Teaching a mixed age Sunday School class

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This morning I taught a class which included three four year old boys and an eleven year old boy, and three girls, ages six, nine, and eleven. I had two helpers, an adult man and a twelve year old boy who focused on serving the three youngest boys.

By all accounts, the learning aims were achieved and the kids had fun. Here is how we did it.

Each child was greeted warmly by name as they arrived. We had stations set up for the youngest kids to play with simple blocks at the beginning. I took the older kids aside when they arrived and informed them of the important role they would play in the class. They were immediately excited, no small thing since they normally are quite reserved.

When it was time to begin a few minutes later, I brought all the kids together and we worked on the memory verse, Proverbs 18:21– Life and death are in the power of the tongue. We formed a pretend choo choo train in a circle around our chairs and walked around them as we repeated the verse with increasing speed. The four year olds got to make the train sounds. The older kids understood that this activity was for the benefit of their younger counterparts. In the end, each child had the verse memorized.

I then brought out my iPad 2 and showed them the creation story on the Bible App for Kids. They got to tap on the animals, clouds and objects, and attempt to answer questions generated by the app. Each child tracked with it closely. Wow. Four year olds and eleven year olds engrossed in the same story? We discussed how God is good and loving and how he created everything using the power of his words.

So also can our words be powerful in terms of how we think and behave, and how we affect others.

I then separated the kids so that the young boys played with toys for a few minutes under the supervision of the two helpers, and I took the older kids to practice a puppet show they would later perform for the little ones.

I instructed the helpers to keep on mind that even though the younger boys are playing this is a good opportunity to help them practice using their words for life-giving purposes, rather than being selfish.

Then we performed the puppet show with me narrating and the older kids acting out various animal roles with the help of animal puppets: camels, crocodiles, a bunny, a lion, three camels and of course, a hippo. In the puppet show we focused strictly on the day God created all the animals which populated the dry land. The show was a hit both for the puppeteers and the audience.

Afterward I invited the younger boys to try being puppeteers. Who knew that the bunny could be so scary to the lion? But I digress…

My aim is to demonstrate that even in less than ideal classroom configurations (early childhood and later childhood together), we can still cause students to learn in ways that are engaging.

What about you? How would you handle such a wide age discrepancy when the option of an additional teaching team and class is not available?

Image above compliments of Bible App for Kids

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