look like if you were what the missing word is.  Be not _________; God cannot be mocked.  A man Reaps what he sows Galatians 6:7

Math   Multiply the two numbers that make up the reference to this verse.  Galatians ____________.  (42)
Penmanship  Write out the missing word to this verse:   Be not ; God __________ be mocked.  A man Reaps what he sows.  Galatians 6:7

3th Grade
Spelling  Spell the missing word of this verse:  Be not deceived; God cannot be mocked.  A___________ Reaps what he sows Galatians 6:7
Art  Draw a picture of the insect  counterpart of the missing word.
________ not deceived; God cannot be mocked.  A man Reaps what he sows.  Galatians 6:7  (Bee)
Math  Subtract the reference numbers of this verse putting the largest number first. Galatians _________  (1)
Penmanship  Write out the missing word to this verse.  Be ______ deceived; God cannot be mocked.  A man Reaps what he sows Galatians 6:7

Art:  Draw a picture of the missing word.
Be not deceived; God cannot be mocked.  A _________ Reaps what he sows.  Galatians 6:7

1st Grade
Spelling    Spell the missing word to this verse. 
   ­­­­­____ not deceived; God cannot be mocked.  A man Reaps what he sows Galatians 6:7

 Art   Draw an arrow where the missing word lives. 

Be not deceived; _______cannot be mocked.  A man Reaps what he sows.  Galatians 6:7
Math  Add the reference numbers to this verse.  Galatians _______(13)
Penmanship  Write out the missing word to this verse.  Be not deceived; God cannot be mocked.  A _______ Reaps what he sows Galatians 6:

Place the words to the verse on some structure that you can have someone hiding behind.  We used our puppet stage.  The words the the verse each have an attached consequence when removed that only the person hiding behind the structure knows.  Say the verse with the class and select someone to remove a word.  Repeat the word that is removed so the person behind the stage knows what to do.  A sample is below.
Galatians 6:8

Place the memory verse words on the  front of the puppet stage.  Have someone inside the stage presenting tricks or treats. 

WHOEVER SOWS- Toss some grass seed on their hair
TO PLEASE- squirt silly string on them
THEIR FLESH – Squirt them with squirt gun
FROM THE FLESH- Trick from Dollar store
WILL REAP—Trick from dollar store
DESTRUCTION—Silly string
WHOEVER SOWS—Toss candy on them
TO PLEASE—Give them a bag of chips
THE SPIRIT—Drop a pocket Bible on them
ETERNAL LIFE—Give them a Pocket bible

The goal of every teacher should be to make learning fun and memorable.  When your students have fun so do you!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Ice breaker games

I want to make church fun for children as well as spiritually nourishing.   know I am shaping attitudes and creating memories.  I want what I shape and create to be the most positive possible hoping that children will not even want to leave the church as they get older, but if they do that when they have children of their own they will want their children to have the same great church experience they had as a child, bringing them back to the church and the potential of re connecting with God.  One of the ways that I like to do this is through the use of games.  I use four different types of games.  Icebreaker games are used to help warm the child socially to the class or group setting.  These games may or may not have any other value.  Memory verse games which are used to in graft scripture in the minds and spirits of our young charges.  What have you learned games which are my measuring tool to know if I accomplished my goal.  Were they listening, did they understand.  This gives me a second opportunity to make my point if I failed the first time and it gives the children incentive to pay attention.  Interactive learning games which are designed to actually illustrate the teaching objective.  I would like to share some of my games that I have gathered with you to use as well.  

Icebreaker Games:  I usually use these at the beginning of the class time before all the children have gathered but they can be used as fillers as well.  

Dig sites:  

Marbles  In a bowl filled with glass marbles place a few individually wrapped round candies.  Blindfold the child and place him in front of the bowl.  Using a stop watch(your cell phone) let the child have 15 seconds to one by one take out what he thinks are the candies.  Want to add more challenge?  Make them wear a plastic glove.  Let them keep the candies.

Safety pins in rice:  Same principle as above.

Save the red ones:   In a bowl of sand, rice or cornmeal, hide many different colors of pom poms.  The child must wear a blind fold.  The goal is to take out all the pom poms but only the red ones count.  For each pom pom that is not red a red one must be discounted.  The child is scored on the number of red ones remaining.


Covered Wagon:   I used this with our unity called "Pioneer Days".  Select two children to play.  Allow these children to select two children to be either the wagon or the driver.  The child (wagon) will get on all fours and the driver picks up their feet like the wheel barrow races.  The difference is that they must load their wagon with things like blankets, candles, food, clothing etc.  The children must race to the finish line without spilling their contents.  If they spill they must re load and start again.

Dress up:  I use this with many units and what they choose to put on is consistent with the unit.  For the Island Unit we would use leis, Hawaiian shirt, grass skirt, Sunglasses.  Divide 8 or more into two teams.  The children must put on all the clothing and take it off.  The next child does the same until the last child is completed.  The team finishing first wins. 
Take pictures.  This is fun.

Crab Walk:   Select 2 children or more to crab walk to a finish line.

Barrel Racing:   Using stick horses and buckets create a race track.  It is helpful to use masking tape to mark out the direction they are to go around the buckets.  Select 2 children and start them at opposite ends of the track.  Whoever gets to the other end first wins.

Scavenger Hunts
This can be done by listing the items on a power point or overhead projector, making your list on a white board or individual lists given to each team.   Hide the items in your room ahead of time  You can select the items as they relate to your theme so for a Wild West theme you could have:  Cowboy boot, Sheriff badge, Rope, Bandanna, Straw, Snake, Gun, Stick horse or plastic horse, Plastic cow, etc.  Divide the class in two teams.  Give them 1 minute.  The children with the most items on the list win.
Swab the deck:  You need two mops  (dollar store) several sponges and two buckets.  Select two children to play.  Allow them to select a partner to hold the bucket.  Spread the sponges and give them 30 seconds to mop up as many sponges as they can into the buckets.  

The clothes pin race:  Select two children to play.  Allow them to choose their child who will be the clothesline.  Place 2 sets of clothes pins in two different colors at the opposite end of the room.  At the signal "GO" the runner runs to their designated clothespins picks up one and runs back and pins it on their clothesline,(child's clothing).  The first team to get all the clothes pins on thier "clothesline" wins.

Packing peanut race:  This is messy.  The first player on each team is the runner.  The runner puts one cup on the racket.  The second player is the scooper and wears the blindfold.  The scooper uses another cup to scoop packing peanuts and tries to pour them into the cup on the racket  The runner’s job is to position the racket to catch the packing peanuts and to tell the scooper when to pour or when to stop.  The cup on the racket must be full before the scooper can stop.  The runner may not touch the scooper or the scooper’s cup. 
Once the cup on the racket is full, the runner runs around the chair at the other side of the room without touching the cup, and returns to dump the cup and packing peanuts back in the bucket.  While the runner is running the scooper puts the blindfold on the next person in line.  The old scooper then retrieves the cup from the bucket and becomes the new runner.  The third person in line becomes the new scooper.  Keep going until everyone has been the runner.  The team that finishes first wins. 

These are just a few fun games.  Next time I will list my memory verse games.  I love these because they make learning memory verses so fun that the kids don't even know they are working.  

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Training Kids for Leadership

Many people think of Children's Ministry as a glorified free day care, a place where they can send their child to be entertained so they can focus on the Bible study or sermon.  I have always viewed my role as a children's minister very seriously.  When I stand before God I know He is going to ask me how diligently I prepared myself to share His Word with the little ones left in my care, how did I prepare them to carry on the work of His kingdom?   I frequently evaluate the needs of my young congregation and recently felt that there was a trend among their adult counterparts that was disturbing.  Although I think it has always been difficult to recruit enough volunteers to fully staff the needs of a growing children's ministry, lately it has become increasingly difficult to find enough volunteers for any ministry.  I think this is due in part to the fact that both parents have demanding careers which drain their energy so that they have little left over for extras but also I think we have in part actually "trained" people to be consumer minded in today's church.  As I was thinking about this one day the thought came to me that this "training" actually begins in our children's ministry.  Our children come to church and watch us tell stories, give lessons, puppet shows, magic tricks, etc while they absorb (or not) the message we are trying to convey.  If they don't "absorb" the message we are intending to convey they do absorb the message that church is all about them watching what we do. 
My goal is to equip the children to grow spiritually and to take their place in the church and community giving back what was given to them.  If I am going to be successful I must begin training them to give back before I no longer have influence over their training.  Most young people are more than eager to volunteer to serve in the church.  It seemed logical for me to try to inspire these eager helpers so that they find joy not only in getting to do something new but seeing the eternal value of it as well. 

I developed a program which we call Kidz in Leadership.  In this program children who are grades 3-6 can sign up to be selected to serve as a junior deacon. A junior deacon keeps order by watching our younger members, helping them to  stay focused on the lesson.   They accompany children to the restroom, assist the leader with games and crafts and help with clean up. Some have felt that the title "Junior Deacon" is pretentious but I would like to remind my readers that a deacon in the truest sense of the word only means "servant".  I am hoping to train these children so that when they are old enough to be selected to be deacons in adult church they may actually know what they are selected to do...serve. Children who are old enough to read can sign up to serve on our hospitality team.  We call our adult holpitality team the "Red Dot team" so for kidz church we call it "Blue Dot team".  These children assist parents with signing in their child  and assist new comers with finding their seat.  They also assist with keeping order and receiving the offering.  Children of any age can sign up to serve on our worship team.  They meet every week for practice and have assigned times where they help lead worship for our kidz ministry.  We have even trained some of our older children as worship leaders.  This takes a huge load off of our adult staff and I have found that my junior helpers are usually better at what they are required to do than most teens or adults.  As the children get older and are above the age to attend kidz church some have returned to serve as leaders and teachers.  We hold 4 training seminars per year to help them do their job more effectively.  This training includes role play, dialog and of course food.  We ask them to share with us better ways to communicate and to tell us what type of games, crafts and songs they enjoy.  We are careful to  implement at least one of these suggestions each time.  For older children who wish to be trained as lead teachers they can sign up to serve as a teacher in training.  They are placed with a master teacher for 13 weeks and given various responsibilities to help them build skills.

This program is only a few years old in our church but I have already begun to see a positive return.  Children have a greater enthusiasm for church because it is "their" church.  
Training future leaders is our goal and not just any leaders but leaders with a heart to really share the love of Christ with children giving them a boost for future kingdom living.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Surviving your class

Teaching children would be fun if only they would behave just like we want them to.  When I was directing a daycare preschool center in the 1980's my staff and I went to a conference where they showed us a video of children playing in a housekeeping center.  It was so cute.  The little girls dressed up in aprons, cooking dinner while holding a baby doll while the boys were in ties and oversized sports jackets.  We laughed though because it definitely did not depict any children we ever seen playing in the housekeeping center.  Our kids would go in and dump all the play food on the floor while the boys would dress up and act like monsters attacking the girls.  We always wondered where they got those children in the video.  When we think about discipline many conjure up images in their minds of various forms of punishment from time out to the old fashioned willow switch.  Discipline sometimes encompasses punishment but in reality it is designed to be more like a preventative measure.  Discipline involves shaping the behavior and character of a child.  For the teacher in the classroom it is far more pleasant to prevent behavior problems than to have to deal with them.  I for one do not enjoy having to "lay down the law" or getting stern with children.  I enjoy it most when they flow with the learning experience.  In order for this to happen there are some preventative measures you as the teacher must take.

The first preventative measure is to prepare yourself mentally and spiritually to teach.  Make sure that the content of the lesson is fully developed in your mind and spirit.  More than just telling a story our goal should be to  introduce relevant concepts to be learned from the story  To prevent unwanted interruptions and to ensure the smooth flow of your introduction of your lesson content make sure that your materials are prepared and in order.  If necessary go ahead of time to set up your room so that you are available to give your undivided attention to your students.
Before you greet your students make sure your room is ready for them.
 If you are going to use transitions ensure that the room is set up to make that an easy task. See that there is adequate table and seating space.  If you are playing a game that requires floor space make sure that you either have that prepared or have a quick and easy plan for making it happen. Think through each activity and what will be needed.  If you are playing a game think through what supplies are needed and then gather them in one location, readily accessible for you when you get to that part of the lesson.  If you are making a craft think through the materials needed from the beginning to the clean up process.  You will be grateful when you get to just pull up that plastic table cloth instead of spending 20 minutes scraping glue off the table.
 Your room should be tastefully decorated to compliment your theme.  Different people obviously find certain tasks preparing for teaching more to their liking and some really have little or no decorating skills but this is really not optional.  For your children who are creative a bare bland room actually keeps them from concentrating on the content of the lesson.  I know, I am one of them.  If I attend a meeting in a dull, unattractive, under developed room I find myself thinking more about how I would spruce it up than I do absorbing the content of the lesson.
Your room does not need to be a piece of art but it does need to be clean, orderly and colorful.

Prepare for your early arrivals by having an activity for them when they arrive.  If you have nothing for them to do they will soon find a way to entertain themselves and usually I prefer my ideas to theirs.

In today's media driven world children are not used to sitting for long periods of time.  Whether you agree that this is good or not does not change the fact. If you want to keep their focus and avoid losing control, plan to change focus every 15 minutes, then be flexible.  If the children are completely engaged with you then you can keep going but you have something to move to if you have used up their interest in the topic.

Create incentives to encourage good behavior.  We reward poor behavior with punishment so we should have a reward for good behavior as well.  Keep it relevant to the age of your students.  It doesn't always have to be something tangible, it could be the reward of having their picture posted as student of the week or being chosen to lead in an activity.  Many children who are our biggest problems are really born leaders who are using their gift in a negative way.  Recognize their gift of leadership and challenge them to use it to lead others toward greatness rather than foolishness.  Our children love to help and really isn't that what we want to train them to do?  We don't want to encourage them to be consumers by not allowing them to have the opportunity to give back.  Make their responsibilities a reward.  Maybe they will grow up and never lose the fun feeling of service.  Wouldn't that be a blessing!

 Next week I want to talk about a great new program we have introduced in our church called
 Kid Leaders in Training .  We have Junior deacons and Junior hospitality team, Junior worship leaders and Junior teachers.  These are children ages 4 years to 7th grade.  This program has been operating for 2 years and I am seeing more fruit from it each day.  Students that were part of our audience are now serving and doing a much better job than most of my adult workers had done.   This has given my group a new boost of energy and enthusiasm.  I will look forward to sharing it with you.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Managing the Chaos in the Classroom

 Most people will say that they love children but do you love them in groups?  Groups of children can make you think of their specie in a whole new way.  Depending on who makes up that group you may even be inclined to believe that they are aliens.  Managing children in a group setting can be very challenging and require some skills and different approaches than are not necessary with individual children.  I have been teaching classrooms of children now for 43 years and would like to discuss just a few of the tactics and techniques I have learned which has made the experience something to look forward to instead of something to dread.
First impressions
1.  The first thing with first impressions I would like to talk about is that YOU must be in the room first.  Recently I was watching the old classic movie "To Sir With Love".  Sydney Portier  would enter the classroom each morning to complete chaos.  Principle number 1 is: whoever is in the room first is the mood setter. As each child enters your hallowed portals you get the opportunity to direct their attention where you want it to go.  You cannot do that if you are late.
2.  Children need to feel respected and valued, therefore it is our number one priority to communicate grace, and acceptance to them as a person.  Children should be treated as persons with equal value to the most respected person you know.  Their faults and shortcomings are addressed with respect and as much privacy as possible.  When children feel that you truly value them as an individual they will be much more willing to do what you ask of them even if it does not make sense to them.
3.  On the flip side, as teachers we all want to be thought of as a fun, kind person and therefore we will often give the first impression to the children as an easy going, fun loving, anything goes person.  This leads children to the conclusion that they can behave in any manner they choose and you will be okay with it.  It is far better to create the first impression as a teacher who is a strict, no nonsense person who will not be messed with, (respectfully of course).  You can always lighten up later when they have developed appropriate habits.  Teachers and children who learn to respect each other will create a climate within the class room that fosters learning.
Keep and maintain control
If you have a large group of children in a classroom, control is a necessity for learning to take place. 1.   As the children come in to the room you gain control by directing their attention where you want it to be, for instance, you tell them there is an activity on the table for them to complete or a game they may engage in.  Always have an activity for those who arrive early.  If you have nothing for these children to do they will think of something to entertain themselves and their idea of entertainment may actually be a form of torture for you.
2.    Think through your transitions.  How will you transition your children from one activity to another and have them all be ready at the same time?  Begin by giving everyone a five minute warning.  You may devise a sound or visual to let them know that the time to move to another activity has arrived.  Make sure they understand that you wish for them to transition in an orderly fashion.
3.  Be clear about your rules.  Make them short and simple.  I have three favorite rules that I talk about every time I begin my lesson.  Favorite rule # 1 is: When I am talking you listen.  Favorite rule # 2 is:  Your chair is your space.  Keep all body parts in your space.  Favorite rule # 3 is during our lesson we remain in our seats.  My class can recite these rules rapidly because they are short, to the point and repeated every time we get together.
4.  Follow your rules.  Rules have no value at keeping order if they are not followed or there is no consequence.  Explain the why of your rules so the children understand your purpose and let them know that you expect them to follow them.  Give them a warning when they misbehave and let them know the consequences.  Consequences may include, separation from the person they chose to sit with since they are unable to confine their activity with their friend they do not get to sit next to him.  They must sit beside another adult leader.  Since they are unable to monitor their own behavior they must sit next to someone who will do it for them.  If they are not playing with the supplies respectfully they will not get to play with them etc.   Rarely do I ever have to remove a child from the room but I will do so if necessary because I refuse to allow one child to ruin the learning experience for the entire class.  A child who is removed is brought to their parent or designated adult and remains with them the entire class period.  I then take the time with the child present to discuss what happened with the parent.  The child is welcomed back into the class the next time our class is in session and I usually do not have repeat offenders.

There is much more to managing a classroom full of energetic youngsters.  Next week I want to talk about the important aspect of planning and how that impacts classroom management.

Linking up with Christian Mommy Blogger

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Taming the tyrants

I enjoy a challenge.  Teaching and capturing the attention and interest of children is always a challenge.  This challenge is made greater with the mix of various personalities and discipline problems.  I find the most difficult problems to deal with come in the form of manipulations.  To be quite honest I also find that most adult never develop much past the kindergarten level of problem solving because they tend to use these same forms of manipulation.  Here are a few that are most common.
The "I forgot" manipulation
When the child is asked why he or she did not do what she was instructed to do they say, "Oh yeah, I forgot".  This is a common response by the child to try to get out of being scolded for not doing what he or she was told to do.  They reason that if they 'forgot' then they should not be held responsible.  If this type of behavior is allowed to go unchecked you will find that there is a lot of forgetfulness taking place.  The best way to deal with this is to say, "Well we never forget that which is very important to us so I think this is just not important to you.  It is, however important to me so we will have to think of some way to help you remember. Now is the time to think of a consequence that is a natural result of whatever they forgot such as: if they forgot to clean up their work space they must go back and clean it up and clean up something else as well.  When forgetfulness is met with unpleasantness it is amazing how the memories work better.
The "I don't know manipulation
When children are asked why they did something wrong they often respond with "I don't know".  Let's say this is really the truth.  They may really not know why they did what they did but it is powerfully important that they find out.  I would respond with "Well, this is a very important thing for you to know otherwise you will continue to do it over again.  I am going to leave you by yourself while you think about why you did this.  When you think you have it figured out let me know and we will continue this discussion."  This is effective for not only the child who really does not know why he did what he did but also for the child who just does not want to discuss it.  Children need to come to grips with why they behave the way they do and be motivated to do things in a more productive manner.
It is important to discern the difference between tears of repentance and tears which are designed to make you back down.  A child is often very good at making us feel sorry for them so that we move from correction to comforting.    If the child is inconsolable respond by saying in a kind and patient voice, "I am sorry this has you so upset.  I will leave you alone for awhile until you can cry it out.  When you feel better let me know and we can continue this conversation."  This does two things, first if the child is really needing to just gain control you are giving him the space but if the child is trying to manipulate you with tears so that he will not get in trouble or have to face his consequences this does not feed that.  When the child has calmed down continue with your discussion and the consequences of his wrong behavior.
Temper Tantrums
We have all had the fine pleasure of being on the receiving end of an explosion of anger.  It may come in the form of screaming, throwing things, or a child throwing himself down on the floor and kicking or banging his head.  If the child is not in any danger, remove the child to his room or to a isolated location and let him finish his tantrum without an audience.  Tantrums are designed to force you to give in to whatever the child wants.  They are stripped of value when there is no audience.  If you must remain in the room try your best to ignore the child as if he was not present.  When the tantrum is finished it will be time for the consequences.  Under no circumstances should a child who has just blessed you with his anger be given what he wanted.  When we give in even after an apology we are sending the unspoken message that a child will get what he wants if he displays his anger.  If a child had a tantrum over not getting the toy he wanted the toy will be off limits for a period of time. When the toy is allowed again it is presented with the reminder of why it was taken away and that it can be taken away again if the behavior is repeated.
Refusal to look at you
When you are speaking to a child, good manners dictates that he should show respect by looking at you.  When a child who is being corrected refuses to look at you they are taking control of the situation the best they can.  Rather than force the child to look at you (which is nearly impossible) it is best to simply say,"Okay, I can see that you are not ready to talk this over with me right now.  I will leave you alone while you work through your anger.  When you are ready to look at me and discuss this like a big girl or a big boy let me know and I will be back."  You should never engage in a power struggle you cannot win and when a child closes his eyes or turns his eyes away from you you are in this situation.  Regain the control by making him remain by himself without any thing to do or any company until he is willing to come your way.
This can sometimes be cute but it is still a form of manipulation.  Perhaps you have seen this form a grown person.  It is not so cute when it is full grown.  When a child is in trouble and he immediately begins complimenting you simply say, "Thank you, I am thankful you think I am pretty but right now I don't want to talk about that." Then bring it back to the point at hand.

These are but a few of the ways our charming little children can use to disrupt our classrooms or our homes.  Teaching them to grow into responsible adults who can take ownership of their mistakes and monitor their own behavior is definitely a challenge but one with eternal rewards.

Next week I would like to discuss how to manage a group of children in a classroom so that the learning experience is also a pleasant experience.