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Preparing to Do Our Best for the Children We Teach

by Kristina Wenger, M.A.
Staff Assistant for Internet Ministry to Teachers

As a new school year approaches, it is good for us teachers to think about how to improve our teaching methods so that we can be more effective. One way in which we can become better teachers is to sharpen our preparation for each class that we teach. Thinking through our lessons ahead of time, planning them, writing them out (or at least jotting down notes), and trying out activities or crafts before we do them with students are all ways in which we can improve our preparation and thereby become better teachers.

This article will lead us through the process of planning a lesson. It will also help us to think about how to best plan ahead, how to ask questions that will make children use a variety of thinking skills, and how to organize our plans so that even another person could pick the plan up and lead the class if necessary. It all begins with the bare-bones lesson plan noted at the end of this paragraph. You can access it, download it, and have it for your own use. In the article below, the lesson plan skeleton is indicated by bold print. Notes, suggestions, and helpful links follow in italics.

Lesson Plan It is important to have a plan: not just an idea in your head, but an actual physical plan. Having written down (even just notes for) your plan will force you as a teacher to think things through ahead of time. This can allow you to foresee errors and/or potential problems. It also allows you to be able to pass the lesson off to someone else at the last minute if for some reason you're suddenly unable to teach your class. It takes time and work to write them out, but the more often you do so, the quicker you become at writing your lesson plans.

Lesson Title: Thinking of a title for your lesson is an exercise in summarizing the objective learning outcome; and can offer you a chance to play with words, as well. Titles can be catchy or straightforward. Either way, they should not be long: a few words will suffice.

Objective: Every lesson must have at least one objective. Many will have more than one. Some objectives may be recurring from lesson to lesson, others will be unique to the current lesson. The most important (and sometimes most difficult) thing to keep in mind as you write objectives is that they should be measurable: each objective needs to be able to be evaluated in the closing of the lesson. Examples of measurable objectives are: "Students will be able to answer these questions," "Students will be able to explain," "Students will be able to demonstrate," "Students will be able to retell," (Beware of these commonly used non-measurable words are "know," "understand" and "appreciate.") So, when you write your objectives, the test is to ask, "How will I know that we have met this objective—can I measure appreciation? As soon as you write the objective draw a line to the Closing to remind yourself to evaluate your objective—to make sure the children were asked the questions, or had a chance to explain, or retell; so you'll know if your lesson met your objective. If you plan to have them retell the story in another part of the lesson plan, draw the line there. It is important to know that efforts are succeeding; the meeting of objectives is step one in that direction.

Resources: List all needed resources and materials here. If you are playing a game, doing a craft, or even using props to tell a story in your lesson, this list can be invaluable as it helps you think through exactly what you need before you begin the lesson. The resources/materials list is also quick way to double check that you've got everything for the lesson; and it will make it easier for someone else (or even you, should you repeat the lesson in years to come) to prepare for the lesson.

Opening: This is the beginning part of the lesson. In a Sunday Church School class, this would be where you welcome students into your classroom, casually chat about their week, and then begin the formal opening of your class time with prayers, a song, or however you usually begin each class.

Introduction: The introduction portion of the lesson is part segue and part hook. This is the part of the lesson where you review previous learnings, and prepare the students to build on what they already know with this lesson, making a connection between prior knowledge and newly acquired information. The challenge for the teacher in this part of the lesson is to find a fun "hook" that will grab the students. This hook could perhaps be an object lesson, a riddle, a game - something that captures the students' attention and inquisitiveness, grabs their curiosity, and makes them eager to pay attention as you continue with the lesson.

Content: The majority of the class time will be spent completing the activities in this part of the lesson plan. Once you have grabbed the students' attention with the "hook" in the introduction, you move on to this "content" portion of the lesson. This is the meat of the lesson; the theological concept(s) you are passing on. This part of the lesson will contain some teaching, some related/building-on activities (such as games, art, crafts, writing, etc.), and many, many questions. As you write the content section of the lesson, keep in mind the objectives and how they will be measured, so that you stay on task in your planning. Plan a variety of activities: not all students learn in the same way, and you want to incorporate as many learning styles as possible. You will not be able to teach to every style, every Sunday Church School class. However, be aware of the different learning styles and if you miss one learning style in one lesson, be sure to include that learning style in the next lesson. (Think of it this way: if you are energized by hiking, you would not pay attention - in fact, you may eventually just tune out or stop coming- if every time you went to a woods, you were forced to sit and listen to someone talking about people hiking and you never got to hike! In the same way, your Sunday Church School learners are varied in what energizes them, what clicks in their minds, and they need variety to engage them and to make the lessons more effective.) Throughout each lesson, ask questions. Make the students think. Encourage them to summarize. Ask them to explain it back to you. See what connections they can make to previous learnings. As you ask questions, be sure to use questions at varying levels of questioning. (See for suggested questions to use for each level of Bloom's Taxonomy.)

Response: This is the part of the lesson that will allow the students to grasp the main ideas/theological concepts for themselves, and challenges them to find ways to apply those ideas to their own lives. This part of the lesson can be oral, written, drawn, or you can have the students respond in some other way, depending on the lesson and your group of students.

Closing: This part of the lesson is part review and part evaluation. In this part of the lesson, find ways to invite the students to summarize the main points of the lesson. This is also a time to evaluate the objectives listed above. After doing so, make a final statement (it could be a one-sentence summary) of the lesson, and then close with prayer before dismissal.

As we approach the new school year, let us approach with enthusiasm for the job of helping in the spiritual formation of the children of our parish. Let us plan ahead, and make the investment of writing out those plans so that we are better prepared to teach our classes. This lesson plan format, listed again at the end of this paragraph, can be used for any lesson and will help us to better prepare, so that we may better teach the learners which God has entrusted to our care. (

Note: to see a sample lesson plan that uses this format, check out this one: