How can we teach toward the uniqueness of individual children while maintaining a sense of classroom consistency? What is the balance? Here are some things I have learned that may be helpful in your classroom at church:
- Set general boundaries. Make sure each child has the cognitive, developmental, and physical ability to comply with these basic guidelines. Boundaries may include staying in the classroom, treating one another with respect, and following the guidance of teachers.
- Be flexible. I taught a child who, because of multiple special needs, had difficulty sitting with a group of kids. During large group, I allowed him to sit with a teacher in another location in the classroom where he could engage his hands in an activity. He still listened as I told the Bible story to the other children who were sitting in a circle. If I had insisted the child sit with the group, he would have been so disruptive that none of the kids would have learned anything from the story. The child with special needs actually responded in such a way that I knew he was comprehending biblical truth.
- Provide choices. When kids are allowed to choose between a given set of activities, they tend to learn better. I know some kids who thoroughly enjoy creative art, while others would much rather build something or experiment with nature items. Choices create opportunities for children to learn in the ways God has wired them without being forced to do what everyone else in the room is doing.
Boundaries, flexible expectations, and choices of activities help kids learn individually and as group. Treating children as individuals created in God’s image can actually lead to consistency in the classroom when we provide clear expectations for them and for the group.
Landry Holmes leads Lifeway’s Kids Ministry Publishing Team and is a kidmin volunteer at his church. He is a husband, dad, father-in-law, and dog person.