I tried something different in my high school Sunday School class today. Each week, the curriculum I’m using has a two page handout of questions from the text that I’m supposed to have the students answer in small groups. This hasn’t been working for my group of kids where I have everyone from slow learning eighth graders to college bound honor students.
The questions range from direct-from-the-Bible answers, to deep analytic questions about the Bible that require more knowledge than the text in front of them, to open ended questions anyone can answer. To handle the diversity, I’ve sometimes told the kids to pick five questions to answer in the next ten minutes, then we go over everything.
Today, I assigned each student one question each: Justin, you take number one, Robert, you’re number two, Jake, you and your first-time-here friend take number three. I gave the group five minutes to answer their own question. Then I told them, they were to read the question out loud and lead everyone in discovering the answer. Several good things happened from this approach:
1. Everyone participated, even if it was nothing more than reading a question.
2. If certain kids didn’t want to bother answering the question on their own, they still had to read the question aloud and get others to answer.
3. I got through the material a lot quicker. Surprise to me.
4. More students than usual talked and answered questions. Another surprise.
5. I’m mentoring students to become teachers. I’m teaching them how to teach, to lead.
6. Everyone went away feeling important because for one moment, they got to be in charge.
The downside? I talked too much. I had told the kids to draw out the question, to comment on the comments given, to lead the discussion, that if someone gave an incomplete answer to keep asking until they got a complete answer. I kept interrupting and making comments and taking over the discussion. One student caught me on it and told me I was doing her job. As my tag says at the top, as a teacher, I’m still learning too.