I said in Part 1 and Part 2, if attenders are asleep, not interested, or the lesson does not “feel” like it applies to them, they will learn less. If they are bored, their attention is not in the room, they are not involved in the class, or the same teaching method is used week after week, they will learn less. I mentioned Marlene Lefever’s article entitled 38 Ways to Wake Up Your Class (which is no longer available). Previously, I have shared the first twenty of her suggested ways to wake up your class. Now, consider which of the next nine of her suggestions (in all capitals followed by my commentary) you could use with your class this week:
- RETHINK DISCUSSION QUESTIONS [TO LEAD] STUDENTS TO THINK BEYOND THE CONTENT TO WHAT THE CONTENT REALLY MEANS. Avoid asking yes/no or one-word-response questions. Give them time to think and respond. In Josh Hunt‘s book, Disciple-making Teacher, he shares ten useful types of questions that lead students to think more deeply. Check out The Skillful Use of Questions in Teaching Adults for more information.
- GIVE SEVERAL LEARNING OPTIONS IN ADDITION TO MEMORIZATION. My adult Sunday School class is currently memorizing a key verse every week during the month. Lefever, however, points out that only about 30% of students are excellent at memorization. She encourages affirming those who are excellent at it, but she also encourages offering other otpions like having learners report on how they lived the verse during the week, paraphrasing it, or illustrating it.
- ENCOURAGE BRAINSTORMING. Preface the brainstorming session with encouragement to share all their ideas, even the “dumb” or funny ones. Reinforce the responses by writing down what is shared. Lefever’s suggestion to keep the topics broad is important.
- FIND AN ASSISTANT. Enlist someone to help greet the class. Enlist him/her to help you visit attenders and guests. Enlist him/her to help you teach, lead a small group, or prepare a report. If they respond well to the opportunities, enlist them as your apprentice and prepare them to take over your class while you start another or vice versa. Sometimes, having someone else to teach for part of the lesson heightens interest and learning (and it definitely does for the assistant).
- SPEND TIME IN THE CONTEXT OF YOUR STUDENTS TO LEARN TO BETTER RELATE THE BIBLE TO THEIR LIVES. Lefever’s suggestion was directed toward children and the context of school, but it applies to all learners. Visiting in a home or work setting can tell you a lot about attenders’ lives. It can help you know better how to teach and give you hints about how to tie into attenders’ affinities. And it also lets them know you care, builds trust, and deepens openness to learn.
- START A SHORT STORY (ILLUSTRATION) FILE. Many of these are available in illustration books and on the internet. Lefever suggested looking in Reader’s Digest and Discipleship Journal which include stories either separately or within articles. A key to this suggestion is the last word, file. You need to sort them in some way by topic. You might write down one or more main topics that the story illustrates and then file them alphabetically. A good source for illustrations for those using LifeWay curriculum is Extra!, a source of fresh ideas related to current events for every lesson.
- SOME STUDENTS WILL ENJOY WRITING A SONG TO AFFIRM WHAT THEY ARE STUDYING. Individually, some students are not musically inclined, but some are. Why not allow them to work in small groups on this exercise. Lefever suggested starting “with a familiar melody and let students write new words.” Or another suggestion would be to start with a scripture verse and set it to music.
- USE MUSIC. There are lots of ways to do this. Play and debrief a song. Study the lyrics. Use a song to motivate. Share one during time for application. Play one softly (background music) while groups are working. Lead the group to sing while a song is being played. Play music before class has begun. Act out a song. Act out a scripture passage while music is being played.
- TEACH IN PARABLES JUST AS THE MASTER TEACHER DID. Parables are earthly stories with heavenly meanings. Look for stories in your past and present life and relate them to spiritual truths. I like what Lefever said here: “If you’ve seen someone rescued from drowning, relate this to a spiritual truth. If your child is always wandering away from you at the shopping center and crying when she realizes she is lost, relate her situation to a struggling Christian’s relationship to Christ.”
Which one of these can you use in your lesson this week to generate even more interest? Don’t forget to review Part 1 and Part 2. In Part 4, nine more of Lefever’s suggestions will be shared. Make the Bible study session exciting! Get learners involved. Shake them out of their boredom! Capture their attention. Teach them to listen and apply. Be revolutionary.