Whether you are a classroom teacher, a Sunday school teacher or even a homeschool mom, teaching children is a skill that can be honed like any other talent or ability. Great teachers usually a have “Knack” (ie…gift) for teaching, but even someone who looks at the opportunity of teaching kids as akin to visiting their friendly oral surgeon can pick up a few tricks for their tool bag that might just make the experience more enjoyable.
Here are five:
1. Pay Attention to Attention Span
For children, a good attention span rule of thumb is about 1 minute per year of age. After that, you are on borrowed time and the potential for a poor behavior episode increases with each tick of the clock. So be aware that if you are teaching kindergartners, you have about 5 minutes of attention time before you’re going to need to give them some sort of break in the action.
2. Move, Baby, Move!
If you stand in one spot (worse yet, stay glued to a lectern), your kids will start looking for something more interesting upon which to gaze. So walk about, walk around, walk through, walk behind, but get moving. This will keep your student’s eyes from wandering and will help you keep their attention.
3. Use Props
Whether you are using a hand-puppet made out of an old sock with button eyes or have an amazing powerpoint presentation complete with an embedded video, props will add interest, break up monotony and create interest. Don’t freak out and spend a bunch of money and time to develop props. It can be something as simple as an interesting magazine picture mounted on a piece of construction paper, a curio you picked up on a vacation trip that was a curiosity from a far-away place and might give a change of pace to the presentation or it could be a wonderfully simple everyday item like a piece of bread, an apple, a rock or a leaf. Depending on the lesson, you can come up with SOMETHING that will divert attention and recapture focus.
4. Deal with discipline issues
Your classroom will be run by the person with the most interesting personality in it. That needs to be you. Make it happen. And when little Johnny or Janie decide to take a run at the “Most Interesting” title you so proudly wear, shut them down. Whatever you do, don’t ignore it, don’t encourage it and don’t make it worse. I’ll share some crowd control techniques in a later article.
5. Tell Stories
EVERYBODY loves a story. So weave stories in and out of your content constantly. They don’t have to be 20 minute vignettes with marionettes providing thespian-like entertainment — it can simply be a tidbit of trivia (Did you know that if you help a butterfly emerge from its cocoon, it will likely never fly? Part of the struggle of escaping the pupae prepares it for the ability to fly.) or a personal anecdote (Last week when I was at the store, I found that I needed to learn how to use my multiplication tables to figure out how many bananas I could buy.) or even a story out of the headlines (An Iranian-American Pastor is being held in captivity in Iran because he refuses to renounce his faith.) Stories connect us with truths. Use them liberally.
Watch this blog for more articles with teaching tips in the future.
(Dan Burrell holds a Doctorate in Educational Leadership and is a former classroom teacher, current college professor and past-president of the Florida Association of Christian Colleges and Schools. He has co-authored two books for teachers and has extensive experience in training classroom teachers, story tellers and communicators around the world.)