Plan Ahead to Keep Children's Interest

Gaining and keeping the interest and attention of a class full of children is no small task, and even master teachers must keep their skills in this area sharp.  Here are a few suggestions on accomplishing this goal in your Sunday school classroom.

1.  Come Early

Arrive in your classroom before your children, before inattention gets a footing.  The teacher should be there at least fifteen minutes before the session begins, to put things in order, distribute Bibles and class materials, to greet early arrivers.  Basically you want to preoccupy the ground socially and mentally.  Enough restlessness and mischief can be generated in the first idle minutes of the belated teacher's hour to spoil a day's work.  The battle is won or lost in the five minutes before and after the superintendent's signal bell.

2.  "Do Now" Activity

When teaching in the public school, we used "do now" activities to get the children started as soon as they hung up their coats and went to their seats.  It had an immediate calming effect, and prevented chaos in the beginning of the day.

Set your students to work as quickly as possible.  Have Bible verses on slips of paper or chalkboard for them to start looking up.  Instruct them to find the lesson place in their Bibles.  Let them help with attendance, offering, etc. if your church has those.  If children must talk, let the teacher lead and control the talking, and turn it to good account for the day's lesson.

3.  Resolve to Have Attention

Resolve to have attention, and then set to work to carry out the resolve.  A firm determination to have it will go far toward in securing it.  Students are quick to gauge a teacher's mettle, and to take color from his strength or weakness.  A steady eye, a cool head, a still tongue, a firm hand of control, will be contagious.

4.  Have a Plan

Have a plan, and follow it.  Plan each step of the day's work beforehand.  Have in mind especially the class disturbers, and allow no opportunity for them to get in the lead.  Plan the lesson study for them; know what and how much you intend to review of last Sunday's lesson.  Select the texts that will set in order the "connecting links," and have the students turn to them.

Make a list of the obscure words and allusions of the day's lesson, and set the class at work upon them.  Have questions ready in mind or on paper, simple and direct; and plan in advance what children you are going to call on to answer them.

5.  Arrest Inattention

Arrest Inattention the moment it begins.  A look, a touch of the hand, a quick question, an instant use of the inattentive child in any way whatever, will bring him back into line.  Silence for a moment, without a look or word to indicate why you are silent, will prove an effective device.

6.  Make the Students Think

Give them time to do their thinking.  Do not hurry from one point to another.  Much inattention comes from mental indigestion.  Set a question before the class within their capacity, and encourage and stimulate their thinking upon it.

7.  Make Things Plain
Take pains to make plain.  Once you get a child to see a new idea plainly, and to know it clearly, you will not be troubled by his lack of interest.  Taking verse by verse the lesson, and making each verse so plain that the student can put it into his own language, is fine Bible teaching.  If only one thing in the lesson for a Sunday is set in clear light in the child's mind, he will become a help to your teaching.

8.  Shun Routine Teaching

Never go in routine order around your class.  Put each student on his guard by surprising him.  Let the one lacking interest bear the heavier burden of questioning and work.  Ply him with special tasks, and he will soon take the hint.

9.  Don't Fret Over Inattention

If you fail to get it, say nothing and keep on trying.  Fretting is a sure note of defeat, and an invitation to greater inattention.  Better disorder than irritability.

10.  Rest Your Class

Rest your class from time to time by a story or a picture or some illustrative object.  If only a word or a drawing on the board, the act of putting it before the eyes of the class will banish restlessness and regain attention.  Let it tell upon the lesson.

11.  Comment the Attentive

Do this sparingly, and be sure it is specially deserved.  Unmerited compliments soon nauseate, but a timely word of approval may win hearty cooperation from one on whom it is wisely bestowed.  (1)

Photo Credit Brownhair nice boy by Hillebrand Steve, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service