I loved teaching my fourth grade Sunday School class in Maryland. I had a great bunch of enthusiastic 10 year-olds. It didn’t matter that our classroom was in the basement…a room with no windows and little space to spread out. As the weeks and months went on, we became not only a class, but a community. (Although it scarcely bears thinking about…those kids are now in their 20’s! One of them is even my “Facebook Friend!”)
Coming from a teaching background, I prepared my lessons for Sunday School much like I did for my classroom at the local elementary school…and I found that same beginning-of-the-day issue bothered me at BOTH places: that unstructured time before class really begins. One professor I had in undergraduate school called this “sponge time” because it needed to be “soaked up” with meaningful activity! As most church folks know, arriving on time for Sunday School can be difficult (especially for families affected by disabilties!) However, teachers can help to set the tone for a meaningful lesson by providing activities that are age-appropriate, content-related and that can be finished easily as the lesson begins.
My solution to this “sponge time” was called the “Weekly News.” I used a large piece of chart paper and divided it into sections, much like the front page of the newspaper: world events, local headlines, health, sports, arts, schools, celebrations, and concerns. As the students arrived, they used post-it notes to add “news” to the chart paper. For example, one of the boys would jot down details of his soccer matches and placed it in the “sports” section, while another student wrote about a band concert and put it in “arts.” Kids would add upcoming tests or quizzes in the “school” section or details about a sick grandparent in “health.” By using post-it notes, the students could each work on their piece of news without having to crowd at the chart paper all at once.
Once everyone had arrived, we would use our “weekly news” to focus our conversation and prepare us for our prayer time together. It was a joy to see the students praying purposefully for each other (and for me, too!), using the chart for reference. The post-its could be distributed at the end of class as a reminder to pray for specific requests during the week. This “sponge activity” remained a part of our weekly routine, and really set the tone for community and comfort in our classroom.
What other “sponge activities” have you tried? Share a comment below!
LOVE this! Great way to build community too, even among older kids. If I were still teaching the 9th grade Sunday school class, I would definitely do this. I might add it into one of the next lessons I write for the Treasuring Christ curriculum (www.treasuringchristonline.com).
For littler ones, even something as simple as a coloring page related to the lesson can be a good sponge activity. Our 7th grade teachers write a scrambled Bible verse on the board for students to unscramble as they arrive. And – though we didn’t have an activity – when we had social/snack time at the beginning of the 9th grade class, I made it a point to have meaningful conversation with two students each week during that social time, keeping track of which students I had/hadn’t gotten to in recent weeks. I’ve also had puzzle pieces around the room that make an image, word, or phrase – kids get to find them and put it together in that sponge time.
Even something as simple as posting initial discussion questions on the board can help – kids have something to be thinking about before the formal lesson starts.
Hmm, it’s naptime, yet I’m hearing thuds from upstairs where someone is obviously NOT napping, so I’ll have to stop commenting now to do that whole parenting thing. 😉
What a fantastic idea! It has me longing for the classroom so I can try it again. Your students were blessed to have you as a teacher, Katie.
PS – Love the new website pic, too!
what a great idea!!!! I’m going to make sure Neil passes it onto our crew!