Bible Teaching Methods: Methodology for Sunday School & Other Bible Teachers
This Month's Bible Teaching Method:
Melodic, harmonic, or rhythmic sounds, whether they be vocal, instrumental, or mechanical, are used to get students' attention, reinforce a concept, or teach a new truth.
In Choosing Teaching Methodology consider your group factors:
Click on a factor or scroll down.
Tips for Choosing & Using Methods
Depending on how it is used, music is a method that can work with any size group. Music is something in which everyone can participate at the same time no matter how large the group.
Music can be done with voices only but may also require instruments, tapes, videos, CDs, or DVDs to accompany as students sing along or engage in some sort of rhythmic or listening exercise. Machines to play or record may therefore be required. Instruments like a piano, guitar, or keyboard may be used to accompany students whereas other instruments may be played by the students like bells, tambourines, triangles, sand blocks, rhythm sticks, clappers, etc. You may also need song books, a means of projecting the words, or song charts. If students are writing their own music they will need paper and pens/pencils or some other means of writing.
Music is a good way to learn doctrine or to reinforce that knowledge. Words put to rhythm is an effective means of memorizing Scripture. Songs may reflect how doctrine is applied to life. Music tends to appeal to the emotions as well as one's understanding.
Singing was a part of the Old Testament tabernacle worship. Many of the Psalms were put to music. Colossians 3:16 exhorts believers to "teach and admonish one another with all wisdom and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God." The role of music in worship has been strong through the ages but perhaps not as strong in Christian Education except with the younger ages.
Proximity of others
If the entire class is singing or playing instruments, the volume could be loud and disruptive for nearby classes.
This method could be used with minimal or no cost. However, if you need to purchase instruments, tapes, videotapes, CDs, DVDs, equipment for listening/recording, or song books, the cost can range from low to somewhat significant.
All ages can benefit from the use of music. Even if the children are too young to sing, they are not too young to listen. Music is a good starting method for infants in the nursery to learn truths about God. The younger the students, the shorter and simpler the songs must be. Avoid songs with symbolic or abstract wording for young children as they think in concrete terms. Also choose songs with a narrow voice range for children.
If students are merely listening to music, its use will be impressional. If they are signing or playing instruments, this methodology would be expressional. If it is followed by discussion, it could lead to some interactive communication as well.
Music can take only a few minutes to ten to thirty minutes or more depending on how it is used.
Openness of group
Singing in a small group can be intimidating to some students but if you structure the way you use music to the bent of your students, it can be enjoyable for most.
Music can be used in almost any size room provided recorded music can be heard by all.
Selecting Music - Take great care in the choice of music.
- doctrinally accurate (scripturally based)
- age-level appropriate (content and length of song)
- stylistically connecting (not just your preferences)
- self-explanatory (especially with younger students who think concretely)
- relevant and meaningful to the lesson (not just a time filler)
Leading Music - Make it both enjoyable and edifying.
- Practice it enough yourself so you know it well before trying to teach it to others.
- Display some enthusiasm and expression.
- Connect with the students as you lead. (i.e., smile, make eye contact, insert students' names into the song if appropriate when leading young children)
- When needed provide a short introduction into the song on its importance or relevance to the lesson.
- Employ helpers from among the students or recruit other adults if you are not musically inclined or simply for variety. Do not let your musical insecurities keep you from using this method.
- When teaching a new song, play it through in its entirety first so students get the big picture before breaking it into parts to learn.
- The younger the age, the more you will need to repeat the song for learning. Vary the way you repeat the song like simply listening, humming along, repeating it phrase by phrase, slowly and then faster, etc.
- For younger students you may want to sometimes use a puppet to lead the singing.
Timing in the Use of Music - Vary when you use music in your lessons. Guard against using music only for opening exercises.
- as an introduction to the lessons (to create a mood, for students to guess what Bible story will follow, to raise an issue)
- to reinforce the lesson (memorize Scripture verses to music, work with Biblical content through song)
- as a conclusion to the lesson (as a prayer of commitment, as a means of expressing the application)
- during transitions throughout the lesson (rather than merely speaking the instructions sing "This is the way we ..." or something else appropriate)
Varying the Way Music is Used - Doing it the same way all the time could reduce meaningfulness and effectiveness. As students get older, vary the way music is used in the classroom rather than eliminate it.
- Acting It Out:
- Students may depict the song dramatically using a mime or skit.
- Students may choreograph a song with movement or dance.
- Students may express the song using hand or finger motions.
- Students may learn a song in sign language.
- Using It For Background:
- Set a mood or atmosphere for a Bible story using music.
- Use music in the background with drama methods like skits or mimes.
- Play instrumental music in the background as students work on projects.
- Have students sing a relevant song as they work on a project or activity that requires little thought. Use songs that reinforce what they are doing or what they have learned. Younger students will not be able to do both at the same time.
- Choral Reading:
- Read a song much like it would be sung but instead of singing, speak the words. Include parts (i.e. solos, duets, trios, small group, total group), emphasis, changes in dynamic and tempo.
- Choral reading is particularly good when you want to use the content of a song but the group feels too shy or awkward to sing due to peer pressure or being in a small group.
- Choral reading may also be an option for the teacher who is not musically inclined but would like to use the content of a song.
- When an appropriate song cannot be found, the teacher may create his/her own completely or use a familiar tune.
- Students may be asked to create a song completely on their own or to use a familiar tune to illustrate a Bible story or put a Bible verse to music. They may work on the song individually, break into small groups, or work on it as a whole class if the group isn't too big.
- The teacher may create a song using students' ideas. Perhaps they could finish a line or add a phrase.
- In writing a song be careful not to compromise truth for the sake of a rhyme or fitting the words into a line. Writing the words first and then the music can help you from falling into this trap.
- Perhaps after practice, the song can be sung for the congregation or taught to other classes.
- After listening to a song(s), students may be asked to discuss the song. This may be called a music forum.
- Discussion may center around the meaning of the words, the application of it, or the feelings it engendered.
- Discussion may be to compare or contrast two songs, either two different songs or two versions of the same song.
- Occasionally it may be appropriate to play and then discuss the lyrics of a secular song in light of God's Word.
- Traditional games using music may be adapted to be learning tools including 'Name That Tune' or 'Musical Chairs.'
- Games may be made up that use music like matching a particular style of music or an instrumental sound to the different characteristics of God.
- Hymn/Song Stories:
- Teachers provide information about a song like its origin and/or scriptural basis.
- Students research information about a song.
- The teacher visualizes the song using pictures, picture books, charts, objects, sentence strips in a pocket chart, poster boards, or some means of projecting. A combination of words and pictures could be used.
- Students may be allowed to turn the pages or hold up the visuals rather than you doing it all.
- Students could be asked to draw appropriate pictures or find pictures in magazines to illustrate the song.
- Each student could be asked to draw a picture for a section of the song which could be on individual sheets of paper to be compiled into a book or on a section of a long sheet of paper attached to the wall or on a transparency to be shown in sequence as the song is later sung. If the class is large, you could have a small group of students, rather than individuals, work on the sections.
- Familiarize yourself with copyright issues. You may need permission to reproduce or illustrate a song.
- Create and sing a simple, catchy, familiar tune to communicate a truth.
- Jingles in commercials may serve as a pattern.
- Students are asked to listen for answers to questions or for specific concepts that will be brought out in a song. They may be asked to raise their hands or indicate in some other way when they hear it.
- A check list can be developed of concepts in a song for which students are to listen and mark as they hear each truth.
- Playing Instruments:
- Instruments may be bought or made by the teacher. (i.e., 2 paper or plastic plates can be fastened together with buttons, beads, or hard beans inside to make a rattle noise; wax paper can be put on the end of a tube for a horn; dowel sticks can be cut to size and sanded to remove rough edges for rhythm sticks; an oatmeal box can be used as a drum)
- Instruments may be made by students as part of the lesson. (i.e., see above ideas under teacher-made instruments or look in craft books for ideas)
- Before distributing instruments, you may want to have students clap to the beats first.
- Before distributing instruments, you may want to demonstrate first.
- Work at having students follow standards similar to being in a band or orchestra so this activity does not get out of control.
- Remember that younger children will not sing and play at the same time. Sometimes you may ask all the students to play instruments and sometimes you may have half of the class play instruments while the other half sings and then switch.
- Rather than students using the same instrument throughout the time, you may want them to rotate the instruments. This may help eliminate conflict over favorite instruments.
- Children may march along with music playing the instruments. Particularly with younger children, do not expect them to march, play an instrument, and sing too.
- Do not pressure students into singing. Allow them to get comfortable with the song and with the group.
- You may sometimes find it helpful to situate students so a more musically inclined student is near those not as adept to help keep them on track.
- Sometimes allow for spontaneous singing rather than pre-planning.
- Sometimes singing may be with accompaniment and sometimes without.
- Sometimes sing a song in rounds if it can be sung that way but not always.
- Vary the way the song is sung by changing the tempo (faster or slower) or the dynamic (louder or softer).
- Singing a song in a foreign language may sometimes be of benefit to a lesson.
- The class can sometimes be divided into two groups with one group singing a phrase and then the other group singing the next phrase.
- The teacher may sometimes ask a question and students sing their response.
- Taping their singing may be useful for playing back at a later time.
- Younger students may be less inhibited singing if they have puppets and pretend the puppets are doing the singing.
- Song Search:
- Students try to find songs that fit the lesson or specific aspects of the lesson.
- Students may try to find songs that illustrate a specific Bible verse.
(Last updated 9/01/19)