Classroom Techniques

by Dr. Brian L. Crispell
Professor of History, Florida College

Preparation

Study the material to be presented. The quality of your teaching directly correlates to the amount of preparation time.

Use the teacher's guide provided for your class as a guide, not as the fount of all knowledge. In any sort of teaching, knowledge is found from more than one source. Investigate different versions of the Bible, utilize a Bible atlas, check commentaries, etc. In order to be a good teacher you must first be an interested student.

Check ahead of time to see what visual aids might be available such as filmstrips, maps, etc.

Always remember to pray.

Before Class Starts

Be on time. Set an example for the students. Take the time in the minutes before class to greet the students. Take an interest in them, a real interest, and you are likely to have a more positive class.

Begin the class with a prayer. This sets the tone for the class and helps to focus the students.

Teaching the Class: Reviewing

Review previous material. This both reminds them of what they already know and alerts you to what needs to be stressed in order to make a smooth transition to the new lesson.

Beginning with the review period to start the class, work to involve the students as much as possible by utilizing "effective questions." It is often helpful to write out review questions as part of your preparation. Although they are inevitable, and sometimes necessary, limit the use of rote memorization queries (Example: "What is ‘grace?'"). Rather, ask questions that require some thought -- especially with older kids. The definition of "grace" might be a fundamental but then ask them to put that knowledge to work (Examples: "What do we mean by "grace?'" "What are some examples of grace?" "How was grace demonstrated in the previous lesson?").

Allow time for the students to answer. Don't give up too easily. Re-state the question or provide an illustration to aid the students. Positively reinforce correct answers. Encourage those giving an incorrect answer.

As much as possible, involve all the students with the questions asked. Be gentle but be persistent. Some kids are natural "backrowers" and have to be coaxed out of their shell.

Direct your questions toward individuals as much as possible unless you desire a "choral" response of oft-times differing answers. Asking direct individual questions also aids in getting everyone involved.

Teaching the Class: Introducing New Material

Introduce new material. As much as possible, link it to what students already know. Ideally, learning any type of subject matter should be a building process.

In your preparation for class, identify the main concept that your lesson is attempting to relate. Note several differing examples or illustrations. (Example: The concept of "redemption" could be approached from a number of different angles, all with the underlying idea of something being rescued or saved.).

In your reading of the Scriptures relating to the lesson material, select passages which might be particularly helpful in aiding the students understand the concept. Conversely, from your reading, if there are further concepts to explore, of key terms that are critical in the students' understanding of the lesson, draw those into the class discussion. (Example: To understand what Jesus meant by referring to being lifted up as "Moses lifted up the snake in the desert..." in John 3:14, the students should be looking back to Numbers 21.).

Teaching the Class: Focus on Quality

Focus on quality not necessarily on coverage in presenting your lesson. Overstressing coverage is counterproductive.

Do not become bound by simply having to teach all of "lesson number five" at all costs because it is "the next lesson." Such is self-defeating. Rushing points for the sake of coverage results in lost points. Not only may you be rushing through the material, the students know you are rushing through the material.

Through experience you will be able to gauge about what you and your students can cover in quality fashion.

Teaching the Class: Expectations and Attitude

Expect your students to learn. Assuming academic ability, students will work up or down to your expectations of them. Be realistic in your expectations but avoid negative self-fulfilling prophecy, i.e., "These kids can't handle this."

Model the proper attitude toward the classroom environment and learning in general. Generally, if you are interested in your study, your students will be interested. If you are excited about learning, they will be as well. Rarely will a student exceed his teacher in effort and attitude.

Discipline

Someone will be in charge of your classroom. As the teacher, it is your obligation to ensure that that someone is you. You set the tone for the class. Kids look for a leader. Take the lead and they will follow. From the outset of the class, let your students know what you want and expect from them, i.e., on time, prepared, focused on the class. Otherwise, they will provide you with what you often do not want.

You must have control over your class. Thus, behavior problems must be dealt with and solved, not just managed. Avoid confrontations in class if at all possible. Speak to that student alone about any misbehavior. Encourage good behavior by reminding the student what the intent of the class is. Restate your expectations.

Speak to the student's parents about persistent misbehavior. Include the student in the discussion if appropriate.

If a pattern of misbehavior develops, remove the student from the classroom and consult with the elders after class.

Discipline is a keystone in learning. It is the duty and obligation of the teacher to uphold it.

Closure

Good closure of a lesson allows a teacher to accomplish several goals.

  1. Reinforcement of the main concepts of the lesson. Ask the students to tell you what they have learned or briefly restate it yourself.
  2. Introduction of the topic for the next lesson.
  3. Encouragement of study and preparation. Give the students some concrete idea or term to think about or define.

Good closure is dependent on good time management and can be developed with experience.

One Teacher's Conclusions

Effective teaching and learning requires three basic elements: mastery of your material, discipline, and a rapport with your students.

Teaching can be one of the most rewarding things you will ever do and yet it provides a most daunting challenge. You do make a difference, for better or worse.