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!