Peter Mead’s blog entry Eyes May Be Looking, But Are Ears Listening? reminded me of Howard Hendricks in the video series The Seven Laws of the Teacher. Dr. Hendricks was one who could not stand to have a person in his class who was not paying attention. He took it upon himself to do what it took to keep the students alert and involved.
In Mead’s blog entry, he pointed out three great ways that Sunday School teachers can capture and keep learners’ attention. His three ways are in all capitals followed by my commentary:
- WE MUST PLAN A MESSAGE FOR ATTENTION. Yes, it begins with preparation. It begins in prayer, solid biblical study, and then putting together a lesson plan that intentionally addresses the need to capture and keep learners’ attention. Lessons should begin by getting the minds and hearts of learners in the room and on the study for the day. Hooks (check out Hooks: Launching Powerful Sunday School Lessons) are devices intended to capture the attention (check out Revolutionary Teachers Capture Attention and Refuse to Let It Go! and Revolutionary Sunday School Teachers Engage Learners) of learners at the beginning of lessons. They can be testimonies, stories, good questions, icebreakers (check out Using Icebreakers Purposefully in Bible Study/Small Groups and Five Suggestions for Using Icebreakers Well in Sunday School/Small Groups), etc. that move learners off of their agendas and onto God’s agenda and that of the group leader in Bible study.
- WE MUST BE AWARE OF OUR LISTENERS. A teacher is helped by having gotten to know his learners. This enables the teacher to address the learning styles of attenders (check out Learning Styles in Adult Sunday School). This enables the teacher to use illustrations that capture the imagination and attention of learners by connecting with their affinities. This begins with home visits, visits with learners on their territory. Meals together can help. Spending time before, after, and between classes is important. But more is at play than preparation. Being aware of learners also means the teacher must be paying attention to the learners during the session and must notice when attention is waning. The teacher is aware of nonverbal clues (body language and facial expression) which indicate attention or the lack thereof.
- WE MUST BE RESPONSIVE TO THE SITUATION. A good teacher will look regularly at every person in the class for signs of attention or the need to change delivery or activity in order to regain attention. If what has been planned is not working, the teacher changes his/her plans. The teacher desires to see life change take place in learners’ lives. That means they must encounter God in His Word, and if their attention is not in the room, th e teacher does what it takes to get it there. The teacher may call on the learner by name. The teacher may move closer to the learner. The teacher may ask a question, change the volume of his/her voice (perhaps even whisper), move the class into small groups, or whatever it takes. I like Glenns’ reminder that interruptions/distractions do occur, and sometimes the best way the teacher can deal with it is to ignore it. Other times, it may be necessary to shift gears in some way to recapture attention.
As you prayerfully prepare for your next lesson, remember these three tips for addressing and keeping the attention of your learners: Plan. Be aware. Be responsive. Don’t allow attention to drift. Address it immediately. Teach to change lives. Be revolutionary!