Are Your Students Motivated?
Motivation requires all of the following: expectation of success, finding value in the activity, and feeling comfortable in a supportive climate (Jones & L. Jones, 2010). Students need to understand the learning goals before the lesson begins. It is important to explain to students what you will be teaching and how that is supposed to affect their lives outside of church. For many students that struggle with transitions, it is also helpful to briefly explain the activities that will take place through out the lesson. You can even make a schedule of events for learners that are very visual.
Students also appreciate knowing how they are intended to process information. Graphic organizers are very useful for structuring information. Some lessons incorporate multiple stories or topics that tie into a central theme, and these lessons are best represented by web organizer. For example, a lesson on faith may mention Peter walking on the water and the woman with the issue of blood. We see the connection very clearly, but some students may need visual connections between stories and morals. Some lessons teach cause and effect or follow a chronological timeline, and these lessons are best depicted in a chain or directional organizer. Telling the story of Abram and Hagar is not enough to teach that Abram was punished for a lack of faith, but a cause and effect chart would help all students understand the consequences of right and wrong choices. Lessons that compare and contrast can be depicted by charts or Venn diagrams. If we want students to see why we need a savior, we may compare humans to God. We are made in his image and have some similarities, but student will become involved in discovering that God is all good and all holy while we are sinful.
Students need to remain actively Involved in the learning process through peer interaction. This can be accomplished by assigning students to groups for exploring concepts and situations. This would be a great configuration for teaching students how to use bible resources like search engines, concordances, and commentaries. Another great peer model is Think-Pair Share. In this model students are assigned a partner and encouraged to confer with their partner to make inferences about the story or concepts being covered.
Learning goals need to relate to their own interests and choices by connecting lessons to the students' life experiences. Having students make choices, share ideas, and make plans to give them a since of ownership in the learning and serving process. Some students may even respond to changes in the learning environment (temperature, seating arrangement, ect.) Changing the environment can also include small groups or paired activities as well as offering snacks during study time.
Students need to move beyond just knowing facts. The goal of the church is to have all members learn at the highest level, personal application. Knowing isn't enough in the working world, and it certainly isn't enough in our Christian lives. This level of knowledge is not easily attained. We may need to present information multiple times in multiple ways to move students through the levels of abstraction (knowing, conceptualizing, analyzing, generalizing, evaluating, applying.) Often thinking out loud, role-play or modeling can help learners to connect information to real life. Testimony of Biblical principles and talking out your thought process about a particular passage are great methods for keeping the attention of your audience and jump starting their thinking process.
We don't typically test learners at church, but their Christian walk will be tested daily. We should give them an opportunity to reflect on what they learn and how it can apply to their lives in the future. Students can work on a journal or portfolio that describes temptations, failures, and victories of their Christian walk. They can also journal prayers to God or visions from God. Putting things in writing makes them more real to many learners.