Home Equipping Leaders Teaching Long time? Short time? Tips on Lesson Planning (June 2009)

Long time? Short time? Tips on Lesson Planning (June 2009)

You have a great Sunday school class. Your students have varied personal interests and a range of familiarity with church and the faith. You want to be sure your time together is meaningful, relevant, and illuminating. And you have a finite time within which to work.

You whip open the curriculum. Hmmmmmm…. What parts to use; what to leave out? We hope the dilemma is that you have too much to chose from. Consider these ideas when selecting which elements of the lesson to include:

1. What content is vital to make sense of the lesson? Core elements include the Scripture, of course, and in children’s materials, there is usually a main story related to the Scripture. Knowing what you want to accomplish determines what you actually will do.

2. In any given session, which is the better goal: breadth or depth? In a short class, you may decide that focusing on one main idea, with as much depth as possible for the time, is more beneficial than doing several things quickly or superficially. The goal is to have a memorable, relevant session.

3. What are the learning preferences among the group? If music tends to communicate to the most participants most of the time, check to see if that will be so for this session. If visuals (maps, pictures, charts, DVD clips, and so on) and logical/mathematical preferences are high (puzzles, time lines, forced choice activities, for example), then look for those elements. In any case, even if you’re greatly pushed for time, try to include as much variety as you can and do your best to avoid straight lecture.

4. How much time does each of the learning elements require? If drama is usually a big hit, but it will take a long time to "mount your production," can it be used as is, abbreviated, or adapted; or do you just need to let it go this time?

5. If you’re using dated curriculum, can you plan on organizing for a few sessions at a time? See how to piece together the elements over several sessions so that the outcome of the whole includes sufficient depth and variety. This works best when the attendance is fairly consistent.

6. Has some experience or event midweek arisen as the focus of a teachable moment? If there has been a crisis or celebration affecting your group members, what time is needed to acknowledge it? Does anything in the prepared curriculum resources speak to it?

7. What is your own level of experience and comfort in teaching? If you’re a veteran at this and are comfortable adapting as you go, you may think about the overall plan and go with the flow as the class session unfolds—shorten here, spend more time there. If you’re new or a substitute, for example, you probably want a clear game plan going in (which still requires some flexibility).

Keep in mind that the learning is more important than the lesson, and your group members are more important than the content learning. Whether you have an hour or 20 minutes, your group members will want to experience your care and attention as a witness to the love of God.

Diana L. Hynson is Director of Learning and Teaching Ministries at the Discipleship Ministries in Nashville, TN.

For Further Reading:

Guidelines for Leading Your Congregation: Christian Education: Abingdon Press, 2009.

Equipped to Lead: Children’s Sunday School Guide. Discipleship Resources, 2008.

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