Lesson Planning (Part I): Well begun is half-done

Mary Poppins, with her spoonful of sugar, magic carpet-bag, and chimney sweeping field trips, gave us this little gem: “Well begun is half done.” This adage should be taken to heart by every teacher, volunteer and youth leader. How many of us have taught a lesson, and completed all of the activities in the first 10 minutes? There is nothing more terrifying than 20 expectant little faces, all looking at YOU, with this question burning brightly in their eyes: “What are we going to do NOW?”

It makes me want to hide under my bed, just thinking about it.

We can avoid this terrifying scene with some solid planning strategies. One of the first things we need to identify is the expected outcome of the lesson.  Let’s say, for example that you are planning a lesson about Noah. Before you begin to plan, ask yourself, “What do I want my students to learn?”

You might answer, “I want them to know the story of Noah” or The kids will understand why obedience is important” or “My students will learn about God’s mercy.”

All of these are reasonable expectations. However, as written, these goals are hard to measure. How will we know that the students have learned the material?

Educators have wrestled with this issue for a long time. We know what we want, but we don’t always measure it. In order to gauge learning, we need to write measurable objectives for our students. To accomplish this, we need to identify what we want our students to be able to do with the material we have taught.

An effectively written objective includes the following three elements

  1. Desired behavior: What do we want to see the student do?
  2. Conditions: Under what conditions will the student be able to do this?
  3. Criteria: What will be considered “mastery” for this goal?

Let’s return to our Noah example. Our broad goal is for the students to learn the story of Noah and apply it to their lives.

Our objectives might include the following, depending on the ages/stages of the students:

  • After hearing the story about Noah, the students will retell the story in their own words, listing at least 4 of the identified key facts.
  • Given a set of 10 pictures, the students will put the story of Noah in order with fewer than two errors .
  • When asked how they can use Noah’s story in their own lives, the students will verbally identify at least two ways they can practice obedience to God.

Let’s take one of those goals apart to be sure all three components are present:

After hearing the story (conditions), the students will retell the story in their own words (behavior) listing at least 4 of the key facts (criteria for mastery)

See if you can identify those elements in the remaining objectives. Then, think about what you will be teaching soon…how will you KNOW that your students know what you have taught?

Some folks might think this is a bit too detailed for church~ after all, it’s only Sunday School! However, I believe that “Sunday School information” is more important than anything else kids will learn…We want this knowledge to travel from heads to hearts and take root! We need to be sure that kids are mastering this!

Stay tuned for more lesson planning strategies!
~Katie

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One thought on “Lesson Planning (Part I): Well begun is half-done

  1. The Barna Group has research that shows 90%+ of Christians make their initial profession of faith prior to the age of 14. What goes on in Sunday School is pretty important.

    I tell our daughter (who teaches the preschool class at our Sunday School) that her willingness to get up early to spend time with her little friends makes a powerful statement to them about the way things are in God’s Kingdom.

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