JUNIOR TRAINING PROGRAM
A. Ralph Johnson
CONCEPT: This course is a limited structure general introduction to the Bible with primary emphasis on goals, designed to prepare students to comprehend what the Bible is about and to motivate them to apply themselves to greater understanding and faithfulness.
I. CURRICULUM INVOLVES A SERIES OF OVER-ALL SURVEYS OF THE BIBLE.
A. First Level: THE BIBLE BY CHARACTERS
In this, they learn about the lives of a select group of key characters of the Bible. They are to learn the stories well enough to tell them, supplying at least five features of their lives. Of course, the teacher will tie in many other related characters and make pertinent application to the students’ lives.
B. Second Level: THE BIBLE BY PERIODS
Here, the emphasis is on getting a picture of the periods and major events. Papers are provided with the information grouped into a series of tests to be completed. The characters will naturally be again covered in the events.
C. Third Level: THE BIBLE AS A LIBRARY
This provides a picture of the over-all structure of the Bible –names of books; over-all divisions; what each book is about. Here again, the events and characters are related to the various books and divisions.
D. Fourth Level: THE BIBLE BY TOPICS (advanced studies)
This includes a number of subjects such as: Tabernacle; Genealogies of the Patriarchs; Plan of Salvation; The Church; Bible Geography; How we got the Bible; Christian Evidences, etc.
IMPORTANT: The materials and tests are only intended to provide a basic framework into which the teacher is to weave a great deal of other information. These are intended to serve only as definite learning goals to avoid the common problem of aimlessness in Bible classes. It establishes some definite responsibilities. However, it must provide practical application at all levels. It is not enough to just give the student tests about facts.
II. CLASS STRUCTURE.
Class structure is conceived as open and very fluid. Any child may go to any class or study any subject, with but two provisions:
1. They must engage in fruitful study.
2. If they chose to enter a class beyond the level they have completed, then they are required to be making up the lower level courses.
The teacher will have a regular weekly course going, but any individual or group may choose to go to a separate area and study on their own. However, if they fail to keep studying they may be either separated from each other or required to rejoin the class study. Thus, each may progress at their own pace.
III. PROGRESS STANDARDS.
The course will have a progress chart posted so students can check what they have or have not completed. It is wise to use a method of recording that will not tempt some students to falsify their progress on the chart. This could be done with a special stamp, sticker, or the teacher’s initials.
Students should not be given credit for momentary memorization. However, making the requirements so rigid as to delay rewards or discourage the student may defeat the purpose. We want to encourage each student to be enthusiastically involved and doing his best. Judgment must be used in considering the ability of the student, his emotional nature, and the amount of effort made. Sometimes it is better to be a little lenient in some areas to stimulate interest and gradually raise the requirements. The program is designed to keep reinforcing the material as the child progresses.
IV. CLASS PROGRESS.
The teacher will have an ongoing group of students with which they work. It is obvious that all of the students cannot be held on the subject until all have completed each part. So, after several have completed it, move on. This should cause no serious difficulty since each student is free to study what they wish and there are no grade distinctions. If they do not complete a task, they will simply be ahead of others when the lesson comes around again. Then their interest will be excited as they demonstrate skills to others.
Those who more quickly complete a test can be used to help slower students, lead the class in drills, etc. This increases interest of others; more firmly fixes the information in their own minds, stirs their enthusiasm and takes some of the burden off of the teacher.
V. DESIGN AND FUNCTION OF THE PROGRESS TESTS.
Tests are designed to provide some specific facts as a framework for over-all education, and to serve as milestones to both students and teachers. I found that the student’s interest and those of parents became excited as they learned many new things. Thus, it also aided in their acceptance of other values. This is the first time I discovered the thrill of seeing students so excited about what they were learning that they took the papers home and studied.
The tests are intended to provide an initial overview of the subject followed by a series of increasingly closer views of the parts. Each test is designed to group together between five and twenty related pieces of information, the ideal being about twelve. Too little makes it too easy, resulting in momentary retention, while too much makes it discouragingly difficult to learn.
VI. TEACHING ARRANGEMENTS.
On lower levels and in larger classes it seems best to have three teachers for the class. One leads in the teaching. A second keeps order, does testing, steers kids to the restrooms etc. The third is rotated out on a three months basis. These rotate in teaching.
This provides the advantage that someone is always available to take over, and is being prepared for teaching. It is also a considerable encouragement to work with someone and provides a developing team approach.
Maintaining discipline is one of the most difficult things.
Handling little children.
The class is not designed for little children but some of the Bible stories can be of value. However, it is good to know how to handle them. For those who cry, one way is to seat them up to a table between two other happy children, with something to occupy them, and then go on with the class as best you can. Usually they soon forget and stop crying. As a rule, the worst thing is to hold and pay attention to them. Parents who try to calm a child before leaving, or come back when they hear them crying, usually only increase the problem. After a few times the child learns to adjust. Crying is the way children naturally convey their unhappiness. However they may learn to use it as a controlling device. One must learn to distinguish true distress from manipulation. Rewarding them for crying can just result in more crying.
There are many effective forms of discipline. Some may be preventative in nature, such as separating two youngsters, or placing a boy between a couple of girls. Placing a child in front or behind the others may help, or seat them next to you, facing away from class. Rewards of various types can be given for good behavior, perhaps just a compliment, or some special privilege. Asking the advice of parents may enlist their help. If a child is too disruptive, they may be sent to sit with parents, with a note, or an explanation given after class. If the class is exciting and they want to be there, being barred from class may be all it takes.
Do not raise your voice or threaten. Kids are used to being “yelled at” and they generally view threats as being meaningless. It is better to stop and look directly at the child to gain attention and speak in a lower very firm voice, telling them exactly what they are to do. If that does not work then act. Do whatever is necessary to change the situation. Be sure to reward for good behavior and to make sure to follow discipline with kindness to make sure they understand that your correction does not mean that you don’t like them.
Do not be afraid to make them shape up. If it is necessary to be stern, do so. They will actually appreciate you more, and because they are learning they will come to enjoy the class. If you permit misbehavior, they will have no respect for you, will spoil the learning for everyone, cause others to leave, will drive you to exasperation, and eventually drop out and be lost anyway.
Do not be concerned about the class being noisy, so long as the kids are learning—except as it may interfere with other activities (such as shouting, running, and stomping). Kids are more comfortable and actually enjoy learning if they can make noise. I have encouraged noisy reciting together, singing etc. and they love it. Quietness is not necessarily learning. The best learning often comes from excitement about what they are doing.
VIII. EFFECTIVE TEACHING TECHNIQUES
Keep things active. Stir them up. Have them recite together. Have skits and contests or make them guess things. Have the whole class answer or recite together. Let different ones lead the rest. Take them on field trips. Take them outside and measure off the size of Noah’s Ark. Bring things to class. Have class projects. Let one child help another. (Often they can do so better than you. Both the teaching child and the child being taught may have increased interest. Also, the one who helps someone learn, learns the subject better and learns to teach.) Use visual aids, films, listening centers, charts, maps, etc.
Be active. Move around. While teaching a class you increase attention by, walking over to one child and then to another, especially if a child is becoming distracted or distracting others. Sit down beside one while you talk to the class. Have them come up and participate in some way. Ruffle somebody’s hair or touch them on the nose. Raise and lower your voice in speaking. These kinds of things make them love you and keeps their attention. They will have little time to get distracted. Also, if they think you love them, they take discipline better when they need it.
Do not just lecture. Draw out of them every bit of information they can supply. Keep asking questions about the things you have said, or about the subject under discussion. Make them think. Then, fill in or add information, or supply the background and overall picture. In every way you can, keep tying what they are learning into other things they know. Rather than telling them things they should know, give hints as much as possible. Rather than writing things out fully for them to read, use visual symbols on the board such as crudely drawn boat for Noah’s time or the first letter of names. They must be encouraged to exercise their memories.
Begin and end most periods with short snappy quizzes or some recitation. Be sure to keep before them how each new thing fits the over-all picture. Make sure they understand. Don’t forget the why’s, how’s, and application of things. Mere learning of words is not enough. They must be a part of an over-all picture in the child.
Use rewards. Large useful rewards should be received for completing the course (Bibles, concordance, Halley’s Handbook, or some book with pictures and maps.) Lesser rewards may be milkshakes or some special event. I found that a simple piece of candy for each test completed was a powerful incentive. The opportunity to use the knowledge in helping another child learn was also a strong incentive. It is not so much the value of the prize but the fact that if others are being rewarded, they want it also. (Beware of giving things that are gooey or which might choke someone, or things to which they may be allergic. Be sure that parents approve.)
Special recognition and opportunities to display their progress can be powerful. A demonstration for parents about every six months is good for the students, teachers, and parents. I even put on a “graduation” with mortarboard hats made of paper.
This is a tested program over several years. It has proven effective. Children who have completed it are way ahead and often spur their parents and teachers to greater study to keep ahead of them. They better understand what is going on and they are able to find things in the Bible and relate them properly to other things. It has been one of the most rewarding accomplishments in with which I have been involved.