Monday, October 27, 2014

Teaching Preschool When You Can't Teach Preschool

Preschoolers are not my gift.  There's no false modesty here.  I suffer from too much pride and not too little.  I know I am a more than passable teacher to adult women and not too bad for teenage girls. But preschoolers need songs (I can't carry a tune in a bucket), crafts (never my strong suit) and constant reminders to sit down and listen (something I promise I never have to say to my Ladies Bible class!). 


Yet, when I arrived here in Wyoming the most desperate need was not in the teenage girls class (they have 3 capable men), nor in the Ladies Bible Class (it only meets once a month) but in the preschool class where one heroic lady had been teaching it with her sister year round Sunday and Wednesdays.  


When you're in a situation where the most desperate need is the one you are least suited to fill what do you do? Pitch in anyway.

Although it's not natural for me there are several important lessons I've learned!  Like all our Make a Difference Monday posts, for some of you with both experience and skill, these will seem terribly obvious, but I suspect some of you are hesitating over whether or not to join the preschool ministry at your church.  These little tips are for you!

1. Get to know the kids.  The first time I showed up there instead of their accustomed teacher, they all just looked at me and cried-not an auspicious beginning.  However after a couple of months of subbing before I jumped in to take over the Wednesday night class, they are happy to see me waiting for them in Bible class and give me hugs and babble at me when they see me outside of class. Not only that but I needed time too.  I needed to learn about their personalities and how they responded to both a little discipline (No, you can't pull the chair out from under your friend!!!) and redirection (Here, let me swap you this lovely crayon for that permanent marker that you just unearthed!)  There's another teacher coming on board and we'll be taking the time to let her sit in with us for a while so they get a chance to know her too.

2. Repetition is the key to learning.  I remember when I took that class in college on Christian education (long, long ago) the teacher saying this ad nauseam.  But it didn't sink in till I had a preschooler of my own.  I could tell her the same story every day for a week and not only would she not tire of it, but it sank in deep and she began to join me on the key words.  So when it was time to put together a plan for our preschoolers for the next quarter, repetition was the key word. Our 2-3 year olds need 3 weeks to catch on to a story, and the 3-6 weeks that we review after that helps it sink in.They are not dismayed but delighted to have it repeated!  Not only that, but in any given class period, I tell them the story at least 3 times.  I may use puppets one time, tell them the story while pointing to the characters on their color page, and then a third time while they are chipmunk cheeking their goldfish.

3. Short and Simple. Although the Bible school teachers for our older kids regularly wish our class time were longer, the preschoolers don't need a long or complex class.  We keep our activities to 5-10 minutes and move from more active (March around the classroom and sing "I'm in the Lord's army") to much quieter activities (Sitting at the table and coloring a picture related to today's lesson).

4. Little ones can learn to worship.  That long ago class on Christian Education emphasized that people learn to worship by participating in worship, even very small people.  Before we eat our snack we sing a little song that thanks God for our food.  They're learning to chime in with the final amen.  They love it when we sing especially if they can hold the puppets or the prop (like the Bible for the B-I-B-L-E) or can join in the action of a song like "He's got the whole world in his hands."

5. Don't reinvent the wheel or break the bank.  If your congregation does not use a set preschool material, there are lots of resources online to help you.  I especially love the materials by Debbie Jackson .  Pinterest has been a good friend to me.  I find crafts ideas and coloring pages for my little guys on there all the time.  I also took the opportunity to sort through the boxes of material our congregation already had to find all the pictures, flannel graphs, coloring books, bible story books etc that we had. 

As a special bonus to this post, we'd like to offer you a link to the preschool curriculum that our class is using this fall.  You'll find songs, stories, memory verses and more there.  To complete the curriculum you'll also need the links to my Pinterest page with craft ideas, coloring pages, and youtube pins to the songs in the preschool song book.  I hope you'll be brave, jump in, and like Jesus himself welcome the little children.


Parent Letter

Song Book One

Song Book Two

Song Book Three

Jesus Unit 

My Pinterest

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