Managing Your Classroom
By Karen Mitchell
You spent hours reviewing your Sunday school lesson, cutting out craft materials, and preparing a snack. You’re confident nothing can go wrong. As you prepare to open in prayer, though, Billy launches a pencil across the room, striking Sarah who bursts into tears. Then Maria starts complaining that she’s bored. Restlessness spreads through the room like wildfire. How can you refocus your class’ attention? More importantly, how can you prevent this scenario from recurring every week?
The following Top 10 list contains quick and easy bits of classroom management wisdom from experienced teachers.
1. Communicate expectations for learning and behavior.
This might include expecting children to participate in class. When children know you expect them to respond, they pay closer attention. You may also want to distribute a newsletter, informing parents of your expectations and what their children are learning. Parents appreciate the opportunity to reinforce Sunday school lessons throughout the week.
2. Establish and communicate classroom procedures.
Children want to know how the class will be structured. You don’t need a list of rules, but you may want to post a schedule, such as: (1) Prayer, (2) Bible Story, (3) Craft, (4) Game, (5) Prayer. You could also post a Scripture that’ll give your class focus.
3. Specify what you consider class disruptions and the consequences for them.
Enforce consequences for disruptive behavior promptly, consistently, and equitably. Know what consequences your children’s ministry leadership recommends for disruptive behavior. Talk to parents about their child’s behavior—good or bad. If you’re uncomfortable speaking to parents about concerns or if you receive a negative response, ask your children’s ministry leader for assistance.
4. Positively prompt children’s behavior.
Instead of saying, “Don’t touch Jesse,” phrase your request positively: “Please put your hands on the table in front of you so I know you’re ready to listen.” Children respond better to positive statements. You may want to stand near a disruptive child. Often close physical proximity causes a child to “check” his or her behavior, and you won’t draw as much attention to the student.
5. Build a community in your classroom.
Get to know the children in your class as individuals; take an interest in them. Pray for them during the week and let them know how you prayed for them. Call them if they’ve been absent. Incorporate activities in your class that allow children to get to know one another.
6. Maintain a brisk pace of instruction and smooth transitions between activities.
Children become more restless during long pauses. To decrease misbehavior, actively engage children in learning.
7. Do something unexpected occasionally.
Children remember things that have an element of surprise to them. Use humor, when appropriate, to reduce class tension and add an element of fun. If your lesson isn’t going as planned, stop and redirect your class with a game. Even if you didn’t complete the lesson as planned, your class is still engaged in fellowship.
8. Create opportunities for your class to experience success.
Provide children with feedback and reinforcement. Observe and comment on children’s behaviors, particularly behaviors you value. Giving positive comments to children who are known for discipline problems can change their behavior.
9. Use quick, nonverbal techniques for gaining your class’ attention.
When the class gets noisy, use a special clap, raise your hand, or turn the lights on and off to calm the noise.
10. Have fun!
Your attitude is contagious. Having a positive attitude will make your classroom a place children want to be.
“Managing Your Classroom”. Written by Karen Mitchell.
This article may not be written by an Apostolic author, but it contains many excellent principles and concepts that can be adapted to most churches. As the old saying goes, “Eat the meat. Throw away the bones.”