Bible Teaching Methods: Methodology for Sunday School & Other Bible Teachers
This Month's Bible Teaching Method:
Students make a list of as many different ideas or solutions as they can to a problem that was presented to them. All ideas are accepted without critique and are recorded. Analysis of the solutions is not part of the brainstorming itself but may be done later after a designated time or after ideas have been exhausted.
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This method can be used with almost any size class but will present challenges if the group is very small or very large. If only two or three students are engaging in the brainstorming activity, it will be harder to keep the process moving along. Unless these individuals are good thinkers, the number of ideas may be less than in larger groups. Larger groups will yield more opportunity for diversity but lessen the ability for everyone to meaningfully contribute. Frustration could build if students are not given enough time to make their suggestions. If your class consists of more than eighteen to twenty students, you may want to consider breaking them into smaller groups with each group doing their own brainstorming and then reporting their results back to the large group.
You will need a place to list ideas. This could be on a chalk or white board, newsprint flipchart, projected, or simply written down on sheets of paper. You will need the appropriate writing utensils to be used with your means of recording.
The primary objective of the brainstorming session may depend on the topic or issue. Brainstorming may be used to collect information about a subject. It may be a means of collecting ideas to implement and so would eventually affect behavior.
The brainstorming technique is possibly used most often in business or church leadership teams in coming up with ways to implement goals. This methodology, however, can be used quite effectively in the Bible class setting to brainstorm ways to implement the biblical principle presented in the lesson into daily life.
Proximity of others
The noise level with this method is generally no more than normal so proximity of other classes should not be an issue.
You should be able to use already existing materials and so normally no cost, or minimal cost, is involved.
This method may be used effectively with grade school, youth, and adult classes.
Initially brainstorming will be two-way communication of students giving the teacher a response to a question or problem. When the brainstorming is completed, group interaction may ensue as the class engages in evaluative discussion regarding the list of ideas. This method is expressional for the students.
Plan on a minimum of 10-30 minutes. Depending on the topic, purpose, and age of the students, brainstorming may take a longer period of time.
Openness of group
People may feel inhibited if anybody's ideas, not just their own, are put down. Strict adherence to the rules of brainstorming is important. All ideas are to be accepted with equal value in the brainstorming stage. A receptive environment is critical to good brainstorming.
People must be willing to think and to stretch their minds to participate in brainstorming. People who would rather be spoon-fed by a teacher may resist this type of methodology.
Almost any size room can be used for brainstorming. The students must, however, be heard when giving their suggestions. If meeting in a big auditorium this may be difficult if microphones are not used. Using a microphone, however, will slow the process down and could be a cumbersome task in passing it around or in expecting students to get up and go to a stationary microphone.
- Pick a Problem: Relevancy to the topic at hand is a given in choosing a problem to brainstorm. You will particularly be looking for issues or problems that are open to numerous interpretations or courses of action. You will not want to choose a topic that has an obvious right and wrong way of handling it. That kind of situation is better for regular discussion.
- Plan the Particulars: You need to determine the structure you will use. To help ensure that all students participate, at least in the thinking process, you may want to give students a few minutes to jot down some ideas on paper before opening the brainstorm. The necessity of doing this will depend on your class. If you have more dominating students or slow thinkers, this may be a good option. You need to know your group dynamic in determining the structure for this activity. If your group is very large, you may want to consider breaking into smaller groups to allow for greater participation of all students. You will probably then want to plan for time at the end to gather as a whole group to combine their ideas.
You also need to plan for how long you will accept ideas. You can set a reasonable time limit. You can set the number of ideas you will accept. Or, you can leave it open-ended dependent on when all the ideas seem to be exhausted.
You need to determine how the ideas will be recorded. Someone must be chosen to record the ideas. It would be better if that person was not the teacher or facilitator of the brainstorming session so the teacher can focus on keeping the process going. Ideas can be listed on paper, a white or chalk board, an overhead transparency, or a newsprint flipchart. Making the list visible to the students during the process would be helpful.
You need to determine when you will first present the idea. You may inform students prior to class so they can come prepared with ideas. This can pose a problem when some students put a lot of thought into the issue prior to class and others don't. Those who do will tend to dominate the process. The spontaneity of coming up with the ideas on the spot is truer to the brainstorming concept.
- Prep the Pupils: First, students need to know the goal and the process of brainstorming. They need to be aware that quantity, not necessarily quality, is what they are to aim for in the brainstorming process. Second, students need to know the ground rules for brainstorming. No comments or discussion are allowed, just the offering of ideas. No criticism is allowed. All ideas are to be accepted and recorded. Sometimes ideas that appear to be silly or ridiculous can spark other ideas. No critique is allowed. Evaluation of the ideas is reserved for a later time. No count is imposed on how many times a student suggests ideas. If, however, you have a large class or a dominator in your class, you may want to impose a rule that students must wait a turn before submitting a new idea. Third, students need to be ready to begin the process. You must know your class. You may have a quick thinking and verbal group who can begin immediately. You may have a group, however, that needs a warm up activity to set the mood and stir up their creative juices. Something fun helps to loosen them up and peal away inhibitions.
- Present the Problem: Normally this activity will follow teaching of certain truths. You will then simply need to make a transition into this activity. Be sure to clarify their understanding of the problem you are presenting and show how it fits into the lesson objective.
- Pursue the Process: After presenting the problem, begin accepting and recording ideas. Students may shout out in rapid fire as ideas come to them. You may want to try to put a little order into the process by having them take turns by the raise of a hand or some other indication. Be careful that you do not stifle the process. Asking them to wait for a pause may be sufficient. Your task, as the facilitator, is to keep it moving. If it slows down, you may suggest that they look back at the ideas already given and ask if they can build on any of them. Be careful, however, that you don't get into evaluation of the ideas. You must enforce the rules which are no comments, no criticism, no critique, and no count.
- Probe the Possibilities: Once the brainstorming process is completed, you should have ideas that are both usable and unusable as well as those that are debatable. The solutions must be evaluated to determine which fit each of these categories. As you examine the ideas you may find that some of the ideas can be combined. The evaluation may be scheduled to follow the brainstorming activity or to take place in a subsequent session. When possible, it is good to set the list aside and come back later for this final stage. Even a short break will be helpful if you are pursuing the probative phase during the same class period. Depending on the size of your class, you may want to appoint a sub-group or committee to take the ideas, evaluate them, and come up with a plan. Without some sort of evaluation of ideas, brainstorming may be pointless.
- Propose a Plan: The ultimate objective of teaching is that students do something with what they have learned. After the ideas are sorted and evaluated for their relevancy and feasibility, a plan of action should be drafted. The plan may incorporate some of the ideas as short range goals and other ideas as long range goals.
(Last updated 5/01/17)