12 Ways to Help You Capture Your Student’s Attention
Written by Todd Witters
Let’s face it﹘keeping kids focused on the Bible lesson you are teaching can be a difficult task, especially given the short attention span of today’s students. It can be a challenge to keep them engaged, even for a short lesson. Grabbing their attention and eliminating distractions both contribute towards the overall objective of planting the seed of God’s Word in their hearts. Here are a few tricks to add to your toolbox that I have used and I hope you might find helpful as well.
1. Try something you’ve never done before.
Kids get bored with the same thing every week. Variety can be a great tool. It has been said that the best teaching method is the one you have never used. Try experimenting with new media or techniques you haven’t used before. Flannel-graph has become so dated that it is almost novel these days and might spice up your teaching. Have you ever tried dressing in character and teaching from the 1st person perspective? How about using an object lesson? Or a whiteboard? Or Powerpoint? What about teaching a lesson outdoors? How about having the kids act out the story as you read it? Even changing the furniture around a bit or facing a different direction can add interest. Consider your options and don’t be afraid to stretch yourself once in a while.
2. Involve the students.
This is especially important for younger students. For example, when teaching Joseph’s life story, ask questions like “Raise your hand if you think you could forgive your brothers if they sold you as a slave.” “If you were Joseph, would you be mad at the cupbearer for forgetting you?” Questions like these draw the students into the story and make them reflect on the situations the characters are experiencing. When they can identify with the character in this way, it keeps them wanting to find out what happens next. Having them do things like praying, holding signs or props, helping pass out materials, etc. can also go a long way towards accomplishing the same thing.
I would also highly recommend name tags, especially for larger classes. Calling a child by name is a great way to draw them in and keep them focused.
3. Reward those who listen well.
Find a way to make a contest out of listening well. You could try to identify a word or phrase that summarizes your lesson and have the kids jump to their feet whenever they hear it. You could even have a volunteer keep track of who was first each time and have a prize at the end for whoever got the most points. Using a review game at the end to reward those who do well is also a great tool, especially when you announce it up front.
4. Walk around among the students.
If you teach in a setting that allows you to roam, walk among the students and interact with them as you teach. This also prevents kids from hiding in the back to chit-chat during your lesson.
5. Use variety in your delivery.
Volume, intensity, posture, pauses…these are all ways we can vary our speech and keep things interesting. Ask your volunteers for feedback in this area if you have a hard time evaluating yourself.
6. Read key parts of the lesson directly from the Bible.
I find that when I read directly from the Bible it adds credibility to the lesson and underscores the source of our teaching. Asking the good readers in the group to help is also a good way to involve students.
1. Avoid long rabbit trails – unless you are catching a rabbit.
Keep your illustrations relevant and tie them back to the lesson as soon as possible. It is tempting to develop a funny story and carry it so far that the lesson takes a back seat. The illustrations should serve the lesson﹘not the other way around. If you stray too far, it can be difficult to get them back.
2. Use (but don’t overuse) humor.
Kids love a good laugh and it keeps them interested. On the other hand, when humor becomes too excessive, it can be hard to reign them back in. If control is an issue, you may want to take a look at bringing things back around to a more serious tone, especially as you drive home your main point.
3. The MAIN THING is to keep the MAIN THING the MAIN THING
Ask yourself as you prepare, “What is the ONE THING I want students to take away from this lesson?” The answer to that question will determine what you include (or exclude) from your teaching. When there are too many points or excess details, it becomes difficult to sort things out and many will be done listening before you are done teaching. Keep on point.
4. Use notes sparingly.
I find that when I have my eyes on my notes too much, the students begin to check out. Invest in the lesson and have it prepared well enough that you don’t rely too heavily on notes. Maintaining good eye contact with students is very important, but is very difficult when you have your eyes buried in your notes.
5. Look for visual clues to know if your students are listening.
Observe your students while you are teaching and make frequent eye contact. Ask them questions to test their understanding of what you are teaching. Allow them to ask questions if they are confused (but be careful here that things stay on topic). When you sense you are losing them, take a few moments to discover where the confusion is and spend a little more time there.
6. Be yourself.
Some of the worst teaching experiences I have had occurred when I tried to mimic others. God has given each of us unique personalities through which we practice our gift of teaching. Just like the human authors of the Bible all had different backgrounds, personalities, writing styles and vocabularies, God used each for his own purpose and in his own way, without forcing them to “write like” someone else. When we try too hard to copy others, it can often backfire. Be yourself! Practice adaptation without imitation.
I hope these few ideas have been helpful to you. Even after teaching for more than two decades, I am still learning. If you have any other ideas you’d like to contribute, I would love to hear them!
Written by Todd Witters who serves as the Released Time Director at Cornerstone Ministry Center. To learn more about Cornerstone Ministry Center and their Released Time Ministry click:http://www.cbmswpa.org