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|CHILDREN'S MINISTRY |
There’s No Place Like My Sunday School Classroom
by Brandy Hines
Many of us who teach children’s Sunday school are volunteers who have jobs and families of our own. We willingly take on the added responsibility of sharing the love of God with a group of children each week. We spend time and energy on games, lessons, art, and snacks. But how many of us consider the environment we create when inviting our students to come and learn about God’s love each week? We affect the environment of our classroom with our attention to the physical aspects of the room and the nature of our interaction with the students and the interactions we allow among the students themselves. How can we help to foster a venue that facilitates learning and insures that the children are comfortable and open to learning?
• Are the items in the classroom appropriate to your students physically and developmentally? Are the tables and chairs the right size? Are the toys targeted for the age group with which you are working? Are the tools you use to do activities (scissors, crayons, etc) the best for your children?
• Does your classroom have clearly delineated sections? Is there a place for art, rest, play, discipline? Children work best when there are boundaries, and by having places within your room that may be considered “safe” places, the children will feel more comfortable.
• How is your classroom decorated? There are a number of considerations with regard to the design of your classroom. Decorations should be developmentally appropriate. Sixth graders might not appreciate cartoon pictures of whales and a three-year-old will probably not benefit from posters with lots of words. Try to have chairs that are comfortable. Put yourself in the children’s place. Would you want to sit where they are sitting for any length of time? Large pillows on the floor can be a creative solution to comfortable seating. What about color? If you are able, you might consider painting the room. Using bright colors or murals can create a space that is more child-friendly than mere white walls. Be sure to get permission from your building and grounds committee before embarking on this project. You might consider finding a class of teens or adults that would like to participate in and/or sponsor this project. At the same time, take care to keep things simple. An overly stimulating environment can be distracting and have the opposite of the effect you are trying to create.
• Be sure that there is diversity present in anything you offer that has pictures of people. If you hang posters of children, they should have children of various ethnic groups and abilities. Dolls should be in a variety of races and coloring pages should have diversity as well. Children like to see people like them.
• Create an environment that insures that each child is respected. Children often adore their Sunday school teachers and may want to tell you about their pet rabbit at school or show you the dress they are wearing that day. Treat what is important to them as important to you. Ministry is often most effective in the unplanned interactions. Also, take care to encourage children to respect each other. Do not allow children to laugh at or exclude other children. Remember that you lead by example, so as you treat each child with respect, the children will learn how to do the same.
• Have clearly defined rules and stick to them. As previously mentioned, children need boundaries. In order to maintain the best classroom management, which will allow the children to feel safe, you must be clear and consistent. A clearly defined schedule will help as well. Children should know that when they arrive they will have a few minutes of free time, then a story, then art, then snack, then more free time (if this is the schedule you follow).
• Think outside the box. Children are naturally curious and love an adventure. Perhaps a lesson on Creation could be done outside. Offer snacks that the children can help make, providing them with a sense of pride and accomplishment. Be creative!
The most important thing is that your environment has been taken into account. If you reflect on what you would appreciate (for example, no one likes to be squished between other people in a small space) and take into consideration what is appropriate to the children in your care, your atmosphere will be conducive to helping the children you teach, hear, and understand the lessons you have taken the time and energy to prepare.