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!
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