Beginner Department – 6’s and 7’s: Building Believing Beginners




Ring! It was Marilyn’s first (and only) phone call at H E L P. the city’s hotline for drug abuse victims. Timidly she answered.

“Can you help me ? ” Marilyn listened carefully as a young girl began to tell an incredible story. “I’m going to kill myself I’m going to jump off the Broad Street Bridge.”

“Why do you want to kill yourself ?” Marilyn questioned.

“All I’ve ever known is prostitution and drugs. My mother started me in prostitution when I was six years old, ” the horrible story unfolded.

“But I’m sure someone can help you. Can’t you get in touch with someone. ” Marilyn tried to reach and touch the troubled girl.

“The only person who might help me is Sister Lucile. She was my teacher when I went to Sunday school when I was six years old. But they have moved the church and I don’t know where Sister Lucile is.”

“What was the name of your church? Was it a Pentecostal Church?”

“No-oo. That wasn’t the name? I don’t remember the name.”

“Well, we call women ‘Sister’ in my church–the First Apostolic Church. . .”

“Apostolic! That’s it! It was the Apostolic church/ Do you know where Sister Lucile is ? I know God won’t hear me but I have prayed that Sister Lucile would remember me and pray for me because I know God hears Sister Lucile. ”

So after many years of horrible abused childhood filled with prostitution and drugs, a desperate young woman remembered a Sunday school teacher’s face.

“I parked on the Broad Street Bridge so that I could jump in the river. But when I leaned over the rail I saw Sister Lucile’s face in the water. I asked God to let Sister Lucile pray for me.”

As Sunday school teachers of Beginners we never know the influence we have in young lives. In today’s stress-filled society where families are often uprooted by unemployment, split by divorce, subjected to violence via T.V., magazines and newspapers, a spiritual Sunday school teacher may be a lifeline for a child.

So we teach. We teach as effectively as we can so we must study. Study to know what Beginners are like. Study to know the curriculum. Study to be rooted and grounded in the truth.

Physical Characteristics

Beginners are active, not passive. They run rather than walk. They can ride bikes, swim, skate, and play ball. Many can sing well. Some are hyperactive and restless and it is very hard for them to sit still and listen. They are gaining more control in fine motor development and are more skillful with scissors, crayons and pencils. They still need supervision on art and craft projects.

Social Characteristics

Although Beginners are still self-centered they are beginning to learn how to be part of a team or group. They enjoy friends and are more willing to leave the security of home and play most of the day with a neighbor child. Now, they are big enough to ride the Sunday school bus and come alone to church if their parents do not attend.

Elmer Townes, a well-known and respected writer and leader in the Sunday school field tells of beginning to attend church with a Jewel Tea salesman, riding in the back of his panel truck to Sunday school
when he started to public school at six years old. Elmer was deeply influenced by his Sunday school teacher and the decision for his life was set by this man rather than by Towns” own father who was an alcoholic. Beginners often form a deep love and attachment for their teachers.

“How do you like school?” Matthew’s grandmother asked.

“I love it! I have the best teacher in the whole school,” Matthew responded enthusiastically. How important it is for a Beginner teacher to be warm and loving.

Because a Beginner is sensitive and loving, he may be jealous and anxious to please. He may cry when criticized therefore he needs constant assurance of love and trust.

Mental Characteristics

A Beginner may be very alert mentally. By Christmas many first-graders have begun to read. He recognizes his name on coat-hooks and chairs. Insatiably curious! He may ask a hundred questions in a day. A
Beginner may enjoy fantasy and “monsters” so it is important to remind the children that “these are Bible stories–true stories.”

Once a teacher told the Christmas story over and over in a daycare classroom. On the last school day before the holidays, Brad looked up and said, “Is it really true, Mrs. Wallace? Was there a Baby Jesus?”

“Oh yes, Brad!” the teacher hugged Brad close and assured him. “It’s really true! Jesus really was born. The city of Bethlehem is still there in Israel. Perhaps you can visit it some day.”

Since Beginners are so alert mentally, we need to be sure every class session sparkles with new ideas, a fresh approach to the old, old story. When a Beginner’s mother asks, “What did you do in class today?”
never let it be said, “Nothing, we don’t do nothing in our class.”

Here are some things a Beginner can do: read, sing, role play, work on art or craft projects, ask questions and answer them, take and give offerings, memorize Scripture, re-tell a Bible story, use visuals, celebrate birthdays, and compose music. In today’s technology explosion Beginners are being challenged mentally as never before. Keep them on their toes mentally in the Sunday school classroom.

Spiritual Characteristics

A Beginner is a believer! He believes the Bible stories so tell true stories accurately. Avoid symbolism and abstract ideas. Focus more on Jesus as the Son of God rather than the Light of the world or the Bread of life. Sing “Jesus Loves Me” rather than “Deep and Wide.” Remember telling is not teaching and the child who parrots back the words may not understand the concept. Help children to understand the truth you are teaching ‘ and to realize that this truth can be applied to their lives.

Although a Beginner’s reasoning power is limited, his imagination is very active so plan active experiences that feature touch-hear-see to involve the children. Everything done in Sunday school ought to get inside the child or proceed from inside the child. The involved child will be so interested and busy he will not be pinching, poking and disturbing others.

Discipline for Beginners

A six-year-old may be unable to control his behavior due to his intense feelings. But he is eager and enthusiastic and enjoys life while the seven-year-old may be more thoughtful almost withdrawn at times. One reason is that the seven year old is beginning to set standards of achievement for himself. He is no longer willing to experiment fully with art materials just for experiment’s sake but he wants to make something nice. Although the six-year-old with his brief attention span may often get into trouble he is eager to learn. He may ask a hundred questions a day!

Sixes still tend to think and act only in the present while older sevens are beginning to get a grasp on time and is a better listener.

Both ages need and want acceptances–acceptance in their peer group as well as acceptance by adults. So the young child is becoming less “I” oriented and moving to “you” and we.

A garden must be watered and cultivated and a classroom must have good discipline in order to thrive. If classroom control is a problem, first try to determine the cause of the problem. Is it the teacher? The
environment? The pupils? One pupil?

1. The teacher:
Are you well prepared?
Are you there early?
Are you committed to the task?
Are personal problems interfering?

2. The environment:
Is the room too small?
Is the room attractive?
What about equipment?

3. The pupils:
Is there a “mob spirit?”
Is there pupil participation?

4. One pupil:
A problem child is a child with a problem.
Show off?

Errors to avoid:
1. Giving learning activities as punishment.
2. Using grades or reports to control.
3. Intentionally using fear. “If you don’t behave, the will get you.”
4. Punishing the whole class.
5. Physical or verbal abuse.
6. Making promises.
7. Ignoring a student for long periods.

Discipline yourself.
1. Study
2. Pray
3. Visit
4. Work with the team
5. Get enough rest.
6. Leave personal problems at home.

The Beginner Teacher

A teacher needs to discipline herself to set priorities-goals. Make a list of what you need to do each day including preparation of your Sunday school lesson. Number the items in order of their importance. Now set a time to work on your lesson and note its importance in relationship to your other daily tasks. Do this each day.

Begin your preparation on Sunday afternoon. First take a few minutes to evaluate your lesson that morning.

1. Did I communicate well?
2. What about pupil participation?
3. Were there problems? Why?
4. Was I prepared until I felt totally relaxed? These and other questions help you not only to evaluate today’s lesson but also to prepare for next week.

Getting the class off to a good start is often the most difficult part of teaching. In writing books they tell us that we have thirty seconds to catch the readers’ attention. Here are a few simple techniques to help you thrive from the very first.

1. Decorate your classroom.

A fresh look catches attention and perks up every one. Bulletin boards, maps, displays, even a vase of fresh flowers say, “I expected you. I am glad you’re here.”

2. Plan your classroom carefully. What about seating, tables, chairs, other equipment, name tags?

3. Enlist a helper. “Many hands make light work.”

4. Plan every detail of the session a. Study, pray, study, pray. b. Plan a get-acquainted activity. c. Check supplies and visual aids. d. Prepare an information card.

5. Arrive early!

6. Be at the door to greet your pupils.

Now that you have set goals for your class, determine how to reach your goals each week. It is one thing to say, “At the end of this year I want my pupils to be able to recite the names of the books of the Bible.” What activities do you plan each week to help you meet this goal? Evaluate weekly to see if you are moving ahead toward meeting your goals. If you have set a goal, “Every one in my class will receive salvation this year,” what is the progress so far.

In order to reach goals one must have the necessary teaching tools. In order to lead boys and girls, men and women to accept Christ we must be able to explain the plan of salvation clearly and simply. Although the lesson may be an Old Testament history lesson, how can you bring in the plan of salvation? Are there words the pupils may not understand? Select the important words in the lesson and:

1. Put the new word on the board.
2. Define the word.
3. Use it in a sentence.
4. Ask a student to use the word.

“But my students don’t listen,” a teacher who is not well disciplined may complain. Good listening habits can be built. Remember pupils learn best through looking rather than listening. Improve your visual aids. Keep it simple! Save grandiose words for some other occasion. Use simple words, clear language if you wish to communicate with Beginners. Also check any physical factors in the class room that distract. Do you have pupils with defective hearing? Plan to seat them up front.

“The worst activity in your hand is better than the best activity lost among your stuff.” Categorize, file, label, put away. “A place for everything and everything in its place.”

Once the materials are organized, then organize the classroom. Where should the teacher’s desk be?

Organize yourself. Begin Sunday afternoon. Plan and prepare yourself a little each day.

Organize the students. Gather material for information cards.

Remember birthdays. Be aware of individual differences.

If you do have a good day with excellent control remember to reward; here are some suggestions for rewards:

1. Award a star.
2. Be generous with verbal praise.
3. Let the child choose a song.
4. Select a story for the teacher to read aloud.
5. Get a book mark.
6. Choice of work.
7. Choice of game.
8. Special jobs.

But what about the child who doesn’t earn much praise or win many rewards? The class loser? Unless you are careful you will be guilty of negative feedback: “Don’t do this,” “Sit down,” “Be quiet” or “Sit still.”

Remember to praise pupils for low level work or even barely acceptable behavior if you expect them to move on to a higher level. Otherwise you as the teacher as well as the pupil will be stuck in a negative rut. Odd as it may seem the child with a severe behavior problem must be praised for doing nothing. In the September, 1973 issue of Teacher Magazine by Mac Millan Professional Magazines, Inc. is a list of forty-nine ways to say, “You can do better.” Here are some of them:

1. Wouldn’t it be better done this way?
2. This isn’t up to your usual style.
3. You must have done this in a hurry.
4. Don’t give up!
5. Keep trying, You’ll get it yet.
6. Keep working, you’ve almost got it.
7. I’m glad you’re trying.
8. This was a tough day, huh?
9. Keep trying, let me know if I can help.

But the most difficult task may be to evaluate and discipline ourselves. Are we really thriving as teachers? Paul says:

“For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office: So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another. Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith; Or ministry, let us wait on our ministering: or he that teacheth, on teaching” (Romans 12:4-7). So we must “wait on our teaching.”

In other words cultivate or nurture our gift of teaching. Check yourself in these areas. Excellent, good, poor.

1. Record Keeping
A. Orderliness
B. Complete
C. On time
2. Planning
A. Meeting individual needs
1. Average pupil
2. Gifted pupil
3. Slow pupil
B. Objectives clearly stated
C. What about materials and equipment
3. Teaching Techniques
1. Individual activity
2. Small group activities
3. Role playing
4. Drama
5. Discussion
6. Learning centers
4. Audio-Visuals
A. Bulletin boards
B. Pictures, maps, charts
C. Overhead projector
D. Filmstrips
E. Tape recorders
F. Record players
G. Classroom displays
5. Discipline
A. Guiding students to independence
1. Learning centers
2. Responsibility for work and supplies
3. Goal setting
4. Learning to be flexible in seating and other areas.
6. Personal Growth
A. Continuing education
B. Observing other teachers
C. Regular attendance at staff meeting
D. Cooperating with pastor and other teachers
E. Prayer and Bible study
7. Evaluation
A. Do I use praise and positive reinforcement?
B. How is my communication with parents?
C. Do I continue to evaluate my own planning and lessons?

Beginner Schedule

9:20 All teachers arrive
9:20-9:50 Pre-session time may be spent completing attendance chart, in a Learning Center or printing today’s Memory Verse.
9:50-10:00 Cleanup time.
10:00-10:30 Group time. Worship, prayer, singing, Bible story.
10:30-10:50 Activity Time–Workbooks
10:50-11:00 Cleanup time.
11:00-11:10 Snack time. Milk or fruit punch and cookies.
11:10-11:35 Activity Time.
11:35-12:00 Final Group Time with the practical story and review of today’s lesson, quizzing, games and other group activities.

Staff Needed for Beginners

Department Superintendent
Associate Superintendent

Teachers for Learning Centers, a good ratio of teachers for the Beginner Department is one adult to each six to eight children.

Responsibilities of Each Staff Member
See pages 67 to 69 in chapter five on Kindergartners.

The Beginner Classroom
See description of a Kindergarten classroom on page 69.

Learning Centers

Nature Center–Open shelves and various nature items. Collect books and pictures related to the different nature items that are exhibited, for example: a book about flowers near a vase of flowers. Do not use anything artificial.

Puzzle Center–A table and chairs. Sturdy cardboard puzzles with twenty to forty pieces. Try to find puzzles related to the lessons.

Book Center–Book rack, table and chairs and good supply of books on the Beginner level. Bible stories, as well as nature and practical themes, make good selections. The local public library is a good source.

Art Center–Table and chairs. Crayons, colored chalk, water colors, tempera paint, plain newsprint. You may provide smocks if you are using tempera paint. Make smocks from men’s discarded shirts.

Worship Center–Chair and small table for the teacher to be seated comfortably. Optional: picture rail or small picture easel.

Children’s Chairs–One for each person present including \ the staff. They may be 12 to 14 inches high.

Tack Board–18 to 24 inches wide and 5 to 6 feet long.

Coat Rack–For Children and Adults

Open Shelf Storage–For the weekly supplies that the children need such as: newsprint, scissors, paste, crayons, etc.

Teacher’s Supply Storage Cabinet

Supplies to Have on Hand–See list under Primary chapter page 115.

The Selector Center–This is an optional suggestion used in many churches. See Primary chapter, page 115 for complete instructions.