10 Tips for Church School Classroom Management

PLEASE NOTE: Our blog will be moving to a new domain soon! Be sure to subscribe at clcnetwork.org/blog to make sure you continue receiving this content in your email or RSS feed.

Kids at churchPerhaps you’ve had a student like Aiden in your Church School or other ministry class. A young and energetic boy, Aiden was constantly interrupting his class with, “Teacher, teacher!” He began to dominate the classroom with his frequent talking and interrupting, distracting his peers and making it difficult for his Church School teacher to get through the lesson.

Knowing that it was important to share expectations for the class and teach Aiden and his peers the appropriate behavior, his teacher made a sign in the shape of a hand and explained that if you wanted to ask or answer a question, you needed to raise your hand and wait to be called on to speak.  When Aiden would begin to speak, his teacher would simply raise her sign, prompting him to remember the rules and stop speaking until she called on him.  Aiden learned that it was okay for his teacher to call on his peers and he felt rewarded when he was called upon to give an answer.

If you have ever led a Church School class or another ministry event with children, you know that classroom management is important. From my experience as a parent, special educator, and children’s ministry leader, I’ve learned that many issues that arise with classroom management can be prevented by being proactive, just like Aiden’s  teacher communicated classroom expectations. I hope you find these suggestions for classroom management helpful; feel free to share your ideas in the comment box!

  1. Understand the age group.

    Before you begin leading, it’s important to understand the developmental level of the age group you are teaching, as it will help you plan your activities. If you’re unsure where to begin, talk with your children’s pastor or a local teacher to get some insight on realistic expectations for the children you serve.

  2. Preparation is key.

    If you are a teacher at your church, you should plan for the lesson and have all your supplies ready to use. Don’t try to pull everything together when the students are with you.

  3. Focus on routine.

    Set up a basic routine for classroom time and communicate it with students and helpers. This is important especially because many churches have volunteers that rotate from week to week, so it is helpful if they are all using the same basic schedule for the class.  Students will then know what to expect, taking away some anxiety.

  4. Set clear expectations.

    Tell your students what you expect at the beginning of each class. For example: when you raise your hand, students should raise their hands, stop talking, and look at you for instructions.

  5. Use motivational tools.

    Implement reward systems for participating or good behavior (for example: if you answer a question two times, you get to pick something from the prize box). Words of affirmation can also be motivating to students.

  6. Be a student of the kids in your class.

    Think about how you can get kids involved in your ministry or class, allowing them to contribute their gifts (for example: allow them to write the verse on the board, pass out a snack, assist another student, or put story figures away).  Giving students purpose within the class helps them know that they’re important, which can help them behave and even attend more often. Focus on their giftings and even ask them how they would like to serve.

    For help with this, ask their parent/guardian to fill out a short survey. (We created one that you can download for free at this link. Though this survey was designed to help you get to know the gifts and needs of individuals with special needs in your church, many of the questions can help you get to know persons with a variety of ability levels.)

  7. Think about special needs.

    Understand if there are any special needs (physical, socio-emotional, or cognitive disability, medical condition, or allergies) that students have in the classroom. We blogged about that recently in this post, “Preparing Your Ministry to Receive Individuals with Disabilities”.

  8. Be prepared for misbehavior.

    Before a student misbehaves in class, it’s important to have a plan. Often, many ministries have a discipline plan, so be sure to check with your children’s pastor or appropriate leader. Share with your class what students can expect if they misbehave (for example: they will go back to their parent for the remainder of the class, take a break, miss an activity, etc.).

  9. Communicate difficulties with your leader.

    Whether it’s over a phone call, email or coffee, share your struggles with your children’s pastor or leader before the situation gets out of hand. Conversely, if you are the children’s pastor or are in charge of volunteers, be sure to provide an opportunity for teachers to express any difficulties they may be having by checking in with them throughout the year.

  10. Know how to utilize helpers in the room.

    Often children’s classes have teens or adults on hand to offer assistance with students who are being disruptive or need some extra assistance. To make the most of these extra volunteers’ time, consider these suggestions:

    1. Plan for how you want to use them. Can they run a station? Get a craft ready? Sit with a particular child? Think beforehand how you would like them to serve in your class.
    2. Communicate with them beforehand. Be sure to connect with the helper before class and share how you would like them to serve in your upcoming class or ministry gathering. When the helper is prepared, they will be able to take more initiative within the classroom setting.
    3. Share ideas for how to help particular students. Again, preparation is key. If the helper is working with a particular student, brainstorm some ways that they could work with that student. If you’re out of ideas, talk with your ministry leader or collaborate with other classroom or ministry teachers.

Kim LuurtsemaKim Luurtsema is a church consultant for CLC Network. She has a background in special education and has served in children’s ministry for more than twenty years.

 

photo credit: via photopin (license)

Advertisements

Six Tips for Celebrating America’s Independence Day

Six Tips for Celebrating America's Independence Day imageIt is almost the Fourth of July, which for many families in the United States is a time of festivity and celebration as we commemorate our nation’s independence with colorful parades, juicy BBQ’s, loud concerts, and booming fireworks.  These activities can bring many changes in routine and sensory stimulations that may be exciting for some individuals, but difficult for others. Marji Voetberg, one of our teacher consultants, offers these tips for helping all members of your family be prepared and equipped for your Independence Day celebrations.

  1. Prepare children for what to expect.

    This could include showing pictures from a previous year (if you have them) and/or YouTube videos about what to expect during the day. Describe what your son or daughter might see, hear, taste, etc throughout the day. If necessary, discuss that the noises from fireworks are not dangerous sounds. You could include all of these items in a personalized SocialStory (see an example here) that highlights the day’s activities.

  2. Have a plan.

    Explain to your children how you expect to stay together at the event. For example, will everyone wear the same colored shirt? Or stay within a certain distance? Be sure to share what to do if you get split up.

  3. Bring the right tools.

    Especially for fireworks, it may be helpful to bring blankets (wrap your child in for deep pressure), ear plugs, sunglasses, etc. These tools can provide sensory input breaks/decreased input.

  4. Use a camera.

    If you’re headed to fireworks or an event where there is a lot going on, bring a camera that your son or daughter could use. Looking through the camera at the event brings the focus in to one object/event and may help your child feel less overwhelmed by all of the things that are going on.

  5. Talk about food.

    Be sure to discuss candy consumption guidelines in advance. This is particularly important if your son or daughter has any food allergies.

  6. Think ahead.

    In general, think about what triggers there may be for your child in any of the celebratory events. Prepare your child and yourself for how to handle those triggers.

Alternately, some families prefer to avoid Fourth of July celebrations because of the excitement. For these families, it may be a good idea to shut your windows and turn on any fans as loud as possible in the evening. Find a fun family activity or movie to enjoy that allows your family to spend quality time together indoors.

Regardless of what your family does, the main goal is to plan ahead for the holiday and prepare your family for what to expect.

Do you have additional ideas? Share them in the comment box below!

MarjiVoetbergMarji Voetberg is a teacher consultant for CLC Network.

 

 

 

 

5 Tips for Summer Church Inclusion

First Baptist NashvilleIn the summertime, many churches put their Church School programs and other school-year activities on hold, which creates a new routine for everyone involved.  While some of us like change, a new routine can be difficult for some individuals, particularly individuals with disabilities. Here are some tips for your church to make sure everyone has a smooth transition into the new routine during the summer months.

  1. Communication with Key People

    As you are trying to develop a plan for the summer months, make sure you communicate with the individual, his or her family members, and any care providers. Creating a survey is one way these needs can be communicated to one another (download a free sample survey here). Or, something more informal, such as sitting down and grabbing coffee, works well too. Just be sure to ask rather than assume, what exactly is needed during the summer months.

  2. Summer Church Inclusion Action Plan

    Once you have spoken with the correct people, come up with a plan together about the best way to include the person who has a disability during these summer months. The plan should include ways an individual can use his or her gifts to be involved in areas such as worship, fellowship, and service. This plan should include steps and recommendations for the individual as well as the congregation.

    For example, an individual might worship with praise ribbons during Church School. During the summer months (or even during the rest of the year!), you may want to make praise ribbons accessible during your congregation’s worship time. Make sure that everyone is aware of this change, and that all are welcome to participate. If you are looking for an action plan guide, CLC Network has a “Church Inclusion Action Plan” in the G.L.U.E. Training Manual (available for purchase here).

  3. Schedule/Calendar

    Create a schedule or calendar for the person who has a disability so that he or she is able to anticipate the new summer routine. For example, create a schedule of the order of worship for your service. Or, a calendar of special events your church has over the summer. Be sure to communicate this schedule in a way that is best for the individual, such as using pictures in addition to words.

  4. Preview the Setting

    Allow the person with a disability to come to church before the service and allow him or her to walk through the new routine. For example, rather than heading to Sunday School right before the sermon starts, have him or her practice walking back to a seat in the sanctuary.

  5. Respite Care

    While respite care is hopefully happening throughout the year, this care can be especially important in the summertime as school is out and there is ample amount of free time during the day. Recruit volunteers to spend time with the person who has disabilities while his or her family runs errands, goes out to eat, or simply takes a nap.

As you continue to include those with disabilities into your congregation and navigate the new routine that summertime brings, we hope you find some of these tips helpful and beneficial! You can find additional inclusion tips for Vacation Bible School in this blog post.

 

Jacki Sikkema photoJacki Sikkema has a background in Special Education and is a former church consultant for CLC Network. She will work at Grand Rapids Christian Middle School as a 5th grade teacher in the fall.

 

photo credit: 2008-VBS-Monday-272 via photopin (license)

 

 

 

All God’s Children: Building Community through Disability Awareness

Understanding the inherent God-given purpose and gifts of each of his children is crucial to living in interdependent community.  Julia Murray, an American Heritage Girls troop leader, shares an experience that enriched both her and her troop’s understanding of community in today’s post.    

Sometimes, God works in dramatic ways to guide our footsteps. But frankly, I smile much bigger when He does it in His subtle “betcha didn’t see that coming” kind of style.

American Heritage Girls doing the "puzzle piece" activityI lead a troop of 30 American Heritage Girls, ages 6-12. This faith-based scouting organization has challenged me AND the girls in my troop to venture out from our comfort zones, so when I saw a badge entitled “All God’s Children” about disabilities awareness, I prayed that the right person would come along who could make this personal to my girls.

God answers prayers in His own time and did so when I learned about Vangie Rodenbeck of PURE Ministries in Gainesville, GA. I was charmed by her humor about her life as a mom to young man with autism spectrum disorder, as well as her role as a ministry leader. But I knew immediately Vangie was the one to teach my troop when she told me simply, “If we can teach your kids to be friends with someone like my son, we can change the world!”

Vangie Rodenbeck

Vangie Rodenbeck shares how our strengths and weaknesses complement one another.

She held the girls and parents spellbound with the concepts clearly explained for all ages, beginning with a cookbook. The girls completely understood how God has a recipe for each and every one of us, based on the job He has for us to do on this earth. The recipes are all different and only scratch the surface.

“Don’t ignore my child’s diagnosis…I worked HARD to get it!” she explains.

“But honor [the diagnosis] and accept it for what it is. And remember that diagnosis doesn’t tell you everything about Noah. It doesn’t tell you that he loves rock & roll, or that he can ride a bike. It doesn’t tell you what he’s like at all.”

This concept was driven home by the use of the two green and pink puzzle pieces that she held in each hand from the CLC Network “Inclusion Awareness Kit”. The girls were given their own large puzzle pieces and took a few minutes writing all the things they do well on the green side, and the things they don’t do so well on the pink side. The group discussion that followed was a thing of beauty.

Student working on puzzle piece

Each student wrote their areas of strength and struggle on the green and pink puzzle pieces.

We learned that Rachel is good at reading, but not so good at math. Megan can draw really well, but isn’t good at creative writing. Emma can write great stories, but stick figures are her illustrations.

If the lightbulbs that went off in their heads were real, we could have lit up the entire building.

Suddenly, they realized that one girl’s “greens” often complemented another girl’s “pinks.” And that’s why they got along so well and accomplished so much in meetings…they were tapping into their individual God-given strengths, which were all different. How boring would it be if we were ALL “green” at everything? It’s God’s design – His recipe – that we all have our pinks and greens.

It was a perfect lead-in to scripture in Romans that tells us God created us all as parts of a body; no one person can be the entire body. We’re often more alike than we are different, and it’s our “alikeness” that brings us together.

Julia Murray is the Pastoral Ministry Assistant at Midway United Methodist Church in Alpharetta, GA. American Heritage Girls, based in Ohio and  founded in 1995, has as its mission to “build women of integrity through service to God, family, community and country.”

Inclusive Education at Ada Christian School

Third grade students at Ada Christian School

Third grade learners and friends at Ada Christian School.

When asked how inclusive education fits into Ada Christian’s vision, Principal Melissa Brower is stumped. “Without it, we wouldn’t be whole,” she says. “Inclusive education fits in just like everything else we do.”

Ada Christian School (Ada, Michigan) enrolls approximately 560 students in preschool through 8th grade, and has worked with CLC Network since 1987. Their mission, equipping students for service in God’s world, breaks down into four focus areas: mind, body, soul, and community. Mrs. Brower explains,

“As a school of course we have high standards for our students, but high standards may look different for different learners. Our job is to meet each student where they are and help them grow.”

Melissa Brower with students

Third graders share what they’re learning with principal Melissa Brower.

Part of that growth is making sure parent-teacher conferences and classroom dynamics reflect all areas of personal growth. “Our society can be so focused on judging people by their output, their ability to produce something. We want our students to know that everyone plays a part in God’s Kingdom, no matter their abilities.”

Each week, homeroom classes review how they are treating each other in community. In middle school, small groups led by teachers, youth pastors, and adult volunteers help students reflect on their faith. Commitments like this help create a safe environment of care, which is especially valued by parents of kids with disabilities.

Parents like Jim Horman have an especially strong relationship with the school. His son, Cole, transferred to Ada Christian last year after struggling in a public school. “It’s been a surprise how much Christianity is infused into everything at this school,” he shares.

“They are Christian in their responses to Cole, not just in the title of the school. They help other students see Cole beyond his disability, and talk openly about his needs. As his parents, we feel like an extension of the team surrounding him with compassion and understanding.”

Ada 03

Sixth graders demonstrating that everyone is part of God’s family with a “family portrait”.

“I couldn’t express strongly enough how positive our experience at Ada Christian has been,” reflects Randy Russo, whose daughter Isabelle is enrolled in 7th grade. “As a parent of a child with a disability, that positive experience becomes emotional for us. The teachers and students just accept her so easily, she blends into the school in all capacities without hesitation. The feeling of acceptance in this school is incredibly unique.”

Ada Christian continues to refine its approach. This year, Jim Hapner became the first full-time Inclusion Specialist. “I’ve been really impressed by how the school’s vision guides everyone here, helping us work together,” he reflects. “I look forward to working closely with students who may struggle to meet social and academic challenges.”

Linda Slotsema has served as an instructional aide at Ada Christian for more than thirteen years. Over that time, she’s observed many changes in how teachers react to students with special needs.

“Our teachers are proactive about getting help for their students — not for the purposes of getting them out of the classroom, but to make sure they are successful inside of the general education classroom.”

Mrs. Brower shares some of the demonstrations of success she sees in her day. “It’s the little things that are really such big things. Like during a band concert, seeing a student reach out and calm the person next to her who may be panicking over the change in routine. Or watching a student hurry out, but when his friend reaches out to say goodbye he stops, and takes time to recognize that person and ask about his day. That’s the picture of Christlike behavior we are striving for.”

Elizabeth Dombrowski photo

Elizabeth Lucas Dombrowski is the advancement director at CLC Network. 

This article originally appeared in the 2014 Inclusive newsletter – CLC Network’s semiannual newsletter.