Many teachers understand that, as they prepare their lessons, a few extra spices are often needed to make the classroom mix savory and exciting. Toward that end, here are extra toppings that can be added to the beginning or the ending of most lessons. Use them according to your own individual recipe for success, and see if they don’t add some flavor to your class.
Pass the Blessing
Gather the children in a circle and take turns passing a small cross around the circle. As the cross comes to each child, that child will be encouraged to tell the class one special thing which happened that week—an achievement, a joy, or a happy moment which was experienced. This is a fine way to get the children talking and in a positive spirit before the lesson begins.
Before class, create a list of important points you want to remember from the lesson. Write these points on small pieces of paper. Place these in a bag, box, or hat. As the class begins, invite the children to take turns drawing from the bag and reading what is on the paper. (Be willing to help read, but be aware if one child's reading skills lag behind the rest of the class.) Tell the class that these are the important points you will want them to remember. If you want to reinforce the lesson, repeat this exercise at the end of class.
In the event you have talkative or active students who are difficult to quiet down, try playing the silent treatment. Before class, make a list of things you would like the students to think about; for example, your list might include:
• think about the best thing that happened to you this week
• think about someone who needs a friend
• think of something you received this week
Begin by gathering the group in a circle or around the table and asking the students to remain quiet while you ask them to think. If you like, you may close this time with a prayer to begin the class session.
Since children love music, a song is always an appropriate way to begin the class. Bring in a song that is popular with children and a mp3 player. If possible, use a song that will provoke some discussion. Listen to the song and invite the students to talk about the lyrics.
And now . . . five fine endings. In many ways, the ending of a class is helpful for reinforcing the key points of the lesson or creating an atmosphere of excitement so students will want to return the following week. Think of these endings as dessert for your lessons. After the main course, it is nice to have something sweet or fun. The children will appreciate these.
Before class, write down the names of some Bible people (or people from your lesson) on individual slips of paper. Put these in a box, and invite each student to draw a slip of paper from the box. Follow up by asking each student to say something about that person—something they learned from that lesson, or might remember from a previous lesson. Help as needed, or invite the other students to assist each other in this exercise.
Before class, visit a craft store and purchase a few blank jigsaw puzzles (these are very inexpensive). You can then draw your own puzzles, or make a puzzle containing key points from your lesson each week. Bring the puzzles to class and invite the students to work them. Reworking the puzzle will enforce the key points of the lesson and give the students a unique visual reminder. Be creative, use artwork and lots of color. Allow enough time at the end of the class for the students to work at solving the puzzle.
If your lesson is about a Bible story, reinforce the story by asking the children to retell it using this game. Invite a child to begin the story (or begin the story yourself), using a single sentence. When that person finishes, the next student must continue the story with another sentence. Continue around the circle until the story has been told in full. Give guidance as needed.
Most lessons can be concluded by using reflection questions. Older children will find reflection especially helpful. Ask the children to apply the lesson to their own lives. Helpful questions might include: How does this lesson help us to be faithful today? What did you learn from this lesson? How would you explain this lesson to someone else? Be prepared to offer your own suggestions, and don’t be afraid of some periods of silence as the children consider their answers.
Before class, create a few sentences or key points you would like the children to remember about the lesson. Gather the students in a circle or a line and tell them they must whisper a message to their neighbor. Begin the chain by whispering your key point in the first child’s ear. This child must then whisper what he or she heard to the second child, the second child to the third, and so forth. See how the message comes out at the end and compare it to the message you started with. This game can also lead into a discussion about communication or gossip and why it is important for us to speak accurately about what we know. This game will also subtly reinforce the key points of your lesson.
In the event that you have a creative group of children, you might also try asking them how they would like to close a class. Some might have a special game or song they would like to try!