Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
October 24, 1968
NUMBER 25, PAGE 2b-3,5a

Teaching For Learning

Martin M. Broadwell

One thing we have tried to point out several times is that teaching doesn't have to be a complicated process to be effective. When we talk about involvement, we aren't suggesting there is some mysterious process or technique which only a few can hope to reach proficiency in. Neither are we claiming to have invented some new method heretofore unknown. One has only to look at the teachings of Christ and follow the life of Paul and he will find these same things demonstrated. What we're trying to do is bring some of these things out into the open and show that better teaching is within the reach of everyone who will take the time to look for it. It's worth the effort!

In the last article we were talking about INVOLVEMENT. We pointed out that virtually no learning takes place without some involvement on the part of the learner. But the teacher should not leave the matter of getting involved up to the learner. The concerned instructor will seek ways to produce this involvement, hence learning. Such a teacher will find methods and use them on purpose! (Lest someone get the wrong idea, I'm not suggesting that there are not those who are "natural born" teachers. It's just that such people are rare indeed, and certainly there aren't enough of them to supply the needs for Bible teaching. The only thing to do, then, is to find some methods that will make better teachers out of the rest of us and go on from there.)

Last time we discussed the pre-school and early grades, and ways to get this age group involved. You were to supply additional techniques of your own. The same holds true for the things that are said in this article...add to it from your own experience. We are not going to break down the children by specific ages, because the dividing line between what works for one age and doesn't for another does not apply as rigidly as we have been led to believe. Also, our grouping in classes isn't as rigidly controlled as it might he for such restrictions to pay-off. But this need not be a problem! When the proper amount of involvement and participation is present. these age and grade levels will work themselves out. We must admit that they do make some difference, though and we will see some ways of combating this difference.

(An interesting sidelight here: Certain teachers say that they have to avoid class participation because of the difference in levels in the students. Let's look at this idea and notice one very large flaw in it. If the difference is so noticeable when there is participation, then are they not just as much present when the teacher does all of the talking? In other words, all we have saved is the embarrassment of having it come out into the open. We are admitting that it exists as a mental situation, but we are going to keep it "under the rug'' as it were What we need to do is get it out into the open and find ways of narrowing the difference by cleverness on our part. Somehow we manage to convince ourselves that such differences do not exist it we don't see them and the reason we don't see them is because we are so busy doing all the work. We lecture and labor and work very hard, but all the time covering up the fact that there is such a wide range of differences in the class that some of the students are getting the message and others aren't. The moral is: don't be afraid to get these differences out and look at them; after all, the only way to solve any problem is to take it apart and examine it. This can't be done if we keep it hidden beneath our own lecturing.)

Let's see what we can do with that sub-teen group that is beyond the sandbox age, but still lacks the sophistication of the teens. What can we do to get them involved? One thing we can remember that works almost universally with all children, even up in the teens: they like competition. (There are those adult teachers who frown on using any kind of game in a Bible class, saying that it takes away from the seriousness of the subject. A closer examination will perhaps show that games and contests actually take away from the seriousness of the STUDY of the subject. rather than the subject itself. It's up to the teacher to maintain the subject as a serious one and this he can do with an occasional reminder.) There is almost no limit to the ways competition can he introduced into the classroom. Let's notice a few ideas, then let the teachers use their imaginations for the rest.

We will divide the competition into two main categories: individual and group. Each has its decided advantages and disadvantages. Individual competition obviously puts each student on his or her own merit. There is more pressure to know the answers to the questions because everyone will be aware of the student's lack of knowledge if he fails. On the other hand, everyone will soon know who has done the most studying. One of the disadvantages, of course, is when there is this vast difference between abilities which may embarrass the less bright or the less informed. This can be handled by the teacher though with a little effort. Easier questions can be saved for the person who is behind the group, and harder questions can be used for the one who is very far ahead of the rest of the group. Another way is to pair the students so that the amount of "know how" is more evenly distributed. When a question is asked, they must get together and come up with one answer they both agree on. This is actually a "junior-sized" version of group competition, for when the whole group is to be in on the competition, they are divided into two sub-groups and these compete against each other.

First, let's see how questions can be asked when the competition is to be on an individual basis. There are many ways and variations. Trial and error may be the best method for determining what works best for your situation. The simplest method for introducing competition may be just to write the names of the children on the board and give check marks for right answers. Points can be given with all sorts of variations. For instance, let each correct answer count five points, but if the first person misses the next person gets a chance with the answer now counting only two points. If the type of lesson being taught is a good one for learning scriptures, a good point system can help to emphasize this. "Two points for giving the general answer, four points for giving the scripture reference and six points for being able to quote the verse." Variations of this can be used to emphasize any kind of fact or idea. It can be expanded all the way up to giving points for telling the complete story for last week or today's lesson. While it is simpler to start off with a "clean slate" each lesson period, totals can be carried along from week to week, with a score of 100 winning the game.

Many teachers use some kind of point system for attendance, lesson study, memory work, etc., all of which is good, but not what we're talking about there. Such a system serves as motivation, but is not to be confused with the involvement techniques we're striving for. They are "one time shots" so to speak. To be effective, involvement techniques must be a continuing thing. Ideally, it should keep the whole class interested and involved.

Another way to get involvement by competition on an individual basis is the old game of "trapping" (or whatever name you may have used). The students draw numbers and line up down the row accordingly, with number one being first chair. A question is asked, starting with number one, and if he misses then go to number two. The person who gets it right traps those in front who have missed it, with the object being to try to be at the number one chair when the bell rings. Question number two starts behind the last person who got a right answer, he stays where he is, but if he misses it, the one behind him gets a chance, and so on down the row. Remember, the one who gets the right answer simply by-passes those who missed it, with each one who got a wrong answer shifting back one seat. The advantage to this is that everyone has to listen and "pay attention" because he not only needs to hear the question, but all of the wrong answers that may come before his turn. This way — especially when there is a chance for a long "trap" — tension builds and involvement is very high.

As we have said, there are many other variations of individual competition and each teacher should try to find several that suits him and his age groups. Just remember, though, that like almost anything, too much of the same thing can lead to boredom. So it is with any kind of involvement. It's also wise not to depend on games to take up the major part of each lesson period. There are other techniques which we will discuss later that can be sandwiched in to produce a well-rounded, well-paced and highly involved class period. Another important point to remember — and one we will repeat often — never let the system overshadow the lesson! We have all seen teachers and preachers use dramatics or startling antics but not the point!

In the next article we will discuss ways of using competition on a group basis instead of individually. Be thinking of ways you might use either approach in your classes. Remember, no matter how good you are now, you can be a better teacher by working at it. And that's the secret of good teaching: WORK.

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