It’s going to be an interesting year, that’s for sure! Many churches have already put plans in place to continue the essential ministry of discipling children this fall, albeit through some new and creative ministry models (see “Keeping Children’s Discipleship Alive and Well this Fall – 3 Scenarios”). One way to do this is for churches to provide lessons through video recordings. However, Truth78 curricula has been written in a style and format that is meant to foster teacher-student interaction. Teaching remotely creates a significant barrier to that interactive process. But there are ways to overcome (or at least minimize) some of these. Here are 9 tips:
1. Partner with your church to choose the best means to record and deliver the lessons.
Determine what means your church can best support for either broadcasting live or distributing recorded lessons. The following articles offer guidance for common solutions:
- Teaching through Zoom — Tips & Tricks: Teachers Educating on Zoom
- Teaching through Facebook — Tips for Using Facebook Live
- Teaching through YouTube — How to Use YouTube Live to Engage Your Audience: A Step-by-Step Guide
- Editing recorded videos — The Beginner’s Guide to Editing YouTube Videos
2. Read “Preparing and Teaching a Lesson” from our Core Training Series.
3. Read through your lesson, and note areas where adaptations will need to be made. Examples:
Scripture reading and accompanying questions –
- Before the lesson begins, write out or clearly state Scripture references (book and chapter only) that you will have students look up in their Bibles during the lesson. Instruct them to pause the video and mark these in their Bibles using slips of paper. During the lesson, ask them to find the specific verse/s for each.
- Follow the Q&A format found in the lesson but allow pauses for students to think through responses at home. Then, state the answer. For example, after reading a text such as Genesis 2:7, ask students, “What did God form the man from? How did the man come to life?” Allow a pause and then state the answer: “God formed the man from the dust of the ground and God breathed life into him.”
- When questions are written in such a way to encourage a variety of responses, give some possible answers. Example: After reading “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness” (Matthew 5:6) ask, “What might this look like in someone’s life?” Pause. “Did your answer include any of the following: to have a really strong desire to follow Jesus and obey His commands; to want to do the right thing, even when it’s hard; longing for God’s Word every day?”
Interactive illustrations – Our lessons often contain one or more illustrations that are intended to involve student participation. Here are some options:
- Enlist the help of a family member/s to act out the illustration as written.
- As vividly and clearly as possible, describe the scenario. For example, a lesson that includes a simple contest (i.e. the number of jumping jacks accomplished in one minute) between the teacher and student in a classroom. The student wins the contest, but the teacher steals the beautiful first place ribbon from the student. After the scenario is described ask, “What would you be thinking and feeling? How might the class respond to this? Would they be cheering and clapping for the teacher? No, of course not. The children might be yelling out, ‘That’s not fair! You didn’t win! That’s not right!’ The class might even be booing.”
4. Carefully choose and prepare your staging area.
Your area should include:
- A plain or simple background for minimal distractions. (You can use bedsheets to cover any “busy” areas such as bookcases, toy bins, television, etc. if needed.)
- Adequate lighting and good sound acoustics.
- An available wall or other surface for displaying visuals. (use “tacky putty” for safely attaching visuals to walls.)
5. Teach “at” the camera but make it personal.
At its core, teaching is both informative and relational. Probably the most frustrating aspect of teaching remotely is the absence of the relational piece – the teacher-student engagement. Good teachers look directly at students when they teach, and learn to discern and appropriately respond to their students. As much as possible, record your lesson by looking at the camera. If you have children at home, consider having them sit behind the camera to make your teaching more naturally relational. Also, consider addressing several students by name at the beginning of every lesson, “Welcome Brit, Julie, Isaiah,…and everyone else who is watching. I am so glad to be able to share this time with you today…”
6. Review your recorded lesson before it is sent to students.
Make adjustments and changes as needed. As much as you should aim for excellence, it’s important to keep in mind, “Brothers and sisters, we are not professionals.” Biblical content and your teaching demeanor matter more than video perfection! Pray that God would send forth His truth and, by His Spirit, awaken and nurture faith in the students.
7. Provide students with accompanying lesson workbooks/notebooks.
These tools are an important component for the ongoing discipleship of students. They will help reinforce the key truths of each lesson as well as provide a comprehensive overview and review of the entire study. These materials are available in both electronic and spiral-bound printed format.
8. Provide parents with accompanying parent resources and tips for creating a home environment conducive to learning.
- Make sure parents are sent any corresponding parent resource pages (GIFT pages).
- Provide tips for the most effective learning environment:
- Set a regularly scheduled time for the lesson.
- Establish a place with minimal distractions for watching the lesson.
- Have a parent sit with the child/children during the session.
- Communicate clear expectations and rules during the lesson (just as would be communicated in a classroom setting).
- Encourage parents to open and close each lesson with prayer.
9. Establish a regular means for communicating with parents and students.
The past several months have proven to be overwhelming for many parents and students alike. “Distance learning” should not result in parents and students feeling distanced from the encouragement and support of the wider church body. Talk with your church leadership about the best and most appropriate ways to keep in touch with parents and students. This may include things such as phone calls, a monthly newsletter, a short weekly email, Zoom meetings, etc.