Bible Teaching Methods: Methodology for Sunday School & Other Bible Teachers

This Month's Bible Teaching Method:

Bible Learning Centers

Small areas within the classroom or facility are set up each with different instructional materials to enable individual students or small groups of 2-4 students to move from one area to another to experience a variety of means to either set the stage for what is to come, to reinforce what has been taught, or to extend beyond the lesson's content. The centers are designed to allow students to discover, create, and explore through hands-on involvement with the materials located in them.

In Choosing Teaching Methodology consider your group factors:

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Teacher Training Worksheet Based on These Group Factors:
Tips for Choosing & Using Methods

Group size 
Learning centers can work with any size group providing your facility allows for the set up of enough centers with adequate working room in each center and providing you have enough supervision which will vary based on the age level. Calculate based on 2-4 students, ideally, per center. Learning centers work well with larger groups if these conditions are met to allow for more interaction and individualized attention.

Resources needed 
The type of centers you set up will determine the resources that are needed. Following is a list of possible centers with potential materials you may need.
  • Audiovisual Center: VCR/DVD players and tapes or DVDs, tape recorders and tapes
  • Arts/Crafts Center: paper (drawing, construction, mural, etc.), writing instruments (crayons, markers, paints), scissors, other supplies as dictated by the project
  • Block Center: any variety of blocks depending on the project
  • Book Center: related books according to age level
  • Computer Center: computers, appropriate software, possibly printers
  • Game Center: board games, props as needed
  • God's Wonders Center: table display of a variety of items from nature, live animals if possible, tape of nature sounds
  • Home Living Center: play kitchen appliances and furnishing, dolls, doll beds, play workbench and tools, dress up clothes
  • Music/Worship Center: rhythm instruments, tapes/CDs and players, streamers
  • Picture Center: wall gallery of pictures, picture books, picture matching cards, picture surprises
  • Puzzle Center: variety of puzzles geared to age level
  • Research Center: maps, atlases, concordances, commentaries, Bible customs books
  • Story Center: Bible pictures, flannelgraphs, or any variety of visual aid presentation of the story that students can manipulate, read, or listen to with minimal assistance

Objective targeted 
This teaching method often targets behavior and attitudes. The specific objective achieved will depend on the type of center. While the ultimate objective should be to reinforce learning, sometimes learning centers may be used for children who arrive early so they have something constructive to do while waiting for other children to arrive. They may also serve this purpose for children who finish a project before others are done.

Use modeled 
Biblical Precedence: While we do not read of Jesus sending people off to learning centers, we do read of diversification in His approach. Also, we read where Jesus did not always use a large group approach. Sometimes He taught one-on-one, sometimes with two or three disciples, and sometimes in a small group.

Proximity of others 
Noise can mount using this type of teaching method as you have students possibly all interacting at the same time in a variety of ways. Closeness to other classes could be an issue in using this method due to the potential noise level.

Finances needed 
Cost may vary dependent on the type and number of centers you set up. You may already have many of the materials on hand or you may be able to collect needed resources to keep expenses to a minimum. The home living center could incur high costs initially to buy the play centers. Sometimes you can find them rather inexpensive at yard sales.

Age level 
This method can be adapted to all ages. The types of centers will vary according to age. For example, centers best suited for younger children are arts/crafts, blocks, books, games, God's wonders, home living, music/worship, picture, puzzle, and story. Centers best suited for older children are art, audiovisuals, computer, games, and research. Centers best suited for youth and adults are audiovisual (including opportunity to create), computer, drama, and problem solving activities.

When using Bible learning centers, you are using a student-oriented method that allows for expression and interaction.

Time required 
This method can take a good amount of preparation time in planning, collecting materials, and setting up the centers. Learning centers can take up a large amount of class time although time limitations can be put on how long students may stay at each center to adjust to your schedule. You can also compensate for short time by allowing students to only visit one or two stations.

Openness of group 
Children especially seem to enjoy this methodology. They are having fun learning often not realizing how instructional this "play" time is. Youth thrive on opportunities to choose and to interact. Adults may be skeptical if they are not accustomed to interactive, hands-on learning.

Room size 
Generally the younger the students, the more space you will need as their learning centers will require more room to move around and to spread out with the materials. Obviously the number of centers you have and how extensive these centers are will have to take into account the size of the room. Sometimes you may need to remove furniture and supplies from the room to have enough space to set up the centers.

Skills needed 

1) Plan the centers with wisdom. The plan gives you the how-tos and should include the following:

  • how to design your set-up of the centers to allow for minimum congestion and maximum participation
  • how to make the centers inviting yet feasible, functional, and focused
  • how to use the centers most effectively to accomplish lesson goals making the activities at the centers meaningful and relevant to the lesson's theme
  • how to make sure students have adequate supervision and yet freedom to take initiative, to explore, and to create (You should not have any more centers than what you can adequately staff. The younger the students the lower the teacher to student ratio must be.)
  • how to rotate students from center to center getting them dispersed throughout the centers so you don't have too many students at one station
  • how to determine when it is time for students to move on and how to communicate that (The objective should be for students to complete the activity before moving on. You do not want students flitting from one activity to another without learning.)
  • how to handle potential discipline problems (Remember that the noise level will be raised with this type of method. Learn the difference between what is normal for this methodology and what is rowdiness.)

2) Prepare the students for what they are to do.

This includes setting ground rules and providing adequate instructions for what they are to do at each learning center. If your students are old enough to read you may post written instructions at the center if it is not obvious what they are to do. If your students are younger, you may need an adult worker assigned to each center to guide the students in what they are to do.

3) Put priority on the process.

Do this by incorporating guided conversation and feedback as the students work or play at each station. Make it an enjoyable experience, not frustrating and rushed. Allow for initiative, choices, and questioning.

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(Last updated 3/01/17)