Teaching aids. They are those tools we buy, make, dream up, and stay awake at night trying to come up with so as to help us teach our kids a lesson that they will "get," remember, and be able to apply to their lives. And since every child learns differently, you really need an arsenal of teaching aids to cover all the bases.
So let's start with the obvious...the TV and DVD/Blu-Ray/VHS player. The curriculum we use (The Gospel Project) actually has a video to go along with each lesson. It's only about 5 minutes in length usually, but it's partially animated and includes the big idea, the main Scripture, the Bible story, and always ties back to the fact that Jesus saved us from our sins...how and why. We usually watch it before we do any other part of our lesson. I turn a few of the lights off, let them sit in whatever chair they desire, and sometimes, if they are extra antsy, I give them their snack before the video to keep them sitting still and paying attention.
Also, if you have this handy dandy Apple adapter to connect your device to your television, you can show YouTubes you find that correlate with your lesson. There are some hidden gems of channels that creatively teach Bible stories, show cute skits to solidify character qualities, and even some great music videos made just for Scripture memory. There are way too many that I like and subscribe to to list here, but it's worth the spare time when you have it to do your own search and create your own favorites list of YouTubers to subscribe to. You can even set your YouTube up to notify you each time one of them posts a new video. I do that and then, when I see one I think will fit for an upcoming lesson or just one I think will benefit my kids at some time, I e-mail the link to myself and save it in a folder I specifically have set up for future lessons. Periodically, because I am old and forgetful, I go into that folder and remind myself what I have saved there!
You can also watch pawn shops, yard sales, online auctions, and flea markets for old DVD's/VHS tapes, and Blu-Rays to stock your library.
Object lessons are by far my favorite teaching aid. ANYTHING can be used as an object lesson. I have used a kitchen strainer to talk about filtering things out of our lives that are not of God. I have used hard-boiled eggs to teach about the Holy Spirit. A bookbag full of rocks helped teach how hard it is to run the race God has marked out for us when we are burdened by things of this world...worries and material things. Seriously, the possibilities are endless.
Maybe you are like me and not very creative at thinking up your own object lessons. That's ok because there is no need to re-invent the wheel! Pinterest has a ton of object lesson ideas and so does YouTube. Just search for the topic you are covering and object lesson and be amazed at the variations that will come up. For example, if I am teaching on obedience, I will search "obedience object lesson," or obey God object lesson."
I like options and so I actually purchased the e-book pictured above. It has hundreds of object lesson ideas for all sorts of topics, including holidays. Other books you may find helpful to add to your teaching aids library include Object Lessons: 100 Lessons from Everyday Life, 50 Great Object Lessons That Bring the Bible to Life, Object Lessons for a Year: 52 Talks for the Children's Sermon Time, and Everyday Object Lessons for Youth Groups. And there are more!
Seeing a lesson based on an object helps solidify the lesson in their minds. The object is tangible. They can touch it, smell it, wear it, taste it. And the kids remember them! I taught an object lesson to my youth kids years ago about not judging people by outward appearances. I made ugly cupcakes that were delicious and then beautifully iced and decorated cupcakes that had a cotton ball inside each of them. I let the kids choose a cupcake at snack time without them knowing it was all a part of my lesson. Hands down, they all chose the beautiful cupcakes. I wish I had a camera to capture their expressions when they bit into those cupcakes and pulled hairy cotton balls from their mouths. It was priceless! And it is a lesson they have not forgotten to this day. Those kids are all adults now and I still see a few of them from time to time. We get to reminiscing about youth group days and they always bring up the cupcakes!
Science experiments, similar to object lessons, are very memorable. I have set a $10 bill on fire without it burning up to demonstrate God's protection. I have put skewers through balloons without them popping to show what happens when you have the Holy Spirit living inside of you. Mentos in Diet Coke is a great way to show the effects of discipleship. Be creative and remember, Pinterest and YouTube are great resources for these!
Calm down. I am not talking about Harry Potter or Sabrina, the Teenage Witch. I am talking about honest to goodness fun and simple slight-of-hand or science-based magic tricks that demonstrate a gospel truth. There are lots of YouTubes and Pins out there for these and you will totally amaze the kids with them!
You don't have to be a ventriloquist to use a puppet. Just change your voice a little and the kids don't seem to care that the sound is coming out of your head and not the puppet's. Or pretend the puppet is shy and only whispers in your ear and then repeat her questions and comments so the kids can hear them. You can even let the kids hold and be the voice of the puppet and have them retell the day's story to you or answer questions about the lesson.
I got this dry erase cube in the school supplies section of Dollar Tree. I used a Sharpie to write what, when, why, where, who, and how on each side. After our lesson, each child takes a turn tossing the cube across the table or the floor. Whatever word lands face up, I ask them a question about our Bible story lesson from the day that starts with that word. It's a great tool to use so you know they understood the lesson. If they answer incorrectly, it's the perfect time to give them the correct answer.
I included my visual schedule here because it can be used as a teaching aid as well as a behavior management tool, helping to avoid meltdowns because a child was unsure of the expectations or what was coming next. Check out this post for directions. And if you don't want to make your own schedule cards, here is a great resource to download 72 of them for only $4!
I made my cards in Word, but you can make them in Publisher or even on a picture card making site like Mrs. Riley. All you need is a paper or cardstock, a printer, scissors, a laminator, a foam board from the Dollar Tree, and Velcro...lots of Velcro!
A flannel board is a must. I have multiple board backgrounds and I just switch them out on the music stand depending on the day's lesson (inside a building, outside, on the water, etc...).
If you want to be really crafty and creative, make your own flannel board. They are not hard! There are even websites that have full flannel board scenes and Biblical characters you can print, cut out, laminate, and put Velcro on the back of. This one isn't free, but they are very inexpensive and you can even have the seller cut the pieces out for you!
To make your own, all you need is a piece of foam board or, if you need bigger, a heavy duty appliance box that you can cut a piece from to fit your needs. You will also need a piece of felt in your desired color large enough to cover the entire front of your board and even wrap around about 3 inches of the back of your board. You can get this at WalMart or any fabric store. You will need scissors and a hot glue gun and glue sticks as well. Some simple directions can be found here.
I let the kids play with the felt boards at their leisure during free time, but if I am using them for a lesson, I prepare beforehand. I find all of the pieces to go with the day's lesson and the background I want to use and have them ready. Then I simply put each story piece on as we talk about the Bible story for that lesson. I have even given each of the kids a piece or two and then prompted them when it was their turn to put the piece on the board for me. This keeps them paying attention because they are waiting anxiously to hear their turn to add a piece to the scene.
These are random game helps I keep in my supply closet for games I make up to reinforce the lesson. Games are great becase they get the kids moving and a little competition never hurt anyone. Most of the items you see here I got at the Dollar Tree:
This is our Scripture Memory area. I found some cute graphics to print, laminate, and hang and also hung Psalm 119:11 on the wall. Our current memory verse is taped to the board and stays there for the entire unit. Every week, the kids can either say it independently or repeat it piece by piece after me or one of the volunteers.
Scripture memory and ESE kids? YES! They are capable! Even our non-verbal kids can look us in the eyes while we hold their hands and say the verse to them week after week. We are assured in Isaiah 55:11 that God's Word does not return void. Their spirits are being fed with the Word of God when we speak it to them out loud. I have laminated reward charts for each of them. Whether we said the verse to them, they repeated it after us, or they said it independently, they get a star in one of their squares...and we celebrate...loudly and boisterously! It is exciting to read/recite God's Word!
I send the new verse printed on cardstock home with each child at the beginning of the unit so parents can hang it somewhere visible and practice it with them as well.
As you can see by the verse displayed, I type the verse out and add pictures whenever possible to the words for those kids who are not yet reading. This takes some thought and time searching Google images, but I think it is well worth the time and effort to help each of them learn their verse in the best way they know how.
Lastly, I have story sticks. Story sticks are basically complete Bible stories broken down into parts with pictures on cards. The cards are then printed on cardstock, cut out, laminated, and Velcro's to a paint stirring stick (free at most home improvement or paint supplies stores). The size of the paint stirrer depends on the size of your story! Two great places for the cards can be found here and here. For more information on making the sticks, visit this site. You can use these the way you do the flannel boards when you tell the Bible story or let the kids use them to practice re-telling them. I do recommend numbering the backs of the cards for each story in order so the kids can easily take them off and put them back on themselves if they stumble with remembering the story's sequence.
I have the Ten Commandments, the days of creation, Adam and Eve, Joshua and Caleb, Noah's ark, Moses, Joseph, and Jesus' birth. I have more I would like to make at some point, but these are ones that I found the stories to already on sequencing cards by searching Pinterest and so these were the easiest to make. The other stories I will have to find the individual pictures, make the cards, and add the text to them.
As you can see, I store the sticks in a clear plastic garbage pail I picked up from WalMart with a label I made in Word taped to the front. Nothing fancy!
And that's it! Though I am sure that those are not really the only teaching aids out there. These are just the ones I currently use. I add and implement more as I find or learn about them. Keeps it fresh and exciting for the kids that way too!
Play is important. It doesn't matter who you are or how old you are. Everyone likes to play and that looks different for everyone. Even though the kids are only in our room for about an hour and a half each week for just one day, it is important for them to spend a small portion of their time there just playing. It helps them learn how to share, develops their imagination, gets out their energy before lesson time, and is just plain fun. We try to have things in our room though that are both fun and functional/educational, meaning they serve some sort of purpose, hidden to the kids of course or they would never consider it fun! ;)
Dress-up clothes...one of history's oldest ways to have fun. Whether you put on your mom's high heels or tried on dad's suit jacket and tie, dressing up and playing make-believe that you were someone else for a time was fun and stoked your imagination. Our dress-up bin is in our storytime center so that, if we re-enact a Bible story, the kids can dress up as the characters to make it come to life for them. We have a knight's costume, a wig, some masks and glasses, a crown, and even a robe. Watch local thrift stores or discount stores after Halloween for these gems. Yard sales are great places to find often times once-worn costumes as well.
I wanted a light table in our room from the very beginning! They feed the senses and more than one child can sit around the table and play at the same time, creating with shapes and watching them come to life when the lights are turned on. But seriously, have you seen the prices on light tables? No matter where I looked, they were well out of our budget. Enter Pinterest! While there were many tutorials, I found the easiest one here. All you need is a clear under-the-bed storage box (Ikea's are the best), white tissue paper, clear tape, and lights. This post suggested I use holiday lights and run the cord via an extension cord if need be out from under the box lid or a previously drilled hole in the corner of the box. I went even simpler. I bought these lights, five of them to be exact, and used double-sided tape to stick them to the inside bottom of my box before putting the lid in place. No cords. And the lights are easy enough to pull up when the batteries need to be changed. You could probably use battery-operating Christmas strand lights as well, but then you would have to wind the strands evenly around the inside of the box and tack them in place to make sure the light is evenly distributed.
Once your box is assembled, you need the pieces for on top. I found these great colorful clear geometric shapes. There are also alphabet letters you can purchase as well.
This file folder storage pocket holds all of my file folder games. File folder games are file folders that, when opened contain an entire game board or activity inside. On the outside back, in a pocket made from an envelope, you store the game pieces. Once assembled, these make for easy transportable fun. Some of the games or activities are for one person and others are for two or more.
There are folder games for Noah's Ark, matching and puzzles, creation and the cross, the Beatitudes, and I am sure you could find more. They are fun and easy games that help solidify facts and characters from the Bible.
One tip with file folder games. Once made, either cover them in clear contact paper or have them laminated for durability.
The play kitchen. Another one of those toys that has stood the test of time. Love this! And I have boys who love playing in this kitchen as much as some of the girls do. A friend donated her daughter's kitchen to us, but you can usually find them at any children's consignment shop or garage sale. I bought the colorful plastic cups, plates, bowls, and utensils. While I originally bought a pack of plastic pretend food for our kitchen, I added to it with some softer, easier-to-clean, and way too cute felt food. If you have Facebook, you can message a sweet and crafty gal named Madeline Holland who lives in Peoria, AZ and she can hook you up with her handmade felt goodies. Here is a peek at her most recent price sheet so you have an idea of what she charges. Very reasonable for the quality.
These peg boards with colorful pegs are great for making a picture in kids' imaginations come to life without paper and crayons. Those little pegs are great for working those fine motor skills muscles too!
What is playtime without blocks? We provide a variety. We have wooden blocks, Legos (check yard sales for batches or moms who are tired of stepping on them for donations), and bristle blocks. I recently saw these ones called Bunchems that are round spiky colorful balls you can stick together to make shapes. Keeping a watchful eye out for those as well.
Plastic or wooden tangram pieces are fun with printed puzzles to match the colorful shape blocks too. The kids can use the pre-printed puzzle ideas or create their own patterns with the blocks. Many sites offer free tangram pattern printables to download and print for your use. Dig deep enough and you'll even find some Christian-themed ones. As with the file folder games, laminate these for durability.
This I Spy game was inspired by this Pin. I used an empty glass Voss water bottle, soaked the label off, and filled it with birdseed and tiny objects, like the kind you might find in bubble gum machines. We actually have a vendor who sells these 10 for $1 twice a month at our local flea market. That's where and when I stock up. I took a picture of each item before putting it in the bottle and then added them to a Word document I printed in color and laminated.
We have a few Magna Doodle boards for the kids to draw on. We actually have one little girl who loves to play doctor and she uses these as her x-ray machines. Seriously. She pretends you have a broken hand or foot, places it on the board, and then draws around it with the pen to make the x-ray. She adds lines to show breaks or fractures! Imagination crazy!
These magnetic gears are very cool. They interlock and then all rotate in different directions when the one with the handle is turned. I currently have these on the freezer in our room, but if I did not have the freezer would have a designated magnet board just for them.
These magnetic faces are cool too. They come in many different skin tones and with different shaped eyes, noses, mouths, glasses, hair, facial hair, etc... You can make dozens of different combinations. It promotes acceptance of all of God's children and is a great social skill builder with the different facial expressions that can be made - angry, happy, sad, excited, etc...
I found this wooden castle on a marketplace site, gently used and with a few of the people still intact. It is the Melissa & Doug castle. I bought a tube of knights and dragons to go with it. For the boys, it is the equivalency of the play kitchen and they love it. And we encourage them to re-enact some of our Bible stories that involve kingdoms and towers, and fortress walls.
This finger puppet theater is in place of a real puppet theater I would love to have in our room, but lack the space for. I got these great Bible character finger puppets to go along with it. Again, great for re-telling our Bible stories.
I bought these aluminum pans at the Dollar Tree. Using craft foam shapes and self-adhesive magnets, I made magnet boards for the kids. The foam shapes come in every style, even animal shapes. I superglued a soda can tab to the backs so they could hang on the wall, but they can easily be taken down for the kids to play with them in their laps. One of them I made using a # from washi tape and then five foam footballs and five foam soccer balls to make the game pieces to tic tac toe. I got the idea for these cookie sheet magnetic boards here.
Ahhh, the pop-up tent. These never grow old with the kids. Some play pretend in them. Some seek to block out sensory overload inside them. When not in use, we store them between the wall and the supply cabinet because they fold completely flat.
This LED hula hoop is fun for the senses and for the wiggle bottoms we have in our room who need to be constantly moving.
I got this idea from a Pin on Pinterest as well. It is a sheet of vinyl siding cut to 6 feet. I used a few cans of black outdoor spray paint to paint both sides. Then I put a strip of road tape down the center of each "lane" and covered that with clear packaging tape for durability. Because it is vinyl, the edges are smooth and not sharp so no risk of a child cutting themselves. I bought some generic Matchbox-style cars from Dollar Tree and a bin to keep them in. I even got a few of those friction cars that wind up when you pull them back first and then take off when you let them go. The kids love racing the cars side-by-side on the track. They lay it flat on the floor or sometimes use a chair or one of the tables to prop it up on to make a ramp.
Last but not least, we have our quiet or busy bags. What are they? Quiet or busy bags are Ziploc bags or even pencil bags that have any variety of objects in them to keep little hands busy and to themselves and little bottoms in chairs when you need them to sit still. It could simply be a bag of yarn and straws cut to various lengths to thread. We have one that is a paper plate with hole punched around the edges and shoelaces to lace around the plate. We have a bag of popsicle sticks and plastic Dollar Tree farm animals so a pen could be built to house the animals. Silly straws and washers and beads with holes big enough to thread onto them, craft pom poms and Dixie cups, a magnet wand and colorful paper clips...seriously, the ideas for quiet or busy bags are only as limited as your imagination, but there are some excellent pins on Pinterest that can help you out if you are drawing a blank. Try this one, this one, this one, this one, this one, or even this one.
Once I assembled all of the bags, I labeled what was inside of each with a black Sharpie on the outside of the bags. Then I bought a collapsible cloth bin from Dollar Tree and put them all inside of it for storage.
And there you have it! That is a pretty comprehensive list of what we have in our ESE ministry classroom to play with.
While I have seen many variations of furniture in ESE classrooms, when it comes to tables and chairs, we just have the basics. Why? Because unlike a school classroom where the kids are learning for up to six hours a day, we only have them for about an hour and a half. Our kids' ages also range from 4 to 11 and so purchasing those smaller, toddler-sized tables and chairs is not relevant for us. We simply have the sturdy plastic white tables that can be arranged any way we desire and can even be folded down easily and put away when we need more floor space for an activity, and some black folding chairs. The chairs are sturdy, but their seats and backs do have some give to them, which is great for the "bouncers" in our room. I like to arrange the tables so that kids and volunteers can sit on either side. Sometimes we add a third table and make a "U" where our teachers can stand in the middle and be seen by everyone during the lesson.
I did find these great sensory mats at Oriental Trading that we purchased for kids to place on the chairs to sit on if they need the extra sensory input to stay still. There are other fidget accessories to keep kids still during our lesson that we have in our sensory center and I will talk about those in the sensory post later.
One other way to modify a few of our chairs is with exercise resistance bands. We tie these around the legs of a chair and the kids can put their feet on the band and bounce their legs up and down. Great for the wiggle worms.
Over in Noah's Nook, we have several seating options. Here's where I have to be honest and admit that I have no idea where to purchase these. They were donated to our room in the beginning. The square foot stool type seat is hard and has no give, very solid and secure. The curvy one has a slight bounce to it yet is contoured to fit nicely to any child's bottom.
The bookshelf I purchased from a garage sale, but Amazon carries it as well. I like it because it arranges the books so that multiple can be seen at once. The books sit in these little colorful hammocks and they make it easy for little hands to retrieve and return the books.
In the Jesus Calms the Storm center are my faux fur saucer chairs. I love these! And we have one little girl in particular who goes to these every time she enters our room. She sits in them for the movie, the lesson, and during snack time. She pets the fur on them and rolls the hairs of the chair in between her thumb and forefinger and you can tell that, for her, it's just bliss!
This brings me to my favorite seating in our room...the bungee chairs. Just the name is fun! Who doesn't like the bungee and bouncing? I have kids who sit in these facing forward and they just bounce up and down with their bottom during the lesson. Then I have a few who sit facing the back of the chair, putting their feet through two of the larger holes, and they use their feet to bounce up and down like crazy! It's as fun to watch as it is to sit in these chairs.
Last but not least in the way of furniture is my supplies cabinet...if you lack a supplies closet in your room that is. I try to be as prepared for a lesson beforehand as possible, but there are times when I discover a missing craft supply or need extra paper or a stapler that works. I keep all of these things and so much more in my supply closet. Inside you will find:
There you have it! Everything you need and a few things you may want to furnish your ESE ministry room with!
I started this series last week. It will have many parts to it in hopes to pull together everything I have learned about setting up an ESE classroom for our children's ministry at church. Last week was an overview. This week is about centers.
I love centers. I think every classroom needs them. They break up the monotony of the room and provide different areas for different activities as well as different kids. Obviously, being at church, I wanted my centers to be Bible themed. Here is what I came up with. Mind you, these are just my centers. In a future post, I will outline everything in those centers in greater detail.
Storytime with Sarah is our center where the kids can re-create or retell our Bible story from the day with our felt boards, story sticks, dress-up clothes, blocks (for building tabernacles and cities), and our light table. It is also where our memory verse is kept visible, as well as the individual reward charts for the kids learning those verses. Our day's visual schedule is on this wall too since it is the first thing the kids see when they enter our classroom. I got the star cutouts for the wall here. Storytime with Sarah actually shares the wall with our next center.
Music with Martha & Mary is our music station. As you can see, because it shares a wall with Storytime with Sarah, the shelf hosts more felt boards and pieces, as well as provides a place for our dress-up clothes to be stored. But mostly, this is where we keep our CD player and a huge assortment of CD's (everything from previous year's VBS music to Scripture songs to good old-fashioned praise and worship). I printed out a picture of Psalm 105:2 and even put a bin of children's instruments for the kids to use to play their own music. I got those cute music note cutouts here.
Noah's Nook is a place for the kids to go and sit and look at books, all Bible story related. The rainbow is simply colored tablecloths from Dollar Tree cut into one-foot lengths and glued together. Glue did not like the material of the tablecloths so we had to use clear packaging tape on the seams on the reverse side as well. I have a table with a castle and a bucket of knights and dragons nearby so they can make their own stories. I also have a cute finger puppet theater and bin of Bible finger puppets here as well.
And what about those clouds? They are looking a little worse for wear after a year now, but considering they are in front of the air conditioner vent blowing on them constantly, they have withstood the test of time nonetheless. I found the tutorial here. It's basically paper lanterns with polyfill hot glued around the outside. Before the polyfill goes on though, thread clear glass crystal beads through fishing line and tie them to the shaping wire inside the lantern. Make sure the beads hang at different lengths to give the appearance of raindrops. You can use different sized paper lanterns for different sized clouds too.
Daniel's Drive-In is where our video time happens. I also scored a great big lot of Veggie Tales movies on eBay to add to our movie library! The idea for the lion's head came from this Pin. As with all of my large paper decorations, I use sheets of poster paper cut from rolls at our local teacher supply store.
Jesus Calms the Storm is a place with some soft fuzzy chairs for kids who need to just go and sit and diffuse. It has an Inside Out inspired feelings board to help them identify what they are feeling, why they are feeling that way, and how to handle those feelings in a positive way. I bought poster boards in various shades of blue and just cut wave shapes from them. Using brown and white poster board and a small dowel rod, I made a ship. With gray and silver poster boards, I made some clouds and lightning. The decorations were inspired by this Pin. John 14:27 is on this wall as well.
Caleb's Craft Crossing is where we keep our craft supplies, as well as a table for crafting if the kids would like. I got those cute red and blue bins for glue, crayons, markers, and pencils at Dollar Tree. I am a bit OCD and so I label absolutely everything, even the obvious. I figure it doesn't hurt to have those printed words associated with objects everywhere as some of our kids are not reading yet and so they will learn to match the written words with what they are seeing. Some of the labels I simply make in Word, print out, and tape in place. Others I actually use my labeler for. I'm in love with my labeler!
Again, a plastic tablecloth from Dollar Tree to add color to the table and protect it from the markers and glue. The Sterilite 3-drawer bin on wheels houses craft supplies and stickers, paper, and coloring books.
The giant grapes on the wall were inspired by this Pin. It is basically green cardstock leaves, a twisted length of brown packaging paper, and purple paper plates from Dollar Tree.
Prayer is so important and, the earlier kids learn how to pray, the better. Paul's Prayer Place is all about prayer. The idea for the center came from some coloring sheets about Paul and Silas in prison. We have a prayer request bucket, which is really just a recycled large snack container. I keep a Dollar Tree basket of scraps of construction paper and a pen nearby. We discuss prayer requests before we pray and I write the requests on the slips of paper and put them in our container.
Every month, we take our prayer requests out, figure out which ones God has already answered, and then roll them up and put them into our toilet paper tube answered prayers cross inspired by this site.
I also have a Lego prayer board for the kids who are more tactile and like to "feel." They can press a Lego piece into the cross for each prayer requests they give me. I keep another of those Dollar Tree bins filled with different colored Lego bricks nearby for this. The idea came from this post.
I also created a poster outlining the A.C.T.S. prayer for the kids (adoration, confession, thanksgiving, and supplication). I even assigned a different colored Lego brick to each piece of the prayer so the kids can use the Lego cross to help them to remember to pray every aspect of the A.C.T.S. prayer.
Philippians 4:6 is printed out on our prayer wall too!
Solomon's Sensory Center is all about those sensory-seekers, be they for touch, hearing, or sight. I will have a whole blog post on sensory items in the classroom since this is such a biggie. Suffice it to say, it gets its own dedicated center.
Peter's Play Patch is the last of our centers. The idea for Peter's fishing boat was inspired by this Pin. I will detail what exactly is in Peter's Play Patch in a future post on toys, but I will tell you that our toys have to serve some greater purpose to be in the classroom. They are fun, but they have to teach a life skill or work on fine motor skills or social skills. And yes, that is a large freezer you see in the picture. We currently share a part of our classroom with our women's resource center and so we have a fridge and freezer in our room. But as you can see, I just incorporated them into our classroom and gave them their own purpose and function.
And there you have it! That's post #2 in this series and it's all about centers. Be creative and come up with ideas of your own or feel free to use mine. We're all in this together and I am more than happy to share.
In 6 days I will officially be at my job for one year. And I have the best job, next to being a mom that is. I spend every Sunday morning teaching ESE kids all about Jesus, how much He loves them, what He did for them, and how they can glorify Him with their lives. Love, love, love my job. The other six days of my week are brainstorming ways to do it better, learning behavior management techniques for in a classroom setting, and lesson planning that uses all of the different learning styles...because if there is one thing I know for certain it is that, if you have met one special needs child, you have met one special needs child. They are ALL different. They learn differently and should each be taught in the way that they will learn the information best.
It has been a long, but exciting and ever-changing year in our church's new ministry. Before this year, they had no designated children's church for ESE. So there have been lots of learning curves, groundbreaking, start-from-scratch, going-back-to-the-drawing-board moments. Especially at our first ever ESE VBS this past summer. But we have survived. And we have grown. We consistently have 4-5 kids now every Sunday and more in preschool on the way up.
The best compliment came when a dad brought his daughter a few weeks back and said, "We were going to stay home this morning because our oldest daughter is sick, but this one insisted on coming and not missing church." Praise God! Of course that came on the heels of another parent telling us we had not seen her child in a while because she had been traumatized when another child pulled her hair a few weeks prior. Oh but God is good. He balances our failures with His blessings and reminds us weekly that us being there and teaching those kids has nothing to do with us at all. It's all Him. And I say us because not one lesson I plan or craft I prepare would ever amount to a hill of beans were it not for the amazing volunteers I work with. Some of them come every single week to love on our ESE kids just because that is their heart.
Anyway, in my 365 days of building an ESE classroom from the ground up, I have learned a ton. And I won't pretend to take any of the credit. I believe Pinterest is God-ordained like manna from heaven! I am beyond thankful for the artsy craftsy, creative, and imaginative pinners I follow who make me look like I am not just faking it week in and week out. All along the way though, I promised myself that, once my classroom felt complete (though I am sure it will evolve over time), I would do a series of posts, all on one blog to detail everything we did to make it a safe and fun learning environment for our kids. My prayer is that it may save someone else in the position I was in a year ago the countless hours of web-browsing, Internet-searching, eighteen-new-window-tabs-open-at-a-time pinning madness that I endured! Not that I didn't thoroughly enjoy much of the research, but for the sake of time, it would have been nice to find it one-stop-shop style.
So this is my first post about my classroom and it's more really of a teaser. I am simply going to give you the overall view, the pictures of my room from every angle. In my next few posts I will break down the ideas and reasons behind such things as the furniture, the centers, the toys and games, the behavior management tools, and even the safety objects we have in place. Most importantly, I will do my very best to provide you with a link to where each of the ideas/items came from and the glorious directions on how to do it yourself. Ready, set, go!
I am a Christian. I am a wife. I am a mom. I am an author. In that order.